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Responding to the threat of Weaponized Data

By September 11, 2017 No Comments

weaponized dataIn 2012, the U.S. stationed several new AH-64 Apache choppers in Iraq. When the Apaches arrived, some of the soldiers posed for pictures and posted them to the internet.

Unbeknownst to them, the enemy got ahold of the pictures and examined the geotags — the embedded data that showed when and where the picture was taken.

Per the Army press release:

“When a new fleet of helicopters arrived with an aviation unit at a base in Iraq, some soldiers took pictures on the flight line,” he said. “From the photos that were uploaded to the Internet, the enemy was able to determine the exact location of the helicopters inside the compound and conduct a mortar attack, destroying four of the AH-64 Apaches.”

Data is being collected, analyzed, and weaponized. Business, now contingent on safe and stable networks, is at more risk than ever before. With so much information out there, it has become increasing easy for a bad actor to cause immense damage.

Gary Miller of the Denver Post wrote this:

“The U.S.’ National Cyber Security Alliance found that 60 percent of small companies are unable to sustain their businesses over six months after a cyber-attack. According to the Ponemon Institute, the average price for small businesses to clean up after their businesses have been hacked stands at $690,000; and, for middle market companies, it’s over $1 million.

Recent events have proven that nobody is safe from the threat of cybercrime – not large corporations, small businesses, startups, government agencies or even presidential candidates.

Small and mid-sized businesses are hit by 62 percent of all cyber-attacks, about 4,000 per day, according to IBM. Cybercriminals target small businesses because they are an easy, soft target to penetrate. They steal information to rob bank accounts via wire transfers; steal customers’ personal identity information; file for fraudulent tax refunds; and, commit health insurance or Medicare fraud.

Clearly, we need to better protect ourselves. How can we do that?

Personally, I have been curious. A few weeks back, I took the opportunity to tour the TPx Security Operations Center (SOC) in St. Louis, MO to see what they do.

TPx has put together an amazing team to proactively identify, isolate risks, and respond to threats. The SOC is supported by security analysts, all hand-picked because of their military background and intelligence. Many of these staff members have top secret clearances. More importantly, these folks have been on the front lines and have seen the worst of the worst.

The TPx SOC provides 24/7/365 protection. As we toured the facility, we learned the site was built, from the ground up, to become the first line of defense against the exponentially growing threats to business networks.

Jared Martin, VP of ITx managed services for TPx, was our host. He started out with this statement: “Everyone is going to be breached. It is not if, but when. Every business needs to ask themselves two questions – First, are you minimizing your exposure? Second, are you prepared to react? Our SOC is built to help any customer do both.”

The SOC Command Center is seriously impressive. It looks like something out of a movie. The room is back-lit in blue. There are a dozen large screen TVs placed around the room. Some are tuned to CNN, the Weather Channel, and other news sources. Others show network traffic and threats currently being monitored. Due to security, all customer data was removed from the screens before we could enter the room.

As expected, it’s a challenge to even get into the center.  There are several physical protections – fingerprint and facial recognition, switchable glass (which clouds when current is run through it), and shielded cabling throughout. The entire center meets HIPAA, PCI and CPNI standards.

We spent a few hours discussing security. A few takeaways from the meeting:

  1. Most customers don’t understand cyber security. Data shows most customers believe it is the carriers who will be attacked. As such, when a business is targeted, their first response is usually to blame the carrier. At that point, it may already be too late.
  2. Carriers will protect themselves. Often, during a DoS attack, a carrier will redirect that traffic to a specifically designated path. This is so other customers do not see a slowdown. What does this mean? Your business is purposefully quarantined. Yes, the carrier will take over and choose how to respond. What is easier to deal with? 1 angry client or 100?
  3. School districts are the #1 targets for attack. Most of these attacks are DoS by students. For whatever reason, students in Texas seem to have it out for district administrators.
  4. Most breaches are caused by employee negligence. These tend to be the most dangerous and the hardest to prevent. When you align with a security company, they can close many loops related to patching and updating. This stops attacks like Wannacry and other attacks that target specific weaknesses.
  5. Cyber insurance is a booming industry, but it is still young. What is the value of data, and, more importantly, can you afford to find out?

The channel needs to start paying serious attention to security. How can you approach your customers about security?

One thing we know for certain, selling fear is a mistake. It’s unquantifiable. Joshua Dinneen, president and CEO of Norwell Technology Group (and a security expert himself) said it best –  “The customer’s security needs can be found at the intersection of risk and budget.”

A simple conversation can help you find that intersection:

  1. Who has access to your data?
  2. How is the data protected?
  3. Where is the data located?
  4. What would it cost you if your data was leaked?

Security is undersold, underutilized, and often ignored. It should not be. While security is a great revenue generator, it is much deeper than that. It is a need that most people don’t know about until they stop to consider the alternative to security – exposure.

The good folks at TPx have built a phenomenal data center to help mitigate security risks. They offer a variety of packages ranging from basic to full-service. If you haven’t looked at what TPx is doing, it’s a great time to reach out to your channel contacts for a refresher.

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