Readying For Regulation Response To Cyber Incidents – Forbes Article by Ntirety CEO Emil Sayegh

Recently, utility companies have been a major target for hackers, and critical infrastructure has been put at stake. As these cyberattacks have increased, taking action to keep bad actors away from our cyber environments must be a top priority. For industries such as utilities that provide services to almost all of us, we must all do our part to ensure security is enforced. 

 Ntirety CEO Emil Sayegh emphasizes the importance of the United States government’s involvement in protecting the ever-growing cyberspace, and the businesses and people whose lives could drastically change. The following piece, Readying For Regulation Response To Cyber Incidents, was originally published in Forbes.

Readying For Regulation Response To Cyber Incidents – Forbes Article by Ntirety CEO Emil Sayegh

In the wake of a prolonged season of significantly impactful cyberattacks, new regulations have arrived on the scene and we can expect more to soon follow. Good, bad, and ugly, regulations are a natural governmental response to significant situations that carry national implications. For now, the focus is on pipeline operators. But with so much vulnerability in the wild, a lack of overall standards -and also the fact that so much is at stake -cyber regulation is on a trajectory of growth, and may also find itself on a collision course across many more sensitive industries.

Back in May, the world was shocked when the Colonial Pipeline Company revealed that it was a victim of a ransomware attack. The immediate response was to halt operations in order to contain the attack. Five days later, operations resumed, but not before fuel prices on the East Coast of the U.S. skyrocketed and fuel shortages crippled the Eastern Seaboard.

Regulatory Response

The same day that operations resumed, President Biden signed an Executive Order on “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity.” Moving from voluntary participation to mandated compliance, some 100 pipeline operations had to formally designate a 24/7 cybersecurity coordinator and report confirmed and potential incidents to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) under the new directives.

In late July, the rules tightened up from there with further regulations. The specific details that accompany this mission have not been fully revealed to the public, but some elements have been shared about the program. Participants will need:

  • To develop a cybersecurity contingency and recovery plan
  • Conduct a cybersecurity architecture design review
  • To implement mitigation measures to protect against cyberattacks immediately

In addition, the regulations have a bit of a bite to them, leveraging potential fines that can amount to close to $12,000 per day for each violation.

The Regulatory Trajectory

The age of self-driven, voluntary standards and industry participation is beginning to change as a response to the rash of successful attacks against critical organizations. With solid research and preparation, the implementation of these forthcoming compliance measures could possibly roll out smoothly. It is also likely that challenges will be felt throughout the industries affected by new compliance measures. Revisions and updates will follow, as already exhibited in the pipeline industry.

For most, compliance and regulation are not completely new territory, however the horizontal rollout and application to formerly voluntary industries will carry some challenges along for the ride. New technologies, cutting-edge standards, and continual assessment are not always associated with the considerably comprehensive publications of ordinary regulations.

Rolling out successful cybersecurity regulations in a comprehensive effort is going to require awareness on the contextual history of regulations as well as measures to keep regulations up-to-date and achievable.

Preparing Now

Based on technical and operational components, the gold standard reference point throughout the industry are the standards set forth by CISA. Organizations can get ahead of these and create a better security baseline by assessing cybersecurity policies and procedures and updating them as necessary.

Among the advancing best security practices and technologies, prepare to assess and incorporate:

  • Updated backup and recovery tools and processes
  • Risk prioritization exercises
  • Secure cloud service practices
  • Segmenting networks
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Zero trust capable architecture
  • Robust endpoint management
  • Enterprise threat mapping
  • Data encryption at rest and in transit

Every environment is different, with different realities to consider.

It can be difficult to turn down the background noise of emerging products, industry buzzwords, and marketing smoke. With so much to navigate, I cannot blame anyone that has completely tuned out. But please don’t. Silence is not bliss in this case. Most companies are ill-equipped to deal with this threat alone and must find competent cybersecurity partners. This movement has already started-this is a clarion call and moment of action on every digital front. Cybersecurity is becoming an imperative across the land.

