Tag Archives: security

Preparing for the Next Generation of Security Intelligence

Are you familiar with security intelligence? If not, you should be. Here’s what you need to know about this growing data-gathering activity that will protect your digital assets from cyber criminals.

Introducing a New Kind of Intelligence

Since cyber threats continue to increase regardless of how sophisticated cybersecurity software gets, governments and businesses are turning to the next phase of defense — intelligence gathering. This solution involves collecting huge amounts of actionable information on cyber threats, then using big data tools to protect organizations from outside threats.

Time and Cost Efficiency Factors

IT teams should not go overboard chasing intelligence if it’s not helping the company. Security intelligence is meant to enhance security systems, not replace them. If a company devotes too much time and money to this data collection process, they may lose focus on what the business is really about — which is making money, not spending money. The key is to synchronize big data tools when necessary to guard against dangerous attacks.

Modern malware can hide for many weeks in a network before it initiates damage. It can be prevented using machine learning strategies that predict disasters. Detailed intelligence will help companies determine the safety of their existing protection.

Cyber Myths

Before venturing into big data collection, you should be aware that many myths surround intelligence gathering in the digital world. It’s not designed to predict presidential elections, military outcomes, or the stock market. Many people may assume too much from the word “prediction.” What this intelligence does is bring together the most relevant data on cyber threats so that analysts can quickly make determinations on avoiding disasters.

In recent years, a majority of North American and European businesses have been victimized by cyber crime in some form. As much as the government is working to crack down on cyber criminals, all it takes is one attack to wipe out a business. The Internet of Things and expanding interconnectivity of devices are creating increased vulnerabilities.

Perhaps the biggest cyber-myth of all is when companies believe that simply installing firewalls and doing routine screening for bugs will be sufficient protection against cyber threats. Adding security intelligence will help businesses gain more confidence in their protection from cyber crime moving forward.

Conclusion

Firewalls, ransomware protection, and other security solutions can be maximized when using data collection and analysis software that predicts cyber attacks. The reason governments and corporations are adding security intelligence to their systems is because they anticipate cyber crime to escalate in the coming years. Contact us to learn more about how MicroCorp can strengthen your defense against cyber crime and improve profitability.

SD-WAN: Panacea or Pandora?

SD-WAN is getting a great deal of air play in the industry right now, promising to solve every network challenge that embattled network architects and operators are experiencing today from insatiable bandwidth requirements and costs through simple network resiliency and management. But what is marketing fluff, and what is real? What are the real drivers behind this latest “transformational” technology, and what problems does it really solve?

More Affordable Network Needed

With increasing workloads and performance requirements, especially with the proliferation of cloud-based applications, the need for predictable, high-speed, secure, and diversified networks is escalating. It simply isn’t always financially feasible to deploy diverse MPLS links to multiple distributed offices.

SD-WAN enables companies to take advantage of less expensive internet access rather than managed private networks while still getting the benefit of the types of capabilities provided by an MPLS network. In many areas, tier one direct internet access actually (and maybe surprisingly) provides lower latency, lower jitter, and lower packet loss than its expensive MPLS counterpart, so companies with a large number of distributed offices can expect to see real cost benefits with an SD-WAN network versus a traditional MPLS network.

Simpler and Faster Deployment

MPLS circuits can take months to provision and turn up. The underlying internet access types that SD-WAN can take advantage of can be faster and easier to deploy. However, don’t be misled by the myth that SD-WAN is simple to deploy.  There is still a substantial amount of planning and configuration to be done. Beware of the “plug and play” misconception and investigate how each solution is deployed, as they are all different.

Management

Not all SD-WAN solutions are as easy to manage as you might think, and not all management portals provide the same functionality. Whether you are looking at a service provider-managed solution, your own “book end” managed solution, or are using a dedicated SD-WAN network provider, look carefully at what priorities you can set and what monitoring you can do. Are these to device level (MAC address) or location level (essentially just network aggregation and optimization solutions)?

And, most importantly, don’t forget about how software updates are applied and managed and how template policies are set and administered — the very things you would think about when managing routers in your network.

Security

There are claims made that MPLS is more secure than SD-WAN. In reality, an MPLS network is only as secure as the accuracy of the MPLS provider’s switching. The use of IPSec connectivity and additional service chaining in an SD-WAN environment should be more than sufficient to address most security concerns.

