Highly Regulated Industries Come with Their Own Demands
Regulations are put on certain data constructs for a reason: the data within is sensitive. Today, there are seemingly more regulations than ever, and as the GDPR kicks in for organizations that deal with EU-based organizations, we thought it would be a good time to talk about how to navigate these highly-regulated environments to ensure success and security.
While there are movements of industry professionals lobbying for improvements to some personal data protection laws, not much has been done about it by legislators in the U.S. The regulations that are on the books work to protect certain types of personal information, but there isn’t that overreaching article that states there will be consequences for losing someone else’s personal information. Within certain environments however, it is extremely important to know how to navigate as not to mistakenly expose information that has no business being shared.
In Healthcare We’ll start with healthcare, as it is the most prevalent. Healthcare data is protected, and that protection is regulated, and all for good reason. This information is the most personal information a person can reveal and has no business being in possession of anyone but the provider, the insurer, and the patient. The most well-known regulation for healthcare in the United States is called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It was constructed to keep personal healthcare data secure as new systems of transfer and new insurance practices were being implemented.
Healthcare information isn’t all handled the same. There are a multitude of organizations that oversee different parts of the healthcare process. The Center for Medicare/Medicaid services focuses on patient care, while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) focuses on the safety of workers. This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. With so many regulatory agencies thumbing around it can be difficult to ascertain which practices are the best practices, and which strategies work to keep every party involved insulated from having their sensitive information compromised.
For the healthcare providers it can be pretty harrowing, since they are for-profit businesses and need to keep certain information on the ready to facilitate solid operational integrity, as well as to ensure that rising costs aren’t sinking their practice. So many providers are constantly revisiting the best ways to stay compliant, while transforming their policies around the existing standards of data protection. This creates a lot of headaches and toiling over policy. One of the best ways to navigate this arena is to set defined practices that work to mitigate redundancy.
CRM or ERP: Which Is Right for You?
At first glance, a customer relationship management (CRM) solution and an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution might seem quite similar. They are both ways to help you get the most out of what you have using technology solutions, but they have specific uses in a business environment.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Simply put, a CRM is designed to provide businesses with a way to seamlessly communicate with and manage both current and prospective clients. CRM solutions are often used to automate certain operations and generally make the sales process much easier and more efficient. Here are some of the major ways a CRM can help a business:
Better customer communicationsOrganization for your sales teamsRevenue creationAbility to target potential customersCustomer loyalty and satisfaction
Ultimately, a CRM is designed to keep your business’ customers engaged with your brand or product. This helps to retain and improve sales figures, all while helping you build and maintain relationships with clients. It’s the ideal way to manage operations, onboard new clients, and push them through your sales process.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) In direct contrast to the customer-side of the business model, the enterprise resource planning solution looks internally to better manage operations and internal data. It’s a one-stop resource for sharing data—-all of which represents the different parts of your business. Typically used in manufacturing, the ERP presents quite a few options to manage the supply chain as well as internal business operations. The ERP can provide the following benefits to a business:
Provide resources to employees for the purposes of planning and collaboratingStreamline internal processes with seamless access to important data and resourcesImprove collaboration and visibility of important internal functions
In short, an ERP can be thought of as the central nervous system of your business. It provides near-constant access to information and resources that are required for streamlining internal operations, making it crucial for the success of any organization.
To Backup Your Business’ Data, You Can’t Rely on Tape
These days, it’s unheard of to run a business without some form of data backup and disaster recovery in place, no matter how basic or crude. In a worst-case scenario, you could lose so much more than just your business’ data. All of the future ramifications of such an event compound and can snowball into a situation that makes it borderline impossible for your organization to recover. Therefore, the best way to approach this situation is to make sure that it doesn’t happen in the first place.
For a long time, the most prominent data backup solution took advantage of magnetic tape to store data. The cassette would then be stored either off-site or on site to be used in the event of a disaster. These tape backups are also subject to user error, so unfortunately, they cannot be as reliable as a solution that is automated. As such, tape backup pales in comparison to the gold standard of data backup and disaster recovery, BDR, which takes advantage of the cloud.
