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How Financial Organizations Can Begin Their Journey Towards Secure Edge Operations

How Financial Organizations Can Begin Their Journey Towards Secure Edge Operations

By Michelle Arney, Head of Product, Cybera

Financial services organizations have traditionally utilized virtual private networks (VPNs) to connect remote locations and/or to deploy new apps.  Until rather recently, VPNs were the ideal solution to assist in controlling costs, while also providing a level of security.

However, as the data landscape has evolved – with financial services organizations becoming increasingly decentralized, it has become clear that VPNs can no longer deliver the benefits for which they were originally intended.

They simply were not engineered with today’s requirements in mind.Unfortunately, many financial services organizations are learning this the hard way.

Michelle Arney

Michelle Arney

Todays’ compute environment, made up ofbig data, mobility, cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), and so on, continues to extend traditional enterprise perimeters, rendering VPNs highly vulnerable to threats and incapable of providing the cost advantages for which VPNs have been traditionally associated. In fact, as new applications are added to distributed locations, the cost and complexity of adding more VPNs to secure them now in fact escalates considerably.

Today, much of the answer can be found in innovative, multi-layered security solutions that are evolving to secure and protect assets.Unfortunately, often times the remote distributed sites of the newly updated HQ data centers are not brought up to date as quickly or as completely.  And, even when the remote sites are provided with like IT hardware and/or software, more often than not, they do not have the same level of onsite IT expertise to ensure ongoing optimum IT operation.  This renders the remote site(s)potential weak links in the overall security chain – and not just vulnerable at their specific location, but potentially opening avenues of vulnerability into the corporate site as well.  Given this all too common scenario, and its potential ramifications for the business and regulations compliance, it is not surprising that the question of how to extend enterprise data center-grade security to remote sites with limited IT staff and tight budgets remains at the top of most IT and security professionals’ priority list, not to mention the C-suite, compliance and legal teams.

Today, Secure Software Defined Wide Area Network(SD-WAN)for the Network Edge has emerged as an ideal solution to overcome these challenges.  Secure SD-WAN at the Edge puts the power and security of the compute resources as close to the sources of data as possible – i.e., at the network’s edge – near where the work is actually being done.  It is purpose built to address these challenges by uniting security and simplicity into an integrated solution.The power of secure SD-WAN Edge lies in taking a defense-in-depth approach while at the same time decreasing the enterprise attack surface by logically segmenting the network on a per application basis. Additionally, this multi-layered security methodology is offered with the architectural simplicity, scalability, reliability and significant cost savings of a virtual overlay network.

The majority of those responsible for data security in today’s increasingly distributed financial services organizations know only to well the challenges that lay with traditional connectivity solutions, such as VPNs: 

  • Complicated Deployment/Management – Connecting new locations and new applications is hard. Each location may have multiple devices, different device configurations and various security requirements. Turning up a new location on a VPN requires experienced IT staff to deploy, manage, troubleshoot and support. Today’s increasingly decentralized financial services ecosystem means security configurations may be deployed and/or managed by anyone from a highly trained professional to a novice. This opens-up edge compute locations to the possibility of misconfigurations or inconsistent configurations, and consequently, dangerously vulnerable to security risk.
  • Costly –The capital expenditure for acquiring, deploying, managing and supporting various point solution hardware, public IP addresses, and software continues to rise. In addition,and rightly so, the cost to hire and retain highly skilled IT professionals capable of managing the entire infrastructure – from HQ to the remote sites – is increasing. And, when such skilled professionals are tasked with managing and putting out fires in this area, it takes them away from activities that could more directly impact competitive advantage, profitability and shareholder value.
  • Rigid –Adapting to changing network needs, turning up new applications, or responding to new security threats, such as ransomware, malware and spoofing, must be automatic or rapidly executed to ensure security and business continuity. But, traditional connectivity measures are inflexible and require labor intensive efforts to execute and manage adequately. 

Straightforward and Uncomplicated

As financial services organizations continue to decentralize, and more business data is created and utilized at the network edge, a straightforward, uncomplicated solution to securely connect and manage them is required. Secure SD-WAN Edge is especially well suited for this endeavor.

