Opinion

Why get ISO27001 certification?

We are sometimes asked the question, why get ISO27001 certification? The answer is that the ISO standard, and ISO 27001 compliance in particular, demonstrates that your organisation takes information security seriously. This ultimately enhances your reputation and delivers greater business opportunities because ISO27001 lowers the risk for other people of doing business with you.

Certification means a third party accredited independent auditor has performed an assessment of all processes and controls and confirms that operations are in alignment with the comprehensive ISO27001 certification standard. If a company is implementing ISO27001, it demonstrates that careful consideration has been given to what could endanger confidentiality, integrity and the availability of information. Once those risks are known, it is about ensuring that security measures have been implemented in order to decrease them to an acceptable level.

Another benefit of this certification is that, unlike GDPR, which does not have an actual compliance process, ISO27001 provides very clear direction. In this way it can be a useful starting point for ongoing adherence to GDPR. ISO27001 concentrates on policies and processes, including all legal, physical and technical controls involved in an organisation’s information risk management processes. Its value is that it creates a robust environment to protect both staff and customer information assets. But of equal value is the fact that it also provides evidence to potential customers and partner organisations that your company prioritises the security of the information it holds.

Of course, undertaking compliance with ISO27001 can be a rather intimidating prospect.  The ISO standards require risk assessments to be conducted, together with the design and implementation of a comprehensive suite of information security controls. It also requires other forms of risk management to address company and architecture security risks on an ongoing basis. This involves the implementation of any necessary changes to policies and processes (ISO27001) and controls (ISO27002). A cost-effective way to negotiate the rigours of the ISO27001 accreditation process is to seek professional help from specialists with proven track record in achieving the standard.

If you are wondering ‘why get ISO27001 certification?’ you should discuss your requirements with us. The SRM team are experienced in all aspects of ISO27001 accreditation. Starting with a gap analysis which establishes a level of security readiness, we can recommend a prioritised remediation plan based on what gaps there are. We are able to assist with any activities that need to be undertaken and provide guidance all the way up to a pre-audit assessment. Finally, our team can offer on-site audit support if needed, to give you complete peace of mind that your organisation’s ISO 27001 accreditation is achieved and maintained.

To discuss ISO27001 or other certifications, contact the SRM team on 03450 21 21 51.

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The NIS Directive: who does it apply to and what will it mean?

Cyber resilience: it’s a board level issue

Protecting your cyber soul

By Tom Fairfax, Managing Director

If you were asked to sell your soul to a stranger…. what price would you ask?

The ancient Egyptians believed that a person’s soul had multiple parts, ranging from the spiritual to the physical; the bit they hadn’t discovered was the digital component.  Regardless of one’s personal belief, each of us carries a very real and hugely valuable intangible asset in the form of our personal identity and the information that forms part of it.  This asset is incredibly vulnerable in the cyber environment and once compromised is effectively irretrievable.  Think of this as our cyber soul. It contains our very digital essence, our unique identity, our access to our resources and secrets, and represents the means to impersonate us or take control of parts of our life, our possessions or our good name and reputation.

The environment we call cyberspace represents a complex web of connected technology sharing information with and without human interaction.   This environment is inaccessible to our naked senses; we cannot see, hear or feel in it without assistance.  Critically, it is contested, and is populated by a global population of strangers, many of whom are explicitly seeking to compromise us.  It is to this environment that we expose our cyber souls.  The only question is – what protection or consideration do we give our valuable information assets before publishing them into the wild?

We are asked to share parts of our cyber souls on a daily basis.  A myriad of commercial, official and social platforms request and sometimes require information.  Some we hope we can trust – and in some cases we need to make a risk-based decision. But how much thought do you give before deciding what information to share and with whom you entrust this sliver of your essence?  A brief glance at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) enforcement page is instructive and shows that no organisation can be assumed to be safe.  A brief perusal of the causes of breach shows that breaches are not confined to failures of technology but often result from individual and collective human frailty.  This is not new.

