Exposing Lockbit 3.0: A Proactive Guide to Defense Strategies

LockBit 3.0: Navigating a New Frontier in Cyber Threats

When it comes to the latest and greatest cybersecurity threats, one name stands out prominently: LockBit 3.0. In 2022, LockBit was the most active global ransomware group and RaaS provider in terms of the number of victims claimed on their data leak site.

This threat marks a significant evolution in the field of ransomware, characterized by its sophisticated tactics and comprehensive capabilities. LockBit 3.0 has not only exhibited a remarkable ability to adapt to the evolving cybersecurity defenses but has also demonstrated a heightened level of organization and coordination. The group employs advanced encryption algorithms and leverages intricate social engineering techniques, making their attacks particularly challenging to prevent.

In this guide, we dive into the key characteristics and strategies employed by LockBit 3.0, empowering defenders with the knowledge to face this ever-changing and powerful threat. By understanding the nuances of LockBit 3.0’s tactics, defenders can enhance their preparedness, develop proactive defense measures, and contribute to the collective resilience against this threat.

lockbit 3.0 download 

What is LockBit 3.0?

LockBit 3.0 stands at the forefront of modern cyber threats. It represents a highly sophisticated ransomware group that has gained notoriety for its strategic approach and global reach. It has evolved into a major force in the cyber landscape, building upon the tactics of its predecessors to become a dominant player in the world of cybercrime.

LockBit accounted for 27.93% of all known ransomware attacks from July 2022 to June 2023. This number underscores the group’s remarkable efficiency and efficacy in executing cyber attacks, showcasing a level of operational precision that sets it apart in the realm of malicious cyber activities.

What distinguishes LockBit 3.0 from its counterparts is not merely its prevalence but also its methodical evolution. The group continually refines its tactics, incorporating cutting-edge technologies and adapting to the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape. This agility has allowed LockBit 3.0 to outmaneuver traditional defense mechanisms, posing a persistent challenge to organizations of all sizes.

Moreover, the geographical scope of LockBit 3.0’s operations is noteworthy. The group exhibits a truly global reach, with reported incidents spanning across diverse industries and regions. This capacity for international impact underscores the need for a collaborative and globally coordinated response to counter the multifaceted threat posed by LockBit 3.0.


The Evolution of LockBit

The journey of LockBit is marked by a relentless evolution, shaping it into a strong force within the realm of ransomware. Its roots can be traced back to September 2019, when the first signs of activity under the ABCD ransomware banner, the precursor to LockBit, were observed. This early iteration laid the groundwork for what would later become a series of sophisticated and highly impactful cyber threats.

The following timeline is based on information gathered by the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA):

September 2019: First observed activity of ABCD ransomware, the predecessor to LockBit.

January 2020: LockBit-named ransomware first seen on Russian-language based cybercrime forums.

June 2021: Appearance of LockBit version 2 (LockBit 2.0), also known as LockBit Red, including StealBit, a built-in information-stealing tool.

October 2021: Introduction of LockBit Linux-ESXi Locker version 1.0, expanding capabilities to target systems to Linux and VMware ESXi. 

March 2022: Emergence of LockBit 3.0, also known as LockBit Black, which shares similarities with BlackMatter and Alphv (also known as BlackCat) ransomware.

September 2022: Non-LockBit affiliates able to use LockBit 3.0 after its builder was leaked.

January 2023: Arrival of LockBit Green incorporating source code from Conti ransomware.

April 2023: LockBit ransomware encryptors targeting macOS seen on VirusTotal

Each phase of LockBit’s evolution introduces new complexities and heightened capabilities. It highlights the group’s commitment to diversifying its tactics and underscores the need for defenders to stay alert to the continuously unfolding saga of LockBit’s evolution.


Key Characteristics of LockBit

What sets LockBit apart are its advanced tactics and extensive capabilities. Here are a few key attributes that define its tactics:

Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) Model: At the heart of LockBit 3.0’s operations is its decentralized RaaS model, a strategic approach that leverages a network of affiliates to orchestrate attacks globally. This model not only enhances the group’s scalability but also complicates efforts to trace and attribute attacks, adding an extra layer of complexity for defenders.

Network of Affiliates: LockBit 3.0’s extensive affiliate network, meticulously recruited by the core team, serves as a force multiplier, amplifying the group’s reach across diverse industries and geographical regions. This expansive network contributes to the group’s ability to execute targeted and widespread attacks, presenting a challenge for organizations striving to defend against the multifaceted threat posed by LockBit.


RaaS Explained | Source: Microsoft, 2022

Advanced Tactics: The group distinguishes itself through the application of sophisticated methods such as phishing, exploit kits, and triple-extortion. This demonstrates LockBit 3.0’s prowess in breaching target networks through a combination of technical sophistication and social engineering, underscoring the importance of a multi-faceted defense strategy for organizations aiming to prevent these intricate attack vectors.

Adaptability & Resilience: LockBit 3.0 exhibits remarkable adaptability and resilience in the face of evolving cybersecurity defenses. The group swiftly adjusts its tactics, evades detection mechanisms, and exploits emerging vulnerabilities, ensuring a sustained and impactful presence in the cybersecurity landscape. This ability to pivot in response to countermeasures highlights the dynamic nature of LockBit’s threat profile.

Triple-Extortion Strategy: LockBit 3.0 employs a triple-extortion strategy, integrating data encryption, public exposure threats, and customer/partner coercion. This multifaceted approach intensifies the pressure on targeted organizations to comply with ransom demands, presenting a formidable challenge for those seeking to resist the coercive tactics employed by LockBit.

Decentralized Impact: The decentralized structure of LockBit 3.0 facilitates a global reach, enabling the group to target organizations worldwide. This decentralized impact ensures adaptability and resilience against countermeasures, reinforcing the imperative for organizations to implement proactive defense measures that transcend traditional boundaries.

Understanding these distinctive characteristics is critical for organizations seeking to strengthen their defenses against LockBit’s persistent and sophisticated attacks. 


LockBit Tactics & Techniques

LockBit affiliates use sophisticated techniques to exploit system vulnerabilities. From leveraging routine web browsing for silent compromises to exploiting known vulnerabilities and employing social engineering tactics, each method showcases the adaptability and ingenuity of LockBit affiliates. Understanding these tactics is crucial for organizations seeking to strengthen their security measures. 

Drive-by Compromise: LockBit affiliates gain access by exploiting vulnerabilities during normal web browsing. Malicious code is executed silently, establishing an initial foothold.

Exploit Public-Facing Application: LockBit affiliates target internet-facing systems, exploiting vulnerabilities like Log4Shell. This allows unauthorized access to victims’ networks.

External Remote Services: LockBit affiliates exploit Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to infiltrate victims’ networks. This direct pathway offers quick access.

Phishing: LockBit affiliates use deceptive emails or messages to trick recipients into revealing sensitive information or executing malicious links or attachments.

Valid Accounts: LockBit affiliates gain initial access by abusing existing account credentials, bypassing the need for technical exploits.

Brute Force Attacks: LockBit affiliates employ brute-force attacks to compromise user credentials for internet-facing RDP and VPN access. 

Exploitation of Known Vulnerabilities: LockBit affiliates exploit known software vulnerabilities and security misconfigurations to infiltrate target systems. 


Who’s at Risk?

LockBit casts a wide net, strategically targeting organizations across diverse industries worldwide. In the fourth quarter of 2022, the finance, IT, and healthcare industries found themselves among the top three on LockBit’s victim list, indicative of the group’s relentless pursuit of high-value targets. 

However, the threat extends far beyond these sectors, as LockBit demonstrates a particular interest in infiltrating critical infrastructure domains. 

The following sectors have experienced the impact of LockBit’s sophisticated attacks:

  • Financial Services: LockBit’s interest in financial institutions stems from the potential for significant financial gain. The sector’s interconnected networks and vast amounts of sensitive data make it an attractive target for ransomware attacks.
  • Healthcare: The healthcare industry is a prime target due to the sensitive nature of patient data and the critical role it plays in public well-being. LockBit’s attacks on healthcare institutions pose not only financial risks but also threaten the continuity of life-saving medical services.
  • Food and Agriculture: The agriculture sector, often overlooked in discussions of cyber threats, has become a focal point for LockBit. Disrupting this sector can have far-reaching consequences, affecting the food supply chain and the economies of nations.
  • Education: LockBit’s targeting of educational institutions underscores the group’s disregard for the potential societal repercussions of disrupting learning environments. Universities and schools are not only repositories of valuable research but also integral components of community development.
  • Energy: Critical infrastructure such as energy grids and utilities are prime targets for LockBit, given the cascading impact an attack on these systems can have on entire regions. The potential disruption to energy supplies poses a significant threat to national security and public welfare.
  • Government: Government agencies are frequent targets, with LockBit aiming to exploit vulnerabilities in national and municipal systems. Breaching government networks not only jeopardizes sensitive data but also poses risks to public safety and governance.
  • Emergency Services: LockBit’s encroachment into emergency services raises concerns about potential disruptions to crucial response mechanisms. Any hindrance to emergency services can have severe consequences, especially in times of crisis.
  • Manufacturing: LockBit’s interest in the manufacturing sector suggests a focus on disrupting supply chains and industrial processes. Targeting manufacturing can lead to widespread economic repercussions, affecting businesses and consumers alike.
  • Transportation: Disrupting transportation networks can have cascading effects on the movement of goods and people. LockBit’s incursion into this sector raises concerns about potential disruptions to logistics, posing risks to global trade and infrastructure.

