Preparing for Ransomware: Reliable Data Backup Is Key

While human error is part of the reason for ransomware attacks, securing data offsite negates vulnerabilities.Ransomware is taking center stage as a number of companies across industries are hit with digital attacks. WannaCry ransomware made headlines when it targeted PCs at banks and healthcare facilities; NotPetya, a malware that is an adaptation of ransomware, made similar headlines when it hit businesses in Europe hard. What can you do to ensure your data won’t be held hostage?

What we know about ransomware right now is that it looks a lot like a PC infection. Its “goal” is to go through your drives and encode all the data that it can, leaving you unable to gain access to critical records until you pay the attacker their ransom.

Business administrators pay large amounts of money to recover their data, in some cases $40,000 or more. The fight against these attacks seems fruitless as the attackers alter their models, always coming up with new ways to sneak into systems and latch on to important data.

As of last year, almost 30 percent of private ventures were involved in a ransomware attack, according to research from IBM. Nearly 60 percent of medium-sized businesses had experienced similar extortion. Security specialists can’t keep up with all the different strains of attacks, which means companies are simply moving to a mindset of paying the ransom as part of their business strategy.

The key to staying safe is to have a reliable data backup. It is imperative that your IT system is not outdated. Furthermore, employees need to be trained on how to use digital systems in a secure way that doesn’t compromise systems. According to Acronis, a data protection company, an inside person ineptly ushers in an attack on a company approximately 30 percent of the time.

New advancements in backup technology allow companies small and large to improve rather than replace their current backup methods. For instance, replication and snapshots have been determined to be a smart part of the strategy against ransomware. Replication involves making periodic copies of your data from one server and putting it on another server.

At Focal Solutions, we take ransomware attacks extremely seriously. We are an advocate for our clients, and we always focus on client satisfaction, and that involves staying prepared and ready for any malicious attack. As telecommunications industry insiders, let us help you get connected with the solutions that make the most sense for your company to keep you safe from attacks. Contact us today to hear the rest of the story.


Security in the Age of the Mobile Workforce

The mobile workforce presents unique security concerns for IT. How can enterprises protect their data?The mobile workforce is a boon for enterprises. No longer constrained by geographical concerns when hiring, corporations are able to attract the best talent and offer them a high level of flexibility and the ability to collaborate with their peers across the globe.

Remote access allows employees to work from wherever they are, and field employees can access all the data and resources they need on their mobile devices. In addition, companies save on travel expenses as their employees enjoy the ability to hold virtual meetings in which collaborative software makes it easy to brainstorm and discuss a project.

Increasing Cloud Migration 

The rise of the mobile workforce wouldn’t be possible without the increasing adoption of cloud technology. These two growth areas are intertwined and present a complex security landscape for IT. Here are a few of the concerns on the minds of CIOs trying to protect their systems and data:

  • Providing a secure and reliable data connection for the mobile workforce
  • The complexity of bring your own device (BYOD) culture
  • Supporting technology for a global team, including syncing time differences and facing infrastructure challenges and language barriers

Security in the Cloud

With so much data flying around the mobile workforce, data centers, and the cloud, there’s a lot of opportunity for security breaches, which can be costly in terms of disaster recovery and from a public relations perspective. Every CIO faces concerns when they consider allowing all of their data to move outside the relative safety of carefully-constructed corporate firewalls.

The good news is that the cloud can be as safe as any corporate environment with the right security tools in place. In addition, disaster recovery tends to be much less costly than it is in an on-premise system. The flooding of a data center in a river valley, for instance, won’t cause an interruption in business processes because the data is stored in the cloud.

Putting out Fires

Many CIOs, confronted by the complexity of security in the age of the mobile workforce, are turning to managed services for a variety of areas, including mobile security. In a changing landscape in which cloud and mobile technology are significantly disrupting the IT industry, CIOs are realizing the value of outsourcing some aspects of security management. It frees them to focus on strategy and innovation, rather than putting out security fires.

The mobile workforce adds a new layer of security concern to an already complicated cloud environment. Talk to your clients about outsourcing their security, with Focal Solutions as your partner. Contact us today to discuss the new challenges in mobile security.


Staying Safe When Utilizing Cloud Storage

CloudWhen it comes to data storage, many enterprises are finding better accessibility and cost savings in the cloud compared to on-site servers. If you have yet to make that move, it’s likely one of your chief concerns is the safety of your data. If so, you’re not alone.

Safety and security are the top talking points for those who haven’t embraced cloud-based solutions. However, large cloud providers are extremely vigilant when it comes to security. The resources available to large providers far exceed what even medium-sized organizations are able to produce on their own, making cloud options even more secure than keeping things in-house.