This raises another, possibly more important question. How much explicit effort do you spend on protecting the personal information that other people and businesses entrust to you?  The ICO website shows a number of instances where something as seemingly innocent as a breach of email etiquette has resulted in the exposure of personal information, and a direct, if inadvertent compromise of people’s  sensitive information.  Fines and sanctions are damaging, but we must not forget the fundamental breach of trust.

Information Security and data protection are disciplines that enable us to protect our own cyber souls and those with which we have been entrusted by others.  They are still seen by many as an administrative irritation but they are a fundamental part of our personal responsibility as members of society.   No-one can guarantee that they will be 100 per cent safe; indeed such a claim is a good indication that the problem has not been understood.

We can, however, exert a degree of critical judgement on every occasion that we are asked to share parts of our soul.  Trust should not be assumed.

Why the prioritisation of breach identification and containment are crucial elements of every cyber defence strategy

One of the most significant elements of the current cyber threat landscape is the amount of time it takes to actually detect and contain a breach. In a study published last year by IBM security and the Ponemon Institute, the Mean Time to Identify (MTTI) and Mean Time to Contain (MTTC) metrics were used to assess the effectiveness of an organisation’s incident response and containment processes. The research found that it took an average of 168 days to identify a data breach and 67 days to contain it.

The key problem is that in today’s climate few attacks are aimed solely on an organisation’s external defences. This is because, with data security legislation at the strongest it has ever been, external defences like firewalls and network security are usually reasonably robust. So cyber criminals use more subtle tactics, exploiting human error. If an employee opens a malware-laden phishing email or some deceptive social engineering has enabled an attacker to infiltrate malicious codes, the effects may not be evident for some time. This gives malicious attackers the opportunity to explore and exploit the system from within, delivering even more devastating consequences over time.

Given that the current MTTI metrics show that breaches can remain undetected for an average of five and a half months, this provides hackers with ample time to develop their strategy and exploit the weaknesses they detect. So although it will always be necessary to have robust external defences in place, organisations would do well to push the identification of attacks further up the priority list.

The other issue is, of course, containment. The current MTTC metrics show that the average breach, once identified, takes over two months to be contained. The reputational and financial implications of this delay cannot be underestimated.

While building both an external and internal defence is a priority, making detailed plans for how to handle a crisis is equally important. It is perhaps counter-intuitive to plan for a successful attack, but the maxim ‘expect the best but plan for the worst’ is sound advice. Knowing how to react in the unfortunate event of a data breach is a crucial business benefit. An experienced Retained Forensics company will be able to assist you with your plans and help to get everyone into the right mind-set. If the worst does happen, then staff will have a framework to refer to, ensuring that vital steps are taken, and valuable time is not lost.

At SRM, our consultants use their vast expertise to proactively protect systems before an attack occurs. Working with a Retained Forensics specialist facilitates a strategic approach; from analysing potential weaknesses, to making detailed plans in the event of a breach. This is done in a number of ways, including through the process of Test and Exercise, starting with automated penetration testing to identify potential internal vulnerabilities. Manual testing is then employed to exploit and develop these weaknesses, so the gaps can be plugged. The synergy of these tests provides valuable intelligence about where existing vulnerabilities lie, including the human element, and helps a business to build an agile defence around them.

 

To find out more about SRM’s Retained Forensics and Incident Response services contact Mark Nordstrom on 03450 21 21 51 or mark.nordstrom@srm-solutions.com

To receive notification of other blogs relating to issues in the world of information security, follow us on Linkedin.

Or read more from our blog:

Retained Forensic & Incident Response Service: how planning for the worst can add value to your business

Three stages to building a robust defence against external threats

Cyber insurance may be null and void with ‘due care’

Pen testing: seeing both the wood and the trees

Schools are being targeted by cyber criminals: 6 ways to shore up online defences

In 2017 the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association (ISBA), which supports over 1,000 senior management staff in schools, stated that cyberattacks in schools can no longer be considered ‘isolated incidents’. ISBA’s Chief Exec David Woodgate went on to say that he is concerned that fraudsters are ‘one step ahead’.

