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Text overlay on blue background reads BYOD Bring Your Own Device

When spare bedrooms worldwide transformed into home offices in 2020, our physical workspaces finally caught up to our data habits. The line between professional and personal blurred years ago, thanks to laptop computers and smartphones that made company data accessible anywhere. And long after this work approach has gone mainstream (78% of companies report BYOD activities), many companies continue to limp along with half-baked Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies.

Connecting personal devices to your IT infrastructure creates a new world of security exposure and legal questions. So getting your BYOD policy right is critical to protecting your data—and potentially avoiding lawsuits from inadvertently violating an employees’ civil rights. In this post, we’ll cover key concepts that should guide every organization’s BYOD policy.

Make Sure you Have a Written Policy

Despite widespread BYOD usage, only 39% of companies report having a formal BYOD policy. Start developing your policy by conducting an accurate inventory of all hardware and software assets in your environment. Without a survey, you probably don’t even know what’s connecting to your network. Then establish official policies for handling it all properly. (This blog provides advice on the first steps in creating an effective mobile device management policy.)

Define the Devices Covered by the BYOD Policy

Personal smartphones and tablets are the obvious subject in BYOD. But your policy should specify which ones are allowable, including brand, model and operating system version. Some organizations set up a DMZ (demilitarized zone) that devices must pass through before getting access to the network. This review process can flag devices with outdated operating systems, etc. and require patching prior to connecting to the network.

And at some companies, an employee logging onto the company VPN through their home computer must agree to let the company’s IT team manage the device. That could include wiping data off the device if it gets compromised. Does your policy specifically address these situations?

Balance Security With Usability

Always remember the classic information security triad of confidentiality, integrity and availability. Every policy should include basics like multifactor authentication (MFA) and strong password requirements, but if your BYOD policies are overly restrictive or hard to use, you’ll frustrate users on the availability front and motivate them to look for workarounds. So consider the human factor as you establish your policies. Determine whether you have different groups of users that could require different levels of security. A mobile e-mail user probably doesn’t require the kind of heavy-handed security necessary for someone who regularly accesses sensitive company information remotely.

Make BYOD More Than Just an IT Issue

Recognize that your policy has far-reaching HR and legal ramifications and get stakeholders from those areas involved in writing the policies. Most IT teams working in isolation probably won’t take all the relevant factors into consideration.

For example, if a manager asks the IT team to go hunting on a device for unapproved activities or if the team decides to wipe a device remotely without solid reasons, they may trigger a lawsuit. All data investigations and strong actions involving a personal device should require the approval of at least a second manager, or even a member of the executive team.

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Specify the Support You Will Offer

Carve out some boundaries for what your call center can help with when it comes to personal devices. As with anything in BYOD, the lines get fuzzy between troubleshooting that’s limited to the company-focused aspects of a device and the device’s general operation. If a personal app is interfering with a company-focused operation on the phone, how deeply do you expect your help desk team to wade into the problem? If an employee takes their device to the local cellular store for tech support, do you have systems in place to protect the data that those technicians could potentially access?

Describe Banned Apps and Usages

Some companies outlaw certain apps on personal devices on the grounds that the apps compromise the overall security of the device and data it accesses. (TikTok has been at the center of many of these reviews.) Some company policies state that BYOD devices should never be connected to public WiFi networks. Will you take those stances? How do you plan to enforce them?

In some cases, you may decide that certain company information is simply too sensitive to allow any access from a personal device.

Clearly Communicate the Policy to Employees

Once your policy is ready, make sure that your HR onboarding process includes a walk-through of a clearly worded, written copy of your BYOD policy. For example, your organization may want to reserve the right to remote wipe a personal device if it gets lost or stolen and has a company e-mail account attached to it. Employees need to understand that possibility and acknowledge that they may lose all their personal data if they agree to abide by the BYOD policy.

Most BYOD policy issues come from surprising employees by looking at data on their personal device, threatening to wipe the device’s data if it’s compromised, etc. So it’s critical to build clear discussion of the BYOD policy into your HR process before employees connect their personal device to your systems. One of the best ways to head off lawsuits over civil rights violations is to prove that you require all employees to sign a document stating that they have read and accepted the BYOD policy.

Have a Plan for Removing Access

When an employee leaves your organization, the process for a company-owned device is straightforward: Turn your devices into HR, along with your ID badge and company credit card. But if an employee has been using their own phone, how do you ensure that you’ve shut down their access to your data? Your policy should include a clear deprovisioning process.