One area that still remains a challenge with security is that encrypted storage isn’t 100% impervious to attack, especially if drive-based encryption is used, and there is evidence that automatic encryption practices can be vulnerable to attack. Encrypting a server with a custom key set is the way around this issue. What other ways can you protect your data?

Protect Against Damage and Deletion
If you’ve taken every step to fully encrypt your data, it’s still vulnerable to damage or deletion if hardware failure occurs. Bad software and malicious operators can also make your data vulnerable.

If you move data to an area where it can’t be compromised, you will ensure your data is more secure. Protect data from exposure through frequent backups and by making offline copies.

Be Diligent About Management
Make sure you’re partnering with a data center that doesn’t have chaotic data management practices. They should be experts at managing partial datasets and trash. Critical files should never be allowed in low-security areas, and they should practice a metadata-driven approach that offers greater control.

Be Careful of Your Insiders
Did you know the majority of data losses have been at the hand of an insider? These are people whom you’re trusting with your data. Protect yourself by using multi-factor authentication. This may seem like too much of a time investment, but it’s not as much as the time lost in the wake of a data breach.

Human error is also a cause of data loss. Know the common mistakes and develop a strategy for when they occur in order to remain proactive rather than reactive.

At Focal Solutions, we invest in our clients by offering comprehensive solutions. For cloud services, our clients have confidence in our data center solutions and disaster recovery strategies. Contact us today and find out how seriously we take the safety of your data.

Keeping Hardware Secure in an Age of Insecurity

SecurityCybersecurity hot topics change rapidly as innovative and bold hackers seek to undermine the security of networks and gain leverage by hijacking critical data. Adware and spam fears, while still relevant, have given way to more intense security threats with the advancements in Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The question now has become, what can we do to provide security that will adequately protect our hardware? The security landscape has changed in a short period of time, barely resembling what it did five years ago. Part of the reason for this change is the proliferation of hybrid IT and cloud-based solutions, which has created a situation where data centers are moved off premise.

To make this even more complex, mobile devices have altered the way we access data, which means corporate devices have far exceeded what they did a decade ago. This means there are just as many new ways in which employees can introduce a security risk, especially in a BYOD environment.

Meeting the Security Challenges at the Hardware Level
The goal for most security professionals is to catch the threat the second it makes itself known on the network. However, if hardware and firmware aren’t up to speed with security solutions, that threat may not be detected until it’s far too late and your data is completely compromised.

Recently, organizations have witnessed DDoS cyberattacks that are driven by IoT devices. IoT has become the target for hackers who recognize this area as an obvious weak spot. There is such a big focus on software security that many organizations fail to see the importance of focusing on hardware as well.

To get ahead of these attacks, some companies are turning to analytical solutions that allow them to monitor behavior in such a way that the system can identify potential threats before they get in and damage the network. The challenge with any type of solution, however, is to stay ahead of the advancements hackers continue to make in their own ingenuity.

The hacking capabilities of experienced and malicious programmers continue to advance among the intricate cells that exist around the world, with many of them focused on hitting companies where it hurts the most – hardware. Damage to legacy hardware can not only stop operations, it can also mean proprietary information, processes and even systems are taken hostage. It’s not unheard of for companies to fall victim to such attacks and never fully recover. 

The best solution is one that addresses software, hardware and firmware security solutions. If you’re relying on traditional solutions, the reality is you’re at serious risk of being compromised, which can be devastating.

At Focal Solutions, we offer comprehensive consultant solutions that strengthen your system as well as your team. We will focus on bringing you business success in all areas of telecom deployment. Contact us today and make us part of your team. 

Why SDN Needs to Emphasize Network Security More

Network SecurityThe next generation of networking includes software defined networking (SDN), as network controls shift from hardware to software. It’s the result of merging multiple devices into one controller, which empowers the user to control an entire network. It’s a giant leap in the evolution of administrative control, but developers must still face network security challenges for this new technology.

Control Plane Concerns

The main concern that users should have about SDN at this stage is that the control plane can be compromised. A separate issue involves the scalability of the control plane. If a hacker is able to gain access to the control plane, they can potentially control the entire network. Another part of the risk involves how easy it is to misconfigure architecture due to the flexible nature of the software.

SDN as a Networking Solution

Despite the network security issues, SDN is quickly becoming a solution for overcoming modern networking problems. One of the reasons for this trend is that it allows for maintenance dry-out. It also answers several other technical issues. The network is set up to respond to its own threats. The problem is that new product developers are not spending enough time working out security issues.