Secure SD-WAN Edge technology streamlines enterprise networks and significantly reduces the capital and operational expense of managing enterprise WANs. Secure SD-WAN Edge technology effortlessly extends the multi-layered security defenses utilized in corporate data centers to branch locations and remote ATMs. Most importantly, secure SD-WAN Edge allows mission-critical infrastructure such as ATMs and electronic card readers to co-exist with public applications like Wi-Fi on a single network while providing application-specific security and end-to-end network segmentation. These applications are segmented into their own dedicated logical networks, preventing them from intermingling with other application traffic on the network.

With secure SD-WAN Edge solutions, these applications are connected in a cost-effective, scalable way without compromising security. This is a distinct benefit over VPNs, which provide an either/or scenario: either all traffic intermingles on one VPN, which is lower cost but very insecure; or all traffic can be segmented on separate VPNs, which requires more cost and complexity to maintain security.

Virtualizes the WAN

 

Secure SD-WAN Edge virtualizes the WAN so that all network intelligence is handled in software.
For example, remote locations can be defined simultaneously and then kept perfectly in sync using centralized cloud-based policy administration inherent in SD-WAN Edge connectivity models. This groundbreaking architecture helps reduce expenses and complexity, while increasing network flexibility. Best of all, it can be piloted in your network incrementally on a branch-by-branch basis, mitigating concerns about network disruption, and giving you a quick way to determine the return on your investment. Additional values of secure SD-WAN Edge are provided below.

Other Benefits for Financial Organizations

Increased Security – Logical network segmentation allows security policies to be enforced on a per application basis. By applying complete end-to-end segmentation of each application, exposure from any potential breach is limited to that single application. Just as importantly, the centralized virtual overlay approach of secure SD-WAN Edge configurations eliminates the multiple manual configurations that open your network up to security risks. With secure SD-WAN Edge, you can easily extend the multi-layered security approach used in data centers out to the edge of your network without highly skilled IT professionals at the branch.

Increased Agility – Secure SD-WAN Edge functionality allows for zero touch deployment, resulting in the rollout of network services “on demand”, supporting the needs of an agile business. For example, new cloud applications, such as POS and loyalty, can be rolled out quickly.

Reduced Complexity – Distributed enterprises can be operationalized in minutes instead of months. Secure SD-WAN Edge simplifies network setup with automatic provisioning and configuration from a central controller. The remote location will also receive network updates and changes automatically.

 Proven Scalability – Secure SD-WAN Edge is designed with scalability in mind and provides the level
of security and performance on demand network services need in large distributed enterprises. Policy changes, software updates, and new branch deployment are made simple and expedient without compromising network performance. It is precisely because of all these benefits at dramatically lower costs that multi-unit organizations such as Arby’s, Blimpie, Cold Stone Creamery, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Shell and Kirkland’s have incorporated secure SD-WAN Edge into their networks.

 Decreased Costs – With secure SD-WAN Edge virtualization, the cost of WAN infrastructure hardware, software, and support can be reduced by up to 79%. The technology eliminates the need for multiple, dedicated premise devices by integrating functionality, such as Wi-Fi, wireless back-up, firewall and intrusion detection/ prevention in one solution.

Here are the high level steps for financial organizations that wish to commence their Secure SD-WAN Edge Journey:

  1. Identify and engage all key stakeholders in creating and/or approving the Strategy & Program(IT, security, legal, regulations compliance, C-suite)
  2. Develop a data connectivity and security program for HQ, as well as your remote locations
  3. Do your homework – explore multiple solutions and vendors, seek guidance from trusted partners/advisors
  4. Narrow your search, conduct POCs (proof of concept testing)
  5. Once chosen, roll-out incrementally on a branch-by-branch basis

Technology

EaseUS Free Data Recovery Software Recover Lost And Erased Documents

EaseUS Free Data Recovery Software Recover Lost And Erased Documents 1

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Technology

Shining a spotlight on operational resilience and cyber-risk in financial services

Shining a spotlight on operational resilience and cyber-risk in financial services 3

By Miles Tappin, VP of EMEA for ThreatConnect, explores why the financial services industry must build a cyber security strategy in 2020

The new digital landscape has welcomed financial institutions with open arms. Emerging technology such as Artificial intelligence (AI), crypto-currencies and big data have shown widespread benefits throughout the years, particularly how they have driven innovation and change. When it comes to retail banking, fintech providers have quickly taken the chance to offer personalised services to ensure they remain relevant to their target market and stand out among their competitors.