When it comes to tape backup, the lack of automation really hurts its chances of being a viable solution. An employee would have to set a tape backup so that it could be successful, and without doing so, no backup is taken. Since there is no room for user error, tape backup is naturally an inferior option compared to the automated systems you get from a network-attached BDR. If someone fails to set the tape backup, an entire day’s worth of data could be put in jeopardy.
Tape backup is also far from the ideal solution because it is limited in its ability to really help your business. Since tape backup is too resource-intensive to happen more than once a day, it has to be done after-hours when there is less strain on the network. This means that more data could potentially be lost. Furthermore, physical tape backups can be destroyed by fires and floods or corrupted by hacking attacks. They can be destroyed just as easily as the rest of your organization, and as such, must be stored off-site for maximum recovery potential.
Just about all of the issues that you might have with tape backup are resolved by working with a BDR solution. BDR technology allows your organization to keep downtime and data loss to a minimum. BDR can take backups as often as every fifteen minutes, making it the ideal solution to an organization that can’t risk losing anything (hint: that’s yours). Since data is stored off-site in a safe location, you don’t need to worry about external sources messing with your odds of survival.
Is the Internet of Things Growing Too Fast for Everyone’s Good?
The Internet of Things is no longer a pipe dream that could become a major influencer in the technology market. It is now a reality, and as such, you need to take measures to ensure that it doesn’t become a major issue for your business. How big is the Internet of Things, truly, and how does this influence your business? Is there even any hope that you can protect yourself from it? Read on to find out.
In fact, it wasn’t so long ago that the Internet of Things became a notoriously dangerous entity, and it’s all thanks to a little something called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. A DDoS attack is an attack that uses many hacked devices to target a system. In this case, the devices were infected with a malware variant known as Mirai. Together, the devices created a massive botnet that was used to attack Dyn, one of the largest domain name providers out there. But the real victims of this attack were much more widespread than just Dyn–any services that relied on its services, including Amazon and Twitter, were also influenced by the attack.
This fear of a major mobile device botnet is what fuels the debate about the future of the Internet of Things and brings into question whether or not its rapid growth is something to be concerned about. When millions of devices can be connected to create a malicious network and orchestrate a massive attack that downs even the sturdiest of networks, you know that you’re dealing with a formidable force. The Mirai botnet specifically targeted devices that haven’t changed their default passwords and considering how few users actually change them in the first place, it seems that this tactic was quite successful.
If you take a moment to consider this, it seems likely that the more devices are out there, the more contentious security becomes – not just for the business environment, but on a personal level as well. Most of the devices used in this way aren’t devices that you would typically think of as having connected features. Some examples are automobiles, kitchen appliances, and even home controlling devices such as lights or thermostats. Naturally, the more devices you have in any given area, the more likely it is that there will be security issues in regard to them, so how can your organization ensure that it’s not going to be taken advantage of by a rogue botnet?
It’s incredibly important that your business prepare for any instances of potential malicious activity both on and around your mobile devices, including any connected devices on your network. If possible, change any default passwords found on your devices, and protect your devices with a mobile device management solution. All of this should be in preparation of a worst-case scenario–a device being controlled remotely by an external threat.
You May Have a Backup, But Could it Be Better?
Data backup is important for businesses that want to keep their data safe in the event of a disaster scenario, but each organization’s specific needs will vary. One thing is important to keep in mind, though, and it’s that your business can’t afford to not have data backup. In other words, you need to be prepared for any situation so that you aren’t left wondering if you’re ready to deal with a disaster scenario.
Here are four major topics to consider the next time you’re thinking about whether or not your data backup practices are up to snuff.
Which Data Are You Backing Up?
How much of your data are you realistically backing up? The answer we are looking for is “as much as possible.” Granted, if you have legal obligations to back up specific information, those obviously have to be prioritized. The last thing you want is to suffer from compliance-based fines on your organization for not properly handling sensitive information.
Are You Protecting Your Data Backups?
The last thing you want to do is store your data backups in an unsecured location, particularly if that location is on-site. If a hacker attacks the network or you experience a crippling data loss disaster due to a natural occurrence, such as a fire or a power surge, any unprotected backups on your infrastructure will be destroyed as well. It’s true that having a backup stored on your network is helpful, but it’s equally important that you protect it and have an extra stored off-site for later access.