He is absolutely right. While schools lag behind universities in their approach to cyber defence, cyber criminals are constantly evolving and refining their skills. Unlike most people employed in the education system, they do not have day jobs to distract their focus. So what can school authorities do to protect against such ingenious criminal minds? Here are six important things to consider.

1. Accept responsibility

Firstly, school boards must embrace the responsibility. A Department for Education spokesperson recently reiterated that ‘schools are directly responsible for the security of all digital information they collate, store and retain.’ This does not, however, simply refer to the IT department but should extend to the board of governors, the school administrators, the staff, the pupils and the parents. Above all, however, it is the senior leadership that is responsible for safeguarding in schools and, as such, cyber security should be on the agenda at every meeting of school governors and senior teams.

2. Know your system

Knowing precisely what hardware and software is being used on the networks is important but senior leadership should also ensure that configuration changes are authorised, documented and implemented appropriately. It is crucial that only approved users can make changes. Software updates and security patches should also be implemented quickly, and systems monitored for unusual activity which could be an indication of an intruder. Criminal incidents should be reported to the police. Breaches must be reported to the relevant statutory authorities within 72 hours under the terms of GDPR.

3. Control user profiles

Access to sensitive information should only be given to specific individuals. Wherever possible, the ability to share information should also be limited to these specified people. Where individuals are provided with access, their privileges should be managed, and they should be provided with the minimum level of access required to do their job. When staff leave, their access should be revoked promptly.

4. Protect the system

Strong firewalls and internet gateways should be in place to protect school networks and these should be constantly monitored and regularly tested.

It is essential to ensure that antivirus software and security mechanisms are up to date and that protocols for frequent password changes and the use of multifactor authentication for sensitive information is enforced.  This means that if a criminal does obtain access to a system, their progress is stalled by encryption tools.

It is not just the internal system which requires protection. Consider the physical security of a system: the hard drives, internet routers, servers and other devices on which data can be stored. School equipment can be targeted by thieves during holiday periods so any device holding sensitive data should be encrypted and stored in an appropriate security cabinet constructed for the purpose.

It is also advisable to limit the use of public-cloud-based services such as OneDrive and Dropbox as well as the widespread use of portable storage devices such as SD cards and memory sticks but, if there is no alternative, such mechanisms must use strong encryption and robust key management procedures.

5. Invest in expertise

The school bursar is not expected to be solely responsible for every aspect of financial planning. Professional accountancy firms provide additional resource and support. In a similar way, those responsible for a school’s data protection require support at both the strategic and practical levels from industry specialists.

6. Be proactive

Rather than wait for a cybercriminal to test the school’s defences, be proactive: conduct regular penetration testing on the system. When done correctly, this is not an off-the-shelf exercise, but employs a synergy of automated and manual testing to deliver the best results. A specialist consultancy will be able to scope the exercise and conduct the testing in a cost-effective and non-disruptive manner.

Red Team engagement can prove highly useful to further investigate vulnerabilities that have been identified. By using simulated exercises around social engineering, all staff can be briefed on best practise, and their role in the team, should an incident arise. The intelligence gained from these exercises means that a proactive and robust defence can be developed, protecting your data as well as your reputation.

To discuss improving your cyber resilience, contact the SRM team on 03450 21 21 51

To receive regular blogs on topics relating to information security, follow us on Linkedin.

To find out more visit our website.

Or read more:

How phishing scams are getting schools in deep water

Cyber resilience: it’s a board level issue

The key to GDPR is common sense

GDPR and data security in the gambling industry

This article first appeared in the Q3 edition of Casino & Gaming International  (CGi )(www.cgimagazine.com/latestedition) and appears here with their kind permission.

