Why SMBs Fail After a Cyberattack

Malicious cyberattacks are increasing every day around the globe. In fact, cyber-incidents nearly doubled from 82,000 incidents in 2016, to 159,700 in 2017. While the media often depicts large corporations as the primary target for cyberattacks, small business are just as likely – if not more likely to be targeted. An article on CSO looks at why small- to medium-size enterprises (SMEs) and small- to medium-size businesses (SMBs) often fall victim to cyberattacks, in many cases leaving them unable to recover.

1.       Unable to afford IT staff

With so many key entry points where a hacker can gain access to an organization’s data, it is critical that a proper IT team is in place. Not only is it important to have an IT team in place to implement the appropriate security measures, but it is also necessary to have IT managing and maintaining daily operations of those security systems, which can be a difficult task.

For a company that allows BYOD and is connected to different cloud services, this means the IT department has to protect 4 main security components; the user identity, the device used, the network they’re connected to and the cloud services they’re using. This normally leads to purchasing at least 4 different security platforms.

While staffing an IT department may not be an issue for large corporations, many SMEs and SMBs simply cannot afford it. In many cases, small businesses may only have one individual responsible for managing their IT, and in most instances, nobody is properly managing their computers and networks.  With inadequate resources, it comes as no surprise that cybercriminals are targeting SMEs and SMBs and exploiting their vulnerabilities. Outsourcing IT to a team of experts helps SMEs and SMBs who do not have the need or the money to hire full-time staff. “Managed Service Providers” provide IT outsourcing that specializes in purchasing hardware/software, installing and maintaining those investments, as well as supporting and protecting them. Next Century Technologies is a Managed Service Provider for both small and medium-sized businesses.

2.       Lack ongoing cybersecurity training

SMEs and SMBs often lack the resources to effectively train their employees on security, which is another reason cybercriminals see them as an easy target. If employees are not provided with proper security training, their poor security habits can provide easy access to a cybercriminal. Not only is initial onboarding training important, but ongoing security training is a must to ensure employees are kept up-to-date on current threats and how to mitigate and/or respond to them.

With many security training programs being expensive and out-of-budget for SMEs and SMBs, their employees often go untrained and unaware of what threats are out there. Not only does the lack of training keep employees in the dark about how to spot a potential threat, but it also leaves them unaware of how to respond if an attack occurs, especially if that attack is malware or ransomware.

According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, 60% of hacked SMEs and SMBs go out of business, because they simply don’t know the way forward.”

Training doesn’t have to take a lot of time and doesn’t require a classroom. Employees can do training right from their desktops or laptops. Contact Next Century Technologies to learn how inexpensive, yet effective, an on-going training program can be. 

3.       The devastating impact of Ransomware

Ransomware has quickly become a preferred method of attack for cybercriminals. In fact, Ransomware was reported as the fasted growing threat in cybersecurity in 2017. Typically, in a ransomware attack, the outcome favors the attacker rather than the victim. While large corporations may have the funds to pay the ransom demanded by a cybercriminal, SMEs and SMBs typically do not. Even if the ransom is paid, there is no guarantee that the files will be returned to the organization or that those files weren’t accessed by the attacker. SMEs and SMBs are often left devastated by these attacks and in many cases, unable to recover.

There is no sure way to avoid Ransomware, but a good business continuity/disaster recovery plan is critical to surviving a Ransomware attack. Ask us how we can help you design a business continuity plan and a backup solution to complement it.

4.     The internet makes a bad reputation difficult to ignore

It is an expectation that organizations who are serving customers will protect their information and keep it safe. When a company drops the ball in keeping their customer’s personal information secure, the customer often feels violated and seeks financial restitution for the incident. Not only does this exposure of information result in potentially steep monetary costs, but also leads to bad press for the organization. In the age of the internet, bad press can permanently damage a company’s reputation, sending current customers looking elsewhere for service and drive potential customers away.

While large corporations may have the funds to hire legal teams to fight for them in court as well as PR teams to help with the bad press, SMEs and SMBs often do not have that option. Not only do SMEs and SMBs often have to deal with bad press on their own, but also find themselves battling monetary costs associated with fines from the breach.