Where Are Your Backups Stored?
It might be convenient to have an on-site data backup, but it’s equally important to have multiple copies of it backed up. To this end, we recommend implementing the 3-2-1 rule. You keep three backups of your data altogether–one on-site for easy access, and two either off-site or in the cloud for easy restoration in the event of an incident.
Have You Tested the Reliability of the System?
If your backup systems don’t work, then why are you using them? You’ll never know until you try to restore your data, in which case it will be too late. To avoid this situation, you should frequently be testing your backups to ensure they work. Otherwise, you could be staring a disaster in the face and not have a solution immediately on-hand to remedy it.
VentureNet can help your business implement a Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) solution that takes frequent backups and stores them securely in an off-site data center for later recovery. To get started, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.
Cloud Storage Offers Benefits to Small Businesses
With businesses dealing with and storing more data, cloud storage platforms have begun to be extremely important for the modern small business. It took a while for small business decision makers to implement cloud storage solutions for their businesses, which is largely to blame on the stigma of insecurity the cloud had. Today, however, cloud platforms are used for all types of utility. Today, we’ll go into the types of cloud storage, and their benefits to a small business.
The most common types of cloud storage constructs available today are:
- Public –The public cloud is perhaps the most accessible form of cloud storage for both individuals and any type of business. This is because it’s generally implemented with the consumer in mind, often being either free or much cheaper than other alternatives. To this end, the public cloud can be a convenient way for a business new to cloud storage to take advantage of it. It provides most functionality that any other cloud can provide, but has its limits in terms of customizability and flexibility. For example, you might have to pay extra for additional cloud storage space or security measures.
- Private –The private cloud is typically reserved for businesses that want a more hands-on approach to managing their cloud data storage. Whereas the hosting company is responsible for hosting and managing the public cloud storage, the private cloud would be managed by technicians of your choosing. This affords you many technical freedoms that you wouldn’t otherwise get with your cloud storage solution, including the ability to implement additional security measures.
- Hybrid – A hybrid cloud solution for cloud storage can often be an ideal compromise between the public and private cloud. It’s a great way for businesses to ensure that they get the services that they need, at a cost that makes cloud computing viable.
Benefits of Cloud Storage
So why would you choose to utilize cloud storage? For one, the functionality and availability to create the cloud platform that is right for you. If you have IT management staff online, or you have a trusted outsourced provider like VentureNet, a private cloud is the most secure and manageable, but the cost and effectiveness of many public cloud offerings can go a long way toward allowing you to reduce your upfront technology costs.
Beyond cost, there are several benefits that cloud storage affords a small business. For one, the availability of the data on the server provides great value for any business because today’s work often calls for mobility and collaboration. Another main benefit is that cloud platforms have a continual sync, which ensures that when you save work, it’s the same work when you go to retrieve it. Finally, the scalability that cloud storage offers allows your organization to get the storage space you need; helping avoid cost overruns, while allowing you to scale up when needed.
Does your business need help understanding which type of cloud storage is most effective for your specific situation? VentureNet can help. To learn more, call us today at 214-343-3550.
Automation Helps Deliver Secure Networks and Infrastructure
If you do it manually, your business is spending countless hours on implementing patches and security updates. That’s not even mentioning the many other tasks that pile up if your technicians are simply too busy to get to them. Wouldn’t it be nice if these routine maintenances could be issued without the need for an on-site visit? Automation maintenance and management can certainly be worth the investment.
Remote Monitoring and Management, or RMM, can be used to take advantage of some of the greatest benefits out there for small business technology maintenance. Here are just a few of them.
Patching and Updates
Keeping your business’ applications up-to-date is vital to the success of your organization. Unfortunately, it can be a time-consuming process that eats up too much of your company’s resources to be effective. Depending on the number of workstations, servers, and network components your business has, this process could range from a short amount of time to an incredibly long and drawn-out process. A dedicated monitoring and management service can help you apply patches without the provider being on-site to do the work. This means that they can be applied as they are released, removing the need to manually install updates every time they are issued. Furthermore, these patches can be applied en masse, building (and maintaining) a more agile network and infrastructure.
