Proactive Cyber Security Measures

Proactive Cyber Security Measures

Jeramy Kopacko, security consultant and solutions architect at Sophos, weighs in on proactive cyber security strategies that businesses can leverage in 2021 to combat evolving threats.

 

It’s only March and we’re already seeing major cyber security breaches and vulnerabilities greet us in 2021. SolarWinds has led the headlines with a breach that has now impacted almost 100 private sectors and 9 federal agencies, according to Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger in a recent White House Press Brief.

In the most recent joint hearing, SolarWinds has shifted to scapegoating a recent intern for leaving the password ‘solarwinds123’ on a file server that had been exposed to the internet—previously warned by an independent security researcher.

This is not to dump on SolarWinds but rather than use the event to explain how we can use this to improve your operations. Let’s use the metaphor for cybersecurity with the phrase “firefighting.”

When a home catches fire, you dial 911 and seek your local fire department to relinquish the flames. Just the same as when you encounter a breach, you dial your MSP to respond to the event. But why wait until something happens?

Around the interior of a home, smoke detectors alert you of potential danger—where there’s smoke, there’s fire. So how do we find “smoke” in your environment?

 

Principle of Least Privilege

Start by auditing domain admin or local admin accounts and reviewing what permissions they need to do their role. Limiting the power of these accounts can go a long way in minimizing the impact of a breach.

  • Public Facing Email Accounts
  • Identity Sync Services
  • Backup Services
  • Line of Business Service Accounts

A Microsoft employee Steve Syfuh wrote this blog on how to use managed service accounts in place for your traditional service admin accounts.

This goes to IT Professionals as well. Your email account should not have super admin credentials. Plan as if your account will be compromised. MFA is a tool—not a silver bullet.

 

Password Auditing

It’s no secret that the IT space is a highly competitive field. In fact, the average tenure of an employee is around three years. How do you handle this turnover? Do they just “blame the intern?”

You can find reports from major vendors like Verizon and LastPass that passwords are consistently reused and recycled. Start by using tools, both free and paid, to audit what passwords are used across your systems.

Benefits include:

  • Expose any reused passwords
  • Provide metrics on how easily they can be cracked
  • Check active passwords against leaked databases

 

Account Auditing

If you are using out of the box domain policies in your environment, then you are not currently taking advantage of invaluable logs for your organization. A quick search on “Auditing User Accounts in Active Directory” will provide countless tutorials.

If you have a SIEM or (shameless plug) are using Sophos Intercept-X with EDR, you can quickly audit your systems with a few clicks for the following event IDs:

  • Event ID 4720: a new account created
  • Event ID 4722: a user account was enabled
  • Event ID 4740: a user account was locked
  • Event ID 4725: a user account was disabled
  • Event ID 4726: a user account was deleted
  • Event ID 4738: a user account was changed
  • Event ID 4781: a user account name was changed
  • Event ID 4625: an account failed to log on
    • There are several failed login types

By monitoring and routinely looking at these events, this can give you an early indication that a hack is being attempted or has been successful.

 

Apply these tactics to your existing processes and increase the chance of catching the smoke before it turns to flame. Simple security strategies can save you countless hours and dollars.

Hyperautomation, RPA and Intelligent Automation: How Automation is Changing How We Do Business

Hyperautomation, RPA and Intelligent Automation: How Automation is Changing How We Do Business

Since technology made its way into our homes and businesses more than 30 years ago, it’s changed how we communicate, work, and process information. First it was the typewriter, then the first computers were introduced, cell phones changed how quickly we could connect, and now we’re seeing technology predict human operations and take over the tasks that were once too dangerous for humans or took up too much valuable time.

Over the next several years, businesses will need to adapt to changes in technology as features like AI, RPA, and Hyperautomation become mainstay. Now is a critical period of transition for businesses as we begin to consider an attainable rollout process for these new systems.

According to a June 2019 study, “How Robots Change the Work,” by global advisory firm Oxford Economics, “The number of robots in use worldwide multiplied threefold over the past two decades, to 2.25 million. Trends suggest the global stock of robots will multiply even faster in the next 20 years, reaching as many as 20 million by 2030.”

Chain retailers have long past adopted using these technologically advanced features to improve how they track consumers, generate revenue, and streamline business processes. Now is the time for other businesses and industries to hop on the AI, Hyperautomation, and RPA bandwagon.

Since the global pandemic has put a significant strain on efficient workflows and processes, the need for approachable business automation has skyrocketed. The market shift has required businesses to adapt to a digital workplace, maintain productive operations, and embrace advancing technologies. Take the time to understand the different methods of modern day business automation now because it is only going to advance from here.

