Fortify and Comply
Unleashing the Power of Secure IT Services
Organizations, including non-profit organizations, face unprecedented challenges in safeguarding sensitive information and valuable assets in today’s ever-evolving landscape. This page will explore the essential aspects of cybersecurity and compliance and how an experienced managed IT service provider with CIO-level expertise like TenisiTech can help.
Some leaders may confuse cybersecurity with compliance, and while these two concepts are interconnected, distinct differences exist.
Defining Cybersecurity and IT Compliance
Cybersecurity is the practice of proactive intervention of potential security threats. It safeguards networks, data, and computer systems from unauthorized access or attacks. Organizations can employ a wide range of measures to mitigate cybersecurity attacks, including but not limited to antivirus software, user education, and encryption used to protect digital assets.
Conversely, IT compliance relates to particular regulatory standards and guidelines established by governing bodies, legal authorities, or internal standard operating procedures. Regulatory compliance can vary by location or industry, and it’s just as crucial for non-profit sectors. Some common compliance protocols are CCPA, HIPAA, PCI DSS, GDPR, and SOC 2. Compliance procedures involve strict implementation, auditing, and reporting.
Cybersecurity’s primary concern is shielding an organization from cyber threats, be it a multinational corporation or a local non-profit, while IT compliance concerns meeting regulatory standards. Cybersecurity measures can contribute to IT compliance by protecting data and systems. However, IT compliance is a broader area that extends beyond cybersecurity, taking into account important details such as privacy and risk management.
Foundational Practices for Security and Compliance
Training and enforcement should be your organization’s top priority. You want to ensure that your staff is as well trained in IT security and cybersecurity compliance as they are with your business operational compliance. Many businesses wait until everything is on fire before they treat compliance and security with the gravity they deserve. Don’t wait until you receive a fee demand from the Attorney General’s office, or even worse, are facing a data breach incident to start thinking seriously about IT compliance and security.
A significant first step in any compliance program is developing a set of written policies that you and your employees can reference at any time. Education is your first line of defense with any compliance program. Users should be familiar with rules and expectations. These written policies should include proper training protocols for different roles. Remember, it only takes one mistake from one improperly trained team member to leave a system vulnerable to attacks or the business open to costly litigation.
It’s important to understand that those old Hollywood depictions of hoodie-clad hackers hunched over their keyboards while they break into a database are wildly outdated. Real-life cyberattacks can come from anyone and are often a product of successful social engineering. 90% of attacks start with a simple phishing email. Suppose a hacker can trick an employee, even in a non-profit, into handing over access to a system. In that case, there is a good chance they will succeed in their disruption, whether by stealing data, injecting harmful code, or even acting as that employee should they get access to an email address.
While various security and IT compliance aspects can differ by industry, you should always employ foundational practices. These foundational practices will help protect your business from cyberattacks like dangerous phishing attempts, ransomware, and security breaches. Similarly, a robust compliance program will mitigate operational interruption.
Let’s explore the benefits of engaging an IT managed service provider such as TenisiTech to ensure comprehensive compliance coverage and cybersecurity for your business, or non-profit organization.
Introduction to Ransomware Protection
Introduction to Ransomware Protection
Ransomware protection is one of the most common cyberattack concerns. It’s also, unfortunately, one of the most financially devastating. Like many attacks, ransomware often starts with “phishing.” Phishing is a fraudulent email to trick employees into granting the attacker access to the system. Hackers design phishing emails to look like correspondence from within the company or from a vendor, partner, client, or other associate. Because the email appears trustworthy, an employee may unknowingly click on the included links or follow damaging instructions.
Once the attacker has access, the ransomware downloads to the system and encrypts files, preventing anyone else from opening them. This dangerous software spreads quickly to other devices connected to the infected machine, locking the entire system behind encryption. The attacker then demands a ransom from the company in return for removing the encryption and returning the data.
