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October 23, 2015

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Understanding the Benefits of Unified Threat Management

Today’s threat environment is forcing organizations to rethink their security tools. Traditional firewalls no longer provide adequate protection at the network perimeter. They are being replaced by next-generation firewalls, which use deep packet inspection, application-level policies and other features to detect and block modern security threats.


These advanced capabilities have made security more effective – and more complicated. That’s why many smaller organizations are looking for a simpler way to manage the security infrastructure.


Unified threat management (UTM) was introduced as a new approach to security management that integrates various security technologies. Typical UTM solutions include a firewall, gateway security, intrusion detection and prevention, anti-malware software, content filtering, and other security features. This functionality is integrated into one solution, making it easier to install, update and maintain than traditional security tools.


In addition, the integration of multiple security engines makes it possible to detect blended threats that employ a combination of attacks — such as a mix of viruses, worms, Trojans and denial-of-service attacks — crafted to circumvent a single line of defense. With UTM, the integrated security engines work together, enabling the system to inspect real-time traffic from multiple vantage points.


For example, a seemingly harmless e-mail that might pass through any antivirus system could contain an HTML-based attachment that ultimately points to a Trojan. Because a UTM solution can use a combination of antispam, antivirus and other security engines, it can detect such blended threats more readily.


Single-console management makes it easier for administrators to enforce detailed security policies throughout the organization, and eliminates the need to investigate multiple alerts generated by various systems for the same event. Automatic security updates protect against emerging and evolving threats without administrator intervention.


In addition to reducing management complexity, UTM solutions can be configured to meet regulatory compliance standards. The more complex the infrastructure, the more complex those configurations will be. However, configuring a single UTM appliance is simpler than separately configuring several security tools.


When selecting a UTM solution, there are a number of things to consider:


  • What security functionality do you have in place and what is missing? Do you simply want to supplement your existing environment or replace individual solutions with an all-in-one product? Be sure that the UTM appliance has all the features and functionality you need.
  • How many users and devices do you need to support today, and what is your anticipated growth over the next two years? Scalable UTM appliances cost more but may be worth it for growing organizations.
  • How much bandwidth will you need? To answer this question, you will need to collect information on bandwidth usage, email traffic, and any spikes in activity. This will help you select the right UTM solution and also identify any network bottlenecks that may need to be addressed.
  • Are you looking at appliances from well-known manufacturers? Industry leaders typically offer more robust products and better support. They also tend to stay abreast of emerging threats and update their solutions accordingly.


Note that the industry lacks consistent nomenclature with regard to UTM. Some vendors call UTM products “security appliances” while others refer to them as next-gen firewalls. ICG can provide you with objective advice on security solutions and help you implement the right tools to protect your business.



October 15, 2015

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ICG phishing

How to Avoid Being Duped by a Phishing Attack

The Q2 2015 Cyber Threat Report from cybersecurity firm CYREN reveals that phishing attacks increased 38 percent overall during second quarter. Phishing is a technique used by criminals to bait you into sharing sensitive corporate or personal information. Usernames and passwords, financial account information, social security numbers and basic contact information are the most common targets of phishing attacks. Consumers with PayPal, Apple and Gmail accounts are frequent victims of phishing.


Phishers mimic the logos and websites of legitimate organizations, and pose as friends, business partners, clients, bank officials or IT staff. They hook their targets by fooling people into clicking malicious links or opening attachments that automatically engage and activate viruses and malware. Then, these criminals can use these compromised accounts to spread the misery to others.