 

IA vs. RPA vs. Hyperautomation

 

In the tech industry, there are three different forms of automation on the rise, including Hyperautomation, RPA (robotic process automation), and

 Intelligent Automation. Intelligent automation (IA) focuses on the automation of thinking processes, RPA on mimicking human action, and Hyperautomation in its most basic form is a combination of the two.

The three main forms of automation are all intertwined with one another, but reach different respective goals. All automation works toward creating more efficiency, but depending on the form, the level of human input required, and the actions it performs will determine what automation is necessary. Each form will change most companies’ goals from bartering over who can offer the best price, to who can deliver products and services the fastest.

Some of these business process automations may already be in play at your business. Consider the employee onboarding software you use, purchase order requests you file, how you process your payroll, and more. These are common ways most businesses have started to automate their processes, but they could be doing more. 

Consider the data analysis tasks your employees perform, how your finance department pays and processes invoices, and how your procurement team orders new products or equipment. The goal of implementing automation processes is to use technology for these repeatable, day-to-day tasks and reallocate your employees’ time elsewhere to further improve business efficiency.

 

What is Intelligent Automation (IA)?

 

Intelligent Automation is a combination of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, which together empowers rapid end-to-end business process automation and accelerates digital transformation. According to Automation Anywhere, Intelligent Automation, “spans the entire automation journey—discovery, automation, optimization—automating any front- or back-office business process, and orchestrating work across combined human-bot teams.”

Industries that can benefit most from IA are BPOs, financial services, healthcare, insurance, life sciences, manufacturing, public sector, and telecommunications.

 

The key benefits of Intelligent Automation are: 

  • An enhanced customer experience
  • Fewer errors and exceptions
  • Strengthened cybersecurity 
  • Enhanced compliance
  • Automated business processes 
  • Reduced operational obstacles 
  • Organized complex data

In today’s enterprise, unstructured information represents 80% of all business data. The rise of  IA presents a more streamlined approach to optimizing processes, workflows, and automation paths. To benefit from Intelligent Automation, it is critical to share all unstructured information. This includes human chat conversation, audio, and video. Without this, IA will not be able to make true automation possible.

We anticipate a rise in need for IA this year as many businesses maintain a digital workforce and need to optimize their digital workflow transformation.

 

What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

RPA, or robotic process automation, is a buzz term that’s here to stay. Contrary to what it’s name sounds like, it’s not made of mechanical robots walking (or wheeling) around in place of human line workers. Instead, RPA is made up of software robots mimicking repeatable and mundane human tasks on a device.

There are two main forms of RPA: Assisted and Unassisted. Assisted RPA has human employees and software bots working hand-in-hand. An example of Assisted RPA is where the robot is deployed via the server to an employee’s workstation. The employee accesses it from a desktop menu and has control over where and when it is used.

On the other hand, Unassisted RPA software bots are decentralized on a manual server, allowing manual control. The actions that these software robots can take are the tasks that often take human employees away from their more important core work. Some of these tasks include simple actions such as copying and pasting data, logging into applications, moving files and folders, making calculations, reading and writing to databases, and more.

Currently in advancement is the next step after Unassisted RPA, which is Autonomous RPA and Cognitive RPA. The ideal situation for Unassisted RPA is to automate and scale processes to support the bottom line and eliminate workflow inefficiencies. On the other hand, Cognitive RPA is less tactical and more strategic. Cognitive RPA uses Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing to process unstructured data and aid in the automation of tasks that require judgement.

 

What is Hyperautomation?

 

In the most simple terms, Hyperautomation automates mundane, repetitive tasks. The term itself first appeared in October 2019, making it a new but impactful trend in 2020. The combination of a set of digital technologies such as AI, machine learning (ML), and RPA make up the base of what Hyperautomation is. It differs from other automation processes by regarding humans as an essential component of what makes it work.

While RPA largely aims to mimic human tasks and actions, Hyperautomation brings the advancement of human action and human thought (AI) together to create a technology that can do it all in order to give human workers freedom from some of their smaller or more dangerous tasks. This advanced form of business automation has a goal to complete tasks and processes faster, benefiting the business’ production and profit.

The benefits of Hyperautomation include: 

  • Accelerating Complex Work – provides a quick way to get every employee engaged in transforming the business by automating complex work that relies on input from all.
  • Deploying Digital Workers – can take on repetitive tasks to change how employees work. By creating a digital workforce, businesses can create a digital form of shared knowledge the workers can use to discover new processes, analyze data, and create new automation opportunities.

 

How Advancements in Automation are Changing How We Do Business

 

As Automation continues to advance, you should expect to see a more efficient and expedited version of end-to-end business process automation, stronger customer service, and more time for human employees to work on things that require deeper thinking. Mundane and repeatable tasks that typically diverge people from completing their important core work will be given to the software bots that can complete them efficiently.