The sophistication of ransomware attacks has become so profound that even major tech companies like Nvidia and Cisco have fallen victim. In the past year, ransomware attacks crippled the British Royal Mail Service for days, successfully stole sensitive law enforcement data from US Marshals, leaked sensitive employee and resident data in Oakland, and shut down the system in a hospital in Tallahassee for nearly a week. Most shockingly, a 2022 attack on the Costa Rican government forced the country to declare a state of national emergency while they worked to resolve the issue.
Here are some great ways to help ensure ransomware protection:
- Employee Training. The best course of action in ransomware protection is to ensure that all employees are trained in how phishing works and how to spot phishing emails. Phishing simulations are a pervasive and effective way to enforce email security compliance and avoid ransomware.
- Next-Generation Antivirus (NGAV). NGAV continuously monitors system data, and can swiftly flag and block ransomware. It is a proactive approach that goes beyond traditional methods.
- Ransomware protection is one of the most common cyberattack concerns. It’s also, unfortunately, one of the most financially devastating. Like many attacks, ransomware often starts with “phishing.” Phishing is a fraudulent email to trick employees into granting the attacker access to the system. Hackers design phishing emails to look like correspondence from within the company or from a vendor, partner, client, or other associate. Because the email appears trustworthy, an employee may unknowingly click on the included links or follow damaging instructions.
- Once the attacker has access, the ransomware downloads to the system and encrypts files, preventing anyone else from opening them. This dangerous software spreads quickly to other devices connected to the infected machine, locking the entire system behind encryption. The attacker then demands a ransom from the company in return for removing the encryption and returning the data.
- The sophistication of ransomware attacks has become so profound that even major tech companies like Nvidia and Cisco have fallen victim. In the past year, ransomware attacks crippled the British Royal Mail Service for days, successfully stole sensitive law enforcement data from US Marshals, leaked sensitive employee and resident data in Oakland, and shut down the system in a hospital in Tallahassee for nearly a week. Most shockingly, a 2022 attack on the Costa Rican government forced the country to declare a state of national emergency while they worked to resolve the issue.
- OS & Application Patching. Updates address known vulnerabilities in systems and applications. By updating frequently, you minimize the risk of ransomware getting through unpatched security gaps.
It’s essential to follow an organization’s standard operating procedures regarding cybersecurity. If your organization doesn’t have a written policy for cybersecurity, you are woefully behind the times and must act now before you become a victim. Prevention is always the best step to avoiding ransomware attacks. Always be proactive.
Ramifications of Successful Ransomware Attacks
The effects of a ransomware attack are devastating. The ransom will often be outrageously high, but the real damage is in the fallout. Repairing the damage caused by ransomware can take days, weeks, or even months away from regular business operations.
A painful reality is that you may be unable to retrieve the stolen data after payment. A recent poll found that only 16% of companies recover all their data after paying the ransom demand.
Reputational damage is often another unfortunate side-effect after a hacker leaks confidential data. Trade secrets, proprietary information, and even personal data risk exposure with a ransomware attack. It may take years to recover from a ransomware attack.
Besides the immediate costs of lost data or ransom payments, the financial burden can linger for months or years after the attack. Your insurance premiums will skyrocket. And publicly-traded companies suffered around a 7.5% decline in stock prices after a breach, with a mean market-cap loss of about $5 billion. The average cost of a data breach in the US is close to $10 million. That includes the cost of ransoms, lost data, disruptions to operations, and increased audit costs. Finally, Moody’s announced in 2018 that cybersecurity practices would be a factor in assigning credit ratings, so your credit could suffer if you’re not staying compliant and up-to-date on your security.
Security Breach and Risk Mitigation
Security breaches are among the most significant business risks in the modern age. These risks can lead to devastating consequences for any organization. The best defense is a proactive one. Our experts at TenisiTech can provide valuable insights into minimizing these threats.
The most common security breach dangers faced by companies today are:
- Phishing Emails. As mentioned earlier, cybercriminals use deceptive emails, messages, or websites to trick users into revealing information such as financial details or login credentials, among other sensitive data.