As the implications of the General Data Protection Regulation sink in, Paul Brennecker examines its impact on the gambling industry and explains how it is not simply a compliance exercise but an industry-wide altered mind-set that is the key to effective data security.

BACKGROUND

The gambling industry has always been a target for criminals, both in reality and in fiction. From The Sting to Ocean’s Eleven and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, the world of cinema has long relished the idea of cunning criminals taking on the casino and winning. There is something inherently satisfying about attractive and engaging rogues beating seemingly anonymous gambling enterprises in what is perceived to be an almost victim-less crime. In the fictional world of Hollywood, the inevitable sequels roll out reflecting, probably unintentionally, the reality of the situation: that repeated breaches are increasingly experienced by casinos and gaming enterprises. What they do not necessarily show, however, is the other reality: that in the new era of online gambling the victims are very real. They are the individuals whose personal data is stolen.

Cyber-attacks come in many forms but they can broadly be categorised into those that disrupt operations, such as distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks, where infected computers flood the network with traffic. There are also those that are aimed at data theft, targeting customer data, especially financial information like credit card details, which can be sold on the dark web or used for identity fraud, and ransomware attacks. This type of credential abuse is particularly concerning in the gaming industry because it leads to loss of reputation and clients transferring their online business to other providers.

Although the adversarial threat is significant, the threat posed by insiders, often trusted employees, can pose an even greater risk to a business. With privileged access employees can intentionally or unintentionally be involved in a targeted breach of data. Staff in the gambling industry have a tendency to switch roles between competitors, requiring a robust ‘Joiners, Movers, Leavers’ process. It also necessitates a heightened awareness of data leakage from within each organisation.

GDPR & PCI DSS

Under the new GDPR framework which became EU law in May of this year, in the event of a data breach, firms can be fined up to 4% of revenue (or 20m Euros, whichever is higher). Since the terms of GDPR were first known, much has been written about it and the impact it has on the way companies manage their data. Yet, there is an important misconception which need to be addressed.

Contrary to current public perception, there is actually no such thing as GDPR compliance. It is a regulation which requires data systems to be safe but it is open to interpretation and provides nothing in the way of detailed guidance. Nor is there an annual review to validate compliance.

On the other hand, the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS), which regulates the gaming industry to ensure that payment card details are used with best practice and kept secure, does provide a detailed framework which specifies what needs to be done and how. PCI DSS even provides regular updates and guidance on reviews. Those who are PCI DSS compliant are therefore well on the way to meeting the requirements of GDPR. It is the role of Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs), Data Protection Officers (DPOs) and their advisers to work out where the gaps exist to ensure that an organisation adheres to GDPR in practice.

While the PCI DSS compliance process is undeniably useful, it must be likened to an MOT; it only applies to a given moment in time.  One ill-conceived change of control request or alteration to the process can render that compliance invalid. Ongoing testing and maintenance is essential and this is best managed through an altered corporate mind-set which embeds data security at every level of the organisation.

A BOARD LEVEL APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE DATA SECURITY

GDPR and PCI DSS complement one another and, if managed holistically, can deliver immense benefits to efficiency and reputation, while also mitigating the potential damage of a breach. But given the fact that PCI DSS compliance simply provides validation of compliance at a given moment in time, the key to data security is not to focus on specific compliance targets, following a tick box exercise once a year, but to develop a corporate mind-set which features a ‘compliance out of the box’ approach and has ongoing updating and maintenance built in.

This altered mind-set requires a company-wide strategy which is developed at board level and then disseminated in practical, simple form to each and every employee or partner of the business. For this to be a realistic goal, the responsibility for data security cannot simply be devolved to the CISO or DPO; nor should it be seen as something which is only in the scope of the IT department. To be truly effective, it is the responsibility of the each and every member of the board to drive and oversee the organisation’s data security responsibilities. Data security should be on the agenda at every board meeting.