 

Vendor Maturity

You can’t simply turn to Gartner’s magic quadrant and pick a leader. The industry is too young, with many new market entrants. Whatever deployment method you are going to use, be sure to check the underlying equipment vendor’s track record.  Financial stability and investors are important. Ask for references and don’t forget to look under the hood at the vendor roadmap to understand future solution enhancements such as scalability.

MicroCorp was a pioneer when MPLS came along. We have over 30 years of experience delivering complex network solutions and helping businesses discover the right technology for their operations. Contact us to learn more about a partnership in adding SD-WAN and related technologies to your portfolio of solutions.

SD-WAN: Get Past the Hype

While SD-WAN officially flew past the hype stage of Gartner’s emerging technologies cycle in 2015, but it is still in that stage for many a partner, agent, and CIO.

It’s important to step back and recognize what SD-WAN can and cannot do for businesses. With all the noise out there, SD-WAN is still in its “wild west” phase. How do we cut past the industry buzz and get to the heart of what SD-WAN is all about?

Examine how its benefits apply to your customer’s business.

Not everyone needs SD-WAN, contrary to what you’ve been hearing. Additionally, some SD-WAN providers have crafted marketing to make it seem like their solutions apply to everyone, but they can’t look at each business’s network. Partners should look at what applications their customers are running to determine if SD-WAN is for them.

If your customer is primarily a mid-market account that’s not doing much other than running voice across a WAN and their apps are in-house, that is a perfect case for SD-WAN. But if you’ve got an organization that is highly regulated (such as banking, healthcare, or government), they are going to be slower to adopt, and it might hamper their business instead of bolstering it. Remember: they were also slow to adopt MPLS.

Oh yeah, what about MPLS?

Great question. MPLS is not going away — it’s a proven technology. There are likely to be some improvements to MPLS because the SD-WAN market is forcing the hand of the providers to change the way they deal with MPLS from a customer standpoint.

Some carriers are urging not to sell SD-WAN against MPLS, but instead, with it. This is an important point considering that not all businesses need SD-WAN, and some are going to continue to do just fine with their MPLS solutions.

So, if some verticals aren’t suited best to SD-WAN, which ones are?

Retail is a great example of a market that will benefit. With dispersed malls, various stores, and large footprints, those outlets are running on slim margins, so they want good bang for their buck.

Where does security fit in?

This is tied to the vertical point. Banks need high-level security, and some SD-WAN solutions aren’t there yet. While every business needs top-shelf security (including retail), those businesses that consistently deal with classified or confidential information might need something stronger than what many SD-WAN solutions can offer right now. This is why partnering with the proper provider, can help layer on additional services that SD-WAN does not solve.

SD-WAN is on the incline that’s getting ready to peak, but there are a lot of things left to prove with this technology. Security is one of them.

As SD-WAN entrenches itself in the networking world, education will be a consistent requirement for partners. Contact us today to learn more about how the latest changes to the software-defined world affect how partners can succeed with new technologies.

SD-WAN: Will This Be the Year Security and Networking Become One and the Same?

The IT space has been abuzz with whispers that security and networking could soon be headed for a convergence, with networking taking over security needs (or vice-versa). Some pundits are predicting this shift could take place as early as this year, with SD-WAN technologies drawing particular attention due to two main factors: their popularity, and their perceived vulnerability.

As a result, IT experts are predicting SD-WAN will have a strong influence on both networking and security trends in 2017. Here are five specific ways in which this could influence the near future of enterprise IT:

 
SD-WAN Networks Have Heightened Security Needs

SD-WAN technologies, by their very nature, require a great deal of direct Internet access (DIA) expansion. This, in turn, brings about a major increase in the amount of digital assets that are exposed to security vulnerabilities.

Most businesses still aren’t paying enough attention to their security needs, with a recent survey sponsored by Versa Networks through Dimension Data finding that 40 percent of enterprise branch networks don’t even deploy basic firewall technologies, and that as many as half of these networks don’t use more advanced firewall security solutions.

When SD-WAN is used to power DIA, businesses open themselves up to two types of threats. SD-WAN increases the amount of attackable surface elements, while DIA means enterprises have a larger number of potential threat entry points to secure.