Common phishing scams include:


  • Phony requests to verify bank account or billing information
  • Phony alerts of stolen credit cards or overdue payments
  • Phony e-cards
  • Phony job listings
  • Phony prize-winning notifications
  • Phony charities or political campaigns requesting donations


For its Q2 2015 report, CYREN looked beyond these types of attacks to examine phishing campaigns that seek intelligence or financial gain from businesses. The security analysts grouped these sophisticated attacks into two categories:


  • Indirect Phishing Attacks. Cybercriminals use a series of phishing attacks to gain the organizational information needed for a broader phishing campaign. For example, an employee using a personal Apple device might be tricked into revealing iTunes credentials, which would give the attacker access to the contact information of other staff. Or by successfully phishing an employee using cloud-based company email (such as Office 365 or branded Gmail accounts), an attacker would gain access to a platform for sending malicious emails that appear safe.
  • Direct Phishing Attacks. Cybercriminals use phishing attacks to gain login credentials for actual business systems such as Microsoft Outlook. Because these credentials are frequently used for domain logins as well as email access, this could enable the attacker to access far more than just email. Credentials for cloud-based services such as Dropbox or Salesforce can also provide an attacker with direct access to company data.

There are simple ways to protect yourself and your business:


  • Never email personal or financial data. Financial institutions and government agencies will never request this information by email.
  • Don’t click links or open attachments from unknown or suspicious senders, and don’t click suspicious links from anyone. Hover over the link to determine exactly where it will take you, or find a phone number directly from the source, not from the email, and verify the contents of the email.
  • Educate employees about what types of emails are dangerous.
  • Make sure all security software is automatically updated.
  • Use centralized management tools for monitoring email threats.


Phishing attacks are reaching epidemic proportions. Make sure your security systems are working properly and your staff is using common sense and extra caution when checking email.

October 7, 2015

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Browsing for Browsers: How to Make the Right Choice

With all of the talk about new technology, new mobile devices and applications, and new models for designing and managing data centers, it can be easy to overlook very basic questions. What web browser are you using? What browser should you be using? Do you even know what a browser is?


Don’t laugh. Ask 10 people what a web browser is and you’ll probably get a handful of entertaining answers.


A web browser is software that connects to the Internet and enables you to access and view web pages and files. The first web browser, WorldWideWeb from Nexus, was released 25 years ago. Other early browsers include Mosaic, Netscape Navigator, and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE), which recently celebrated its 20th birthday with a fairly substantial drop in market share.


According to Net Applications, 51.6 percent of Internet users worldwide used IE for desktop browsing in September 2015, down 7.5 percent from December 2014. Google Chrome has reached an all-time high in browser market share at 29.9 percent, while the 11.5 percent share for Mozilla’s Firefox represents its lowest number in nine years. Apple’s Safari checks in at 5.08 percent.


In the workplace, the IT manager will typically choose a web browser based upon certain criteria and install it on every company-issued device. They’ll consider the browser’s performance, or how quickly it can open a web page. Other factors to consider include compatibility with critical business applications, design and customization options, and employee preferences.


Due to IE’s somewhat checkered history caused by security issues and unnecessary add-ons, Microsoft is replacing it with Microsoft Edge in Windows 10. Edge is said to be faster, more secure and more modern-looking than IE. While Edge is certainly a more stripped-down browser with fewer features than IE, it does have newer features that have raised eyebrows.


Web Note is a new tool that lets you “write” on websites using a virtual pen or highlighter. You can then add a personal note, sign your name, and share it with a coworker. No other browser offers this functionality. Edge also enables you to create a Reading List so you can save web pages for later reading. The Reading List includes a headline and photo for each item and appears above bookmarks and favorites.


However, Edge has yet to support extensions that let you add services and features to a web browser. Extensions are supported by Chrome, Firefox and Safari. Even more shocking is that Edge’s page load times are a full second longer than its predecessor, although IE is faster than its top competitors. The slow speed is due in part to more advanced security features, and Microsoft claims that Edge will eventually be faster than IE could ever be.


Each browser has its pros and cons. Chrome is known for speed and security, and the options to browse privately and customize the dashboard. Firefox is known for the simplicity of its user interface and the ability to learn preferences and suggest relevant content. Opera, a relatively new browser, is known for its speed and bandwidth efficiency. Safari is known for delivering the best possible experience for Mac users. It’s too early to make a call on Microsoft Edge, which is only available on Windows 10 and is likely to see dramatic improvements in the next few months.


As elementary as web browsers may seem in the grand scheme of things, it’s important to choose a browser that is best suited for certain use cases within your organization. Let ICG help you determine what exactly you need from your browser and choose options that help your employees do their jobs better.