It’s evident that LockBit’s ambitions extend far beyond specific industries. The group’s broad targeting emphasizes a calculated strategy aimed at maximizing disruption and extracting ransom from sectors critical to societal functioning. By examining the varied industries targeted by LockBit, we gain a comprehensive understanding of the extensive reach and adaptability inherent in their tactics.


How to Mitigate LockBit Threats

Understanding the intricacies of LockBit’s tactics is the first step toward building resilience. From implementing essential measures to advanced security protocols, each recommendation is tailored to strengthening your defenses and reducing the likelihood of falling victim to an attack.

  • Strengthen Password Policies: Require all accounts with password logins (e.g., service accounts, admin accounts, and domain admin accounts) to comply with NIST standards for developing and managing password policies.
  • Sandboxed Browsers: Implementing sandboxed browsers adds a crucial layer of protection, isolating potentially malicious code from the host machine during web browsing.
  • Implement Email Gateway Filters: Installing filters at the email gateway screens out emails with known malicious indicators, reducing the risk of falling victim to phishing attacks.
  • Implement Multi-Factor Authentication: Requiring phishing-resistant MFA for critical services adds an extra layer of protection, especially for webmail, VPN, and privileged accounts accessing critical systems.
  • Practice Least-Privilege Access: Following the principle of least privilege ensures specific accounts are used for specific tasks, minimizing the potential for unauthorized access.
  • Timely Patching & Updates: Regularly updating operating systems, software, and firmware is crucial in preventing exploits, especially for public-facing applications.
  • Enhanced Access Controls: Reviewing and auditing user accounts with administrative privileges and configuring access controls according to the principle of least privilege ensures only necessary personnel have access to critical systems.
  • Just-In-Time Access Provisioning: Implementing time-based access for accounts at the admin level and higher enhances security by granting privileged access only when needed, automatically disabling admin accounts when not in direct use.
  • Network Segmentation: Segmenting networks helps control traffic flows and restrict adversary movement. Isolating web-facing applications further minimizes the potential spread of ransomware.
  • Security Awareness Training: Providing practical training on phishing threats and risks associated with email usage, especially in high-volume external communication, is crucial for all employees.
  • External Email Warning Banners: Consider adding warning banners for emails sent to or received from outside the organization to alert users to exercise caution.
  • Real-Time Antivirus Protection: Installing, regularly updating, and enabling real-time detection for antivirus software on all hosts helps protect against malware threats in real time.

By adopting these strategies, organizations can significantly enhance their ability to detect, deter, and ultimately withstand LockBit threats.


The Future of LockBit

It’s clear that LockBit 3.0 has emerged as a threat to organizations in every industry, showcasing remarkable efficiency, global reach, and continuous evolution.

LockBit’s advanced characteristics, including a decentralized Ransomware-as-a-Service model, extensive affiliate network, and triple-extortion strategy, emphasize its sophistication. The group’s broad targeting across industries underscores its calculated strategy for maximum disruption.

Exploring LockBit’s tactics, from silent compromises to exploiting vulnerabilities, provides crucial insights for organizations fortifying their defenses. Looking ahead, understanding these intricacies becomes paramount as LockBit continues to evolve, posing challenges that demand collaborative and globally coordinated responses.

As LockBit charts an unpredictable course in the future of cyber threats, organizations must remain vigilant, continually enhancing their cybersecurity posture to mitigate the multifaceted risks posed by this ever-changing adversary.

Understanding the nuances of LockBit is essential, and our cybersecurity experts are here to help you navigate and implement effective mitigation strategies. From building and strengthening internal security policies to staying up-to-date on emerging threats, our team is dedicated to empowering organizations against the dynamic challenges posed by LockBit and other sophisticated adversaries. Contact us today to get started.

A Guide to Vendor Impersonation Fraud

Protecting Yourself in the Digital World

In today’s interconnected digital landscape, where online transactions and collaborations are the norm, it’s important to be aware of the various threats lurking in the shadows. Vendor Fraud is one of the latest financial scams and can occur from one or multiple sources in a very sophisticated manner. If not detected, it can cost businesses severely.


What is Vendor Impersonation Fraud?

Vendor Impersonation Fraud is a form of Business Email Compromise fraud that occurs when a malicious actor or employee scams a company into making payments to fraudulent accounts. This can happen in multiple ways, such as providing fake vendor or account information, hijacking a vendor or employee’s email account, or pretending to be a reliable vendor with the intention of carrying out fraudulent activities, such as invoice scams or other forms of financial fraud.

Third-party impersonations made up 52% of all Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks in May 2022, but keep in mind unaffiliated malicious actors aren’t the only ones committing fraud; they can be employees as well. In fact, more than 55% of frauds were committed by individuals in one of six departments:

  • Accounting
  • Operations
  • Sales
  • Executive/Upper Management
  • Customer Service
  • Purchasing

vendor impersonation fraud common targeted departments

Types of Vendor Impersonation Fraud

There are many types of vendor impersonation fraud, but these are the most common:

  • Cyber Fraud cases involving unauthorized individuals who have no affiliation with the company or the vendor are among the most challenging to identify. These malicious actors manipulate the account of a trusted vendor, redirecting payments to their own accounts electronically. Every quarter, 2/3 of all organizations are targeted by email attacks that use a compromised or impersonated third-party account.
  • Check Manipulation involves an individual forging or modifying information on a vendor’s check to route payments to a personal bank account. 
  • Ghost Vendor occurs when a fictitious vendor is created in the company’s records. Payments are then made to this non-existent vendor, and an employee or an external fraudster usually siphons off the funds.
  • Duplicate Payments occur when an employee uses a legitimate vendor’s account, manipulates the payment records, and initiates multiple payments for a single vendor invoice in order to direct the second payment to their personal account. 


Who’s at Risk of Vendor Impersonation Fraud?

While anyone can potentially fall victim to vendor impersonation fraud, certain individuals and organizations are more susceptible to these scams, such as those that handle finances. These are the primary targets for vendors seeking to exploit payment processes.

  • Small businesses or organizations with limited resources and cybersecurity measures in place are often targeted due to their perceived vulnerability.
  • Organizations with a high volume of vendor interactions or those engaged in frequent international transactions may be more exposed to vendor impersonation fraud attempts. 
  • Employees in accounts payable departments
  • Individuals responsible for making financial transactions 


How to Identify Vendor Impersonation Fraud?

In 2020, the average fraud scheme lasted a median of 18 months before being detected, which is why it’s critical to know what to look for.

  1. Discrepancies in Vendor Information: Review vendor details such as contact information, addresses, or tax identification numbers. Be wary of inconsistencies or if the information provided cannot be verified.
  2. Unusual Payment Requests: Beware payment requests that deviate from standard procedures, including sudden changes in bank account details, requests for expedited payments, or requests for payment to unfamiliar or unrelated third-party accounts.
  3. Inconsistencies in Invoices or Documentation: Scrutinize invoices for irregularities, such as misspellings, incorrect formatting, or missing information. Fake or altered invoices are common signs of fraudulent activity.
  4. Suspicious Communication Patterns: Pay attention to any sudden changes in how your vendor communicates with you, like using different email addresses, unusual phone calls, or requests to communicate outside of normal channels.
  5. Unexpected Price Increases: Be cautious if there are significant and unexplained price increases from a vendor. Fraudsters may attempt to overcharge for products or services, hoping to slip unnoticed.
  6. Poor Quality or Undelivered Goods/Services: If you receive substandard goods or services or if your orders consistently go unfulfilled, it could be a red flag for vendor fraud.
  7. Unusual Vendor Behavior: Be alert to vendor behavior that deviates from their usual practices, including evasive answers, sudden unresponsiveness, or reluctance to provide documentation or clarification.
  8. Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with fraud trends and news within your industry. Awareness of new tactics and scams can help you be more proactive in identifying vendor fraud. Be sure to educate your employees on vendor impersonation fraud and encourage them to report suspicious activity. They may notice irregular vendor interactions or uncover information that could help identify fraud.  