 
Vendors Are Taking Several Different Approaches to SD-WAN Security

Fortunately, experts in the SD-WAN space are fully cognizant of the security risks, and several solutions have emerged. Network segmentation and stateful firewalls are leading the charge, but there are still significant challenges at the application level. Vendors are working to meet these challenges by putting together customized mix-and-match solutions that combine as many as four security technologies.

 
Security Through Service Chaining

When paired with deep packet inspection (DPI), service chaining provides an effective means of securing SD-WAN networks. DPI works by collecting traffic from the edges of the network, and service chaining supports it by merging multiple security functions into a single, centralized hub that analyzes that traffic and identifies threats.

While this strategy is generally effective, it is still developing. One of its shortcomings is that security and the analytics specific to networking are separate. This can result in slower IT responses to security threats when they happen.

 
Integration Issues

Because enterprises are trending towards reducing the amount of on-premises resources they maintain, a growing number of vendors are integrating SD-WAN networks with security solutions prior to implementation.

While this does offer key advantages, including improved analytics and reduced costs, it also comes with some drawbacks. One of the biggest downsides relates to industry-leading security providers, many of which aren’t fully integrated with SD-WAN networking solutions as of yet.

 
Security and Networking Will Converge

Even though the industry isn’t quite there yet, experts expect that security and networking will converge as the aforementioned technologies continue to mature. SD-WAN is noted for its ability to support collaboration, which bodes well for

IT teams working to secure these networks.

MicroCorp is a leading agency and distributor of advanced enterprise telecommunications solutions. Prospective partners interested in adding SD-WAN and related security technologies to their service suites are invited to contact MicroCorp to learn more.

How to Start the Security Discussion

It’s the last thing most partners want to talk about because it’s the topic they are the least familiar with, but as security evolves, it becomes impossible to avoid.

Customers want to discuss security, and for good reason. The cyber landscape is changing for individual users, giant corporations, and governments alike. Partners need to understand why customers are interested in security and be able to have a discussion with them about protecting networks. But how do you talk to your customer about a topic outside your wheelhouse? There are a few tactics to take.

Don’t try to onboard it all.
For partners to be relevant in the year (and years) ahead, they need to transform their main expertise into new areas, and you cannot train your way there. The landscape is changing so quickly — by the time you’ve trained yourself and your team on something like security, it’s evolved further. It is more worth partners’ time to connect with experts in order to broaden their own expertise.

Partner with purpose.
Our Team Alliance Program (TAP) was designed with these problems in mind: partners want to be able to speak to all customer issues, but don’t have the time or resources to become experts in every field. TAP allows partners to connect with experts in cloud, security, SD-WAN, and other technologies to get in on the knowledge while maintaining relationships with customers. The program is an ecosystem for education and partnership that will help you stay successful as technologies change.

In the end, it’s about trust.
You are your customer’s trusted advisor, so it’s important to maintain that level of credence. Acquiring a customer is the largest cost your business incurs — better to keep the ones you have. Partnerships with experts can help you stay relevant for your customers and devote time to maintaining your relationships with them. And that means that the future of the partner will be more about customer service than anything else.

These themes can apply to not just security, but multiple other technologies and systems that befuddle the partner. Take advantage of TAP and the MicroCorp’s ecosystem of experts to be the partner your customers want to keep.

Security: It’s Time to Pull Your Fingers Out of Your Ears

If you’ve been avoiding the topic of security — in general, or with your customers — you aren’t alone. Most agents avoid the subject entirely if they don’t feel 100% comfortable discussing the latest trends in cyber protection and network management. (And, let’s be honest, few do.)

But it’s 2017, and 60% of small companies go out of business within six months of a cyber attack. That figure alone should indicate that the time has come to do what no one wants to do and contemplate how to stay up-to-snuff on security. (It’s like going to the dentist.) What are the risks involved of falling behind, and what can you do to feel confident in talking to your customers about security?

First, know that the issue of cybersecurity poses more risks to your business than just actual hacking. If you aren’t educating yourself on how to talk to your customers on the topic, someone else is. Usually, if partners feel uneasy to broach a subject that is outside their areas of expertise, they’ll avoid it altogether with customers. But that tactic leaves room for another company — perhaps one that has done more research — to home in on those customers.

So, short of spending precious hours training to become a security expert, how can you approach the issue?

