Cyber security data breaches are becoming increasingly common and severe. Today, banks, insurance companies, investment firms, and other financial institutions are considered to be prime targets. Due to the sensitivity and importance of their data, these institutions suffer approximately 300X more cyber breaches than any other industry.
In 2018, the financial sector reported 819 cyber incidents, an explosive increase from the 69 incidents reported for 2017 – including the infamous Equifax data breach. The total numbers for 2019 won’t be available until next year, yet we know that the financial sector has already experienced a number of significant attacks already this year. Such breaches included the attacks on Capital One, First American Financial Corp., Desjardins Group and Westpac/PayID.
Despite these pervasive cyber security threats, financial institutions are still failing to prevent, defend, prepare and respond effectively to attacks – particularly when it comes to network security. In many cases, the problem stems from executive leadership not prioritizing the cybersecurity budget or emphasizing its importance. Few organizations make prevention a priority, few apply the top recommended CIS controls or prepare employees on how to respond effectively in the event of a security incident. Unfortunately, poor network access control and other cyber security oversights lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, the exploitation of personal data and more.
Some financial institutions, however, have already decided to take proactive measures this year to obtain risk monitoring, visibility and access controls. One such group is Royal London, the UK’s largest mutual life, pensions and investment company. Faced with limited network and device visibility, they had a variety of security and compliance issues to contend with. However, since implementing Portnox CORE, the company and all of its locations have instituted a higher level of cyber hygiene.
CORE is a simple to operate network access control solution that provides full visibility into every endpoint and component on the network, along with risk monitoring and enforcement capabilities. It is simple to deploy and manage and has received numerous cyber security awards.
From the moment Portnox’s on-premises NAC solution was implemented, Royal London’s security team has been able to successfully handle all challenges associated with visibility, control and compliance enforcement. This includes the ability to see all endpoints on the network, and ensure that they are properly secured according to company policies, privacy standards and regulatory compliance.
Furthermore, as risk-monitoring and other network security enforcement actions that would otherwise have to be done manually are now automated, Royal London’s IT team can devote their time to more important tasks, thereby increasing efficiency and productivity.
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When examining WiFi security, the first layer of defense is the method being used to authenticate to the network. The most widely used methods of authentication are Open authentication, WPA2-PSK (Pre-Shared Key) and WPA2-Enterprise (read more about WPA protocols below).
As the name implies, an open authentication network allows access to all, and users are not required to authenticate at the association level. It is important to know that open networks are not encrypted, and so everything transmitted can be seen by anyone in its vicinity.
The best security practice is to completely avoid connecting to open networks. If there is an immediate need to connect, it is best not to allow devices to connect automatically but rather to select the network manually in the device settings. Open networks are easily forged, and hacking tools such as Pineapple use the fact that mobile devices are constantly searching to connect automatically to an open network. These tools perform Man-in-the-middle attacks to steal data such as passwords, credit cards, etc.
WPA / WPA2 / WPA3
WPA stands for WiFi Protected Access. This authentication method uses different encryption algorithms to encrypt the transport. Therefore, this type of network cannot be forged easily, unlike open networks, and users get privacy. Today, WPA2 is probably the most commonly used method to secure WiFi networks.
Sadly, WPA and WPA2 protocols have been hacked and are considered to be less secure. Performing a WPA2 hack requires a lot of time and is somewhat theoretical. Slowly, we are noticing a move to the WPA3 method, but for that to happen, different infrastructure is needed to support that protocol.
WPA2-PSK (and WPA3-PSK) is WiFi Protected Access (WPA) with a Pre-Shared Key. In simple terms, it is a shared password to access the WiFi network. This method is commonly used for home and small office WiFi networks. Even in a small office setting, using this method is problematic, because each time an employee leaves the company, the password must be replaced; otherwise, the former employee could still connect to the company WiFi.
Furthermore, employees tend to share the password with guests, visitors and contractors in the building, and you shouldn’t have the whole building connecting to the internet at your expense, risking the security of your data and assets in the process.
This method, also referred to as WPA-802.1X mode, authenticates to WiFi by using different identities instead of a single password. An identity can be credentials (user + password) or it can be a digital certificate.
This authentication method is better suited for enterprise networks and provides much better security for wireless networks. It typically requires a RADIUS authentication server as well as a configuration process to different repositories, enabling the organization to authenticate different types of endpoints.
The underlying protocols to secure the authentication vary between different Extensible Authentication Protocols such as EAP-TTLS / EAP-TLS, EAP-PEAP, each one representing a different type of authentication method and level of security.