More Than a Buzz Word

SDN is still not clearly defined, which adds to the uncertainty surrounding network security. Many people have used SDN as a buzz word, as different companies such as Cisco have their own definition of it. Various vendors are defining it based on how it fits their existing product lines. Even though SDN is supposed to make a network more consistent, its ambiguity creates confusion.

SDN is not really a new development, but it has the feel of new technology since all the bugs have yet to be worked out. Developers also need to work on making the technology more stable. What’s more, there aren’t many SDN specialists yet, as networking or data center teams have been left in charge of it.

Industry leaders warn that teams using SDN must be careful about hardware rules concerning switches. They also point to multiple layers of security as the safest solution, whether the business uses SDN or not. One of the major benefits of SDN technology is that it allows for fast reconfiguration.


Businesses that have quickly adopted SDN to resolve networking solutions need to consider that this technology still has network security issues. SDN will become more efficient once more focus is put into making the solution more secure. It is becoming widely used due to the simplicity of consolidating all controls into one controller.

Tailoring Security Technologies to Meet Business Needs

SecurityTechnological advancements have impacted business operations in a positive way. However, managing the security required to maintain compliance and protection isn’t as easy as deploying new applications that allow organizations to increase productivity. In fact, developing risk management plans that accurately and efficiently mitigate threats involves a lot of work. So called “black box” network solutions that claim to meet every need will never replace a specific, tailored design.

Therefore, to ensure that organizations meet changing compliance standards, develop adequate preventative measures, and choose the best investments, they must first assess their real and specific needs, and then incorporate the technologies that will suit.   

Identifying Essential Requirements

The first step in discovering the right security technology for any company is to identify the areas that must be secured.

  • What is the value of the data collected, used, and maintained? Companies must accurately determine the value of the data used in order to ascertain the type of protections to introduce.
  • Where is the data stored and how is it accessed? These considerations also outline which procedures, policies, and tools will be required for efficient protection.
  • What are the current regulations, risks, and penalties associated with non-compliance? Understanding which regulations apply to the data used by the company provides key indicators on how to mitigate threats and limit the impact of an attack.  

Assessing Security Posture

Before investing capital in technology, organizations need to honestly assess their current security posture. Glossing over weaknesses or overrating strengths will result in a failure to protect the company in the event of an attack. For example:

  • Are polices for personnel enforced throughout the hierarchy, or are there ways to bypass them for ease of use?
  • Are physical barriers adequate in-house?
  • Are mobility practices equally protected and secured?

Taking an honest assessment of current strengths and weaknesses is vital to the success of any security strategy or risk management plan.      

Increasing Employee Awareness

Accurately tailoring protection to an organization’s needs means making sure that employees understand the reasons for each tool and policy, and have the opportunity to become actively involved. For any plan to work, companies must have feedback from users. For instance, is one tool causing issues with productivity? Are employees experiencing a positive or negative impact from the controls in place? This type of response from users helps identify weaknesses and helps pinpoint any additional lack.

Although tailoring risk management and strategies based on specific needs takes time and effort, the result produces a cost-effective solution that ensures proper compliance and protection. Staying one step ahead of attackers requires continual evolution.

Dynamic, Evolving Solutions to IT Security

ITIn the last year alone, IT security has seen an increase in corporate attention and funding, yet security breaches increase. How could this be?

In short, cybersecurity is not simply a concern you can “throw money at” and expect to go away. The only approach to IT security must be one that is dynamic and ever-evolving. Here are three common mistakes that cause threats to a business’s cybersecurity:

Outdated Defenses

More enterprises now invest in IT security personnel and software than ever before. Yet while IT departments keep an increasing focus on end point defenses, it is imperative to remember that processes that prevent data breaches today will not be effective or relevant forever.

Cyber attackers evolve, and cyber attacks grow more sophisticated. Recent IT security breaches have come from spear phishing e-mail scams, which can compromise an entire corporate network if just one employee is tricked by the scam.

This is why it is important to stay on top of the current threats to a company’s IT security, while also anticipating that new or evolved threats will certainly arise in the future. Anyone who has dealt with a next-generation malware virus knows this: there is nothing more damaging than a malware attack when the antivirus software signatures aren’t available yet.

Tunnel Vision: Compliance Requirements

One marker of IT staff success is compliance with security requirements. But that is only one marker. Too many companies face a crisis after IT security professionals develop tunnel vision, proceeding as if compliance guarantees prevention of data breaches. All too often this is not the case, despite industry periodical CIO’s report that 58% of the companies plan to invest more in meeting compliance in the next year.

This is because cybersecurity threats evolve at a faster rate than compliance standards. The vigilance of a company’s IT team must move beyond compliance. A dynamic cybersecurity strategy goes beyond compliance standards and anticipates the evolving nature of security threats.

