The Importance of Cloud Computing to Your Cyber Security Strategy

security-cyber.jpegMoving your data to the cloud is more secure than keeping it on-premise – not less. That’s why it’s increasingly the foundation of a cyber security strategy for a growing number of businesses.

Cloud computing has been around for more than a decade, and service providers have developed some unprecedented techniques using sophisticated IT security detection and mitigation processes that are simply not within reach of most businesses.

From the physical security of servers in data warehouses to using machine learning algorithms to detect network probes by hackers, today’s cloud service providers meet and exceed all of your expectations for an airtight cloud implementation.

On-Premise Doesn’t Always Mean More Secure

For years, the common perception is that an on-premise implementation is always the most secure way to keep your data safe. The problem is that this is not always that case. All it takes is one phishing email or the failure to update an important piece of software for your data to be breached. All we need to do is name some of the latest corporate security breaches: Equifax, Target, Sony, JPMorgan Chase -- and you’ll start to understand that on-premise solutions aren’t always able to defend against cyber security threats.

An article from the Columbia Business School spells it out:

The truth is that applications and data maintained in the cloud can be
more secure than data held in on-premises corporate systems. That’s
because moving to the right kind of advanced cloud system represents
a more dynamic approach to risk. The security of the barriers is
based not just on keeping people out, but on watching people who come in.
You learn from every use of your data, and even from any attempted attack.

Your Cyber Security Strategy Should Start with Cloud Computing

You already understand that cloud computing models lower costs, increase accessibility, and improve the scalability of your most basic functions. But that scalability means massive computing horsepower– and that same bandwidth is important for monitoring cyber threats.

If you have big data, you need the kind of big security found in cloud models. Not only will your data be housed in secure data warehouses with restricted access to physically keep your data safe, but there are also software and hardware controls in place to monitor the network 24/7/365.

Cloud providers also utilize advanced monitoring solutions in order to keep an eye on your data and defend against threats. In some cases, these providers use machine learning algorithms to detect and deter threats as they arise. Picture computer code that runs pattern recognition to look for behaviors across all corporate activities from marketing and ecommerce to logistics and customer care. Cloud computing models monitor and learn from the behavior of anyone that interacts with your company.

Also, your on-premise server room can’t always keep up with the changing threats. With the cloud, vulnerabilities are detected and patched immediately, which is crucial to mitigating security risks. Remediation is as close to instantaneous as you can get. 

These are all great reasons why your cyber security strategy should lean heavily on cloud models. To find out how your business can migrate and secure your data in the cloud, contact CWPS today.

Guide to Keeping company's data safe

6 Tips for Securing Your Cloud Computing Solutions

nature-laptop-outside-macbook.jpgCloud solutions are more effective, reliable, and affordable -- but security can still be a concern. Cloud computing solutions need to be secured differently from traditional on-premise infrastructures, however. and securing them improperly can lead to significant issues. Here are some important tips for keeping your cloud computing solution secure. 

Securing Your Cloud Computing Solutions

1. Get your team on board. Your employees are likely going to be your biggest security risk. Training, seminars, and lessons may all be necessary to ensure that they are current on modern security standards. When employees are trained in security procedures, they are more likely to be active and engaged with security maintenance

2. Invest in identity management and authentication services. Cloud services are highly accessible and this can be a double-edged sword. In order to secure your cloud-service, you need to control your credentials. Identity management and authentication services should be used to secure the entirety of a system, so that a single log on is used and needed. 

3. Always have a very clear chain of command. Employees should always be aware of their own responsibilities during a security event and the chain of command that flows above them. Employees are more likely to be responsive to security risks if they know exactly who is responsible for each security issue. 

4. Invest in a layered security platform. A layered security platform will divide your organization's infrastructure based on priority, thereby ensuring that the most important items are behind multiple layers of security -- without compromising the performance of other components of the system. 

5. Restrict permissions to those absolutely necessary. Every employee should have only the permissions that are necessary for them to successfully complete their work. When employees leave the organization, they should have their permissions changed -- and when they move from department to department, the same thing should happen. Restricting permissions isn't about trusting employees; it's about reducing the amount of damage should their login information fall into the wrong hands.