Network Security Management
You need to react to threats to your infrastructure, but you also need to prevent them from reaching your network in the first place. If you can detect attacks and deflect them immediately, you can prevent a considerable amount of attacks. This is made simply by implementing remote security management. Offsite technology support makes this possible by alerting technicians in the event of any type of breach, giving them the tools they need to battle incoming security issues.
Save Time and Resources
When you take advantage of remote monitoring and management, your business gets immediate relief without waiting for the technician to arrive on-site to resolve the issue. Most issues can be resolved without the visit, so this ultimately winds up saving your business plenty of time and money. Plus, if you’re not the one administering patches and updates, you will have resources available to work on other important initiatives.
Does your company want to take advantage of remote monitoring and maintenance? Reach out to VentureNet at 214-343-3550.
Mobile Cybercrime Puts Your Business at Risk
The opening ceremonies of the Olympic games are always a spectacle, and the people of Pyeongchang County in the Republic of Korea didn’t disappoint. While the world watched, behind the scenes there was a cyberattack going on. The attack, carried out by Russian hackers, seemingly retaliating for a nationwide ban placed on their athletes at the games, paralyzed LAN and Wi-Fi communications, prevented tickets from being printed from the Olympics website, and took until 8 a.m. the following day to restore.
We reference the Olympics because for the past three Olympic games, the Pyeongchang games, The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia have all been marred somewhat by cybersecurity issues. If an event that is planned for years in advance–and has the cybersecurity budget the Olympics has–what does that mean for you and your smartphone? This month, we will take a long look at mobile cybercrime, its increased relevance, and what you need to know to combat hackers that target mobile.
Mobile Is Just the Next Step
When you consider just how much people depend on Internet-connected computing, and how many applications are developed that require Internet access, it can’t really be a surprise that Internet-related crime increases at similar rates. The problem is that the rate is substantially higher than many people were ready for; and it is causing a lot of problems for computer users all over the world.
When we talk about mobile cybercrime, however, we are mostly talking about the act of using mobile devices as a revolving door through which hackers access secure networks, steal data, and personally identifiable information by the terabyte. In a study conducted by Nokia in 2016, over 1.3 of every 100 phones has some form of malware on it, a whopping increase of 400 percent over 2015. The percentage is growing, and fast. Now four-in-every-five malware infections happens on a smartphone.
Mobile constructs are being infected, and hacked, and data is being stolen, repurposed, and sold. There are several ways that people are able to accomplish this. They include:
Mobile apps have transformed the way that computing constructs work. They are so effective that the largest software company in the world, Microsoft, altered the way they go about application development when developing Windows 8. Using the format used by mobile platforms developed by Apple and Google, the “app” allows developers to utilize the touchscreen to create a more “hands on” approach than the traditional mouse and keyboard approach used by desktop applications.
All apps aren’t created equal, however, and some are developed with vulnerabilities, or worse yet, developed to appear to be a useful app and are just malware or spyware. Today, the term for these types of apps is “riskware”. When you download an app (or install it as an .apk), almost immediately there is a screen that pops up where you get to choose which permissions the app can have on your phone. The best way to avoid this kind of data seepage is to:
- Ensure the app you are installing on your device is the real McCoy.
- Only allow the app to have the permissions it needs to be effective.
By keeping apps from having full run of your device, all you are doing is mitigating potential problems.
Network Spoofing and Unsecured Connections
With so much content available to the mobile user, and carrier-enforced data caps still prevalent, many people will want to access any Wi-Fi they can to save their data. While this is great if you are at home or places you trust, connecting to just any wireless network could get you in a lot of trouble. When you consider that some networks are effectively traps, where the minute you connect your mobile device to it, the people that are presenting the subterfuge of a secured network just scour and strip the personal data off of your phone; and, if you use your phone for work, you likely have, at the very least, put your employer’s network, and all the data on it in peril.
Mobile Phishing & Spyware
Mobile devices are most useful when they are powered-on; and, most mobile users have a tendency to check their email routinely, some compulsively. That means they are typically more susceptible to seemingly legitimate emails that end up being completely illegitimate, putting them, and the data they have access to, in harm’s way. Ensuring that any links, attachments, or other media is from legitimate senders is crucial to keep malware off of your phone, and the networks it connects to.