With WPA2-Enterprise one can use advanced features such as assigning each endpoint after authentication to a specific VLAN or assigning ACLs (Access Control Lists) to specific sections. Additionally, enterprises can audit the connection with additional details. These features are important as they allow enterprises to properly secure their wireless networks and to make sure that they are compliant with security best practices.
CLEAR is a SaaS, cloud-delivered, WiFi access control solution that allows you to secure your WiFi based on WPA2/3-Enterprise, using personal identities or digital certificates. CLEAR supports a wide range of authentication providers, from on-premises AD through cloud providers such as GSuite and Azure AD. CLEAR comes with a cloud-RADIUS, therefore there is no overhead, as there is no equipment to install or maintain. It requires no training or skilled personal to deploy and operate. In less than 10 minutes, large and small companies are deploying CLEAR’s enterprise-grade Wi-Fi security.
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Are you using a pre-shared passkey to allow access to the organization’s WiFi?
Securing WiFi access in businesses has been historically weak. Oftentimes, companies protect their Wi-Fi access with a pre-shared password, sometimes posting it on whiteboards within the company or placing it for all to use at the reception desk to enable easy access. This is primarily for modern convenience purposes, as businesses would like to enable productivity and collaboration with contractors and guests, as well as allow for staff mobility within the premises of the enterprise.
What’s the problem? And why should I care?
The problem with this practice is that this is a “home style” level of security that places the company’s data and assets (whether intellectual or physical) at risk of being damaged or stolen. If an outsider successfully connects to the company’s WiFi, they could bypass the Firewall and all traditional cyber security mechanisms applied by most companies today. Once inside, they could damage the organization’s reputation by accessing illegal web sites, or company data, whether it resides on premises or in the cloud. Accessing these items is easy, and there are many automated network tools that can enable “non-techies” to do the work. Additionally, this type of hack could easily be achieved via simple social engineering. Another reason to be worried about the use of passkeys is that WiFi hacks and damages do not require being physically present at the organization. These simple actions could be taken from a nearby public space such as the parking lot and would leave no trace. Trying to track who accessed the enterprise WiFi by using a shared password is almost impossible.
Internal players – disgruntled and former employees
One of the scariest scenarios are the hacks performed by disgruntled employees that can use their remaining access to perform nefarious activities, including damaging, sabotaging or stealing company data, resources and assets. Roughly one out of five organizations has experienced a data breach by a former employee. The Gartner analysis of criminal insiders found that 29 percent of employees stole information after quitting or being fired for future gains, while 9 percent were motivated by simple sabotage.
Attacks by disgruntled employees who commit deliberate sabotage or intellectual property theft are considered to be among the costliest risks to an organization. For example, one of our customers, a food manufacturer in the United States, fired an employee. The disgruntled employee decided to get even. Using the organization’s Wi-Fi password, he connected to the network from the parking lot and changed the temperature setting for the refrigerators. The result was the destruction of food inventory to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Bottom line? Former employees, even those who left amicably, should no longer have access to any part of the network.
Removing employees’ access to all accounts immediately after leaving the company is the best practice to use; however, typically it is not possible to revoke all access due to shared passwords for certain systems and services. In some cases, these systems do not require a password at all, such as printers and Point of Sale devices. For certain organizations, such as law firms and medical facilities, these represent the crown jewels in terms of company data and therefore should be highly secured.
Do I have important assets on the network that I should be protecting?
With the growing numbers of Wi-Fi connected IoT devices (IP cameras, printers, etc.) in the enterprise, each network has a lot of devices that could be compromised and thereby causing data leaks, denial of service attacks or severe damage to the organization. Therefore, ensuring that IoT endpoints are segmented into separate sections of the network and cannot be accessed by outsiders is crucial.
What is the alternative to PSK?
Using enterprise-grade authentication & access services is a good idea.
The best security practice would be to have digital certificates, but at the very least, it is recommended to establish a personal identity-based authentication solution. It would enforce network access via unique user credentials, thereby dramatically reducing the chances of unauthorized access to the organization’s Wi-Fi network, and it would ensure a much better security standard over the shared password practice. Traditionally, this was difficult, as setting up such services required high levels of technological knowledge, as well as extensive maintenance and long and complicated deployments.
This is exactly where Portnox CLEAR can help.
CLEAR is a cloud-delivered, WiFi access control solution that among other benefits provides a cloud-RADIUS, therefore requiring no training or skilled personal to deploy and operate. There is no overhead, as there is no equipment to install or maintain, and the service is inexpensive and based on the number of devices in the enterprise. Additionally, there is no need to manage a WiFi password as authentication is based on user accounts or digital certificates (customer’s choice), and therefore all passwords are unique. In less than 10 minutes, companies are deploying CLEAR’s enterprise-grade Wi-Fi security, providing the highest level of security to any enterprise, large or small.
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