Realistically, however, given the complexity of data security and compliance processes, specific ownership will be in the hands of these technically qualified individuals. Yet they will not be able to effectively exert influence at board level unless they are provided with the specialist support and resource. Much like the support provided to the financial department by corporate accountants or the support given to the legal department by specialist legal teams, the CISO needs to have access to specialist data security support to provide strategic guidance and technical abilities to enhance the scope of the operation.

THE ROLE OF PENETRATION TESTING, RED TEAMING AND RETAINED FORENSICS IN DEVELOPING A DATA SECURITY STRATEGY

One of the key elements of data security is the development of a robust defence strategy. It is not enough, however, to develop a strategy and build a defence based on what is already known. Cyber criminals are ingenious and exploit not simply known threats and vulnerabilities, but they also have ways to detect those which are not yet known or understood. Those who only use their own understanding to develop a defence will therefore be limited by the extent of their own knowledge. Testing and challenging that knowledge on an ongoing basis is an essential element. This is where a continual programme of Threat Monitoring, Penetration Testing and the use of Retained Forensics comes in.

Threat monitoring is the process of observing the changing nature of cyber-attacks. All commercial websites will be probed for vulnerabilities, initially by automated tools and once something significant is found, a more concerted manual attack may be launched. Having alerts and being set up to monitor the nature of these attacks and countering them is essential for players in the online gaming space.

The next step is regular Penetration Testing, which needs to include both automated and manual elements. After all, the criminal community uses both advanced scanning tools to identify potential areas of weakness as well as the additional sophistication of the human mind to develop and explore these vulnerabilities.

Imagine a room with an almost limitless number of doors. The automated penetration test will identify which doors conceal potential vulnerabilities. The manual tester then prises these doors open and looks at what is behind them.

Taking the analogy a step further, Red Teaming will push the doors wide open and delve and explore into what is behind them. Red Team testers have ethical hacking qualifications from industry respected bodies such as CREST and OSCP and use their sophisticated skills to root around and uncover hitherto unforeseen vulnerabilities.

Armed with this information, the process of closing off potential opportunities for cyber criminals before they are even exposed can begin. In this way a data security strategy can be developed which anticipates vulnerabilities before they are discovered, rather than simply reacting to those which are already known.

These experts will work in partnership with a specialist Retained Team to manage the defence process. In some specialist consultancies the Red Team will also be part of the Retained Forensic capability to help ensure that the process is be an ongoing one, with regular exposure to testing built in. Engaging a Retained Forensics team not only assists in managing a continually evolving the strategic defence but builds in resilience to potential attack.

Given the unrelenting ingenuity of attackers, it is impossible to ever consider an organisation to be immune from attack. The strategy should therefore include detailed plans if this eventuality occurs, particularly for the prompt reporting in the event of a breach. GDPR requires any breach to be reported to the relevant regulatory authority within 72 hours and failure to do so will result in punitive action being taken.

When it comes to issues of business continuity, disaster recovery and containment, having a Retained Forensics team on hand, with a thorough knowledge of the organisation’s systems, means they will be able to manage this process swiftly, thereby limiting any potential damage.

It is also worth noting that not only will the engagement of a Retained Forensics team facilitate the ongoing testing of system security and provide strategic intelligence for effective maintenance and development, it also demonstrates to the relevant authorities that a robust, ongoing process is in place, thereby reducing the level of potential fines.

IN SUMMARY

GDPR should not be considered an encumbrance or an onerous chore. It has been developed to build in safeguards to data security systems protecting both the organisations and their customers from cybercrime. Those who embrace it with enthusiasm, building an ongoing test and exercise regime into their systems, will benefit from enhanced reputation and customer loyalty. Those who make data security the responsibility of all members of the board and who develop a constantly evolving defence strategy can demonstrate to both customers and the regulatory authorities that they take security seriously. They are also in the best possible shape to resist potential attacks, or deflect or reduce the impact of one, making an investment in GDPR and cyber resilience a sound business decision.

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