Keep Revising Your Policy

Don’t assume a BYOD policy is set in stone. Your policy should evolve over time as your company evolves and adjusts its IT practices and as available technology changes.

If you need help writing a BYOD policy that makes sense for your organization, contact Pratum today.

E-mail phishing victim sitting at computer.

This is the true e-mail phishing story of a recent Pratum case. While the hacker got away with a partial victory this time, the case study can help you understand and prevent similar cyber attacks.

On a recent Friday afternoon (because isn’t it always?) Pratum’s phone rang with a desperate-sounding professional services provider on the other end. “I think one of my clients just sent $400,000 to a hackers’ account. Can you help? ”It turns out they had sent the money. And we could help. And to help others learn from the very bad day experienced by one Accounts Payable employee (let’s call him Finance Guy) and his company (let’s call it Acme Corp), we’re providing a behind-the-scenes look at this phishing attack. Read on to see how the hacker got away with a small fortune for nearly a week—and how good incident response and digital forensics work got most of it back.

Lurking in the Network

Like most hackers, this one didn’t give himself away by grabbing the loot as soon as he got into the victim’s system. He slipped into an e-mail account at the victim company via a phishing attack, tricking Finance Guy into divulging his login credentials. (The hacker probably targeted Finance Guy specifically, knowing from his job title and LinkedIn profile that he had the ability to move money.)

After gaining access, the hacker spent several weeks monitoring Finance Guy’s e-mail messages to get a sense of his typical communication patterns and normal workflows.

Springing the Trap

After a few weeks, the hacker spotted their opportunity: an e-mail thread in which Finance Guy was discussing a payment of nearly $400,000 with a vendor. This information was time-sensitive, and the hacker understood that his window of opportunity was fleeting.

Screenshot of Original Transaction Notification

The hacker purchased a web domain that, if given only a quick glance, looked just like the vendor’s actual domain. Then the hacker created an e-mail address that closely matched the vendor’s, like this:

Email Address Spoof Example

The hacker copied the real wire transfer e-mail thread out of Finance Guy’s e-mail account. Switching to the spoofed e-mail account, the hacker pasted the e-mail thread into a new e-mail and matched the subject line. The hacker sent the e-mail to the victim explaining that the previously shared bank account couldn’t receive payment due to an audit. The hacker helpfully offered a new bank account that could accept the payment.

Spoof Email Address Example

So Finance Guy unknowingly wired $400,000 to the hacker’s account.

The transfer was made on a Tuesday. And like all criminals that get caught, the hacker got greedy and decided to try for another payout. In the next couple of days, the hacker e-mailed Finance Guy(who still didn’t know he had been duped) to say that the original transfer didn’t work, and that Finance Guy needed to send the $400,000 to this “updated routing and account number.”

After seeing the third account number come through, Finance Guy became alarmed and called the vendor who was originally supposed to receive the transfer. The vendor, who hadn’t received any payment yet, knew nothing about the routing and account number changes. That’s when Acme’s team realized they had a big problem and called one of their financial service providers, who then called Pratum.

Stopping the Damage

Pratum’s incident response team jumped into action. They immediately instructed the company to disable the compromised e-mail account and have the employee change all passwords. Examination of the e-mail chain discovered the spoofed e-mail address, and review of the e-mail logs revealed that the compromised e-mail account had logged in from Arizona. That’s a problem since Finance Guy works in Iowa.

Pratum then assisted Acme with enabling multifactor authentication on all company e-mail accounts to prevent this type of incident in the future.

By working with law enforcement and the hackers’ bank, Acme recovered $320,000 of the $400,000 transferred to the hackers’ account.

What You Can Do to Stop This

Several cybersecurity best practices could have saved Acme the $80,000 that couldn’t be recovered, the cost of a digital forensics investigation and the notable stress of thinking they had lost $400,000. To prevent this kind of attack, Pratum recommends:

  • Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) – MFA could have prevented this entire incident, even if the hacker intercepted the victim’s e-mail login credentials. Without the second factor, the hacker couldn’t have gotten into the account, and the MFA prompt would have alerted the victim that someone was trying to access their account. They could have then immediately changed their e-mail account password.
  • Employee training – This hacker was clever. The fraudulent e-mail address was extremely similar to the actual one. But an employee trained throughout the year on how to spot phishing e-mails probably would have checked the web address more carefully before clicking it.
  • Procedures to avoid social engineering – When making a significant transaction, best practice is to pick up the phone and call the party you’re working with. That’s the old-school version of multifactor authentication: An e-mail backed up by a phone call.
  • Managed XDR service – Managed Extended Detection and Response (XDR) tracks every activity in your system (including endpoints and cloud presence) and uses sophisticated machine learning, AI and rulebooks written by human analysts to detect threatening patterns. In this case, XDR almost certainly would have noticed anomalous behavior by whatever login credentials the hacker had compromised (including logging in from a different state). The system could have locked the account shortly after the hacker got in rather than giving the hacker weeks to conduct surveillance and hatch a scheme.