Ntirety’s Inaugural Partner Advisory Council

Further Cementing our Channel-Only Strategy, Ntirety Selects Nine Partners for Exclusive Council to Create Long-term Channel Success.

In the ever-evolving field of information and technology, it is important to be adaptable; new devices are released every year, so cybersecurity awareness and education are of utmost importance. Ntirety’s Channel-Only approach has proven to be the ideal way to help raise awareness and security postures through our trusted Channel Partners.

To continue leading in the industry for both our partners and Ntirety, we invited partners to join our first Partner Advisory Council. We extend our sincerest thanks to our partners for their participation and for making Ntirety the trusted provider we are today. See our full press release covering the event below:

AUSTIN, Texas, Oct. 19, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Ntirety, the most trusted Comprehensive Security provider, today announced the creation of their inaugural Partner Advisory Council. This council brings together top partners from the Channel industry to advise on best practices and collaborate on goals and initiatives for the upcoming year. This comes to further cement Ntirety’s strategy as a company that exclusively sells through the Channel.

The partners serve as the trusted voice of Ntirety customers, providing unique insights and firsthand knowledge on the brand’s services. The council’s goal is to help the Ntirety team fine-tune its product offerings, messaging, and marketing programs to further accelerate the adoption of its Compliant Security Suite of Services.

“Ntirety is 100% Channel focused, and the forming of this council reaffirms the brand’s commitment to our Channel partners,” said Emil Sayegh, CEO of Ntirety. “I’m thrilled to be able to form this council of passionate channel professionals who care deeply about the success of our clients and delivering to them pervasive, compliant security services that empower businesses to move faster with less risk.”

During the inaugural council meeting, partners gathered to align on bridging the gaps between technology, operations, and the human element of the Channel. The inaugural meeting identified a need for Channel partners to get more comfortable speaking about cybersecurity, as well as advising on compliance as new regulations across all industries continue to roll out.

“It was an honor to participate in this inaugural gathering,” said Auburn Holbrook, CRO of Opex Technologies. “For the first meeting, the content, and presenters were excellent. Ntirety is unique on multiple fronts with their Channel Only and Security First strategy. Their offering of compliant data security services comprehensively and compellingly for enterprise are unique and differentiated.”

The formation of this council directly follows Ntirety’s platinum sponsorship of the 2021 Avant Special Forces Summit in Austin, TX where CTO, Josh Henderson, and VP & Field CTO, Tony Scribner, were both featured panelists. It is the latest in a productive year connecting and collaborating with partners, including Ntirety’s participation as a platinum sponsor with speaking engagements at Telarus Partner Summit in San Diego, CA in June, and attending and co-hosting multiple events with Intelisys. Through these major conferences and summits to more exclusive gatherings, Ntirety continues to set the company apart with its cybersecurity thought leadership from other managed security providers in every interaction.

Ntirety’s exclusive commitment to Channel includes dedicated training resources, co-branded marketing collateral, reciprocal opportunity generation, and partner advisory boards, as well as evergreen commission structures and opportunity-specific incentive plans.

To learn more about Ntirety’s Channel Partner commitment or how to become a partner, visit ntirety.com/partners today!

Worldwide Cybersecurity Best Practices Part 2

Cybersecurity needs to constantly expand its resources because technology increasing with new devices released every year. Countries around the world have acknowledged this need and have played their part in making the cyber world a safer place.

In part 2 of our series on Worldwide Cybersecurity Best Practices, learn about more cybersecurity initiatives across the globe. 

Canada   

The Canadian Government is investing $80 million over four years (2021-2022 to 2023-2024) to create the Cyber Security Innovation Network, a national network composed of multiple centers of cybersecurity expertise. This includes post-secondary institutions (colleges, universities, research centers, polytechnics), partners in the private sector, not-for-profits, and governments (provincial, territorial, municipal) to enhance research and development and grow cyber security talent across Canada.   