This has been particularly evident with Klarna, now Europe’s most valued fintech firm. Providing payment solutions for online storefronts, consumers are now able to shop and pay later with top retailers including the likes of H&M, Ikea and Zara. This is just one example of how easy it has become to successfully and strategically disrupt the payments sector.

With several new players entering the banking scene, traditional financial institutions are making sure that they stay one step ahead and are developing robust digital ecosystems that deliver omnichannel service models. However, this comes at a price. As technological change becomes part and parcel to remaining relevant in the sector, the industry needs to be aware of the cyber security challenges that may present themselves and how to overcome them.

2020: The year for cybercriminals targeting financial services

2020 has become a definitive year for cybersecurity in the financial services industry. Financial institutions are a lucrative target – they hold highly sensitive information and have a mandate to protect the personal information of their customers. It started with an unprecedented attack against Travelex where hackers successfully took some of the currency providers offline for nearly a month. Then came Coronavirus which sparked a new wave of malware and phishing threats. Research from VMware Carbon Black Cloud revealed that threats against financial institutions have surged by 238% since the start of the pandemic.

The renewed interest from cyber criminals comes at a time when regulators are paying close attention to the resilience of the sector. After a string of IT failures and breaches, financial organisations in the UK have been given a mandate from regulators to improve operational resilience. This means ensuring business models can withstand disruptive events from hackers or adversaries and quickly recover to protect the stability of financial systems.

In December 2019, the UK’s financial regulators published a series of consultation papers outlining their proposed approach to achieving greater operational resilience. The proposals suggested that financial institutions will be required to map out the systems and processes that support business services in order to identify any potential vulnerabilities that would pose a risk to the stability of the UK financial system or the firm’s standing.

Working together in tandem

Where cybersecurity used to be a classic back-office concern, it’s now a central part of digital strategies and a key pillar of both reputation and customer retention – financial legislation leaves no room for failure. All financial institutions need to ensure they have full visibility of their systems and can detect any potential threats.

The challenge for financial institutions is making the security tools they have purchased separately work together in tandem. Security teams buy a firewall, an email filter, threat intelligence feeds, antivirus software or enhanced endpoint protection, and whatever else they need individually. Each of them does a good job but they don’t talk to each other and valuable time is lost tending to individual systems that become a burden to run. At the same time, running multiple security systems is expensive. The more systems you have, the more highly skilled staff you need to manage them, and they’re few and far between.

The importance of sharing across communities

To reduce complexity and simplify decision making, financial organisations need to unify processes and technology to harness the security intelligence that comes from across their own security programmes and external sources to drive down risk. However, no financial institution can tackle the problem alone. Experienced threat actors using advanced techniques are constantly targeting the financial sector. The industry needs to come together as a whole to foster a sense of collaboration and data sharing.

Miles Tappin

Miles Tappin

In the same way that financial institutions have introduced open banking to deliver a fairer service to customers, the same needs to apply to security – all parts of the financial ecosystem need to unite and share information to learn from one another and succeed in the fight against adversaries that operate across borders.

By sharing alerts on cyber hazards and risk across financial institutions and with law enforcement, government agencies and other relevant authorities, it’s possible to build industry specific insights into cyber security threats and quickly pivot to gain more information on those specific threats and threat actors. By working together, a picture can be painted on threats coming from all manner of malicious activity, from malware to ransomware, to phishing and software vulnerabilities.

Creating a single source of intelligence

Having the right intelligence is not enough to ensure that intelligence is turned into action. Breaking down information and process silos across security teams allows financial organisation to analyse and act on the most pertinent information. Everyone has access to the risk and threats that matter most, and orchestration and automation of response helps overwhelmed security teams prioritise response plans and improve efficiencies in their security programme.