- Ransomware. We have discussed ransomware in the previous section, but to recap, ransomware is when a malicious actor encrypts a victim’s data and demands a ransom.
- Insider Threats. An employee within the organization may intentionally or accidentally compromise security by stealing data, deploying malicious code, or leaking sensitive information.
- Weak Passwords. Many people still use weak passwords or reuse the same password across multiple platforms, both professionally and personally. A weak, overused password can be easily stolen or exploited during a brute-force attack.
- Outdated Software. Failure to regularly update software and apply security patches leaves systems open for exploitation by bad actors.
- Unsecured Internet of Things (IoT) Devices. IoT devices include webcams, smartwatches, routers, and medical devices, and they’re all vulnerable to attacks. Because IoT devices often lack strong security measures, attackers can exploit weak passwords, unpatched vulnerabilities, or lackluster protocols to compromise these devices.
- Denial of Service (DoS) or Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks. These attacks happen when a cybercriminal attempts to overwhelm services, networks, or systems. Legitimate users are no longer able to gain access because of the disruption.
- Social Engineering Attacks. Phishing isn’t the only social engineering attack out there. Pretexting, baiting, and piggybacking are all common methods for criminals to access information.
- Malware and Spyware. There’s a wide variety of malware causing damage in the digital age. Some malware (or spyware) can steal your data, disrupt systems, or monitor usage.
- Third Party Attacks. Malicious actors target third-party suppliers to gain access to a more extensive network and open-port network attacks, which use open TCP/UDP ports to access the system. A good example is Amazon-owned Ring cameras, which several cybercriminals infamously hacked.
Some common ways employees can avoid these attacks are by following best practices. Strong passwords, with the aid of a good password manager, should always be used. A solid encryption method for Wi-Fi access and Multi-Factor Authentication are also helpful tools.
Organizations should set a clear Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, as personal devices can pose significant risks to any business. Ensuring that employees and users are well-educated in internal and cybersecurity policies and procedures is always the best way to ensure safety!
There are many ways to protect your data from breaches, but the essential takeaway is that organizations need a robust long-term cybersecurity strategy. Cybersecurity must be a point of focus and a significant part of the culture within your company. This is not an area where an organization can afford to cut corners. Closing security gaps is not nearly as costly as recovering from an attack or data breach. The very safety and security of your company could be at risk if you’re not prepared for these all-too-common attacks.
Internal efforts can and should be made to enhance an organization’s culture around cybersecurity policies and training. However, not all companies can handle strategy and compliance on their own. That’s where a strong IT managed service provider can be the ultimate partner in security. We live in treacherous times, and as a business leader, you should be able to sleep soundly every night knowing that an experienced IT service provider like TenisiTech is on your side.
Foundations of Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity should be a priority for every business, but you may need help knowing where to start. A great place to start is with foundational practices. Following best practices should always be the baseline for any business operation, and cybersecurity is no exception.
Phishing Simulation and Employee Training
We have already discussed the importance of written policies and training within an organization. Let’s take that a step further by including phishing simulations. Phishing simulators send mock phishing emails to gauge employee responses and serve as an effective means of assessing compliance success. This exercise gives you a good idea of how successful your compliance measures have been so far, and it helps reinforce strong security practices among endpoint users. At a minimum, an organization should be sending out phishing simulations once per month. If your organization doesn’t strongly value foundational practices, employees will forget them, which spells potential impending chaos for your business.
Strong Password Policy
Many people, including your employees, have gotten into the bad habit of using weak passwords or reusing the same password for everything. Your organization should enforce strict rules for passwords. Employees should never share their passwords, and you should include that in your Password Policy. Passwords should be strong and unique, and you should require a password change on a frequent schedule. Some employees may need help with generating consistently strong passwords. Password managers make remembering and creating solid passwords easy! There are many to choose from on the market, and using them should be the standard for every user.