Business goals will also likely change, and begin to focus on efficiency and speed of delivery rather than determining the best price in the market. With the help of AI and ML, business processes will be learned in a matter of minutes, and then optimized for efficiency by the software.

Product delivery processes that once took weeks are now completed within a day, or even hours. Amazon has already taken advantage of automating their processes from the beginning to the end of the supply chain, allowing them to deliver products within the same day. This will become a norm as more companies invest in IA, RPA, and Hyperautomation. 

Ali Raza, founder and CEO of ThroughPut noted, “The takeaway for automation strategy is not when to automate, but where to automate. The first step involves streamlining processes and bringing them into control, at which point they’re easier to scale.” 

Not every job and task needs to be automated, as some areas of work can only be done by humans, but it’s important for businesses to take a look at their different teams and silos and determine which areas are holding them back by not being automated. Asking those questions will get your company to its optimal potential.

 

Want to become more efficient? Contact PGH Networks today.

Moving to the Cloud

Moving to the Cloud

The concept of cloud computing has been around since the 1960s, when computer bureaus would allow companies to rent time on a mainframe, rather than have to buy one themselves, but the term cloud computing only originated recently: during the early 2000s. Since then, cloud computing has only gained popularity as organizations realized that the technology offered a vast number of services for a low charge. According to Gartner, global spending on cloud services will reach $260 billion this year (up from $219.6 billion).

 

What is Cloud Computing?

 

Cloud computing is an internet-based service that allows individuals to access services that were traditionally only available via download online.  For example, Google Docs allows users to create and edit documents online, share these documents with collaborators so they can see adjustments in real-time, and access documents from any computer instead of just the computer the document was created on. This is only one example of cloud computing, and the technology is available for a variety of on-demand computing services, from applications to storage, typically on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Cloud computing allows companies to rent access to services that previously would have required them to own their own computing infrastructure or data centers from a cloud service provider. This technology offers many benefits to companies, particularly in terms of scalability.

 

Benefit of Cloud Computing

 

Cloud computing offers organizations a number of advantages, from increasing efficiency to minimizing capital expenditure. Here are the top three reasons why you should consider taking your organization to the cloud:

Flexibility

Cloud computing is ideal for the remote workforce, offering a level of flexibility that traditional IT infrastructure cannot. Not only does the pay-as-you-go nature of the cloud make it ideal for businesses to scale capacity up or down as needed, it makes it easy for teams to collaborate from anywhere at any time. 

Time

According to Salesforce data, 51% of employees have found that emerging technologies like cloud computing save both time and effort once integrated. Not only does this create streamlined content for improved collaboration, it means that your employees can access data at times most convenient for them.

Saving

Cloud computing technologies allow businesses to avoid the high costs of hardware. With subscription-based models that make it easy to pay for what your organization needs, cloud computing providers make setting up and managing an IT infrastructure easy and affordable. 

 

Risks of Cloud Computing

 

While there are significant advantages to moving your organization onto the cloud, it is important to understand the risks associated with cloud computing to fully protect your organization against cyber threats. 

Cloud environments experience the same threats as traditional data centers; however, unlike traditional data centers, organizations that operate in the cloud accept some of the responsibility for mitigating the risks associated with software vulnerabilities. For instance, organizations need to perform monitoring and analysis of information about applications, services, data, and users.

Is your organization considering the switch to cloud computing? Learn more about the services and technology PGH Networks can provide. Reach out to us today: contact us today.

The Focus of the New 2021 Workplace

The Focus of the New 2021 Workplace

Workplace Trends

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven many changes in our society, especially within the workplace. As social distancing and quarantine restrictions were implemented at the start of 2020, organizations across the globe had to focus both on the health and safety of their employees and on continuing their operations. As a result, many businesses have begun to reconsider how digital technologies could streamline their operations.

 

Managing Change in the Workplace

A recent poll by Gartner showed that 41% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19 versus 30% before the pandemic. 

As many organizations shift to remote work operations, businesses must be prepared to not only explore the critical competencies their employees will need to collaborate digitally, and also they will also need to adjust their technologies to accommodate the remote experience.

 

Areas of Focus

Three major areas of focus are: Network Performance Monitoring, Scalable Network Technologies, and Remote Work Security.

 

Network Performance Monitoring

Network Performance Monitoring is a solution that allows computer networks to identify slow or failing components before they cause problems. For instance, with Network Performance Monitoring, you can monitor network performance between office sites, data centers, clouds and applications in real time to identify:

  • Crashed, frozen, or overloaded servers
  • Failed switches
  • Failing routers
  • And other troublesome components that can potentially cause an outage or network failure.