Ntirety Director of Governance Risk and Compliance Wing Lau works in the Vancouver office and will firsthand experience this expansion of cybersecurity resources.    

“With the digital economy continuing to grow rapidly, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, cyber security is an ever-increasing concern for Canadians and businesses,” Lau said.   

Ghana   

Ghana’s Cybersecurity Act , enacted in December 2020, regulates cybersecurity activities, promotes the development of cybersecurity, and provides for related matters. Under this act, the National Computer Emergency Response Team was established and functions to:   

  • Be responsible for responding to cybersecurity incidents
  • Co-ordinate responses to cybersecurity incidents amongst public institutions, private institutions, and international bodies
  • Oversee the Sectoral Computer Emergency Response Team established under section 44

Under Section 60 of the act, the document states that education and awareness programs on cybersecurity will be carried out. As stated under section 61, research and development programs will be designed. This includes actions such as collaborating with academic research centers and developing a framework for cybersecurity training programs.   

Japan   

Japan released their Cybersecurity Strategy in September 2021 that included a plan that would stretch over the next three years to ensure a “free, fair and secure cyberspace.” In order to do this, the government plans on:   

  • Advancing digital transformation (DX) and cybersecurity simultaneously  
  • Ensuring the overall safety and security of cyberspace as it becomes increasingly public, interconnected, and interrelated
  • Enhancing initiatives from the perspective of Japan’s national security

The Cybersecurity Strategy acknowledged, for the first time, China, Russia, and North Korea as cyberattack threats.   

Spain 

In April 2021, the Spanish government committed to investing over €450 million over the course of three years to increase the country’s cybersecurity sector. Carme Artigas, Spain’s state secretary for digitalization and artificial intelligence announced that an online “Hacker Academy” would be available for the country’s residents ages 14 and older as a part of the cybersecurity expansion initiatives.   

This training attracted hundreds of participants. The National Cybersecurity Institute (INCIBE) oversees this strategic plan for spending relating to cybersecurity. Key components of increasing the business ecosystem of the sector and attracting talent include:  

  • Strengthening the cybersecurity of individuals   
  • Strengthening the cybersecurity of Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and professionals   
  • Consolidating Spain as an international cybersecurity hub  

United States   

While the states within the U.S. have passed laws governing cybersecurity, federally nothing has been constructed as far as cybersecurity enforcement specifically. There are, however, national laws in place that protect individuals’ information considered “private.”   

An example of this would be the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that guards “individually identifiable health information” including data that relates to:   

  • The individual’s past, present, or future physical or mental health or condition 
  • The provision of health care to the individual 
  • The past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to the individual, and that identifies the individual or for which there is a reasonable basis to believe can be used to identify the individual   

Individually identifiable health information includes identifiers such as name, address, birth date, and Social Security Number.   

The cyber-world can be accessed from almost anywhere on earth; this means that as individuals we must all use caution and do everything that we can to make a safe cyberspace for all. A seemingly harmless action such as clicking on a link can lead to your personal data being stolen and potentially the private data of others.    

The personal data of others is on the line when using a social media account, email, or other places where personal data such as name and birth date is shared online. Being a member of the cyber world means holding yourself and others accountable. Hackers will always be around as long as there is cyberspace, but as global cybersecurity efforts continue to increase, we can be more prepared and respond with greater speed and efficiency.   

Worldwide Cybersecurity Best Practices Part 1

Information Technology has created the ability to connect people from virtually (no pun intended) anywhere in the world. With new internet-connected devices being released every year, safety must only continue to increase along with it. Countries all across the globe have acknowledged the importance of enforcing cybersecurity and creating a safer cyber world for everyone.  

 In this two-part series, we will take a look at how eight countries from across the world implemented cybersecurity initiatives in the past few years, including Ntirety’s global offices in Bulgaria, Canada, and the United States.  

 Australia 

In May 2021, the Critical Infrastructure Uplift Program (CI-UP) was presented by the Australian government to aid in identifying and repairing vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure. This program was set in place to help providers evaluate their current security program and implement recommended strategies to reduce risk.  