Adapting New Tech, Not New Security

Third-party cloud storage sites and file sharing apps can make a business more productive and increase employee communications. That is, as long as these channels are secured. Too often, companies embrace new technologies without first laying the groundwork to protect that data. This can have disastrous consequences after a security breach.

A Dynamic Solution

Moving forward, some strategies to bolster the IT security of a company include:

  • Assess which clouds store company data, and evaluate how secure they are.
  • Embrace encryption-based data security, as well as access controls. This doesn’t just mean on laptops and desktops; every cloud and site of Big Data must be encrypted.
  • Have IT professionals work beyond meeting compliance standards to stay on top of ever-evolving security threats.


VoIP Network Software and Hardware Security

VOIPSince Voice over IP (VoIP) and hosted PBX services are easy to deploy, some small to medium businesses (SMBs) take network security for granted. Enterprise network security requires more attention, but anyone using VoIP is still a target for foreign attacks. Following are areas of concern for management when implementing these modern communication features.

VoIP and Hosted PBX Vulnerabilities 

  • DDoS attacks can indefinitely block business communication.
  • Cyber criminals can listen to phone conversations and steal trade secrets.
  • Spies, ex-employees, or script kiddies can infect a network with ransomware.


Firewalls are simple to set up, as provisions and configurations determine who has access to a network. In other words, firewalls allow users assigned by administrators to access the network, while blocking unfamiliar users.

Businesses commonly use software firewalls on each node of a network to filter traffic based on individual configurations. While a software firewall is easy to implement, it can be expensive due to purchasing of multiple licenses and extra maintenance costs for each machine. Other drawbacks to consider before implementing software firewalls include:

  • Installation on individual computers is time consuming.
  • Users of each machine must be involved in the installation process.
  • Security is weaker, making it easy for hackers to infiltrate.
  • They are not user-friendly for inexperienced computer users, creating confusion and disruption.

The best way to approach network security is to use common sense by staying on top of which connections are allowed by administrators and blocking suspicious users.

Hardware Firewalls Strengthen Security

While software firewalls need to be installed on each network machine, a single hardware firewall can be assigned to the entire network as an extra protective layer. Whatever work needs to be done in terms of provisions, configurations, monitoring, or maintenance can be executed on one computer. This quicker approach does not require as much participation from individual users.

Packet loss can be avoided across the network, as security managers can configure a hardware firewall when necessary so that traffic is prioritized separately for VoIP or video conferencing. Maintenance and monitoring will still need to be overseen by IT personnel. Hardware firewalls may integrate with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for encrypted connections, which entails:

  • Time consuming initial installation but to a lesser degree than a software firewall
  • Prioritizing VoIP and video data for a jitter free, smooth, and secure experience
  • Reduced restrictions on permissioned users
  • Less need to train workers on how to make network access decisions

Cloud Managed Firewalls 

Investing in a hardware firewall clearly provides more efficiency and stronger protection than a software firewall, and can work as a premises, network, or cloud solution. A cloud service provider may be the most efficient solution for businesses that prefer IT services to be managed by an offsite third party. Even though a managed firewall often requires hardware to be connected to the network, most cloud service providers will handle maintenance, provisioning, and monitoring from their data center.

Furthermore, they can provide continuous firewall administration, monitoring, and quick response to security issues. Quality cloud providers manage firewalls using reliable brands such as Cisco, Dell Security, and Verizon Enterprise Solutions or niche competitors such as Secure Works or Simple WAN.


SMBs that use VoIP and hosted PBX can improve security with a hardware firewall that protects every computer on a network. Some companies choose to install software firewalls on individual computers, but this strategy can run up costs. Companies that would rather not worry about the nuts and bolts of IT work should consider cloud managed services.


Enhance Security for IoT Products Using Big Data Solutions

Security regulations and mandates regarding data protection require companies to log a large number of events to maintain compliance. With the global marketplace firmly established, rules outlined in regulatory directives such as the PCI (payment card industry), ISO (International Organization for Standardization), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996), and others, are established to maintain the privacy of sensitive information. However, the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) has altered the way companies must perform security measures.

This shifting dynamic is the result of software indexing that fails to account for the growing presence of the IoT. Traditionally, companies utilize Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) software to fulfill compliance performance requisites, which include security event logging and retention, as well as threat recognition, alerts, assessments, and responses. However, indexing data from firewalls, authentication, and anti-virus products is now only part of the picture.