A good password manager will help you create long, complex passwords. Passwords should be no less than 12 characters, so don’t be afraid to require many characters that include a nice variety of lowercase and uppercase, as well as numbers and special symbols. Avoid common names, words, or phrases that could be discovered via social engineering or quickly during brute force attacks.
You’ve set up your users with strong password rules, and you may think you’ve done everything you can to mitigate attacks, but you would be wrong. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA, sometimes called 2FA) detects when a user logs in with your credentials and sends a confirmation signal to a secure place, usually to your email or via SMS text messages to your phone. MFA can prevent hackers from accessing your systems even if they have your credentials. This second step to logging in may seem like a pain to busy executives, but cleaning up the mess of a data breach or security incident will be far more painful! Do you want to spend your holidays and weekends on the phone with your attorneys, cleaning up an expensive mess? Embrace MFA and thank us later when you enjoy Saturday afternoon with your family.
Timely Patching and Next Gen Antivirus
Now that you’ve set up strong passwords and MFA protection, it’s time to consider patching. Cybersecurity is a constant arms race between malicious actors and security professionals, and you risk falling behind if you’re not up-to-date with the newest security patches. You must patch your servers, applications, and even the drivers on devices like Wi-Fi adapters. Don’t go through all the trouble of setting up a password manager and MFA software without updating that, too!
Last but certainly not least, you must consider your antivirus software. You have likely been using standard antivirus software like Norton or McAfee for years on your laptops, but newer generation software comes with stronger and more sophisticated protection. Many companies use AI-driven machine learning in their software these days. The advantage of AI is the capability to learn your computer habits and then flag suspicious activity. So many cyberattacks use social engineering to gain access because antivirus software and firewalls are strong enough to protect your computer from just about any old-school breach – but remember, you’re only covered if you keep the software updated and patched!
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IT Roles in Compliance
Any company’s compliance programs expand past cybersecurity. Every industry has its own set of rules and regulations that need to be complied with. Enforcing compliance within these sets of regulatory rules is imperative to any business. Organizations risk potentially damaging legal ramifications if compliance isn’t followed, including high fees, shutdowns, and reputational damage. When you take compliance seriously, you signal to potential clients, vendors, and partners that you are trustworthy. That’s why IT roles in compliance are essential.
Compliance is a complex and far reaching area of any business, and varies by industry. In this section, we will cover Soc 2 Type 2, CCPA and other privacy regulations, industry-specific compliance protocols such as HIPAA, and PCI DSS.
SOC 2 Type 2
SOC 2 Type 2 (Service Organization Control 2 Type 2) is a very popular certification that helps build trust in your company. It shows third-party validation that your organization adheres to strict protocols that evaluate controls and processes to protect data and information. Businesses typically work with a firm to assess the organization’s controls. The criteria include security, processing, confidentiality, and privacy, measured over a specific continuous period, usually over six months. The final SOC 2 Type 2 report details the company’s controls and effectiveness. The report will also highlight any gaps in the process or areas of improvement. You must address these gaps immediately. SOC 2 Type 2 is not a one-and-done certification. It requires ongoing monitoring and renewal.
CCPA & Evolving Privacy Regulations
You may now think, “I don’t do business in California, so who cares?” You would be wrong. California set the stage with the CCPA, but several other states have followed suit. You must also worry about Colorado (CPA), Connecticut (CTDPA), Utah (UCPA), and Virginia (VCDPA), with many more to follow. It’s likely that within the coming years, the federal government will pass a privacy law. Will you be prepared when it does?
Industry-Specific Compliance Standards
Many compliance standards vary by industry. Do you work in the healthcare field? If so, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) should be a compliance standard you live by and should reflect in the way your systems are managed and protected. Do you work in the motor vehicle industry? The DPPA (Driver’s Privacy Protection Act) must be adhered to strictly, less facing high fees and other punitive measures by regulatory bodies.
Every industry has its own set of regulatory compliance standards. A deep understanding of the corresponding regulations for your business is paramount before writing and enforcing policies.