No single indicator guarantees the presence of vendor fraud. However, being vigilant and combining multiple factors for assessment can significantly improve your ability to identify potential fraudulent activities and protect your organization from falling victim to vendor fraud. 


Measures to Detect and Prevent Vendor Impersonation Fraud

Vendor Tips:

  • Due Diligence: During the onboarding process, focus on verifying vendor details such as mailing addresses, contact numbers, vendor tax identification numbers, contact persons, and bank accounts. Also, check the vendor’s financial stability.
  • Conduct Reputation and Reference Checks: Research the vendor’s reputation within the industry. Seek references from other clients or business partners who have worked with the vendor before. This allows you to gather insights into their reliability, integrity, and history of delivering quality services.
  • Evaluate Internal Controls: Assess the vendor’s internal controls and anti-fraud measures. Review their policies and procedures related to fraud prevention, cybersecurity, and data protection. Strong internal controls demonstrate the vendor’s commitment to mitigating the risk of fraud.

Employee Tips:

  • Split Responsibilities & Regular Rotation: Separating the tasks of inputting purchase information and approving transactions can help limit employee misconduct. You can also rotate duties of employees in vendor management and purchasing or rope in managers to monitor important tasks.
  • Run Thorough Background Checks: Conduct thorough background checks on all employees involved in vendor management or financial transactions. Verify their credentials, employment history, and conduct reference checks to ensure they have a trustworthy track record.
  • Anti-Fraud Training & Anonymous Tip Line: Provide comprehensive training to employees on fraud prevention, including specific information about vendor impersonation fraud. Additionally, encouraging your employees to report suspicious activity of their colleagues can strengthen internal controls.




Click here to download a FREE Vendor Impersonation Fraud E-Book!







System Tips:

  • Invest in Vendor Management Software: Consider streamlining and automating the process of managing vendors and their relationships. A centralized platform can efficiently handle vendor onboarding, contract management, performance tracking, compliance monitoring, and more. 
  • Educate Your Team: Educating your team about vendor fraud risks and consequences can enhance their awareness & vigilance. Conducting regular risk assessments helps identify loopholes & vulnerabilities that should be closed to mitigate vendor fraud effectively.
  • Monitor and Audit: Actively monitor vendor-related transactions and activities for any signs of suspicious behavior. Regular audits can help assess the effectiveness of existing control measures and identify any vulnerabilities that malicious actors may exploit.


How to Respond to Vendor Fraud

  1. Notify Authorities & Affected Parties: Report the fraud to local law enforcement agencies and provide all relevant details and evidence. Additionally, notify financial institutions and anyone directly affected.
  2. Document and Preserve Evidence: Gather and securely store all evidence related to the fraud, including emails, invoices, payment records, and any communication with the fraudulent party. This is crucial for investigations, insurance claims, and potential legal proceedings.
  3. Seek Legal and Professional Advice: Consult with legal advisors specializing in fraud and cybersecurity. They can guide you through the legal implications, advise on recovery options, and assist with any necessary legal actions against the fraudsters.


Real-World Cases of Vendor Fraud

Sometimes reading real-world examples is the best way to understand something. Below are some real-world cases of vendor impersonation fraud at large organizations, small businesses, non-profits, and even government organizations. 

  • GoogleIn 2013, a man and co-conspirators scammed Google into paying him more than $23 million using forged invoices, contracts, letters, and corporate stamps.
  • FacebookIn 2015, the same man scammed Facebook out of $98 million. The payments were wired to bank accounts throughout Latvia, Cyprus, Slovakia, Lithuania, Hungary, & Hong Kong.
  • Ubiquiti: In 2015, employee impersonation & fraudulent requests from an outside entity targeted Ubiquiti’s finance department resulting in a transfer of over $46.7 million.
  • Toyota Boshoku CorporationIn 2019, attackers managed to convince an employee with financial authority at a major Toyota auto parts supplier to change account information on an electronic funds transfer, resulting in a loss of $37 million.
  • Government of Puerto RicoIn early 2020, the finance director of Puerto Rico’s Industrial Development Company received an email explaining a change to the bank account tied to remittance payments. $2.6 million was mistakenly transferred.
  • Save the Children CharityIn 2018, a well-researched attacker gained access to an employee’s email account and sent fake invoices requesting payment close to $1 million for solar panels in Pakistan, where a Save the Children Health Center was located.

Education Empowers Us

In conclusion, staying educated on vendor impersonation fraud is of utmost importance in today’s digital age. The ever-evolving tactics used by fraudsters necessitate constant vigilance and awareness. By staying informed about the latest techniques employed by scammers, individuals and businesses can better protect themselves from falling victim to fraudulent activities.

Education empowers us to recognize warning signs, question suspicious requests, and implement robust security measures. It enables us to safeguard our financial resources, personal information, and reputations. Moreover, by sharing knowledge and promoting awareness, we collectively contribute to a safer online environment for everyone. Therefore, let us remain committed to staying educated on vendor impersonation fraud and strive to outsmart the fraudsters at their own game. If you are looking for a cybersecurity professional to help you improve your organization’s cybersecurity posture, or if you have been the victim of vendor impersonation fraud and are looking for recovery options, contact us today.


5 Reasons Your Business Needs an Incident Response Plan (+ Free Template!)

Did you know that Americans face a hacker attack every 39 seconds, and 43% of these attacks target small businesses? Most companies will take about six months to detect a data breach, and by then, it’s often too late to do anything about it. The global average cost of a data breach is about $3.9 million for small to medium businesses.  Having a solid strategy can make all the difference for your business when dealing with a cyber-attack. What kind of strategy are we talking about? Having an incident response plan in place.

We are going to share some tips with you on why your business needs an incident response plan. That way, you can always be ready in the case of a cyber-attack. Read on to learn more.


Don’t Get Caught Off Guard: The Importance of an Incident Response Plan

The term “ransomware” is becoming a regular part of business security. Ransomware is a type of malware where hackers threaten to publish personal data or block some service until you pay a ransom. Organized crime gangs like the Russia-linked REvil Ransomware are constantly attempting to access computer networks and hold them for ransom.

An incident response plan sets out tools and processes your team can follow to identify new threats and end them. It also sets out steps for the recovery of the business following a cyber-attack by setting out the roles and responsibilities.

With a plan in place, you can constantly test the security system, identify issues, and learn from your mistakes.


Team making a Cyber incident response plan

Be Prepared: Why Your Business Needs an Incident Response Plan

Cyber-attacks are increasing as time passes, and the impact on your business is more significant than you would think. Your business should prepare for any emergency by implementing an incident response plan. The benefits of such a plan, such as finding security attacks faster and protecting your reputation, outweigh the costs.


#1: Pre-emptive Strike

There are several types of attacks that your business can run into that you need to protect yourself from. These include the denial of service attacks where your system is overloaded to the point where it can’t run legitimate customer requests, or a phishing attack with malware in emails that look like they come from legitimate sources.

An incident report plan allows you to strike pre-emptively and protect your business from a security breach. Attackers usually go for groups that they think are more vulnerable because they have a greater chance of success.

Having a plan means that you are prepared before an incident occurs, catching the security breach before too much time has passed.


#2: An Organized Approach from Disruption to Recovery

Business data loss is more than just losing your clients’ private information. It can cost you about $141 per data record, and that cost will continue to increase. The cost of cyberattacks includes lost wages, lost revenue, potential fines, and lost trust.

An incident response team will implement your plan that will set out the process for all types of attacks. It will help you from disruption to recovery in an organized way so that any security breaches can be handled without disrupting the business.

It can help you reduce the response time and the overall cost of dealing with a security breach.


#3: Learn From Past Mistakes and Strengthen Overall Security

Some simple tips like backing up and encrypting all data can help protect your business from cybersecurity threats. The goal of an incident response plan is to manage the complete security system and deal with all vulnerabilities. You can assess, analyze, and report on the security systems to minimize the impact of a cyberattack and quickly restore operations.

A part of the response plan means increasing cybersecurity awareness among your employees. Once they recognize threats, they will be more vigilant, leading to reduced cyberattacks attributed to human error.

You also have to test and improve your security practices and systems continuously. One way to do so is to use simulated security attacks and security breach scenarios to test your security system. This can expose gaps before a real cyberattack takes place.


#4: Protect Your Reputation and Build Trust

As a business, your reputation is your most essential tool. You work hard to develop a brand that people can trust and rely upon by providing the best service possible and giving 100% to your customers and employees. In a single moment, all that trust and a good reputation can disappear because of a cyberattack.

If your business loses too much data or resources to deal with ransomware, your reputation could be damaged beyond saving, where business continuity is a concern. The cost of paying ransomware can impact your bottom line and even lead to bankruptcy. An incident response plan can help protect your reputation and the public trust you have worked hard to build.