6. Encrypt files and backup files.  Any copy of a company's files needs to be treated with the exact same level of security as the originals. Your cloud computing solution should encrypt all of its files and its backup files. Even if there is a security breach, the company will be able to recover. 

Securing a cloud computing solution isn't as difficult as it used to be -- in fact, thanks to the extensive resources the cloud environment offers, it doesn't have to be difficult at all. CWPS can help your organization in building your security from the ground up, to defeat even the most persistent of cyber attacks.

Guide to Keeping company's data safe

One Thing Every SMB Should Know About Choosing an IT MSP

55217092_s.jpgWhy are you interested in a managed IT service provider? For the most part, many SMBs look towards an IT MSP to improve upon their operations and manage their technology. But MSPs also provide a far more important service: they can manage a company's cyber security. And it isn't just that an MSP can help protect against some cyber threats. When you work with an MSP, you put the bulk of your IT infrastructure in their hands. You need an MSP that can protect your IT assets from all of the various types of cyber threats – not just one or two.

Maintaining Security in a Changing World

Why are SMBs so frequently targeted by cyber criminals? Because most small-to-midsized businesses are not properly secured. Whether it is because of a lack of time or resources, many SMBs find it prohibitively difficult to setup a reliable security system. There are three core challenges that SMBs run into when maintaining their security:

Staying up-to-date on current threats. Ransomware, ghostware, phishing -- all of these threats are constantly evolving. Cyber criminals are very smart, and they are continuously acting to defeat new security methods. Not only do businesses need to be aware of these threats, but they also need to be prepared to counter them.

Investing in the right technology. Firewalls, antivirus solutions, and DNS filtering are all required to create a complete security ecosystem. SMBs have to find the right technologies, ensure that they are well-integrated, and keep them updated. This can be an overwhelming task for a small business owner and their (often small) internal IT team.

Reacting in a proactive manner. When threats are detected, a business needs to be able to react quickly to both secure assets and mitigate the threat. SMBs often don't have the resources to monitor their systems continually -- and they may not have disaster preparedness plans for data loss and business disruption.

Selecting a Managed IT Service Provider

A solid MSP should be able to help a business with all of the above security issues -- this is the one thing any SMB needs to know about choosing an IT MSP. A good MSP will be able to setup the right technology infrastructure and manage and maintain it. They will be well-educated on all current security threats and they will be able to advise you on the best course of action to mitigate and defeat them.

Naturally, there are many things that a business should consider when they are choosing an IT MSP. But security is one of the most important factors. IT MSPs must be well-versed in all levels of IT security and must be able to provide consistent support and defense against modern security threats. If you want to learn more about securing your IT infrastructure, contact CWPS today.

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3 Reasons Why Your SMB Should Consider a Virtual Private Cloud

virtual_private_cloud.jpgVirtual private clouds can offer some significant advantages to those who are interested in leveraging cloud technology but still concerned about security. For small-to-midsized business owners, the virtual private cloud affords the ability to take advantage of advanced systems resources while still maintaining an easily managed and cost-effective network infrastructure.

There are three major reasons why SMB owners may want to transition to the cloud, especially if they are planning on expanding throughout 2016.

1. Increased Mobility

SMB owners today can rapidly develop their businesses by outsourcing throughout the globe or by running non-traditional offices. A virtual private cloud offers an SMB owner increased mobility; their employees can work from anywhere in the world securely, by connecting to the company's new intranet infrastructure through virtualized and protected services. The SMB owner can maintain a consolidated network while nevertheless taking advantage of the resources that a cloud service can provide. A mobile infrastructure will also enable the SMB owner to grow rapidly throughout other geographic locations.

2. Better Data Protection

A virtual private cloud is inherently far more secure than an ordinary cloud server. Virtual private clouds work only through the company's intranet infrastructure. To be accessed from the outside, data must be encrypted and sent along through a process of virtualization; the service cannot simply be connected to through the Internet. This provides vastly better data protection than a standard cloud solution.