Another standard set of regulations is the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard or PCI DSS. The PCI DSS is a set of rules protecting consumer debit and credit card information. There are 12 requirements for PCI compliance, many of which are foundational cybersecurity rules. While the PCI is not a government organization, PCI compliance is mandatory for compliance with the major credit card brands. The last thing you want for your business is for Visa, Mastercard, or American Express to deny you processing rights.
IT’s Role in Compliance
All of these regulations involve data collection and security, which puts them under the purview of the IT department. They align closely with standard cybersecurity rules, although each requirement may differ.
The great news is that you can leverage many fantastic SaaS-based compliance frameworks to help build and maintain regulatory standards, and we would love to recommend our favorites to you!
Many third-party IT providers focus on security and technical support, but a rare few, including TenisiTech, include compliance in their services. Our IT programs are ISO27001 compliant, and we’re incredibly familiar with HIPAA, NIST security, SOC 2 Type 2, CCPA, GDPR, PCI, and more! Let us be your partner in building and maintaining system and compliance integrity.
Maintaining Compliance Through Internal IT Audits
Internal IT audits are one of the most essential services we provide and are integral to the security of your system. Simply put, an internal audit is your opportunity to check on your cybersecurity and compliance programs to ensure that everything is sealed up and secured. Like phishing simulations, you will want to test your security before a hacker starts testing it! Don’t leave yourself open to these malicious attacks. Similarly, you don’t want to face litigation from a consumer with compromised information in ways that may violate certain laws or regulations.
An IT security provider will often take on the internal auditor role because we know exactly how the system should run. An internal audit involves visiting different departments within your organization and looking deeply into their processes and protocols. For example, we might ask the HR department to show us evidence of recent background checks on new hires to ensure the collection of all critical data before the employee’s start date. If your company is CCPA compliant, we might look at the data collection diary to ensure everything is properly documented and handled. We want what’s best for your business, which means preparing you for any gaps in your processes.
Some companies prefer to handle their own internal audits, but many choose to bring in an outside managed service provider like TenisiTech. An internal audit is a wonderful practice run before initiating an external auditor for attestation reviews (such as with SOC 2 Type 2 reports). Internal audits help discover hidden gaps, especially if you have your own cybersecurity team. Getting an outside viewpoint on your system can help you spot flaws and holes you might never have noticed.
It’s easy to set up a secure and compliant system when working with professionals. However, internal audits are an essential piece of the puzzle to maintain security and compliance. Think of cybersecurity and compliance as living, breathing entities in your organization that will evolve over time. You don’t want them to collect dust and become outdated, leaving you vulnerable. Be sure to stick to a strict schedule of audits and enforce them with your team. We recommend quarterly audits.
The greatest danger in the cybersecurity world is complacency. Now is not the time to relax and assume your systems and operations have no gaps. That line of thinking will leave you dangerously open to ransomware or other cybersecurity attacks. You don’t have to be alone in this. TensiTech is here to help.
Now that you have a comprehensive overview of cybersecurity and compliance foundations, you know that the best defense is a good offense. Be proactive! Provide written policies and training to your employees, and then enforce them. The frequency of cyberattacks increases exponentially every single year. Ensuring your data is secure and fully compliant with regulatory compliance standards has never been more critical.
The worst thing any business can do is become complacent about security. Are your employees using MFA? What about using a password manager? Could your password rules be improved? Is your organization using next-gen antivirus software? Are you running phishing simulations regularly? Are you patching and updating software often? If you’re unsure or unhappy with the answers to these questions, it’s time to get proactive about security! The scammers, hackers, and bad guys are becoming more sophisticated daily. Stay ahead of their insidious games.
We know that managing IT can be tough. If you need cybersecurity help, TenisiTech is always here to assist. Don’t settle for a reactive service provider when you can have a proactive one. We’ve been helping businesses with IT services for over ten years and are thrilled to bring our knowledge and experience to your organization.
Learn more about how working with the right IT security provider can improve your cybersecurity. Reach out today for a free, no-obligation consultation. We look forward to partnering with you.