Additionally, spyware is a major concern for mobile security professionals. Some spyware is legitimate, used mostly to monitor the mobile use of another user. Some organizations take liberties they shouldn’t and install spyware through a mobile management policy that not only is a major breach of privacy, but could have disastrous ramifications if that data were to fall into the wrong hands.
Poorly Developed Software
Some apps aren’t exactly reliable. This happens when developers use weak encryption algorithms, strong encryption that isn’t properly implemented, or improperly implement authentication tokens on their software. As a result, some apps are just vulnerabilities masquerading as useful applications. By using software that is well regarded and from reputable developers, your chances of falling victim to issues decreases exponentially.
The Cost of Mobile Cybercrime
We’ve looked at the problems all mobile users have to be cognizant of, but if you don’t deal with it directly, it may be hard to know just what the cost of it is. There are a few indicators that can tell you just how big of an issue this has become. There have been a litany of highly sophisticated and extraordinarily complex strains of malware (mostly ransomware) and numerous extremely high-profile data breaches over the past few years. Traditionally, cybercrime was an IT issue, but with the level of devastation that cybercriminals can bring to your organization, it is now very much a C-level problem.
According to a study funded by Accenture and carried out by the Ponemon Institute titled, 2017 Cost of Cyber Crime Study: Insights on the security investments that make a difference, the financial consequences of being the victim of a cyber attack isn’t just more likely, it’s worsening. The global average of cybercrime for the 254 businesses that took part in the study sat at a staggering $7.2 million in 2013; but, in 2017 it had grown to a whopping $11.7 million, a shift of 62 percent over five years.
What’s interesting about the study is that it found that smaller organizations actually saw larger percentages of loss, per seat, on major cybercrime issues like malware, web-attack, phishing and other social engineering, and botnets. Larger companies had more problems with Denial of services attacks, sabotage, and theft. Currently information theft remains the most expensive consequence of a cyber crime, with downtime and revenue loss also being major results.
Ransomware, which made up for nearly 10 percent of all cybercrime-related monetary loss for the reported companies, was equally devastating to each type of organization. With ransomware attacks doubling in 2017, many experts are trying to extrapolate the role it will have going forward, and it isn’t pretty. Most of the cybercrime that happens over mobile is as a result of phishing/social engineering, so it’s impossible to take anything away from the Accenture report that doesn’t suggest that whatever cybercrime your organization has to deal with, and it likely will have to deal with some, it can get extraordinarily costly fast.
What Can You Do?
Since this is a major problem for organizations, governments, and companies of all types, there are strategies emerging that can help your organization curb your exposure to these types of attacks. They include:
- Set Mobile Policy – You have policies in place for all types of things in the workplace, but you may not have had to consider putting regulations on smartphone use inside your office. With many organizations not investing money in providing mobile devices to their employees, there has been an uptick in development and use of the so-called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. In essence, it is a policy put in place that allows people to use their personal device on the work network, and use the work apps, but gives administrators the authority, through a mobile device management system, to control aspects of the phone in the case that company information could be made available. By setting a dedicated and well-considered mobile strategy, it can go a long way toward protecting your network from threats that would be carried in by careless mobile users.
- Training – When you don’t know about the risks you are taking, you can’t expect to know how to react if those risks were acted upon. You especially won’t be proactive about handling a potentially detrimental situation. That’s why it is important to train everyone in your organization on the best practices of using mobile for work purposes. Talk about social engineering, phishing, and other sneaky ways that hackers can gain access to your company’s network, and how to go about repelling their forays with knowledge and patience.
- Implement Mobile Security and Secure Networking Software –Most mobile platforms have some sort of defense in place, but if you want to be sure that you and your people are working to protect your organization’s network, installing mobile security applications on each device has been proven to catch and repel malware. The use of a Virtual Private Network application adds another layer of encryption to mobile communications, ensuring that data that is sent and received from your organization’s network gets to where it needs to get safely.
Business is going mobile, and so are hackers. In order to secure your organization against all manner of threats it’s essential that you have a comprehensive network security plan designed, implemented, and maintained. At VentureNet, we can help evaluate the best options for securing your mobile connections. For more information about mobile cybercrime or to talk to us about your organization’s network security, call us today at 214-343-3550.