Loss of private data could also lead to massive fines by authorities if HIPAA, CFPB, GDPR, or other regulations were breached in the attack. Such fines could be absorbed by a large company but devastate a smaller organization.”

The future of cybersecurity for SMEs and SMBs

One advantage that SMEs and SMBs have on large corporations is their ability to make change quickly. While large corporations may have a long formal process to go through to implement change, SMEs and SMBs can typically bypass the complexity and act fast.

Next Century Technologies has solutions designed just for SMEs and SMBs that fit their needs when it comes to protecting themselves and training their employees.

 

About the Author

Tracy Hardin is President and founder of Next Century Technologies in Lexington, KY. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Kentucky and has earned certifications from Novell, Cisco and CompTIA. Her specialties in the field of IT are network design and security, project management and improving productivity through technology. She loves helping people by sharing her knowledge of tech.

Five Greatest Cybersecurity Threats to Businesses

Here are the five greatest cybersecurity threats facing business owners:

E-mail Phishing Attacks

Those would be the fake e-mails that appear to come from a trusted source. They contain a malicious link or file attachment. The link may look identical to an authentic website to solicit your credentials or infect your network. The attachments will usually contain malware/viruses. Did you know that 92% of malware is delivered via e-mail now?

Ransomware Attacks

A type of malware that encrypts the data in effect making it useless unless the ransom is paid for the decryption key. There has been a 70% increase in ransomware attacks in the past two years. Click here to watch a short video from CBS 60 Minutes on how ransomware works.

Loss or Theft of Data or Equipment

Mobile devices such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, USB/thumb drives, etc. end up lost or stolen. These type of devices can easily be secured through the use of encryption. Windows 10 Pro comes with a license of BitLocker. USB/thumb drives can be purchased with encryption features but it will cost a little extra.

Insider, Accidental or Intentional Data Loss

Employee mistakes are the largest source of breaches, not hackers! Employees can easily mistaken a phishing e-mail as a real e-mail, especially if the “From” has been spoofed. Employees also inadvertently wire money out to phone scammers or e-mail scammers posing as legitimate customers or vendors. Hackers have been known to pay employees to download or e-mail sensitive data. 

Lack of an update policy

Microsoft and Apple identify and remedy security issues in their software through updates all the time. Such updates are free but require resources to implement. Desktops should be updated weekly, and servers need to be updated at least monthly.

Have questions? We can help!

Next Century Technologies has been helping businesses with IT since 2001! Call us at 859-245-0582 or click here to reach out to us.

About the Author

Tracy Hardin is President and founder of Next Century Technologies in Lexington, KY. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Kentucky and has earned certifications from Novell, Cisco and CompTIA. Her specialties in the field of IT are network design and security, project management and improving productivity through technology. She loves helping people by sharing her knowledge of tech.

What is a Risk Assessment?

As a reminder, one of the most important aspects of complying with the HIPAA Security Rule is to perform a Security Risk Assessment (also known as a Security Risk Analysis) to evaluate how an organization is protecting patient data.  Every organization covered by HIPAA (Covered Entities and Business Associates) must perform an SRA.  According to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the HHS division that enforces HIPAA, the SRA is THE most important document in HIPAA compliance.  It is the document that will first be looked at in any type of audit or investigation.

Why is a risk assessment so important?

Why is the SRA so important? Simply put, the output of the SRA will give you recommendations on how to reduce the risk of a data breach, which is what HIPAA security is all about.  

How does it work? The SRA looks at all systems that contain electronic protected health information (ePHI or patient information). It evaluates all the threats to ePHI,  looks at all vulnerabilities to the systems that contain ePHI and evaluates the current protections that are in place to protect ePHI. Based on all of the information that is gathered and evaluated the results of the SRA will show the areas of greatest risk of a breach, and provide a playbook (we call it the Work Plan) for how additional protections can lower the risk of a breach of patient information.

In addition to providing recommendations on how to reduce the risk of a data breach, the SRA process is widely considered to be a best practice in cybersecurity circles.  Cybersecurity is an issue for all organizations to deal with, not just HIPAA covered entities. Many organizations that are not in the healthcare field conduct regular SRAs as a way of reducing risk in their business and helping keep their business systems operational.