3. Improved Scalability

Business owners looking to grow throughout 2016 will need to invest in a solution that is scalable -- otherwise they may find themselves having to replace and upgrade their infrastructure repeatedly as they grow. This investment in equipment can become quite costly, and it's more than possible to overspend if the amount of growth is misjudged. A virtual private cloud solution, just like any cloud service, is highly scalable. SMBs will pay for only the resources that they need and will be able to requisition additional resources as they grow without a significant investment in either time or money.

Virtual private cloud solutions are the ideal resource for business owners who are looking to grow in the upcoming year. A virtual private cloud service gives a business all the benefits of cloud solutions with increased security, and provides for better scalability when compared to a traditional on-premise solution. As small businesses grow, they can take advantage of the freedom and mobility that a virtual private cloud solution can offer.

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Image source: Noah Sussman

3 Reasons to Move to a Hybrid Cloud Solution in the New Year

Hybrid_Cloud_Solution-1.jpgHybrid cloud solutions are rapidly increasing in popularity as a best-of-both-worlds solution. Through a hybrid cloud deployment model, modern businesses can maintain private on-premise infrastructure while still acquiring all the benefits of a hosted cloud solution. Organizations still on the fence about a switch to cloud technology may want to consider a transition in the coming year, for a few major reasons.

Efficiency: Reduce Latency and Improve Productivity

A hybrid cloud solution gives an organization the speed and efficiency of an on-premise solution in addition to the resources and failover services of the cloud. An entirely cloud hosted solution may have latency issues when dealing with internal network operations, as everything is reliant upon the speed of Internet access. Likewise, an entirely on-premise solution will only have the resources available that the business can invest in, and equipment can quickly become outpaced. By improving the speed and efficiency of the IT infrastructure of an organization, productivity can also be increased.

Security: Keep Your Confidential and Sensitive Information Safe

Cloud solutions are not inherently unsafe, but they do have numerous risk factors that a private, on-premise server does not. Many organizations are worried that they could lose data on the cloud or suffer from a compromise, leading analysts to believe that a hybrid cloud deployment model is the best solution. About 13% of organizations have refrained from utilizing the cloud due to security issues, while 44% of organizations prefer the idea of a hybrid cloud solution when considering issues of privacy and security. On-premise solutions can keep private, confidential information safe while still giving an organization the advantages of cloud resources.

Scalability: Requisition the Resources You Need, When You Need Them

Organizations that are swiftly growing will find hybrid cloud solutions a cost-effective and versatile model. With a solely on-premise solution, organizations will often find that they will frequently need to upgrade their equipment and invest in a new IT infrastructure, if they are to maintain their growth. Hybrid cloud solutions will grow with a business, allowing the organization to requisition new resources whenever they need them. This can be exceptionally useful for organizations that have highly variable system requirements -- for instance, businesses that have seasonal activity, such as most retail organizations.

A hybrid cloud solution offers all of the benefits of the cloud while also addressing some of the major concerns that business owners have. Hybrid clouds have all of the technological advances of cloud technology without any of the potential security issues, making them an extremely flexible and versatile solution.

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Image source: Rainer Stropek

The Benefits of Cloud-Based Disaster Recovery Solutions

33819682_sMoving to the cloud has transformed from a question of “if” to “when” for virtually all organizations, regardless of size or industry, as it provides a cost-effective data access solution for businesses, in addition to a slew of other benefits. And one of the most important benefits of the cloud is disaster recovery.

The Importance of Disaster Recovery Planning

Putting off developing and implementing a disaster recovery solution can be very tempting, as it can require upfront investment in security and IT personnel resources. However, a head-in-the-sand approach in this case will place an organization at significant risk, as failure to have a disaster recovery plan can lead to catastrophic data loss, as well as a potentially permanent disruption of business operations. That’s where the cloud comes in.

How Cloud Backup Solutions Help Businesses

Most agree that one of the key components of a successful, comprehensive disaster recovery plan is a cloud-based data backup solution. While on-site redundancies are suitable for some situations, off-site storage in the cloud is the only strategy that can come to the rescue in those smaller situations, in addition to larger-scale incidents that may compromise or destroy on-site backups.

Moreover, cloud-based disaster recovery options can be very helpful to those who may be a bit light on IT resources - personnel, cost and otherwise - within their own organization. For example, having a cloud-based backup solution decreases the necessity to invest in physical data center storage.

