Archive for June, 2017

What are Cyber Security Solutions?

The nature of all cyber security solutions starts with a very simple premise.

Understand the nature of the risk in terms of what personal information is held and on whom, and what is the potential damage to any of those individuals if that information is leaked or in some other way breached.

Cyber security is quite a wide ranging phrase, and many people tend to think about its largely in technical terms.

Whilst there is obviously a large technical element, a lot of the basics of cyber security are pretty much common sense.

Everything to do with cyber security is relative to the individual and/or their organisation or business.

Cyber security affects an individual going about their day-to-day business as much as it does a multinational Corporation, or a one-person website running Shopify.

The first and most basic thing to do is to understand the nature of the risk or risks involved.

Once the risks are understood, then it becomes clearer what you can do to minimise those risks, and what action can be taken in the event of any data breach or cyber crime  taking place.

CYBER SECURITY SOLUTIONS

What is equally important is that the individual or company take responsibility for their own cyber governance.

Cyber governance is really just a way of saying that there need to be some type of structure or system in place that overseas and checks the system of risk analysis, and to make sure that the solutions are in place to deal with it.

Cyber governance will depend on the size of the organisation, but should normally have one person as the lead, at board level or equivalent, who has the authority to make decisions concerning all levels of enforcing cyber security solutions.

The lead person should have responsibility for making sure that there is a structure for overall cyber security, proper systems are in place and staff are adequately trained and monitored to make sure they comply with cyber governance policies.

The other thing to realise about cyber security solutions that there will likely be many of them.

Cyber security is not simply a technical issue in terms of IT systems, both hardware and software, it is also very much about understanding where the risks come from in terms of how people access online material, as well as the growing threat of people using their own devices within the context of a secure IT system.

What is a Computer Network Security System?

Most people who have any type of computer probably understand at some level the basics of how they work, and probably understand what computer network security means in a very general sense.

Having a general understanding of computer security generally is obviously a good thing, but it is also important that people understand that there is a lot more to computer security and simply configuring the proper hardware and software.

A good computer network security system will depend to a large extent on the nature and size of the home or business. An individual home simply running one or two PCs  or tablets will need a computer network security system as much as a large multinational, but obviously different in terms of size and scope.

The first line of defence for any type of computer network security system is to make sure that boundary firewalls and Internet gateways are properly configured and enforced. This may sound a bit technical, but in fact it’s fairly straightforward for most people.

COMPUTER NETWORK SECURITY

Any new hardware or software is going to need to be configured, and there is likely to be technical help available either from the manufacturer or from the ISP to help you configure it properly. Setting up proper firewalls can involve things like changing default passwords and making sure that the firewall is switched on at all times.

It is worth thinking of the basics of firewalls and internet gateways as being the front door into your system.

The ISPs will have a number of their own security systems in place that you should be to rely on, and some will offer additional software by way of either parental controls, secure shopping, virus protection etc.

One other thing that is likely to need to be addressed when setting up a computer network security system is that of who has access to it.

There is a lot of good advice around about how best to help children access the internet without them becoming secretive or isolated, and that principle can be expanded to include anyone who has access to the IT system.

A computer network security system is about who has access to it, and making sure that those people who have access, are comfortable using it, and are happy to ask for help or seek advice when needed.

Is a Cyber Security Certificate Worthwhile?

A cyber security certificate is often seen as proof that someone has either undertaken a course or gained a degree or experience in cyber security that modifies them to either give advice or be a lead in some type of cyber  governance policy.

This course can be true, but it is also important to check what the content of the cyber security course is or was,  who the provider was and whether or not the person holding the cyber security certificate has updated their knowledge since the course was completed.

It is a good thing to encourage everyone involved in any organisation or business to become aware of cyber security, and any type of training that enhances that knowledge or awareness is going to be helpful.

Issuing cyber security certificates do not necessarily mean a huge amount in their own right, except that a lot of people like certificates having completed courses.

It gives them a sense of achievement and accomplishment, and sometimes a sense of pride in the course they have done.

CYBER SECURITY CERTIFICATE

Any basic cyber security certificate should reflect a course that covers the basics of cyber security.

This may relate to specific IT systems or hardware or software configurations, or may simply be a more generalised introduction to the various threats that make up the main element of cyber security and how they can be dealt with.

A good cyber security course should include some moment of cyber insurance.