There are several methods used to perform an SRA.  Our partner, HIPAA Secure Now!, follows a process from the National Institute of Standards (NIST) called 800-30.  The 800-30 guideline is recommended by HHS/OCR for performing SRAs.  HIPAA Secure Now! has been involved in audits, investigations, and reviews with different regulatory bodies, and every time our SRA has been accepted as valid.

For many organizations, an SRA can be a time-consuming process.  Not so with HIPAA Secure Now! clients.  We have spent many years perfecting a process that minimizes the amount of time required to perform a comprehensive SRA.  

As mentioned above, the SRA will point out areas where the risk of a data breach can be reduced.   A key point is that it is not possible to eliminate all risks. No matter how much an organization spends to implement additional security measures, some risks cannot be completely eliminated. The goal of implementing the recommendations of a risk assessment is to lower risk to the point that it is acceptable to the organization.

Have questions? Need help?

Call us at 859-245-0582 or click here to reach out to us.

You might also be interested in our other article on HIPAA Compliance, “What are the HIPAA standards for IT”. Click here to read it now.

 

Next Century Technologies has teamed up with HIPAA Secure Now to bring comprehensive HIPAA compliance solutions and advice, at a reasonable price, to establishments that fall under HIPAA. We thank our partners at HIPAA Secure Now for providing the content for this article. 

 

What triggers a HIPAA audit?

What is HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, better know as HIPAA, was passed by Congress in 1996 and called for the protection and confidential handling of protected health information (PHI). HIPAA still exists today, aiming to protect patients and their information, but it’s important to think about how far we’ve come in the ways we handle patient data since its enactment.

Compliance is Non-Negotiable

One thing that has not changed since 1996 – HIPAA compliance is here, and it is not optional.  In fact, it’s arguably more important than ever before to have your HIPAA compliance program in order. With the healthcare industry being favored by cybercriminals, human error accounting for most data breaches, the ease in filing a complaint against an organization, and more, your compliance program could come under review at any given time – and you must be ready.

What triggers an audit?

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), is the department responsible for enforcing HIPAA. It seems there is a common misconception that audits by the OCR happen at random when the department decides to “pop in” on organizations to check on their compliance state. The reality is, the OCR is not staffed to audit organizations without just cause, meaning when an audit occurs, something triggered it.

Common audit triggers

  • Patient complaints – Patients could file complaints for any number of reasons. Maybe a patient was denied access to their records, or perhaps they saw a picture on social media with their medical chart in the background.
  • Employee complaints – Often times, disgruntled employees may file a complaint following termination of employment, but that’s not always the case. If an employee feels there has been wrongdoing, they could certainly file a complaint.
  • Employee mistakes – Employee mistakes or human error account for many audits. An employee falling for a phishing email, using weak passwords, and sending a patient the incorrect records are all examples of human errors.
  • Insider wrongdoing – Sometimes employees violate company policies maliciously, and other times they may just be curious. Employees could steal patient records for personal gain or could peek at a patient’s records because they’re curious about their visit.
  • Third-party mistakes – Mistakes caused by a Business Associate (BA) could also lead to an investigation of your organization. If your (BA) suffers a data breach, you may be audited as well.
  • Security incident – Common security incidents include lost or stolen devices, especially those devices that are unencrypted, as well as unpatched software that led to malware or ransomware exploits.

Many times, whatever triggered the audit, to begin with, is not the biggest problem or finding by the OCR. This is why having your HIPAA compliance program in order and continuously working towards your compliance is critical.

What will OCR look for in an audit?

What OCR may be looking for in an audit situation will vary, dependent on what triggered the audit in the first place. Below are some common items that your organization could expect to show an auditor in the event of an audit, all of which, are key components of a HIPAA compliance program.