To help ensure your company doesn’t fall for this kind of phishing attack (or to get your response team in place for the day it does), contact Pratum today.

Screenshot of StopRansomware website

A new federal ransomware website gives one-stop access to a wide variety of government resources for fighting the ransomware wave pummeling America in the summer of 2021. Even small organizations should take time to understand their ransomware risks. Big attacks get the headlines, but 75% of all ransomware attacks strike small businesses, and the government knows it can’t fight this battle without the private sector doing its part. So the feds gathered a long list of resources into a new site called StopRansomware.gov. In this article, we summarize how the site arms you with information for understanding, reporting and combatting ransomware.

The "One-Stop Ransomware Resource"

This site offers three main sections:

  • Basic ransomware information
  • Resources to report and respond to actual attacks
  • Guidelines to reduce the risk of falling to ransomware

The site’s core message is that businesses have to take cybersecurity into their own hands. The government can rattle cyber sabers with Russia all day, but the best defense is each organization following fundamental cyber hygiene best practices. In June, the Biden administration told businesses just that in an open letter. The StopRansomware.gov site’s resources support the letter’s call for businesses to step up to protect both the nation and their own economic interests. The letter stated, “The most important takeaway from the recent spate of ransomware attacks on U.S., Irish, German and other organizations around the world is that companies that view ransomware as a threat to their core business operations rather than a simple risk of data theft will react and recover more effectively.”

Throughout the site, you’ll find information from and links to multiple agencies including:

  • The FBI
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • The Secret Service
  • CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency)
  • NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology)
Reporting Ransomware Screenshot

What’s On StopRansomware.gov

As you look through the site’s resources, you’ll find most of the site’s recommendations very familiar If you pay attention to basic cybersecurity hygiene. But the reality is that most of these best practices will still be news to many organizational leaders who have gotten away so far with assuming that ransomware won’t come looking for them.

Key Messages for Ransomware Attacks

The site’s resource section includes a wide variety of slide shows, videos, articles, etc. that highlight essential steps that can massively reduce an organization’s ransomware risk. Several guides provide insights on the risks for specific industries, including K-12 education and healthcare. You’ll also find links to the government’s Sector Risk Management Agencies, which focus on guidance for 16 specific critical infrastructure sectors.

The site provides incident response resources for companies facing an actual attack, including steps to follow during the first hours of an attack. Links let you report the attack to a variety of agencies, with the promise that reporting to any one of them will cascade the message to all other appropriate agencies.

CISA and FBI Alerts Screenshot

One of the best pages to bookmark is the alerts section that provides links to official update feeds from CISA and the FBI. Some of the advisories include papers for responding to specific situations, such as best practices for preventing business disruption from the Darkside ransomware that hit Colonial Pipeline earlier this year.

While you’re in the Alerts section, pay attention to the advisory about the potential sanctions you may face if you pay a ransom. Your decision about whether to pay should factor in potential violations of national security laws.

Other Government Ransomware Moves

Along with the new website, the government has been rolling out multiple other ransomware-related actions in recent weeks. Here’s a recap:

State Department offers $10 million reward – Anyone willing to share information about foreign hackers targeting critical U.S. infrastructure could see a big payoff. The U.S. State Department launched the big bounty, which is explained in detail at the Rewards for Justice site.

Rewards for Justice

Biden issues executive order on cybersecurity – On May 12, President Biden issued an executive order on improving national cybersecurity. Key provisions of the order include facilitating more breach reporting by IT providers, mandating full use of security tools such as multifactor authentication on federal systems, requiring better software security in the government supply chain and creating a review board to examine hacking incidents.

REvil goes AWOL – We don’t know what role the government played in the July shutdown of the famed hacking group known as REvil. On July 13, the organization’s online footprint suddenly disappeared. Did the hackers decide to disband on their own? Did the U.S. Cyber Command take them out? Did Russia strike in response to increasing U.S. pressure to deal with the extensive hacking harbored there? It’s a solid bet that one or both of the governments played a role.

As you seek to make sense of this era of ransomware and create a defense and response plan specific to your organization, contact Pratum for expert advice.

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All images used in this article are from StopRansomware.gov
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