People pointing to graph

#5: Comply With Regulations

Specific sectors like the health care and financial services industry have regulations to protect consumer data and privacy. When those rules are not met, you are faced with hefty fines and costly lawsuits.

A business continuity plan, like an incident response plan, will set out the steps that your team will need to take to comply with the regulations. Your business can avoid legal penalties by managing its resources during an emergency. You can use the plan as proof of your due diligence when needed.


Need Help Getting Started with an Incident Response Plan?

Developing a cyber incident response plan doesn’t have to be complicated. Having one can make a dramatic difference in your level of preparedness, your overall vulnerability, and your peace of mind. If you need help with creating a Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan, look no further! We’re here to help. Our comprehensive Incident Response Plan covers all the important things you need to get started. Download our free template using the link below.


Download Your Free Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan Here!

Talk to an Expert Today

The first step to protecting yourself from cyberattacks is to design and put in place an incident response plan. Your entire team should be engaged and understand their role when dealing with a security breach. Working with a managed service provider can help you make the plan and implement it for a low fee.

Contact us today to talk to an expert. We can help you keep your business safe with a risk assessment to understand you can tackle insider and external hacking attacks. With our help, you can get a better understanding of the vulnerabilities of your business.

The 12 Days of Cybersecurity Christmas

Giving you the Gift of Cybersecurity Awareness this Christmas

The holidays are upon us; let’s celebrate the 12 Days of Cybersecurity Christmas! Christmas is a time for joy, celebration, reunions with loved ones, and giving. Though this time of year is meant to be enjoyed and as stress-free as possible, it’s important to remember that not everyone uses this time to rest and relax. In fact, studies show that cybersecurity risks actually increase during the holidays every year.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warns that cybersecurity risks like ransomware and malware increase on weekends and during holidays. They state that cybercriminals have specifically been initiating attacks on weekends and holidays when offices are closed and peoples’ guards seem to be let down. While ransomware may not always be the risk you face, there are plenty of other cybersecurity threats to be aware of while you’re online this holiday season.

That’s why we’re implementing the 12 Days of Cybersecurity Christmas, starting on Monday, December 20th and ending on December 31st! Our goal is to offer reminders and tips to help you stay protected during the holidays so that you can enjoy them with peace of mind, knowing you are safe from the threats of the internet. Keep reading for a free PDF download of 12 Days of Cybersecurity Christmas Tips and to learn how to improve your cyber protection this year and beyond.


Why Do Cybersecurity Threats Increase During the Holidays?

Before we get started, let’s talk about why cyber threats increase. The only reason isn’t that offices are closed and people take time off, though that’s a pretty big deal when it comes to taking on widespread issues. The fact is that people’s online activities become a bit more vulnerable. There’s an increase in behaviors that could lead to cybersecurity threats getting through your layers of protection.

Here’s a list of things that make cybercriminals excited about the holidays:

  • Higher online shopping traffic: People enter their card information left and right, trying to get gifts purchased. Not only that, but they’re looking to get the best deals and shopping on websites they don’t usually use.
  • Remote work increases: For most people, working from home for the holidays is a great way to stay close to the family. However, it also increases opportunities for work information to be intercepted and used against the person or the company.
  • Travel increases: When people travel, they flock to public locations with free WiFi. These public networks are great until a cyber-criminal observes them.


What Risks Do I Need to Be Worried About the Most?

There are two major issues that you should be worried about when you’re going about your digital lives this holiday season. These two cybersecurity issues are phishing attacks and data breaches.

Phishing, a take on the word “fishing”, is the act of a cybercriminal ‘casting out bait’ to try and get information from you. It’s a form of social engineering, and it can be very effective. Phishing comes in the form of emails, texts, and even phone calls! They’re pretty crafty too, using believable and human-sounding techniques to capture your attention and draw you in. 

Data breaches involve any form of your data being taken unwillingly. For an individual, data breaches really focus on banking information or personal information. Both of these things can be used in a way that impacts your finances, but can really impact any part of your life. Data breaches can happen from a number of sources, both online and in the real world.

So how do you prevent attacks like these from happening? Surely you can’t expect online shopping to cease or the use of public internet to be reduced. Well, we’re glad you asked!


The 12 Days of Cybersecurity Christmas

This holiday season, we’re introducing the 12 Days of Cybersecurity Christmas. We want you to be as safe as possible during the holiday season, which includes your digital safety as well. Each of the 12 days provides you and your loved ones another tip to help keep you safe this year. Check them out below!


Day 1: Improve Your Passwords

Many people make the simple mistake of using the same password across the board. This can be fatal when it comes to cyber-attacks and means that after a cybercriminal obtains your password and email address, they’ll have access to just about every other account you have, too.

Passwords need to be varied from site to site. Never use the same password twice and consider making passwords entirely different from one another. There are a number of programs that can help you create sophisticated passwords, as well as store them for you, such as 1Password, Dashlane, and OneLogin. This is normally a big help when it comes to password improvement.


Day 2: Be Cautious of Links

The holidays are a time where you’re expected to communicate with old friends and new ones! It’s a time where people check in on each other and send attachments to one another. When you’re talking with anyone online, you should always be cautious of links.

 Unknown links are a form of a phishing attack. These links often lead you to a place to provide some information, like a username and password. Before you click on any links this holiday season, verify that you know the person sending them. You don’t want your personal information being taken because you opened an attachment or clicked on a link unknowingly.


Day 3: Sparingly Use Debit Cards Online

Holiday shopping is in full force. There are many gifts to buy, and it’s likely that you’ll be sourcing some of them online. When you’re doing your online shopping, try to avoid using your debit card.

Debit cards are linked directly to your bank account.

When a cybercriminal gets access to your debit card information, they’re getting access to your money. This can create a number of issues. Many times, they’ll use the same information to do their online shopping, too. Consider using a credit card or a payment service like PayPal. These aren’t directly linked to an account, making stealing your payment information a bit more difficult.


Day 4: Don’t Save Your Payment Information

It’s a lot more convenient to have your payment information saved when you’re doing a lot of online shopping. Constantly having to pull your card out to enter digits can be a slow process, and that gets frustrating. Many websites and mobile operating systems will let you save your payment information, though. Great, right? Not really.

When you save payment information, you make that information vulnerable to data breaches. This can be a breach that occurs on the company’s side or with your personal device. If your payment information is saved, the criminal performing the breach now has all of your payment information. Say goodbye to your money, and goodbye to gift-giving! Never save payment information, regardless of how convenient it is.


Day 5: Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

When you’re trying to stay safe online, it’s vital that you enable multi-factor authentication, which is the act of adding a second layer of protection to your online accounts. Even with a username and password, cybercriminals can’t access information without the second (and possibly third) form of authentication.

In fact, MFA is effective in blocking 99% of phishing attacks. It’s easy to set up, and normally the second authentication step only takes a moment of your time. Totally worth it when you’re trying to stay safe.


Day 6: Keep Your Software Updated

The majority of the software that you’re using on your phone, tablet, and computer is going to prompt you to update it every so often. While this seems like an inconvenience, especially when you want to use that software, it’s crucial in staying safe. Most software updates are adding critical security measures to the program itself, helping to keep you safe. Don’t give hackers the opportunity by using out-of-date systems.


Day 7: Use a VPN

The holidays normally involve a lot of traveling. With many people working from home due to the events of the last two years, many people are taking their work with them, too. With that, they bring their work data. Often, travel means using public WiFi networks. The best way to stay secure on a public network is by using a VPN.

A VPN, or virtual private network, protects your IP address, which is required for many cyber attacks. It also encrypts all of your online activity. This helps to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, where information is altered between sender and recipient. Getting a VPN can keep you safe during your holiday travels.


Day 8: Install Antivirus Software

As you’re perusing the internet, your computer will come into contact with a number of different websites. It’s possible to encounter threats on these websites, and a good all-around form of protection is antivirus software. Antivirus software is no longer just about viruses, though.

These are now comprehensive programs that keep you protected from a number of different online threats. This includes viruses, of course, but it can also protect you from malware, spyware, phishing attacks, and more. While antivirus software isn’t the last line of defense, it is a great start, and you should be using it if you aren’t already. If you have antivirus software installed, make sure it’s up to date. Otherwise, you’re not fully protected.


Day 9: Avoid Unknown and Unsecure Sites

When you’re in a rush to get the best gift for someone you love, you may encounter websites that are unfamiliar to you. Sometimes these websites are completely legitimate. Other times, however, they’re a threat to you and your cybersecurity. 

There are websites that carry what is known as drive-by download attacks. A drive-by download occurs as you enter the site. The visitation of the website triggers malicious code to be downloaded to your device. This code can be used for any number of malicious actions, including theft of personal information, injection of banking Trojans, and introduction of exploit kits. Stick to the well-established sites that you know to help avoid these problems. If using Google Chrome, you can also see if your site is secure by looking for the lock icon on the address bar of your site. Usually, Chrome will reveal a popup that states the web page is not secure, so you should avoid inputting any sensitive information onto that site.