 This program is available to critical infrastructure businesses that are Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) partners. According to ACSC, this program was created to:  

  • Deliver prioritized vulnerability and risk mitigation strategies  
  • Assist partners to implement the recommended risk mitigation strategies  

 Brazil 

In Feb. 2020, Brazil introduced its first national cybersecurity strategy. The country that ranked 70th in the Global Cybersecurity Index, moved its way up to number 18 on the list in 2020. While the bones were set in place with the passing of the National Policy on Information Security in Dec. 2018, there were still more steps needed to create a strategy to secure the biggest economy in Latin America.  

 The National Cyber Security Strategy, E-Ciber, details a four-year plan (2020-2023) to improve the “security and resilience of critical infrastructure and national public services.”  

 Strategic Objectives include:  

  1. Make Brazil more prosperous and reliable in the digital environment;  
  2. Increase Brazil’s resilience to cyber threats; and  
  3. Strengthen the Brazilian action in cybersecurity in the international scenario.  

Strategic Actions involve:  

  1. Strengthen cyber governance actions 
  2. Establish a centralized governance model at the national level  
  3. Promote participatory, collaborative, reliable and secure environment, between the public sector, the private sector and society  
  4. Raise the government’s level of protection  
  5. Raise the level of protection of National Critical Infrastructures  
  6. Improve the legal framework on cybersecurity  
  7. Encourage the design of innovative cybersecurity solutions  
  8. Expand Brazil’s international cooperation in Cybersecurity  
  9. Expand the partnership, in cybersecurity, between the public sector, the private sector, academia and society  
  10. Raising society’s maturity in cybersecurity   

 Bulgaria 

The strategy, Cyber Resilient Bulgaria 2020, was established to create a framework to ensure a safe cyber environment. The strategy was released in 2016 and the plans were carried through the year 2020 with the hopes of increasing growth in cybersecurity resources and leadership.  

 The strategy was broken into 3 phases:  

  1. Between 2016-2017 the goal was to achieve the minimum required information and cybersecurity and capability for responding to cyber incidents and attacks at organizations and networks.  
  2. When it came to cyber incidents, crises and systematic prevention activities, 2018-2019 was dedicated to bringing the work of individual systems to coordinated responses.  
  3. 2020 achieved a level of maturity which would provide cyber resilience at the national level and effective interaction and integration at international level (An example being the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)).  

 This strategy aims to provide better protection for citizens, businesses, governments and critical infrastructure,” Security Operations Analyst Teodora Mincheva said. 

 The cyberworld can be accessed from almost anywhere on earth; this means that as individuals we must all use caution and do everything that we can to make a safe cyber space for all. Stay tuned for the second part of Worldwide Cybersecurity Best Practices! 

Spooky Stats

Cybersecurity might be the last thing on your mind as you are picking out costumes and candy, but cybercriminals are always lurking in the shadows, no matter what day it is. Here are some important statistics you should be aware of to help you better protect yourself and your loved ones from falling victim to cyberattacks this October (Cybersecurity Awareness Month)!

Hackers do not always give you an instant jump scare; they often remain hidden in the shadows. According to the Cost of a Data Breach Report 2021, it takes an average of 287 days to identify and contain a data breach.

A prime example of a hacker lurking unnoticed would be the SolarWinds ransomware attack. The IT and software management company that provides services to businesses and government agencies had a bad actor enter their IT infrastructure in September 2019 and went undiscovered until December 2020. Within the next year, more details were released about the situation. In January 2021, SolarWinds stated they would prioritize cybersecurity in the coming year, and they hired former Facebook and CISA security experts as consultants.

Ransomware is a form of malware (software intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client, or computer network) that encrypts a victim’s files, and an attacker demands ransom from the victim in order to regain access to their data. According to The State of Ransomware 2021 report , the average cost of ransomware recovery is $1.85 million.