Understanding 5G Helps Highlight its Benefits
You’ve heard of 3G and 4G technology for your mobile devices, but have you ever stopped to consider what these phrases actually mean? Since the world is on the cusp of a 5G introduction, it’s time to take a look at what these wireless technologies do, and how 5G can further expand on its formula.
Even though 5G isn’t expected to arrive until at least 2020, it’s worth taking a look at what we can expect to see in the future, and how it will affect your business.
What Does 5G Stand For?
If you’re thinking that 5G stands for something elaborate, think again. All it stands for is “fifth generation,” of mobile connection, as defined according to the IEEE 802.11ac standard of broadband technology. It’s thought that 5G will take various aspects of connectivity to the next level, including user experience, enhanced services, system performance, and business management solutions. According to TechWorld, 5G must also achieve the following in order to even earn the title:
- One to 10Gbps connections to end points in the field
- One millisecond end-to-end round trip delay
- 1000x bandwidth per unit area
- 10 to 100x number of connected devices
- (Perception of) 99.999 percent availability
- (Perception of) 100 percent coverage
- 90 percent reduction in network energy usage
- Up to ten-year battery life for low power, machine-type devices
For reference, 3G and 4G also had their own unique improvements that allowed them to showcase how far mobile technology had come at the time. 3G focused on providing greater connectivity than ever before, whereas 4G worked hard to improve the speed at which this connectivity functioned. But 5G will be even faster, which makes it an even more exciting topic to consider for business, as well as consumer purposes.
Despite the overwhelming advantages of 5G, there will inevitably be some downfalls that will need to be considered. Like any new technology, 5G is expected to be somewhat expensive to implement upon its inception, but this price will surely decrease as time goes on. New devices manufactured with 5G in mind will also feel the effects of this cost, making them more costly to pick up, but resilient to the effects of time as older connections grow outdated. Furthermore, if one thing is for sure, there are still places in the world that are without a reliable connection to 3G or 4G, making the jump to 5G all the more daunting.
Thankfully, there is much industry support behind the implementation of 5G, even though it’s still in development. Big names such as Samsung, Nokia, and Qualcomm are already investing in 5G, so it’s only a matter of time before they put together something truly astounding for people all over the world.
3 Business Communication Standbys
Communication is one of the most important parts of running a business, and if you’re not communicating properly, it could spell trouble for your organization. Projects could be delayed and could ultimately cost your organization more money than they’re worth. Thankfully, technology makes communication better, easier, and more efficient. Here are some of the ways that the best communication technologies can improve the way your organization functions.
Voice over Internet Protocol
Telephones have been around for quite a long time, but the way that they have been used changes with each new innovation. You may remember sitting at your desk with a corded phone, without the ability to move around. Mobile phones and voice chat applications make for a much more flexible way of taking and making calls. With the right software, you can use a smartphone, desktop, or laptop to make calls with your own personal devices. Voice over Internet Protocol makes communication way easier and more affordable. It eliminates the traditional telephone lines that are difficult to scale and build around without major infrastructure changes and inflated costs. VoIP has the potential to completely replace your antiquated telephone system with a modern and more efficient one.
Situations that require an immediate response often can’t wait for an email conversation’s inherent delay. While you could just use your phone to make the call, you don’t necessarily know if the situation warrants a phone call. If you just need to know about a website or something similar, you waste no time but yours to send a simple IM. You don’t have to worry about distracting anyone from a task, as they will simply respond when it is prudent to do so. Instant messaging works on both workstations and mobile devices, so they can be exceptionally valuable for communication during collaborative projects.
Shared Cloud Applications
Cloud storage is a great way to ensure that anything related to projects and collaboration can be accessed by the team responsible for working on them. With cloud-based productivity suites, like Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, you can have multiple users working on the same document and spreadsheet in real time. This keeps everyone involved in a beneficial way that’s simply not allowed for under other circumstances. There won’t be any huddling around a single monitor or television screen–instead, each user will have the flexibility and connectivity to work on the projects on their own devices.
With these types of unified communications and cloud software solutions at your disposal, your employees will always be connected to what matters most–their jobs and your business. To learn more, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.