Day 10: Avoid Unknown or Unnecessary Downloads

When you visit a website that asks you to download something to use it, it is possible that the software being downloaded is a cyber attack. Cybercriminals design downloadable software or browser extensions that collect and steal your data as you use your computer. It can lead to a number of other types of attacks, as well.

If you believe you’ve found a safe download, try to avoid installing any add-ons or extras with it until you know they’re safe, too. Keeping an eye on things is always the best tactic.


Day 11: Be Careful on Social Media

As one of the last tips we’ll provide on this article (check out our other posts for more!), we want you to exercise care in your social media profiles. Social media can be used against users more often than you’d think, and it’s able to be done using the simplest of posts. Any time you post something on a social media account, you’re allowing outsiders to take a glimpse into your life. Through detective work and social engineering, cybercriminals can quickly get quite a bit of information about you.

When you’re posting this holiday season, ask yourself, “Would I share this with a stranger?” If the answer is no, reconsider sharing it online. Of course, you can always increase the privacy of your profile, making it harder to obtain the information you share.


Day 12: Stay Educated and Use Caution

On our 12th and final Day of Cybersecurity Christmas, we encourage you to stay educated and use caution. Always stay on top of cybersecurity trends and learn the basics of staying safe online. Being cautious while on the internet is key in your cybersecurity. Often, people are criticized for maintaining a level of paranoia. However, it’s important to realize that with the internet, a bit of paranoia is warranted. The online landscape has grown to something limitless. With that amount of access, caution should always be exercised. It’s especially important that you exercise this caution during the holidays when malicious online activity is rising.

We’ve put together a free PDF of these 12 tips that you can reference later or share with friends, family, and colleagues. Download it below!


Download Free 12 Days of Cybersecurity Christmas PDF 


And with that, we wrap our 12 Days of Cybersecurity Christmas! We hope that you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday and that our tips have helped you to remain safe this holiday season. As always, stay up to date on all things cybersecurity, and maintain vigilance with your digital safety.

Are you concerned about the cybersecurity of your business? Edge Networks can help!  Take our free, self-guided IT Security Risk Assessment, or contact us today for a free, 30-minute consultation. Happy holidays!

Why You need a “Bring Your Own Device” BYOD Policy + Free Template

With the rise of cloud computing, employees have been able to work more efficiently than ever. Remote teams can communicate easily. If you’ve forgotten a slide for an important presentation, you can work on it at home and upload it to the cloud. Add to this a global pandemic and our new work-from-home culture, and it makes sense that people are accessing company resources on their own personal devices. Unfortunately, this carries serious security risks. To mitigate those risks, you need a policy for personal device usage, commonly known as a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. Here’s what you need to know.


What Is a BYOD Policy?

A Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policy is one that defines how and when employees can use their devices to access company data and resources. The term “bring your own device” implies a device that you bring to work with you, which is certainly part of the definition, but it also encompasses devices used to work from home, from the road, or anywhere else they connect to the company network.

A BYOD policy is important to your business for two reasons. To begin with, employees can often be more productive on their own devices. Unless you intend on providing a smartphone and tablet to every employee, it’s only reasonable to let them use their own. The second reason is related. If employees aren’t allowed to use their own devices, they’re probably going to do it anyway. Better to have a policy in place and to have your IT team handle network security.

To build an effective policy, you need to achieve a balance between productivity, efficiency, and security. Depending on the nature of your business, this could mean different types of policy. There’s no way to outline every possible BYOD policy, but there are four general categories:

  • Personal devices can only access non-sensitive resources
  • Personal devices can access sensitive resources but cannot store company data locally
  • Personal devices can access and store data, but IT retains control over apps and data storage
  • Personal devices have unlimited network access


BYOD policy

What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of a BYOD Policy?

There are many good reasons to institute a BYOD policy. That said, there are also some negatives to consider before you implement one at your company. Here are the pros and cons of BYOD policies.



BYOD saves you money. Pretty much everybody owns a smartphone, and anyone who wants one owns a tablet. Why pay for these devices when your employees already own them? Not only that, but employees tend to take better care of devices that belong to them. It’s just human nature.

There’s no learning curve. When you issue devices to an employee, they might not know how they work. When they bring their own phone or tablet, they already know how to operate the device, so they can start working immediately.

Easier upgrades. Issuing devices to your employees once is an expense. Issuing upgraded devices over and over again is an endless drain on your budget. When employees own their own devices, they already have an incentive to stay up to date.

Happier employees. Some people have a strong preference for Apple or Android. Why make them choose? With a BYOD policy, your employees get to decide what kind of phone and tablet to buy. Not only that, but many businesses will still pay to install productivity software. If Emily is a burgeoning writer, she’ll be thrilled to have that copy of Microsoft Word for her own use.

BYOD is more convenient. Do you really want to carry two smartphones everywhere? Neither do your employees. With a BYOD policy, they won’t have to.



You will need more IT staff. One nice thing about issuing standard devices to your employees is that the repair process is simple. If everyone has their own smartphone or tablet, it’s more difficult to perform repairs or even install software. This is especially true if your company uses proprietary software. If you’ve never ported an Android version, for example, you’ll need to do that before transitioning to BYOD.

You will need an escape hatch. When an employee leaves your company, they might end up taking a lot of sensitive information with them. As a result, a BYOD policy needs to clearly state what your company will do with company data on personal devices. In many cases, this means using software to wipe the former employee’s device remotely. If you don’t plan for this in advance, your company could be at risk.

BYOD presents its own security risks. Let’s say your employee has a laptop that they use for work purposes. Over the weekend, their high school-aged son has to write a report for school. How is your data secure when you don’t even know who might have access to it? You’ll need to consider these factors when deciding how much remote access you want to give your employees.


How Can You Ensure You (or Your Employees) Are Secure?

Data security is like a game of whack-a-mole; as we learn to identify and protect against existing threats, new threats keep popping up. Thankfully, there are software solutions available to help you stay safe.

For example, you can utilize Mobile Device Management and Enterprise Mobility Management software to automatically enforce basic security features, such as authentication and encryption. Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) software allows you to create a single portal for all your company resources. With UEM software, your IT department can monitor all connected devices through a single, convenient dashboard. And because they handle so much data, UEM can use AI to analyze all that data and alert IT to any anomalies.

That said, even with the best software, implementing an effective BYOD policy can be difficult. And as threats change, it might be challenging to adapt; even large companies might have trouble scaling their security solutions. For this reason, many companies outsource their BYOD security to third-party specialists, known as cybersecurity consultants.


BYOD Policy Template

Are you looking to implement a BYOD policy in your own business? Edge Networks has created a template that outlines what a BYOD policy could look like. To ensure the safety of your devices and data, some companies will need to add or remove sections to fit the needs of your business and any additional job requirements. This can be adapted to fit your needs. Download the template using the link below!


Download BYOD Policy Template 

byod policy


Implementing a BYOD policy can be challenging at first. The process can be complex, and there are a number of factors to consider. But once you’ve smoothed out the wrinkles, the result is a more secure IT environment, as well as happier employees. That’s a win for you, your employees, and your customers.

Are you concerned about the cybersecurity on your employee’s devices? Check out Edge Networks and let us know how we can help.

HIPAA Compliance: What Your Company Needs To Know

The basics you should know before the audit

In the days of the web, data is a valuable thing. When it comes to companies that handle health insurance, personal health information (PHI) is something that should be handled with care, which is why the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) Act was passed. Keeping patient data protected is of high importance, and HIPAA compliance ensures extra steps are taken to protect data. Additionally, you can avoid fines and violations with compliance, which is why all companies should take steps toward becoming HIPAA compliant. 


What is HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is an act that was passed by congress in 1996 and was put in place to help protect patients’ privacy. It’s a federal law created to put standards and procedures in place to keep patient information safe. A patient’s information may not be disclosed under any circumstance unless the patient gives permission, and failing to do so can lead to fines and penalties. 


The Basics of PHI

Protected health information (PHI) is handled by a number of entities. During handling, it’s up to the entity to keep all information safe. HIPAA rules line out PHI and claim that all companies that come into contact with it must take measures to protect it. PHI does not only include past and present information involving patients but also future information. Some common examples of PHI include: 

  • Names
  • Telephone numbers
  • Email Addresses
  • Medical record numbers
  • Social security numbers (SSN)
  • Health plan beneficiary numbers
  • Biometric identifiers
  • License plates or any other vehicle identification number 

HIPAA deals with all of the information mentioned above and much more. HIPAA was put in place to protect this data and limit the disclosure of this data between entities. Because this type of data is passed between entities daily, those handling it must be HIPAA certified to know how to handle it and avoid violations and fines. 