Enter the IoT

Other event data (like that from cloud platforms and mobile devices) must also be logged to ensure security, and networked physical devices that feature embedded operating systems are especially susceptible. These IoT devices contain indicators of advanced threats, particularly those that stem from customized malware or the theft of legitimate credentials, which are easily overlooked. Depending on the size of the company and the industry, the number of IoT devices vary, but some common ones include:

  • Point of sale terminals
  • ATMs
  • Imaging and medical systems
  • Floor kiosks (employee stations)
  • Electrical or industrial grid systems that regulate operations, and similar industrial control systems

Although these items facilitate productivity, they also present a security loophole. Without indexing the event data for these types of devices, if a cyber attack occurs, there’ll be no evidence to examine. However, by logging events from IoT devices, companies can track and respond to threats, often before the criminals have achieved their primary goal.


Big Data Solutions

Problems exist because of the current strategies used for compliance. SIEM software often suffers from difficulty managing the large amounts of event data being indexed from traditional security products, making the increased volume of data from IoT devices impossible to include. First, “connectors” are costly to build for an IoT product. Moreover, the fixed schema of a single, relational datastore compromises the log data and establishes a point of failure that hinders speed and scale. A rigid user interface (UI) that hampers customized searches and report building capability also makes it difficult for companies to perform ad hoc audit requests or specific investigations.

However, big data delivers actionable solutions for businesses by eliminating these issues. Big data solutions feature:

  • Flexible, low cost connectors that facilitate the onboarding of event data, including IoT products
  • Flat file store that establishes indexing of all data without requiring modifications
  • Quick scaling and speedy intake, searches, reports, and alerts, generated by a distributed architecture
  • Elastic search and reporting aptitude that allows companies to perform detailed investigations and respond in effective ways

Big data offers businesses heightened protection and improved compliance performance by delivering a software-based solution that is able to index massive amounts of machine and event data. With real-time searching abilities, hierarchy/role-based access, and specific log retention, it delivers enhanced security results. Plus, it can be deployed on premise, through a hybrid solution, or solely in the cloud. Moreover, many service agreements come equipped with pre-built searches to increase compliance efficiency.

Any business can enhance event logging and compliance performance using big data solutions that seamlessly incorporate IoT products.

Formulating a Strategic Security Plan

Cyber security threats continue to impact countless networks and IT servers. From viruses to foreign intrusion, web-based invasions are of paramount concern for security professionals and firms. According to a recent IASCA survey, 74% of cyber security managers expect to be attacked in 2016.

It is critical for enterprises to formulate sound security strategies this year. Without a comprehensive and cohesive security platform, all new and existing firms are susceptible to:

  • Viruses and intrusion that steal and expose confidential information
  • Customer information theft and trade secrets exposure
  • Complete lock down of all cloud-based servers, software apps, and hardware

In order to combat the growing number of cyber security threats, businesses need a formidable defense plan that offers optimal online protection of all networks and assets.


Assessing Vulnerabilities

The first step to deploying sound security measures is to assess current platforms. With an experienced security firm, clients are able to analyze all vulnerable areas. This can reinforce anti-virus and anti-malware programs while truly protecting the business against cyber crime. Without a field-proven, cost-effective, and customized security solution, companies can experience:

  • Online reputation damage and loss of brand and company validity
  • Exposure to liability and loss of clients due to sensitive information breaches
  • Viruses and malware that can serve as phantom solicitors for new business, resulting in costly damages and irreparable harm


Scanning E-Mail Attachments

As simple as it may seem, scanning all incoming e-mail and attachments is still a great security measure. Sadly, many unscrupulous individuals and companies utilize e-mail for viruses, phishing, malware, spyware, and spamming. As a result, it is imperative for all brands to employ strategic security techniques to ensure optimal safety across the board.

Firewalls Are Still Essential

Firewalls are vital in preventing unauthorized network access. They also prohibit access to inappropriate web content while restricting infected file downloads. Firewalls ensure optimal security for corporate IP and VPN networks. Most of all, these security tools ensure:

  • Protection from legal, regulatory, and productivity threats
  • Employees abide by stringent rules, guidelines, and regulations when surfing the web
  • Maximum protection from deceptive websites, links, or social media content


Denial of Service

In recent months, countless sites have been impacted by Denial of Service (DoS) hacks. These methodical techniques are utilized by hackers to bring company operations to a screeching halt. This has resulted in millions of dollars in damages, along with irreparable harm to a number of companies’ online reputations. DoS attacks continue to soar in popularity, and are now the preferred choice for hackers that want to hold businesses hostage and receive money to discontinue the attacks.

It is of paramount importance for businesses to discuss these ongoing problems with security providers. To learn more about formulating a strategic security plan,  contact us today.