  • Security Risk Assessment – An absolutely critical part of your compliance program. The Security Risk Assessment (also referred to as the SRA, or Security Risk Analysis) will look for gaps in your organization’s administrative, physical and technical safeguards that could pose a risk for protected health information (PHI). You must have documented proof of your SRA.
  • Remediation/Risk Management Plan – Once you’ve conducted your SRA, you’ll need to have a process in place to begin addressing your deficiencies, often referred to as a Risk Management Plan. This plan should cover how you plan to remediate all the security gaps discovered in your SRA.
  • Policies & Procedures – Not only does your organization need to have policies and procedures in place, but you also must ensure that employees understand those policies and have signed off on them. Employees can’t be expected to follow the rules if they are unaware of them, and the documented proof that they acknowledged the policies is vital in the event of a security incident.
  • Security Officer – Every organization needs to have an appointed Security Officer. This individual is responsible for ensuring policies and procedures are created, understood by all employees of the organization, and acknowledged by them with documented proof. The Security Officer should also ensure employees are trained on HIPAA routinely.
  • Routine HIPAA Training – Not only is HIPAA training a requirement, but it is also necessary to reduce the chances of an employee-error. HIPAA and cybersecurity awareness training should be conducted routinely so employees are kept updated on the latest threats, and to keep security best practices top of mind.
  • Business Associate Agreements – You must have a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with any and all vendors that handle your patient data. A data breach caused by a Business Associate will also affect your organization, so make sure you are working with vendors who take HIPAA compliance seriously.

Proof of network vulnerability scans, penetration tests, and breach notification (in the event of a breach) are also common requests by the OCR.

The Bottom Line

It’s safe to say that in this digital age, HIPAA could use a refresh, but despite its flaws, your adherence to it is not up for discussion. An audit could be triggered by anyone, at any time. If you had a complaint filed against you tomorrow, would you be confident in your compliance state? If you can’t answer yes, it’s best to get to work – before it’s too late.

Have questions? Need help?

Call us at 859-245-0582 or click here to reach out to us.

You might also be interested in our other article on HIPAA Compliance, “What are the HIPAA standards for IT”. Click here to read it now.

 

Next Century Technologies has teamed up with HIPAA Secure Now to bring comprehensive HIPAA compliance solutions and advice, at a reasonable price, to establishments that fall under HIPAA. We thank our partners at HIPAA Secure Now for providing the content for this article. 

 

 

What are the HIPAA standards for IT?

A HIPAA covered entity is more than just a doctor’s office or hospital – its any business that comes in direct contact with a patient’s PII (personally identifiable information). This includes not only medical providers but law firms dealing with medical cases, health insurance companies and medical billing services. HIPAA is a mindset, a set of policies and procedures that are followed for doing business. That being said, there are some areas in IT that a covered entity should focus on.

IT areas of focus for HIPAA compliance:

  • Risk Assessment. Have one. It is required. Without one you can’t identify your vulnerabilities and you can’t address those vulnerabilities. This is your foundation for the HIPAA mindset.
  • Archiving logs of user transactions and event notifications. Who did what, when and where? These are the questions that have to be answered! Staff is a lot less likely to steal PII if they think they are being watched. You know people are paid to steal PII, right?
  • Secure e-mail implementation. Does your staff know how to send PII securely via e-mail? Use encryption if you need to send PII. Use a system that’s easy to implement.
  • Regular operating system and application updates for all computers. Computers should be updated weekly, and servers at least monthly. Its best to automate this process so its not forgotten. This automated process should provide notifications of what updates were successful and which were missed.
  • Regularly scheduled vulnerability scans. Do them at least once a quarter and following any major IT changes. The vulnerability scan compares your IT environment to several reputable databases of vulnerabilities to identify issues that need to be addressed. Vulnerability software needs regular updates, so should be subscription-based.
  • Policies & Procedures. Do you maintain a set of policies and procedures for handling and protecting PII?  Although IT is included, it covers all aspects of the office right down to locking doors to sensitive areas and minimizing the view visitors have of your paperwork and computer screens.
  • Quality firewall device with intrusion prevention system (IPS).  IPS is subscription-based protection that is updated as new IT threats emerge.
  • Good password policy. So critical! This includes not only how complex the passwords are, but how they are stored and end-user training on how to manage them.
  • Internet restrictions. Keep the office computers focused on the business, not on games, shopping sites or social media. All of those sites are ripe with poor security that can lead to a breach of your data or a malware infection. 
  • Mobile device management. PII should not be on unsecured mobile devices. If you must use mobile devices, via technology,  they can be secured.
  • Laptop encryption. Windows 10 Pro includes encryption. A stolen or lost laptop is considered a breach. Even if you don’t think you store PII on that laptop, it is used to access email and cloud apps where PII is kept. So encrypt it.
  • Endpoint Protection. This includes your paid antivirus/antimalware, 2-factor authentication for e-mail and electronic records. Also encryption for e-mails. 
  • Physical security. Keep the server room locked! Desktops should be locked down with password protection if left unattended. Can patients wander behind the counter and have easy access to patient information laying around? 