Whilst there is not expected to be an understanding of the technical elements of how insurance works, any cyber security system needs to have in place some element of insurance that can help do with a potential catastrophe of a huge data breach or similar.

A good cyber insurance policy provider will work with the organisation at the outset to help them identify the specific risks to their business or company, and will output in place structures that can help deal with the reality of cyber crime if it happens to take place.

 

Does Identity Theft Protection Work?

Identity theft protection is one element of cyber security that occasionally tends to get overlooked.

People have heard about identity theft for quite a while, and there is a classic attitude that it is the type of disaster that only ever happens to other people.

Sadly, the reality of much cyber crime today means that significant amounts of personal information and data can be hacked by criminals, which means that the potential threat of identity theft for individuals has multiplied significantly over the last few years.

Identity theft has at its root someone stealing but hugely important information about an individual, such as their date of birth or social security number, as well as information such as employment records etc.

This information was normally sent by post, and individuals were advised to monitor any strange behaviour regarding their post or banking accounts accordingly. In short, identity theft was seen as an off-line problem, that occurred when a criminal managed to somehow obtain very specific and highly important information about an individual.

IDENTITY THEFT PROTECTION

The criminal would then use this information to set up a false identity, and then use that force identity to take out loans, obtain credit  in the individual’s name and immediately default, leaving the original individual with the normally significant debt.

The risk of identity theft, and the need for identity theft protection has grown hugely in the last few years, in large part because of the vast amount of personal information that is kept by a wide range of different organisations about a number of individuals.

Some of these organisations do not have pretty good cyber security systems, some of them have at best woefully inadequate computer operating systems, which puts the individuals information at great risk. Identity theft protection needs to be a control part of any cyber security system, and also of any cyber insurance plan that is likely to be in place as well.

The reality is that most  identity theft protection relates to being able to alert an individual or a company that someone’s identity has been stolen, or may have been stolen, and is being used fraudulently.

This normally relates to some type of credit monitoring system which can set up and monitoring commission that will alert end-users to the possibility of identity theft. What is also important to realise with identity theft protection, is that once someone’s identity has been stolen there is actually very little that anyone else can do about it to help.

It is normally done to individual try and negotiate with the various banks or credit card companies and proved to them at a criminal used their identity, rather than the debt being genuine. Obviously the fact that their identity has been stolen, and this can be proved, can be a help in trying to persuade banks or financial institutions that fraud has taken place, but inevitably identity theft protection is likely to be of little help.

 

What are Smart Home Systems?

Smart home systems refer to a variety of different and overlapping electrical and wireless systems that will enable a smart home or a smart house to function as a combined whole unit.

Central to understanding the nature of the systems is an understanding of the basis of what a smart home is and the various technologies that underpin it. The idea of a smart home has been around for a long time, in fact in many ways it is one of the oldest science fiction dreams that is on the verge of becoming a reality.

The typical scenario that shows the potential of a smart home normally involves someone driving home from work in their smart car. As they approach their home, their smart car communicates with their garage, and their garage doors open automatically as they arrive.

In addition, as they arrive home, their smart car will connect with their home, their lights will automatically come on within the home, their heating will come on and so will their appropriate kitchen devices, such as their oven waiting to pre-cook their dinner.

A further scenario includes their groceries being delivered at the exact moment they arrive home.

Smart home systems

This has happened because that smart refrigerator has realised that they are running low on certain items, has automatically contacted their local grocery store who have assembled the items and delivered them automatically to their home.

The grocery store new when to deliver them by accessing the drivers online calendar and working out the exact point when they would be home.

In addition the grocery store would automatically charge the amount of the groceries to the drivers credit card, which they have on account, and the amount on the credit card would be automatically debited from the drivers bank account through an online banking facility.

A few years ago, this scenario or these scenarios would have seemed far-fetched. Today they are the verge of becoming a reality for anyone who wants them. Quite literally billions of devices are being fitted with sensors that will allow them to connect to each other wirelessly over the internet, a scenario commonly referred to as the internet of things.

Smart home systems tend to be the various types of systems that would be used within a smart home such as an alarm system, a security system, a lighting control system, an audio system, a technology system and perhaps even a complete smart phone system.

In addition that will need to be a smart home management system both to coordinate all these activities, and to be able to manage them in the event of any one of them not working.  At the moment it is anticipated that the systems are will be controlled through an app or apps through someone’s smart phone, but this could well change in the future.