A Network Monitoring tool will constantly monitor your network’s health and reliability by tracking your network’s parameters and searching for trends. This can be done by comparing data transmission rates, such as uptime/downtime rates, error rates, response times, and user-time percentages to thresholds set in advance. Once the levels reach the threshold, the Network Monitoring tool will trigger an alarm and initiate the network fault management process. 

Monitoring and analyzing this data can help businesses obtain valuable information about the network’s users, from peak usage time to traffic patterns and allow IT departments to better optimize support across different operating areas.

 

Scalable Network Technologies

Scalability allows the system or network to grow and accommodate growth. From a business perspective, scalability is what allows websites to accommodate increasing numbers of customers (i.e website visitors) without crashing, but it’s also more than that. 

Scalable Network Technologies also include IT network solutions such as hardware and applications, data security, and the increased demand that both hardware and software are likely to see with company growth. To stimulate growth in the most efficient and least expensive way, businesses should be prepared to accommodate growth in all of these areas.

It is essential to plan for scalability as this will allow businesses to avoid unnecessary costs and keep business IT flowing smoothly.

 

Remote Work Security

As companies offer more remote work opportunities they must also prepare to face unique security challenges while managing a mobile workforce. Security challenges can arise every time there’s a shift in environment and companies should be prepared to respond accordingly to prevent unauthorized network access and guarantee data security. 

From establishing a cyber security policy to implementing two-factor authentication (2FA) to installing firewalls, antivirus and anti-malware software business leaders should be prepared to handle whatever new vulnerabilities a remote workforce may unveil. 

To ensure your network is secure, consider outsourcing your IT services to ensure the highest level of data security and achieve business success with your remote workforce. To learn more about the services and technology PGH Networks can provide, contact us today.

How to Think Outside the [Virtual] Box & Grow Your Business with Technology

How to Think Outside the [Virtual] Box & Grow Your Business with Technology

While every business’s ultimate goal is growth, many business owners struggle to identify the most cost-effective, feasible strategy to accomplish this goal. This is where digital technologies come in handy. 

Many of today’s businesses utilize technology to improve their operational processes; in fact more than 80% of business owners agree that technology creates financial opportunities for their business. Technology helps business owners improve scale, streamline efficiency, reduce operational costs, and diminish production times. 

 

BEST TECH TOOLS FOR SMALL BUSINESS

 

Digital technologies are valuable tools to help drive business growth and accomplish strategic objectives. There are plenty of online tools available that can automate business-critical tasks, such as paying bills or scheduling employees for shifts. Other digital technologies can help businesses more efficiently manage time, such as calendar or scheduling platforms that manage meetings and calls. Most importantly, there are technologies that can monitor and protect network safety, guarding businesses against system failures and cyberthreats. 

 

EXPANDED TECHNOLOGIES

 

Many different elements contribute to business growth; therefore, businesses should consider multiple technologies to help them minimize operational costs and maximize revenue. 

Cloud-based applications are ideal for businesses looking to improve productivity and efficiency for a low cost, especially because these technologies carry a lower cost up-front and can be utilized across a range of different devices. 

Similarly, digital technologies that improve data security can help protect critical assets from cyberthreats and system failures, empower mobile employees, modernize IT infrastructure and streamline compliance.

Finally, business owners can consider augmenting their performance through artificial intelligence technologies. 

 

CLOUD COMPUTING

 

Over the past few years, the cloud has transformed business technology, improving operations, enabling flexible workplaces, and decreasing infrastructure costs. Cloud computing can be integrated into many business operations, from managing infrastructure to remote work and beyond. Moreover, with cloud providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, businesses can scale their cloud usage easily depending on the resources they need.   

 

DATA SECURITY

 

Cybersecurity is so much more than a way to mitigate cyber risk—it is also a crucial digital tool that can accelerate business growth. At the most basic level, data security technology can protect businesses from digital disruption by protecting critical assets, but the technology can also enable higher levels of productivity while geographically expanding your workforce— which is essential for innovation and growth. By vetting mobile users, deploying digital certificates to these users, and implementing the right mobile security technologies, tools and policies, cybersecurity technology can promote business growth. 

 

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TECHNOLOGY

 

Artificial intelligence (AI) has embedded itself in almost every industry and for good reason: they provide invaluable support by automating processes, analyzing data to generate insights, and even engaging with clients. From automated chat-bots that provide 24/7 customer support to Microsoft Power, which enables businesses to automate repetitive tasks and build multi step workflows, AI is an essential investment for businesses looking to increase their productivity, efficiency, and profit.

Digital technology is evolving every day, which is why outsourcing IT is a best practice for most businesses. Outsourcing frees up time and resources to allow business owners to focus on achieving business goals and will likely reduce cost in the long term. To learn more about the services and technology PGH Networks can provide, reach out to us today: contact us today.