Where can I find help with HIPAA?

Next Century Technologies has a dedicated team of HIPAA experts to assist with everything mentioned in this list. We have a cost-effective approach to HIPAA just for the budgets of the small and medium-sized covered entities. 

Call us at 859-245-0582 or click here to reach out to us.

About the Author

Tracy Hardin is President and founder of Next Century Technologies in Lexington, KY. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Kentucky and has earned certifications from Novell, Cisco and CompTIA. Her specialties in the field of IT are network design and security, project management and improving productivity through technology. She loves helping people by sharing her knowledge of tech.

How do I pick a cloud provider or vendor?

Cloud  diagramNext Century Technologies protects and manages information technology for clients from many different industries and fields. When we are looking for a new cloud-based service, whether it be for storage, or backup, or Office365 distributor, we follow our banks’ standards and look for these features in all our cloud providers:

1. SOC2 Certification

Look for a cloud provider that is SOC2 (Service Organization Control 2) certified. SOC2 means a provider’s information systems meets the standard for security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality or privacy as set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Why? It means the provider is committed to security. These rigorous standards are added protection for your data. Financial and medical institutions look for providers that adhere to this standard. You should too! 

2. Encryption

Is your data encrypted? Encrypted data is scrambled and requires a password key to unscramble. This keeps unauthorized people from accessing your data. Your data should be encrypted both in transit from your computer to the cloud, and while it is stored in the cloud.

3. Backups

Your data is in the cloud, but that does not mean it is backed up! What if you accidently delete a file? Is it hard to get back? What happens if ransomware hits your computer and the encrypted files are uploaded to your cloud storage, essentially encrypting everything in the cloud as well? What if a disgruntled employee deletes all their files or emails before quitting? Don’t assume your cloud provider is backing up your data – find out! Did you know Office365 has an e-mail retention of only 30 days? That means if you accidently delete an email or folder, you have 30 days to figure it out and recover it. Retention rates vary by provider, and some providers offer nothing in terms of backup! If backups are not offered, is there a third party product that can do the backup?

4. 2FA or MFALock and key

Two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) are becoming more and more crucial to protecting your cloud data from ransomware. New ransomware attacks designed especially for cloud storage are becoming more common. Two-factor/multi-factor means you will need more than just a password to access your cloud storage account – you will need a secondary method of identity verification usually by means of a code sent to an e-mail or smart phone. Is 2FA/MFA offered by your cloud provider? Set it up. If its not offered, find a different provider. Not all SOC2 providers utilize 2FA/MFA!

5. Business Continuity

Catastrophes like hurricanes and floods can take out a data center or in the very least, cut their access to the internet. Does your cloud provider actively replicate their data center to other sites around the country? Find out. A reputable provider will have this type of information on their website. It’s a great selling point.

6. Free comes with a price!

You get what you pay for. If the service is free, then how is the provider making money off YOU? Chances are good they are not SOC2 certified (which costs a lot of money), nor do they offer backups or 2FA. Do they even bother encrypting your data? Are they selling your contact information to spammers or scammers? Is their data center in an obscure country with questionable security? Or is it in someone’s house? Will they even be in business next week? If they disappear, what happens to your data?

Have questions? We can help!

Next Century Technologies has been helping businesses with IT since 2001! Call us at 859-245-0582 or click here to reach out to us.

About the Author

Tracy Hardin is President and founder of Next Century Technologies in Lexington, KY. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Kentucky and has earned certifications from Novell, Cisco and CompTIA. Her specialties in the field of IT are network design and security, project management and improving productivity through technology. She loves helping people by sharing her knowledge of tech.