“[Ransomware has] really changed the face of cybersecurity over the last couple years,” Director of Cyber Security Operations Christopher Houseknecht said. “We see it all the time in the news.”

Research from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) found that hackers will most commonly execute ransomware attacks through email phishing, Remote Desk Protocol (RDP) vulnerabilities, and software vulnerabilities. Email phishing is when an attacker tricks a user into revealing confidential information using false pretenses, often disguised as being from a person or business the receiver is familiar with. But underneath that familiar face is a cybercriminal waiting to steal your precious personal information.

According to the 2021 Business Email Compromise Report, the most common display names are company name (68%), individual’s name (66%), and a boss or manager’s name (53%). According CSO magazine, more than 80% of cyberattacks involve phishing.

“I received an email from ‘Emil Sayegh’, the CEO of Ntirety, asking me to buy him gift cards.”

No one is safe from these attacks. Just a few weeks after being hired, Ntirety Marketing Specialist Kori Ortiz almost fell victim to a phishing scam , but fortunately had the cybersecurity instincts to question the messages.

“I received an email from ‘Emil Sayegh’, the CEO of Ntirety, asking me to buy him gift cards,” Ortiz said. “I was confused as to why he would ask me this; which was the first red flag. Always trust your gut. If something feels like it’s not right, then it probably isn’t.”

In 2020, a record 86% of organizations were hit by a successful cyberattack, as stated in the  2021 Cyberthreat Defense Report. This is an alarmingly high percentage of people who have had their data snatched from them. There’s no trick here – we must all do our part to protect data. Everyday best practices are the first step, including not sharing passwords, creating strong passwords, and using caution when opening unfamiliar emails and links.

Cybercriminals are always disguising themselves to fool users into thinking they are safe to go about their usual business. With better caution and the help of cybersecurity professionals, these cybercriminals will receive more tricks than treats.

Our Cybersecurity Playbook explains the Five Aspects of Compliant Cybersecurity and gives you a chance to test your business’s cybersecurity posture against these five core components. Download it today and schedule an assessment with us today to learn more about ways that you can prevent potential threats.

What is Cybersecurity?

This question stumps the average person. How does one have a secure cyber-environment? What is going on in computers and IT systems that keep away the hackers?

Cybersecurity according to Merriam Webster is “measures taken to protect a computer or computer system (as on the Internet) against unauthorized access or attack.” These measures are administered by people, processes, and technology. The people part of cybersecurity are typically an organization’s Information Technology (IT) team who create the processes necessary to provide instruction for identifying and protecting against potential threats.

Ntirety Director of Cyber Security Operations Christopher Houseknecht considers himself a “computer geek” and has been interested in the operation and evolution of the cyber world for the last 25 years growing up with it and today working for our cybersecurity company, Ntirety.

“Everything from what kind of business I conduct on my phone, private, or business related, as well as the kind of things my children do, [cybersecurity] impacts me throughout every aspect of my life,” Houseknecht says.

Houseknecht as well as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and SVP Development and Engineering Joshua Henderson both described cybersecurity as being in “layers.” Houseknecht says these layers are made up of components such as encryption, antivirus, endpoint detection response capabilities, and separation from the network or internet. Cybersecurity is not one singular layer of protection; there are numerous layers needed to fully protect precious data.

It is always important to have a backup plan. If the first line of defense falls through, your backup plan saves you from scrambling to assess how to handle a situation before it is too late. Similarly, cybersecurity must exist in “layers” so if the bad guys somehow find their way through the first layer, precious data is not lost and stolen.

Product Manager Dave Considine also emphasizes the importance of layered security. Considine describes this as giving someone access to a resource, but limiting what they can do within it. He explains that not everyone in a company should be able to access every resource.

Henderson describes cybersecurity as making sure data is safe and available, up and running for the people who need to and are meant to access it. It is the effort from the people, technology, and processes to keep the cybercriminals out. Houseknecht explains further that technology can only do so much; it is important to have a team of people and processes in place to guide the technology to do what it needs to do.