The HIPAA Privacy Rule

All companies that handle protected health information (PHI) are subject to the Privacy Rule. These entities are in constant contact with sensitive information, which is why they are required to keep up with a certain list of safety precautions. Some of these covered entities include: 


Healthcare providers

Healthcare providers deal with a lot of patient information. They may process things like claims, eligibility inquiries, and even referral authorization requests. Because of their involvement with patient information, they have to abide by a set of rules. 


Health plans

Health plans provide an individual with medical, dental, and prescription drug insurance, among other things. Many employers have health plans for their workers, which keep a large amount of patient information on file. Not all health plans are HIPAA compliant, however, as those with fewer than 50 total participants are not so additional measures are needed. 


Healthcare Clearinghouses

Sometimes, entities that process health information pass information to another entity. They must have HIPAA compliance when they do so, as they may process services to a health plan or provider. 


Business associates

Some business associates that work with companies handle patient information. They may partake in data analysis, utilization review, and billing, all of which could have highly sensitive information along with it. 


What is HIPAA Compliance?

HIPAA compliance is an outline that sets standards for the lawful disclosure of patient information. These regulations are put in place to ensure that things are handled safely and securely, keeping the integrity of the patient as the top priority. While there are many businesses that should take steps to manage sensitive information properly, there are two types of organizations that must be HIPAA compliant: covered entities and business associates.


Covered entities

Covered entities are defined as companies that collect, create, or transmit PHI electronically. Because of the dangers that can come in the processing or transferring of patient data, all companies that come into contact with it must have HIPAA compliance and must take steps to ensure that it’s implemented and understood by all employees. Some of these entities include health care providers, health insurance providers, and even healthcare clearinghouses. 


Business Associates

Business Associates are organizations that come into contact with patient data in any way. If they have to come into contact with patient data as part of their service, they must have HIPAA compliance. Because this could include a large number of businesses in all kinds of industries, companies must maintain HIPAA compliance or implement it as soon as possible. Some common Business Associates that need HIPAA compliance include billing companies, third-party consultants, and even EHR platforms. 


A Breakdown of HIPAA Compliance Titles

There are five titles in total, and each section is there to protect a specific area of patients’ health. 


Title I

Title I was put in place to protect health insurance coverage for those who have lost their jobs. It also helps to prevent insurance companies from denying health care coverage for those who have pre-existing conditions. Insurance companies cannot set limits for lifetime coverage. Under HIPAA law, companies and entities that handle healthcare cannot deny those with a pre-existing condition the right to healthcare and cannot use information from their healthcare providers to avoid covering individuals. 


Title II

Title II was put in place to keep insurance companies in check regarding electronic processing. It was put in place to regulate safe electronic access across the board to allow healthcare services to access data easily and electronically. A lot of information is passed between entities in large quantities using different systems and processors. Those dealing with the electronic sharing of data must use a certified HIPAA compliant service and must also ensure that they take steps to keep themselves HIPAA compliant through self-audits and employee training. 


Title III

This title protects the insured from everything tax-related when it comes to medical care. It sets guidelines for pre-tax medical accounts and ensures the safe and fair processing of them all to protect all parties involved. 


Title IV

In this title, insurance companies have regulations on who they can or cannot deny coverage. Those with pre-existing conditions cannot be dropped and cannot be denied coverage based on their current condition. 


Title V

For companies that provide insurance for their employees, this title is there to ensure that all parties act and are treated fairly. This title is also there for those who have lost their citizenship for income tax reasons, allowing them to keep their coverage or apply for new if they need it. 


What Does It Mean to Be in Compliance with HIPAA?

HIPAA compliance is regulated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It’s put in place to ensure that all companies provide their employees with proper insurance and keep everything fair and within the regulations laid out in HIPAA rules. There are a few things that companies must do to be HIPAA compliant, explained by the checklist below.


HIPAA Compliance Checklist (what you need for HIPAA compliance)

HIPAA compliance is a huge deal, one that all companies must strive to reach. Keeping compliant takes a few essential elements, all of which we will point out below. When trying to get your business in the correct position, this is what you should look for:

  • Writing out policies and standards of conduct
  • Providing open opportunities for communication about employee support
  • Monitoring and auditing from within
  • Enforcing all of the standards set out in HIPAA rules
  • Taking action when needed when there is an issue with employees.


What are the key elements of HIPAA compliance?

Companies can develop an effective HIPAA compliance program, one that makes sure to keep things in fair and working order for both company and employee. When companies put together a HIPAA compliance program, they are taking steps to protect themselves from HIPAA breaches and fines. A few ways that they can do that include: 



While a security risk assessment is one that companies typically take care of, it’s not enough to keep them HIPAA compliant. Instead, companies should take steps to conduct annual audits on their own. These audits will help keep things organized and will help companies find holes in their compliance. Doing an annual audit keeps things running smoothly and will show where companies are vulnerable. 


Remediation Plans

Audits are put in place to show weaknesses in a system. When those weaknesses are found, companies need to know what they can do to take care of them and get things back up and running smoothly. This could keep companies away from having to pay for violations. 


Employee Training and Policies

Companies are the ones who have to take the initiative when it comes to HIPAA compliance. That’s why they will do well to develop policies and procedures that keep things in check. On top of that, they need to provide employees with training, helping them take on some of the workloads. Usually, companies try and have annual training to keep all employees up to date on all policies and procedures. 



Keeping a record of all the things you do as a company to stay HIPAA compliant is a great way to avoid violations. Not only does it show organization and initiative, but it also works as a way to remind companies of all they have done. 


Business Associates

Companies must also do what they can to extend their HIPAA compliance to vendors that work with them and share PHI. To keep things running smoothly, companies can initiate Business Associate Agreements, keeping all parts of the business negotiations running smoothly. 


Incident Management

Incidents happen, and they can be a big part of the learning process. It’s recommended to have an incident response place in plan and to keep an incident report showing when incidents occurred, why they happened, and how they can be avoided next time. If data is compromised, companies need to file an incident report, keeping things on track so that they are better prepared if it happens again.


FAQs for G Suite Security

Is G Suite HIPAA Compliant?

When asked about HIPAA compliance, G Suite says that they are compliant and compatible with the framework for protected health information (PHI).

A few requirements must be met to claim HIPAA compliance, including using a paid G Suite version, signing a Business Associate Agreement (BAA), and having G Suite configured correctly to support HIPAA compliance.


Can Gmail be HIPAA compliant?

Gmail does not come automatically HIPAA compliant, as email can in no way account for securely processing and handling sensitive data. However, Gmail can be made HIPAA compliant as long as companies implement security measures to keep sensitive data safely secured.


What is a HIPAA-compliant email?

HIPAA compliant emails are out there, though there are a few things they have to have to be so. A HIPAA compliant email ensures that an email with PHI is delivered safely and securely to the recipient’s mailbox. Currently, no email provider comes with automatic HIPAA compliance, as it’s something that must be implemented after setup.


Is Google Calendar HIPAA compliant?

Yes, Google Calendar is considered HIPAA compliant. That doesn’t mean that companies shouldn’t take extra steps to ensure that it’s safer, implementing better practices and ensuring that it’s used properly. To ensure that both businesses and their employees are using Google Calendars correctly and safely, companies should take steps to train employees and make sure everyone knows the importance of using the system properly.


Are Google Sheets HIPAA compliant?

Google signs the Business Associate Agreement (BAA), which means that Google Sheets is HIPAA compliant. Though it’s considered compliant, companies should still take extra measures to increase security, including adding encryptions, access controls, and ensuring they get on a good auditing schedule to keep things running smoothly.


Free E-Book: A Closer Look at HIPAA

Download this free IT Compliance: HIPAA E-Book to learn more about HIPAA covered entities, violation penalties, and more. Feel free to share this with people in your industry as well!


Download Free HIPAA Compliance E-Book

Are you concerned whether your online data is HIPAA compliant? To find out how your company is performing and isolate weaknesses in your cyber defenses, schedule a call with us or take our free, self-guided IT Security Risk Assessment

The Future of Passwords and Password Management

The Best Password Managers to Keep You Protected

Passwords have been around for a long time as one of the first layers of account protection. Still, many businesses and individuals are not adapting best practices for password creation and management, making their accounts easy to get ahold of. The internet has become a dangerous place, filled with cybercriminals waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. A password vulnerability could lead to an exploit, one where customer and company data are exposed. That’s why it’s crucial to choose a good password management strategy – one that helps both individuals and organizations keep their data, accounts, and online infrastructure safe.


What is Password Management?

Password management is a set of practices meant to organize, store, and manage passwords. This is a huge necessity for large companies, who must keep the possibility for a password to lead to an exploit low. With the right kind of management plan, updates are automatic and no one can use the same password twice.

Managing passwords alone can be difficult, but companies with lots of employees can be more protected with the help of a password management system.