Addressing Cloud Challenges

However, there are certain challenges every organization needs to address before implementing a cloud-based disaster recovery solution, specifically around data security and network readiness. How will data be transferred between cloud and end users, and is that transfer path secure? Is your network equipped to handle the bandwidth required to support the cloud? How long would a backup restoration from the cloud to your site actually take?

The key to the successful implementation of any cloud solution for disaster recovery is to be able to answer questions such as those in advance and to build into any subsequent considerations necessary into your disaster recovery and backup plans.

Final Thought

The benefits of leveraging the cloud as a disaster recovery resource are numerous, but your organization needs to prepare before putting anything into practice. And if you have concerns that such a solution is out of reach for your organization - either due to size or resource constraints - consider consulting with a managed services provider, as they can often provide invaluable expertise in this area, as well as full or augmented cloud options.

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5 Ways to Prevent Cyber Attacks Against Your Organization

39111544_sThe recent spike of cyber attacks in the last several months underscore how these breaches are becoming a constant presence in our news headlines, rather than a sporadic occurrence. That means it is no longer appropriate or advisable for an organization to adopt a reactive approach to their cloud security initiatives, as the consequences can be irreparable and very costly. Rather when it comes to cyber attacks, the best offense is a good (and proactive) defense. But where should your organization start?

  1. Educate and Manage Employees
    When it comes to cloud security, the unfortunate reality is that often your own personnel will be the ones who open the door to hackers - often unintentionally. Educate your staff on the importance of not sending personal data over email, only visiting secure sites, reading permissions before installing any downloaded applications (if allowed), and avoiding using any third-party USB thumbdrives they do not trust.

  2. Create and Enforce Your Policies
    If you do not currently have any policies that govern how company systems and data are handled, now is the time to change that. In addition, since employees are often the source of many security risks, you should implement strict password policies and train your workforce on the importance of password complexity.

  3. Implement Security Solutions
    In addition to safeguarding against employee misuse of organizational property or cyber assets, you should also invest in protect those assets from external forces by implementing a proactive security solution. For example, Alert Logic provides cloud security to businesses, because they observed that while there has been a marked increase in cloud-based cyber attacks, moving to the cloud is an essential step for most businesses. If you support a mobile or remote workforce, having a mobile device management strategy is also a must.

  4. Have a Proactive IT Strategy
    Though commonly thought of as the workforce dedicated to fixing computers and broken down printers, your IT personnel should not be there to only react once something happens. A proactive approach to IT means your team can anticipate problems and proactively address issues that may disrupt your business operations - including security liabilities. However, if you’re concerned that your current IT staff - or lack thereof - is not equipped to handle such a shift in focus, you may want to consider working with a managed services provider, which will give you access to a team of experts well-versed in current trends and products.

  5. Stay Up-to-Date
    Though it might be tempting to postpone those sometimes annoying software and OS updates, don’t. Those updates often contain security patches that will protect your system against new threats, while also closing newly identified security loopholes.

Final Thought

Though it might seem like a smart move for your bottom line, adopting a “I hope it doesn’t happen to us!” attitude toward cybersecurity is a luxury organizations can no longer afford. And while there may be some cost required upfront to protect your assets and data, your investment will pay off in the long run.

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You’ve Implemented IT in the Cloud... Now What?

Managed IT ServiceCloud computing services enable you to streamline and centralize system and network management tasks. If you lack the resources to do this yourself, CWPS provides a comprehensive suite of IT support services that will help you get the most out of your new cloud environment.

Two Different Types of Cloud IT Support

Our flexible offerings provide complete Turnkey Managed IT Service when you have no IT staff and Co-managed IT Service if your internal IT staff needs extra help on special occasions.

CWPS provides you with a powerful IT support team that is only a phone call away whenever you need assistance. CWPS tracks your IT assets, manages patches and updates, provides online reports, and alerts our experts when remote or on-site support is needed.

Get the peace of mind that comes from getting reliable IT support for your cloud environment when you need it! Contact CWPS today at: (877) 297-7472 or connect@cwps.com.

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When Should A Business Migrate to the Cloud?

7810627_s-1Cloud-based solutions have evolved from a neat technological opportunity for businesses who want to be on the cutting edge to an essential, cost-effective data access and recovery solution for all organizations, both large and small.