Integrating internal security tools and technologies, while also connecting to external sources of intelligence, creates a single source of intelligence that feeds operations and enables organisations to direct action against the threats that matter most. The outcomes of those actions further feed intelligence, providing the ability to further refine the efficacy of the entire security lifecycle.

This approach provides a continuous feedback loop for the people, processes and technologies that make up the security programme. It allows financial institutions to keep up with threat actors that have consistently adapted their methods to profit at the expense of the financial industry. Something that won’t stop anytime soon.

While financial services institutions tend to operate with security front of mind, there is still an opportunity to collaborate more within the industry and increase intelligence sharing, so CSOs and CTOs can understand as much as they can about the threats they are facing. For example, what types or variants of malware have been used to steal, delete, or ransom personal identifiable information or IP specific to financial services? What ransomware has been used in attacks against other organisations within the industry? How does this ransomware work and how does it ransom the targeted data? Ultimately, the more you know, the better and quicker you’ll be able to respond to a new threat and remain protected.

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Technology

Blackline reveals CEO succession plan

Blackline reveals CEO succession plan 4

By President & COO Marc Huffman appointed CEO as of Jan. 1st, 2021;
Founder Therese Tucker to serve as executive chair

Accounting automation software leader BlackLine, Inc. (Nasdaq: BL) today announced that the board of directors has elected Marc Huffman as chief executive officer, effective January 1st, 2021.  Mr. Huffman currently serves as president and chief operating officer.  Therese Tucker, who has served as CEO since founding BlackLine in 2001, will continue to serve on the company’s board as executive chair.

A seasoned SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) executive with more than 25 years of experience driving growth at successful software companies, Huffman joined BlackLine in early 2018 as chief operating officer.  He was named president in February 2020, leading the company’s worldwide sales, marketing, technology and all customer-facing organizations.  Since Huffman joined, BlackLine has scaled its sales and customer success teams, strategically repositioned its go-to-market plan, completed a global reseller agreement with SAP, established a subsidiary in Japan, and entered into a number of strategic alliances with the world’s leading consulting and advisory firms.

Prior to BlackLine, Huffman served as president of worldwide sales and distribution at NetSuite.  During his 14-year tenure, NetSuite grew from $3 million to $1 billion in annual revenue and became recognized as a global SaaS powerhouse.

“I’ve been so pleased with the leadership Marc has demonstrated over the past two and a half years, most recently driving our response to the COVID-19 pandemic – mitigating disruption to the business and our customers.  Because of Marc’s leadership, skill set, cultural alignment and stellar performance, BlackLine is in a better position to grow and scale than ever before,” said Ms. Tucker.  “I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved at BlackLine and believe Marc is the kind of leader I can trust to take our customer-centric values, vision and growth to the next level.  I am also thrilled that in addition to providing strategic oversight as executive chair, I will now have more time to focus on the areas I love most – product innovation and customer success.”

The announced transition is part of a multi-year succession plan that has involved seeking potential successors, bringing the right person on board, seeing that person excel, and Tucker and Huffman working methodically together over several years to build out the leadership team and strategic growth plan and ensure values were aligned.

“I am ready and excited for this next step.  BlackLine is a special place with a strong culture and I am looking forward to leading the company through its next phase of growth,” said Huffman.  “We’ve got the team, the plan, and now we are focused on execution as we continue to scale the business and make BlackLine an indispensable platform for Finance & Accounting organizations globally.”

Commenting on the CEO and executive chair changes, John Brennan, BlackLine’s chairman of the board, said, “We are excited to announce Marc’s appointment as CEO.  His experience successfully expanding and scaling NetSuite into new strategic and geographical markets is invaluable as BlackLine continues to penetrate what we believe is still an untapped market.  Coupled with his proven track record at BlackLine we are confident that, under Marc’s leadership, the company’s momentum, growth and success will only accelerate.”

Mr. Brennan added, “Therese has been a strong and inspirational leader since she founded BlackLine just over 19 years ago.  Her unwavering determination and commitment to both customers and employees has been the driving force behind the company’s incredible journey from start-up to global market leader.  We look forward to having her serve as executive chair, a position in which she will continue to shape the future of the company she has built from the ground up.”

Upon Tucker’s assumption of the executive chair role, Brennan will serve as the board’s lead outside director.

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