Look to the experts. Seek out partners who have already established themselves as security experts. A Fortune 500 customer hired one of our partners who is a security expert, and that relationship enabled the partner to gain a ton of buying power from the customer. The customer’s trust in that partner translated into giving the partner a blanket of sorts to recommend any provider they deemed fit. The power involved in being the expert in your field is real.

Try to educate yourself. Ideally, partners are taking the initiative to educate themselves each week on a broad view of topics — not just security — to stay relevant. But, of course that is easier said than done, especially when sales and customer service are at the forefront of business priorities.

Training! If both of those points sound daunting it’s because they can be. MicroCorp established the Ultimate Partner Training program to enable partners to learn about security, SD-WAN, cloud, and other topics that they might not be experts in — or even familiar with — so they can get high-level views of those subjects and stay relevant. Sticking your fingers in your ears and pretending nothing is changing makes you irrelevant. We want to help our partners be as well-rounded as possible.

The nature of the security world mirrors the nature of technology: it’s dynamic, ever-changing, constantly surprising, and difficult to keep up with. Our Ultimate Partner Training program aims to make the fluid world of technology easier for partners to navigate so that both partner and customer stay successful. Security expertise is a part of that equation now, more than ever.

10 Ways Partners Can Help Customers Protect Their Data

In this digital era, it’s inevitable that organizations will experience security breaches — both large and small businesses have seen unprecedented cyber attacks over the years as hackers get more savvy and business leaders stay in denial. Ignoring the most basic security fundamentals can lead to breaches and enormous losses.

How do you help your customers deal with the persistence of cyber criminals, and put preventative measures in place? The following are 10 tips on technologies and methods that can help you help your customers protect their data.

1. Train employees

10 percent of all websites encounter “drive-by” malware attacks, according to TechRepublic. Emphasize to your customers that employees need to pay attention to suspicious activity and refrain from interacting with unfamiliar parties. It’s best that employees are educated through cyber security awareness training programs.

2. Predict external threats

A new device fingerprinting tool allows your customers to collect IP-agnostic information from the source of incoming traffic which helps detect cyber threats. Hackers have used fake and automated traffic to disrupt networks, but device fingerprinting can spot nefarious sources before they attack.

3. Eliminate internal threats

Intel recently conducted a study that found that 43% of internal data leaks are caused by internal sources. Your customers are probably focusing on cyber protection against external threats as internal data is left unguarded. Software such as cloud-based Teramind provides administrators with alerts when attempted internal breaches occur.

4. Planning for cyber safety

No matter how sophisticated security software gets, hackers still find ways to penetrate networks. That’s why it’s important to maintain a proactive approach to protection against cyber threats. Educate your customers on identifying and blocking hacker or suspicious visitors as soon as they become apparent.

5. Encryption and authentication

Encourage your customers to adopt two-factor authentication, or 2FA, which has become a cost-effective, fundamental cornerstone of maintaining a data protection. One of the main components of this technique to defend against password attacks is to require data that is exclusive to the user. Additionally, data encryption and proper key management figure into this strategy.

6. Data loss prevention software

The evolution of the web is creating a massive proliferation of data — as more data is created, the more it must be protected. Your customers should be aware of data loss prevention (DLP) — now a necessary tool. It is designed to give an administrator control over who can access certain information and who is allowed to send data to external sources.

7. Browser isolation technology

Much of today’s malware is delivered through web browsers. But a technique called “browser isolation” separates the network from suspicious sources. Instead of trying to identify unsafe web content, this technology takes the initiative for your customers by creating a virtual air gap between their networks and web content.

8. DNS server protection

Your customers’ DNS systems can be protected by surrounding them with DNS Firewalls, which provide immediate alerts that detect malware attacks. Experts say that in most cases, if you cut off communication between malware and the attackers, they will give up.

9. Program-based security strategies

The sooner you can help your customers resolve security issues, the more likely the damage will be minimized. To learn more about prioritizing tasks for responding to cyber threats, administrators should turn to firms that implement program-based security strategies, such as Skybox.

10. Multi-Layered Approach

The key to maintaining data protection these days requires a multi-layer approach with access to a wide variety of defense options. You want to help your customers catch the most number of attacks at the lowest cost. Using new tools such as Moving Target Defense can help lower cyber risks.

Your customers should be prioritizing cyber security so that they are always a step ahead of the crooks. The best approach is to build layers of protection around data and always know what to do in case of a breach. The more prepared you and your customers are, the more you both can minimize damage caused by attackers.