If you still haven't made the jump, you might be wondering when you should migrate to the cloud. Given the numerous benefits of cloud backup storage, it might be easy for your on-site IT professional or managed services provider to answer that question with, “As soon as possible! Yesterday is preferable!”

But the real answer is this: There are a lot of questions about the cloud you need to answer first, so you should only make your leap to the cloud once you’ve researched your organizational needs and considered your options. Only then can you develop a sound cloud migration strategy that is in-line with your business goals.

So what should you consider?

  1. Application Performance
    How do each of your applications function in both virtual and on-site server environments? This characterization of your needs is essential, as identifying load times across different accessibility platforms will dictate cloud infrastructure provisioning. Failure to do so can often cause performance of applications to degrade.

  2. Available Cloud Solutions
    Even though the concept of “the cloud” seems like a singular, easily-generalized term, there are a multitude of scalable cloud options available to businesses. For example, Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a range of cloud solutions at different price points that are designed to be adaptive to your capacity, storage and access needs.

  3. Where You’re Going
    One of the biggest mistakes you can make as an organization is to develop and implement a strategy that only works in the short-term. When weighing your cloud backup options, take into account the objectives and goals of your organization, so that you ultimately land on a cloud solution or provider that can grow and evolve along with your business.

  4. IT Support Infrastructure
    Depending on the size of your business, you may have little IT support on-site, or you might not even have any at all. Either scenario can make the implementation of a cloud solution seem like a daunting task. Consider partnering with a managed services provider. A managed services provider can often provide the expertise and manpower you will often need to ensure the successful implementation of your new strategy, as well as proactive planning steps for down the road.

Again, answering the question, "When should a business migrate to the cloud?" for yourself is a personal journey the management of every business needs to undertake. But with proper research, planning and implementation, it can be a move which will not only provide cost savings, but will also save your business if something were to ever go wrong.

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Cloud Security Report: Honeypot Findings

alert_logicHoneypots are decoy systems configured to be intentionally vulnerable and designed to gather information about attackers and their methods. They may look like normal resources – in fact, they’re designed to look as normal as they can be – such as websites, applications and other online-based interfaces, but though all are harmful, there are different levels of deployments and classifications:

Deployments

  • Production honeypots: Easy to use, capture limited information and are primarily implemented by companies or corporations. Generally these kinds of honeypots are placed inside of a corporation’s production servers by the organization itself as a way of improving its overall security.
  • Research honeypots: Used to gather as much information about the motives and tactics of the attacker community as possible. It is interesting to note that these do not add direct value to a specific organization, however they are used to research all imminent and potential threats that the organization faces, and allow that organization to learn how to protect itself from those threats in the future.

Classifications

  • Pure honeypots: Total and complete production systems that allow the attacker’s activities to be monitored through the use of a casual tap installed on the honeypot’s link to the network, meaning no additional software needs to be installed.
  • High-interaction honeypots (Honeynet):  These imitate production system activities, so to the hacker they look like the ideal choice: a full production system. By employing virtual machines, multiple honeypots can be hosted on a single physical machine, ensuring that even if one honeypot becomes compromised, it can be restored quickly. These high-interaction honeypots are more difficult to detect, but they also cost more to maintain.
  • Low-interaction honeypots (Honeyd): These simulate only the services frequently requested by attackers, and since they consume fewer resources, multiple virtual machines can be hosted on one physical system, they have shorter response times, which then means that since less code is required, the security of the virtual system is less complex.

Regardless of their level of detail and accuracy of system replication, honeypots are extremely beneficial to the security. Their existence allows for the security companies to understand the behavior of attackers, as well as the upcoming “trends,” if you will. Additionally, honeypots allow these security companies to:

  • Collect new and emerging malwares
  • Identify the source of attacks
  • Determine attack vectors 
  • Build a profile of the target industry if using specific industry domains

It is actually because of the existence and presence of Honeypot that Alert Logic was able to create the USA cyber-attack profile, seen to the right of this page. For more information a full insight into this report, including profiles on Europe and Asia, as well, view Alert Logic's Cloud Security Report: Honeypot Findings | 2014.

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