Password Breaches: How Often Do They Happen?

According to the 2019 Breach Alarm, 1 million passwords are stolen every week. One of the most common means of execution is Password Dumper, a kind of malware that randomly guesses hundreds to thousands of passwords in just a matter of seconds, attempting to find the correct one.

The Ponemon Institute Cost of Data Breach Study estimates that the average cost of a data breach is $3.86 million, something that could throw a company out of business. Protecting passwords is essential, as it is a pretty juicy target for cybercriminals.


How Easy Is It to Crack a Password?

A lot of web surfers out there think that it’s fairly complicated to crack a password. However, that’s not entirely true. As a matter of fact, the shorter your password is, the easier it is to crack, taking an experienced hacker little to no time at all. For instance, let’s take a password with five characters.

If you think about the most common passwords, you could come up with 100 different combinations per character. This means that a password with just five characters could have up to 10 billion combinations. It sounds like it would take a long time to crack, right? Wrong. A hacker with the right software and expertise could get into a password like this in less than a minute.

The longer your password, the less chance that hackers have to crack it, or should we say, the more trouble they will have. Some ways that you can decrease the chances of a hacker simply guessing or taking multiple guesses are to:

  • Capitalize random letters
  • Add numbers
  • Put special symbols around one word or multiple words
  • Jumble it up after you create it
  • Use a password manager that offers strong password suggestions 

As you can see, there are many ways to get hacked, so taking care of your passwords is key to keeping them away from hackers. One way to do that is with password managers. Below, we have 5 of today’s popular password management programs to check out, along with the key features that make them shine above others.


Top 5 Password Management Programs for 2021

1. Dashlane

When it comes to doing everything that a password manager should do, Dashlane has it figured out with basic to advanced features that spot weaknesses in passwords and even highlight ones that have been compromised.

They offer an app that sits on your desktop where you can take a look at stats and get everything you need to create a better password than ever before and keep them safe. The only downside is that most of their high-tech features come with a price tag, and the more protection you need, the more it’s going to cost you.

Pros 👍

  • Compatible with all systems, including macOS, Windows, and Android
  • Free versions with basic password management needs
  • Comes with optional VPN protection
  • Keeps an eye out for compromised passwords

Cons 👎

  • Some of the options come with a high price tag
  • Some say it tends to have a hard time with multiple logins
  • Storage is not upgradable

Star Quality ⭐️

Features of all kinds with built-in security at every point. No matter if you’re looking for solo protection or something for the whole squad, Dashlane has something to offer.


2. 1Password

With 1password, users will have protection across all devices, no matter how many there are. It has a way of organizing passwords and implementing a two-factor authentication that helps to keep passwords dually protected. This is a great and affordable option that works to keep all passwords safe, though it lacks some expert features that would take it to the next level.

Pros 👍

  • Compatible with all systems
  • Has great password organization, even for multiple people
  • It’s easy to use
  • Works as a two-factor authentication

Cons 👎

  • Some say it is limited compared to other password managers
  • Doesn’t have features for password inheritance

Star Quality ⭐️

This password manager is easy to use and has a killer feature that syncs all passwords across all devices. It doesn’t have many bells and whistles, but it does get the job done, and then some.


3. OneLogin

For an affordable option that won’t leave you empty-handed, this app has it all. Compared to the competition, you can find advanced features that help you manage your passwords, no matter how long your list is. Plus, enjoy a multiple-factor login, something that helps to secure your passwords better than ever before.

Pros 👍

  • Comes with HR-style services
  • Perfect for the management of many passwords
  • Tons of features and support if needed

Cons 👎

  • Pricing can get high
  • The highest-priced option is pretty limited compared to the competition 

Star Quality ⭐️

OneLogin has an HR quality password management platform that makes it one of the best around. With tons of options to keep your passwords safe and out of virtual harm’s way, this is a good choice for solid protection.


4. Chrome Password Manager

Google’s version of a password manager is everything you’d expect it to be. Advanced features and super fun interface with the solid protection you need.

Pros 👍

  • It’s free!
  • Super simple setup
  • Allows for smooth transition between multiple log-ins for the same site
  • Optional capture and auto-fill for passwords
  • Compatible with all systems

Cons 👎

  • Not a lot of extra features like some of the others
  • No multiple or two-factor authentications
  • Cannot be used offline, so if something happens, you might need to let your memory kick in

Star Quality ⭐️

Chrome Password Manager is free. That’s not its only star quality, though, coming with lots of features that are meant to keep your passwords secure and even help to keep them far from landing in the wrong hands.


5. Apple Keychain

Everyone knows that Apple usually doesn’t disappoint when it comes to its newly released products and software. Like all the rest, Apple Keychain is tearing up the competition, coming with many advanced features. When it comes to password management, though they are advanced, they are still super simple to use, something that most users boast about when they first use this system. 

Pros 👍

  • Super simple to use
  • Has an auto-fill feature that doesn’t disappoint
  • Has a two-factor feature to keep your passwords safe

Cons 👎

  • Only works with Apple devices
  • Password auditing system is weak when put head-to-head with the competition
  • Cannot be used if you’re offline, needs a solid Wi-Fi connection

Star Quality ⭐️

Apple’s name is a good one. It is known for some of the best software that rises above the competition. There is not only space here for passwords but also for other things that need protection like credit card numbers and shipping addresses too.


Risks of Weak Systems

It’s no longer just your account and personal information on a social site you have to worry about. These days, hackers could get ahold of your banking information and even change the information or corrupt it so  you can no longer get access to it. If you have a weak password, you could be at risk for any of the following attacks.

  • Spoofing – Using a database of stolen passwords
  • Sniffing – Using software like key loggers
  • Brute Force – Trying out various combinations

None of these are fun, especially when it comes to your data, so keep it safe and create a solid password that hackers will have a hard time accessing.


Password Management Best Practices

When it comes to keeping passwords out of the wrong hands, there are a few things that individuals and businesses should adapt. Hackers know a thing or two about getting ahold of passwords and look for weak authentications and weak passwords wherever they can find them. When setting up your password, be sure to include the following best practices:


1. Strong Passwords

As a rule of thumb, you should aim for a password that has a good length and features a mix of numbers, upper and lowercase letters, and special characters. Some websites will require you to use each of these in your password, which helps you create a more secure password. Avoid adding any information that’s too easy to guess, like your name, date of birth, or favorite color.


2. Get and Keep a Reset Schedule

Keeping the same password for long periods is in itself a vulnerability. Over time, hackers can hone in on an account and use software to try and guess all kinds of passwords. That’s why you should reset your password regularly, keeping it from being guessed too easily.

Cybersecurity experts recommend you change your password once every 30-90 days, or less if you’re an avid surfer. The more you’re on the web, the more you should change up your passwords, as someone could be watching.


3. Use Two or More Authentications

You’ve probably heard of two-factor authentication, but if you haven’t, it’s the pop-up that requires you to enter a code sent to your phone before you can log in. The account checks that it’s you logging in by making sure you have an alternate device that matches. Though often feeling inconvenient and eliciting eye rolls, this is a great way to keep hackers away and helps to prevent your password from getting stolen.


4. Ditch the Sharing

Sometimes, we share our passwords with our friends, coworkers, or our parents. Data in motion is very sensitive on the web, especially if you’re not taking care to secure it before you send it out. Don’t share your passwords over the web unless it’s absolutely necessary, keeping them protected from advanced hackers. If you need to share a password for some reason, consider using a site like Privnote to help protect the data in motion. Privnote allows you to type sensitive information onto a virtual sticky note and then provides you with a link to send to a recipient. Once that link is opened, the note self-destructs.


5. Keep Storage on Lockdown

If you’re dealing with many passwords, you should store them in one place and take steps to keep that place secure. Limit access and never share where you’re keeping all your passwords.


6. Keep up to Date

Last but not least, you and your company should do what’s necessary to keep up to date with all the latest best practices out there. Those trying to prevent attacks are hard at work, looking for better ways to manage passwords and increase their online security.

Click here to download our free Passwords Best Practices E-Book!


Keep Your Passwords Protected and Manage them Correctly

The web is a dangerous place, especially if you’re not careful. To keep your accounts and devices safe, you need to create solid passwords and change them often, reducing the chance that a hacker could come in and steal them from you.

Using a password manager and following suggested password-creating tips, you could have a solid password that’s hard to get into, keeping your accounts and sensitive data safe. Choosing a top-rated password manager will help you keep on top of managing your passwords and help you keep them secure. When online, remember to protect your accounts and information and keep them far out of the wrong hands.

Are you concerned about the cybersecurity of your business? Edge Networks can help! Take our free, self-guided IT Security Risk Assessment, or contact us today for a free, 30-minute consultation.

The Five Critical Components Your Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan Must Have

What Is a Cyber Incident Response Plan?