The push by the big tech companies to move to voice recognition technology seems to imply that this is their preferred mode of co-ordinating the mechanics of a smart home. What is perhaps being overlooked is the cyber security implications and risks inherent within any such system.

What is a Smart Home Security System?

Most people would probably give slightly different answer to the question of what is a home security system, let alone a smart home security system.

Any security system in a home is often thought of largely as an alarm system, possibly coupled nowadays with various types of CCTV cameras and other types of technology that can alert and detect intruders.

A home security system certainly can be that, but can also be a lot more.

The traditional method of securing a home has always been locks and mortar.

As time has gone on, technology has allowed more and more sophisticated devices to let people believe that home is safer.

A smart home, both now and in the future, is one where essentially all the systems and devices in the home can connect or talk to each other wirelessly, and can be centrally controlled either through a smart phone app or some type of voice recognition system.

Inevitably a smart home security system will consist of a combination of locks on windows and doors that can be controlled wirelessly, as well as a combination of burglar alarms, CCTV cameras and various other security devices.

Smart home security system

The proponents of a smart home security system will argue that the combination of all these factors, and the fact that they can be coordinated and controlled through a central wireless system makes the whole process of safeguarding and securing a home much easier.

That can certainly be debated, but to an extent misses the point.

While there certainly may be some advantages from a convenience view point of the ability to co-ordinate various connected devices, it does also leave someone’s home much more vulnerable to the possibility of being hacked.

The idea of cyber security and internet safety is one that most people are probably aware of, even if it is only the notion of computer viruses and computer malware.

Most people who have a PC or tablet in their home are likely to have some type of antivirus software installed, may or may not have a firewall activated and most likely don’t take the risk of being hacked to seriously.

The scenario changes significantly in the event of a smart home existing, and a smart home security system being the main or only line of defence against any intruder or unwelcome visitor.

There are already many anecdotal instances of baby monitor alarms being hacked by individuals who then use that device to say things and shout things that will upset or disturb the baby or child near the device.

Whilst these reports are certainly disturbing in themselves, they should also be disturbing to the manufacturers of these devices.

The vulnerability of these devices lies not only in the devices themselves, but in the continual upgrades they will need over their lifetime in order to keep them secure.

Cyber Security and the Networked World

Many people view the growing nature of the internet of things in one of two ways.

They either see it as a world where literally every person, place and thing can literally talk to each other through sensors and wireless connectivity, and see this as a massive boon for mankind.

Other people see this same world as being quite horrific, and bringing up huge issues in terms of privacy and security, and do not believe it will ever really happen.

The internet of things essentially refers to a process where pretty much every device that we use at home and at work, everything we wear, everything we use will in some way be connected to each other wirelessly.

This process allows manufacturers and governments to collect huge amounts of information about people in a way that has never been foreseen or planned for.

This information is now being collectively referred to as big data, and there is a huge industry trying to work out how this information can be used, largely for the benefit of manufacturers and supposedly for the benefit of government planning in transport and urban development.

The reality is that all major manufacturers of virtually every product on the planet are now either putting sensors into their devices, or planning how to, in order to enable the internet of things to happen.

Whilst there are certainly technical difficulties to overcome, a whole range of what are being referred to as internet of things platforms are being developed, which will in the end enable a seamless integration of these devices.

People may doubt that this will happen, will happen quickly or at all. Sadly this is wishful thinking for a number of reasons.

Cyber Security – networked world

The main reason is that the main beneficiary of the internet of things well in fact be a vast range of businesses and corporations who stand both to slash costs hugely and increase profits significantly at the same time.

That of itself will drive the Internet of things.

This to an extent is already happening in supermarkets, And is a really good example of how this process will work.

All products in supermarkets have a barcode, at the checkout this barcode is swiped against a screen and is added to the shoppers bill.

At the same time, the barcode feeds into the inventory system of the supermarket and sets in motion a process right back to the distribution center, and ultimately the production process itself.

In addition, supermarkets are now widely installing self-service checkouts that means the individual customer has to swipe the products themselves, thus reducing the need for staff even more.

Whilst there are huge social and libertarian issues involved in all this, the issue of privacy and cyber security is huge, and is likely in many ways to get overlooked in the rush for profit and cost-cutting.

The amount of personal information being processed by all manufacturers of these devices and products is colossal, and all potentially at risk of being hacked or compromised in some type of data breach.

This could lead to a massive erosion of trust in a number of systems currently used, and could lead to significant growth of identity fraud and theft for a whole range of individuals.