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Outages: A Symptom of Machine Identity Protection Weakness

Outages: A Symptom of Machine Identity Protection Weakness

By Steven Satchwell, Director UKI at Venafi

Digital transformation has fundamentally changed the way business works. And nowhere is this change more profound than in the financial services industry, where the emergence of fintech and its rapid adoption of new technologies has dramatically changed the number of machines on enterprise networks.

Driven by the adoption of cloud, DevOps, and smart device technologies – as well as the growth of IoT devices – the definition of what is considered a machine on financial services networks has fundamentally changed. A machine can still be a physical device – a server, laptop or a router– but now, virtual machines, mobile applications, algorithms, containers and APIs also need to be treated as machines. All of these machines need to communicate securely and meet stringent compliance, reliability and availability requirements, which are all difficult challenges for many organisations. Organisations struggle to address these challenges because the keys and certificates that act as machine identities are poorly understood, weakly defended. They are also managed by two different teams, IT and security, with different goals which has allowed most organisations to overlook the important role machine identities play in security.

Machine Identities and IT

Traditionally, in financial services IT has been responsible for maintaining reliability, but this responsibility doesn’t address the role of machine identities in protecting corporate and consumer financial data. Instead, IT administrators focus on preventing machine identities from expiring unexpectedly, because when they do, critical infrastructure goes down and reliability and availability suffer. When certificate-related outages occur – and they happen to most organisations routinely – they are very difficult to diagnose, making it nearly impossible to respond quickly. This means IT administrators often choose the most expedient way to deploy and renew machine identities. This frequently involves a few shortcuts that can impact the security of these identities, but they allow the IT team to meet reliability and availability targets. After all, in banking, reliability and trust is what matters most. When a bank stops working it can severely constrain people’s lives and business, especially as in the UK with the decline of cash, set to fall to just 26% of sales by 2026.

Machine Identities and Security

Security teams work to ensure that communications between the rapidly shifting populations of machines on enterprise networks remain secure. Security teams don’t physically manage or even have access to the machines on which machine identities are installed. This creates a challenge, as security admins need to make sure machine identities comply with corporate policies, are deployed and configured correctly, and are renewed before they expire. The problem gets worse since these teams usually don’t have the tools needed to enforce corporate machine identity policies. In fact, they rarely even have basic information about all of the machine identities on their networks. In a recent survey by Venafi it was found financial services companies are only tracking 42% of the most common types of machine identities. When you think about it, it’s no wonder cybercriminals are exploiting weak, missing or unprotected machine identities in cyberattacks.

Security and Machine Identities

Let’s take a step back: Why do we even need machine identities? Enterprise networks use machine identities in all over their networks. One of the most common examples is TLS certificates that allow machines to determine if they can connect and communicate securely with other machines. This process is very similar to the way usernames and passwords function for humans. Without these credentials, access is denied. Keys and certificates function in the same way for machines.

Organisations recognise the fundamental role that identities play in security, so they spend billions of dollars every year protecting human identities. As a result, organisations can respond quickly when they have evidence that user credentials have been stolen or compromised.

Although machine identities grant even greater levels of privileged access than human identities, most organisations haven’t invested in technology to keep them secure. This means that a stolen, compromised or weak machine identity can persist on an enterprise network for weeks, months or even years. Machine identity protection is even more important in the payments industry as it can enable infrastructure to detect valid devices, preventing multifactor authentication being compromised and avoiding a single point of failure.

Outdated Security for Machine Identities

Organisations are not investing in machine identity security controls because they don’t understand the scale or scope of the problem. Often security teams are managing these critical security assets with a combination of patchwork dashboards, homegrown software and scattered spreadsheets.

These solutions might have worked five ago when organisations were only worried about a few hundred physical servers in the data centre, but today organisations have hundreds of thousands of machine identities. Without automated solutions to track, manage and protect their machine identities, there’s no way security or operations teams can keep up, never mind have full visibility. In financial services the most sensitive data people have is in question, the recent study found that 58% of people are most concerned about customer data theft or loss

The Link Between Outages and Security

Once you understand the profound lack of machine identity intelligence available to IT teams, it makes sense that nearly every IT department struggles with certificate-related outages. If you’re in the trenches, it’s less obvious that these outages are a symptom of a much larger security issue. And because the IT team isn’t discussing outage prevention with the security team it’s unlikely that executives will make the connection between persistent operational reliability problems and security risks.

The Light at the End of the Outage

The good news is that financial services organisations have found a way to solve this problem; we’ve figured out what needs to be done to improve machine identity protection. We also know that when we do this effectively, security and reliability also improve – often dramatically. Machines will only become smarter, more flexible and more ubiquitous over the next few years; will your organisation be ready?

Technology

EeaseUS Free Data Recovery Software Recover Lost And Erased Documents

EeaseUS Free Data Recovery Software Recover Lost And Erased Documents 1

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EeaseUS Free Data Recovery Software Recover Lost And Erased Documents 2

Establishment and Launch

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Examining

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Restoring of records

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Features of EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

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Conclusion:

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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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