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) , a government agency that supports and promotes the use of technology to solve human problems, a cyber incident response plan consists of “the documentation of a predetermined set of instructions or procedures to detect, respond to, and limit consequences of malicious attacks against an organization’s systems.”  More simply put, creating a cyber incident response plan means formalizing the exact steps you’ll take as soon as you discover that a cyber incident has taken place.

Having a robust cyber incident response plan in place can save your business time and money, and it can help preserve your business’s reputation if you’re victimized by cybercriminals. Advance planning can boost your organization’s cyber resilience, and increase your peace of mind in the face of today’s most formidable threats.

How can you create the cyber incident response plan that’s right for your business’s size and your IT infrastructure’s degree of complexity? Your plan doesn’t have to be elaborate; it just has to be solidly built so you’ll know what to do in a time of crisis.


Cyberattacks can happen to anyone. Be prepared by creating a solid Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan.

No matter whether your business is large or small, no matter what industry you’re in, or where your offices are located, cybercrime poses grave risks to your financial well-being today, and your chances of survival and healthy growth in the years to come. Global losses caused by cyberattacks are predicted to exceed $6 trillion by 2021, putting more money in criminals’ pockets than the trade of all major illegal drugs combined.

Leaders of small and medium-sized businesses may be tempted to believe that they face fewer risks from cybercrime than large enterprises because their profiles—and revenues—are lower, but the latest research shows that they are in fact more likely to be targeted for attack. According to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, nearly half of all breach victims were categorized as small businesses. The Better Business Bureau reports that as many as 20 percent of smaller organizations will fall victim to cyberattacks in any given year, with average losses totaling nearly $80,000 per incident.

To help you get prepared, we have created a FREE Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan template that you can implement in to your business, which you can find at the end of this post.

Given these nerve-wracking statistics, which remind us that cyberattacks aren’t just possible but are almost inevitable, it’s important to make a plan. Drawing up a comprehensive risk assessment, laying out the specific steps you’ll take in the moment of crisis, and delineating key responsibilities can help you feel more prepared, but it’ll also enable a speedier response. And the faster you can contain the incident and manage its consequences, the lower your overall costs are likely to be.


The Five Essential Ingredients

#1: Formalize and Document the Policies and Procedures

In case of disaster, you can’t just wing it. Every aspect of your cyber incident response plan should be concrete, written, and well-tested. Though you’ll want to include detailed steps and procedures to follow, you’ll also want to spell them out simply.

Keep in mind that stakeholders across the entire organization may have roles to play in identifying, containing, and responding to the incident, even those whose typical job responsibilities don’t have anything to do with IT, and that incident response team members are likely to be under a great deal of stress. Documentation should be clear, brief, and very specific, so that steps are easy to follow, even when the pressure is on.


#2: Build a Rock-Solid Team

You’ll want to establish a computer security incident response team (CISRT) within your organization.

Team members will be responsible for technical incident response procedures (identifying that an incident has occurred, analyzing logs to figure out exactly what happened, repairing systems, and removing the means by which the attack was accomplished) as well as internal and external communications (exchanging information with employees, law enforcement, affected customers, and senior management, for instance), so you’ll want to include IT security staff and draw on resources in other departments as well.

Some team members should be skilled in marketing/public relations, human resource management, and providing legal counsel. A managed service provider can supplement your in-house expertise if your technical security team isn’t large enough to meet your incident response needs.


#3: Establish Communications Guidelines

One team member should be charged with the responsibility for authorizing when and how details about the incident are to be disclosed. It’s also a good idea to have legal counsel review any notification letters or other disclosures before they’re made public. Have a plan in place for how you’ll accomplish this, as well as a set of guidelines for what you’ll say.

Be sure you have recorded the contact information for anyone you might need to communicate in a place that’s separate from any systems that might be affected by a breach. This could include contacts at regulatory bodies whose requirements you must meet, as well as all members—both internal and external—of your incident response team.


#4: Outline Concrete Technical Steps

From incident discovery and classification to containment and recovery, you’ll need a playbook detailing specific steps within incident response protocols that you expect your security team members to follow.

You’ll want to collect all relevant log data so that it can be audited, and review all alerts generated by the security tools in your network environment. You’ll also need to elaborate the testing and validation procedures you’ll rely on after forensic analysis is complete to certify that all systems have been restored to secure operational status.


#5: Practice Makes Perfect

Technologies are constantly changing, as are attackers’ strategies and techniques. At a bare minimum, your team should revisit your cyber incident response plan once a year. Update it to reflect your current IT environment, the current threat landscape, and your current risk profile. Any incidents that do take place should be examined at length. Afterwards, make technology updates or policy changes to safeguard against similar attacks in the future.

It’s also a good idea to conduct scenario-based testing exercises to make sure that your incident response plan can be relied on in times of need. These can be simple or elaborate, and offer team members the opportunity to evaluate—and improve—their preparedness without facing an actual incident or attack.

Developing a cyber incident response plan doesn’t have to be complicated. Having one can make a dramatic difference in your level of preparedness, your overall vulnerability, and your peace of mind. A managed IT service provider with cybersecurity-specific experience will have a great deal of practical knowledge in cyber incident response procedures, and can guide you in building the very best plan to meet your business’s needs, from the ground up.


Download Your Free Incident Response Plan

Don’t Be the Next Company Sending Out a Notice of Data Breach Letter

Don’t Be the Next Company Sending Out a Notice of Data Breach Letter

Why do so many companies fail to take data security seriously? From what we have seen, companies fail to take data cybersecurity seriously enough for the following reasons:


  • They believe that ensuring compliance with a security framework, such as FISMA or NIST, is enough.
  • They haven’t experienced a security breach in the past, so they don’t believe they’ll deal with a security breach in the future.
  • They don’t want to deal with the hassle and/or don’t have the knowledge to find and implement the right security solutions.


Does anything listed above sound familiar? Most businesses are surprised when reality strikes them and they must write their clients, consumers or patients a letter with the subject line: Notice of Data Breach.

To help you get prepared for if disaster strikes, we have created a FREE Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan template that you can implement in to your business, which you can find at the end of this post.  


Yet another example of a company’s failure to take preventive measures against computer security breaches

Today that “Notice of Data Security Incident” letter came to me from The Oregon Clinic , and alarms went off in my head. For the past 2 ½ weeks, I have lived, breathed and dreamt about cybersecurity and what the implications are to a business who does not take the steps necessary to prevent these “incidents” from occurring in the first place. And now I am seeing it not only as it pertains to The Oregon Clinic, but to their patients.

Their letter starts like this: “I am writing to inform you of a data security incident that may have involved your personal information. At The Oregon Clinic, we take the privacy and security of your information very seriously. This is why I am contacting you, offering you identity monitoring services, and informing you about steps that can be taken to protect your personal information.”


Person doing paperwork for notice of data breach

It goes on to outline the when, what, and how they plan to resolve this “incident”.

  1. On March 9, 2018, The Oregon Clinic learned that an unauthorized third-party accessed an email account.
  2. The Oregon Clinic immediately disabled the account and began an investigation to determine what had occurred and whether protected health information (PHI) may have been affected.
  3. Cybersecurity experts were engaged, including a digital forensics firm, to determine the nature and extent of the incident.
  4. On April 19, 2018, the investigation determined that PHI may have been affected. This information included patient’s name, date of birth, and certain medical information (that may include medical record numbers, diagnosis information, medical condition, diagnostic tests performed, prescription information and/or health insurance information).
  5. They determined that the incident was restricted to one email account and did not affect any other aspect of The Oregon Clinic’s network.
  6. In addition to their investigation, they are offering additional steps patients can take to protect personal information. This is an identity monitoring service for 12 months at no cost through Experian.
  7. And, lastly, they give recommendations to protect your personal information, (which is a long and arduous task as anyone that has had their personal information/identity put at risk knows). 


In an article by Scot Gudger, CEO at The Oregon Clinic, he issues the following statement to Health Data Management:

“We are very sorry this happened and apologize to the patients who have been affected by this incident. We value our patients and will continue to work closely with cybersecurity experts to remediate this situation, and, most importantly, are taking steps to help prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.”


This mindset of “Oh we’re sorry, and NOW we will take steps to prevent this” is becoming less and less acceptable in a world where hackers are always looking for that one company with an out of date AV or Firewall, or no IDS/IPS, or the plain and simple mindset of “it won’t happen to us”.

Don’t let yourself become another number in the world of cyber-attack statistics. Your staff and customers deserve the best from you. 

If you’re looking to be more proactive in your cybersecurity incident response plan, we’ve created an outline of five critical components yours should have. Read more about it below.

If you’re unsure of whether or not your network is secure, take our free, self-guided IT Security Risk Assessment, or contact us today for a free, 30-minute consultation.


Download a Free Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan Template