“[Hackers] don’t care whether you’re just an average Joe using computers to play video games or if you’re running a cybersecurity company.”

CEO Emil Sayegh emphasizes how important it is for businesses to have a comprehensive security plan and a partner operating 24/7 to protect themselves and their clients. He explains that one aspect of cyber protection will not defend against all possible cyber attacks. Phishing, malware, DDoS attacks and more require different solutions.

Handling cybersecurity internally as a business may seem like the easier and cheaper option, but there are so many products that must be invested in and many people constantly monitoring and operating the technology. In the long run, off-the-shelf security products can cost more as they keep piling on as the threats become more complicated and hackers become more sophisticated, not to mention the cost of hiring or training employees to tackle these evolving risks.

“That’s where someone like Ntirety has a really beneficial solution to most customers and companies out there,” Henderson says. “The average company is not going to really want to operate or find the staffing to do it the right way.”

While it is important to bring on a team of qualified individuals to help maintain the safety of normal IT-related business operations, it is crucial to abide by cybersecurity best practices every day on your own. Henderson and Houseknecht both mentioned the importance of having good cyber-hygiene. Cyber-hygiene is how someone presents themselves in the cyber-world. This includes practices such as not sharing passwords, not clicking suspicious links, using two-factor authentication, or not plugging in a USB that you are unsure of where it was from.

Houseknecht also expressed the importance of having resiliency in cyber-matters.

“Never assume it won’t happen to you,” Houseknecht warns. “[Hackers] don’t care whether you’re just an average Joe using computers to play video games or if you’re running a cybersecurity company.”

The recent cyberattack on IT software and management company SolarWinds, is an unfortunate example of a cybersecurity business that was hacked and faced disastrous consequences. The company works with businesses and government agencies, but it’s not just larger companies that need to worry.

So much of our lives exist online now — medical records, academic information, financial details and more are stored online. In addition to this, social media has become a way of connecting with family, friends, and businesses all around the world. There will always be people who will misuse resources and seek to steal private information for personal gain. But that’s where cybersecurity comes in to provide peace of mind through proactively keeping the bad guys out and keeping important data in.

The cyber-world has moved from a “perimeter” to a “distributed mindset,” according to Considine.

The “perimeter” concept of cybersecurity is an outdated approach, sometimes referred to as the “castle mentality,” and is defined as the idea that securing the perimeter of an IT environment (i.e. building castle walls and digging a moat) is enough. It is outdated because it ignores activity within the environment that may be malicious, and it is becoming more and more difficult to secure the perimeter of more advanced cloud and hybrid environments.

“Trust your instincts.”

Cloud services, capability, and computing have eliminated the perimeter mindset. People distributed across the world are able to access the services from anywhere thanks to cloud computing. With this greater access to resources, there is an even greater need for cybersecurity.

In addition to the cyber-world’s shift to distributed mindset, remote work became increasingly more common with cloud computing resources increasing, but especially after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic – pushing a huge portion of workforces to work from home and introducing a whole new slew of cyber-risks. More workspaces have adapted fully remote or partially remote work schedules and your security posture needs to adapt as well.

The effects of data theft can impact not only personal data and the terrible personal consequences that follow, but large businesses and landmarks, a recent example being the Colonial Pipeline. The oil pipeline system that stretches from Texas to New York is responsible for carrying gasoline and jet fuel to the southeastern portion of the United States, and it uses computerized equipment to help manage it. The ransomware attack hindered operations so much to the point that the President of the United States declared a state of emergency. The company ended up paying millions in ransom.

With computers making up so much of our daily social and business functions, cybersecurity must be at the forefront of our minds. Cybersecurity starts with you.

Sayegh urges anyone utilizing a computer or IT environment to be alert and aware to potential threats. Many times, cyber criminals express urgency in getting personal details from you, but Sayegh expresses the importance of always double checking sources, and never being too quick to give out information.
“Trust your instincts,” Sayegh said. “Anything that smells fishy [or is] too good to be true, don’t do it.”