Firewalls: The Unsung Heroes Network Security

a computer generated image of a computer screen with red and blue lights

The term firewall is not a new one, and it’s not as old of a term as you might think. Before it became commonplace in the computing environment, it was first introduced to the world in 1983 when it was used in a movie titled WarGames. Nowadays, it is used mostly in regard to network security. Let’s take a look at what a firewall does and what the different types of firewalls do.

First, What Does a Firewall Do?

A firewall’s name comes from the structures built into connected homes and multi-family residences that protect individual units from fires. A residential firewall keeps a fire from spreading, while a computing firewall monitors your network traffic for unauthorized connections. A properly configured firewall is a critical part of any cybersecurity strategy.

Firewall Varieties

There are many different types of firewalls out there. Here are just a few examples:

Virtual Firewall

A virtual firewall is hosted in the cloud. It protects an environment that is hosted in the cloud or within a virtual machine. You can customize your virtual firewall to suit your specific needs, be it for a specific application or to protect an entire cloud environment.

Stateful Inspection Firewall

Most modern infrastructures include this version of a firewall. It performs a function called dynamic packet filtering, a process that involves all traffic passing through a firewall being analyzed to ensure it is in the correct state, i.e. not infected by threats or otherwise.

Unified Threat Management Firewall

In addition to the aforementioned benefits, a UTM firewall also includes antivirus software. UTMs are designed to be a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none solution. They work for many smaller businesses as a part of their network infrastructure to keep users and data protected.

Is a Firewall a Requirement for Your Business’ Cybersecurity?

In short, yes, although it should be mentioned that true cybersecurity includes much more than just a simple firewall. A firewall is only one piece of your cybersecurity strategy, so you will need even more safeguards put into place to keep your company as secure as possible from threats.

AE Technology Group can equip your business with the best security tools out there. To learn more, reach out to us at (516) 536-5006.

What Does it Mean To Go Passwordless? Just Ask Microsoft

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Passwords have long been a staple against security threats, but the password could soon be a thing of the past. Microsoft is advancing toward this new concept, but what does it mean for your business?

Let’s look and see what going “passwordless” can mean for an account’s security.

How Does Passwordless Even Work?

Passwords were the standard for quite some time, but compared to other security measures, they are less secure against threats than you might think. A complex password may have once been enough, but this is no longer the case. Password-cracking software and the massive increase in computing power means that hackers can discover passwords in no time, and weaker authentication methods are inferior compared to other available options. Add in the fact that most users have no clue how to make a secure password, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Multi-factor authentication is one of the best ways you can secure an account. Instead of using one only key to unlock your account, you use multiple factors to open it. For example, you might use a biometric like a face, fingerprint, or iris scan, or even a secondary authentication code sent to your mobile device.

As for your Microsoft account, Microsoft is thinking about ditching the password in its entirety, giving users the option to sign in using the Microsoft Authenticator application, Windows Hello, or codes sent to your email or smartphone. Here are the steps to go passwordless for your Microsoft account:

  • Download the Microsoft Authenticator application on your smart device
  • Link your application to your account
  • Go to accounts.microsoft.com and look for the Security tab
  • Under Additional Security, turn on Passwordless Account
  • Follow the prompts displayed, and you should be good to go!

The fact that you can go passwordless for your Microsoft account is all well and good, but whether you should or not will likely be up to personal preference. As for your business, we want to emphasize that you should move toward multi-factor authentication wherever you possibly can. It’s that much more difficult for a hacker to crack an account.

AE Technology Group wants to help your company implement multi-factor authentication and work toward greater network security. To learn more, reach out to us at (516) 536-5006.

4 Steps to Make Cybersecurity Training Effective

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Real cybersecurity preparedness is, like most things in a business, a team effort. Everyone needs to be aware of the best practices involved in cybersecurity. Naturally, this will involve training. In the interest of making sure this training is as effective as it needs to be, we’ve assembled a few best practices to keep in mind as you design a curriculum.

The Purpose of Cybersecurity Training: Awareness

That’s the really important benefit that any training needs to emphasize, but particularly any efforts you make to educate your team about cyber threats and dealing with them. They need to understand how prevalent threats really are, and how often small businesses are actually targeted (it’s often, by the way).

Of course, you want this training to be as effective as possible, so there are certain steps that you should take.

How to Effectively Train Your Team Members

Understand Where Your Employees Stand

In order to train your team members properly, you need to have an understanding of what they do, and critically what they don’t know about cybersecurity at the present. Are they aware of the risks that they face and how to spot them, and—most crucially—do they give these risks as much attention and respect as they should? You need to establish all of these benchmarks and see to it that they appreciate the severity of the risk.

Adjust Your Cybersecurity Training to Their Needs

Once you’re familiar with your team’s training requirements, you can better shape the training they undergo to better fit their existing strengths and shortcomings. Customizing the training that each of your team members receives is crucial as each of them will have a different perspective… and different weaknesses as a result. A one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t be effective amongst a team’s members.

Don’t Rely on Scaring Them

Likewise, while an approach based on fear can be effective in some situations, teaching your team about IT best practices is not one of them. While fear can occasionally help prevent a mistake from happening, it can just as (if not more) often lead to an employee trying to cover up a mistake and exposing your business to greater issues as a result. Try inspiring them by appealing to their confidence, reassuring them that they can be successful in their cybersecurity.

Train, Measure, and Repeat

Now, we reach the final part: measuring the impact that your training has had and running it again, trying to make it that much more effective each time. This will take some time, particularly as you account for different learning styles that your various employees will almost assuredly have. Once you’ve trained them up on the security precautions and processes that you expect them to follow, test them. By evaluating their preparedness on a semi-regular basis (so as not to become predictable), you will be able to more accurately identify where work needs to be done, and by whom.

We Can Assist You in Your Cybersecurity Training

Turn to AE Technology Group and our team of experts to improve—amongst other things—your team’s cybersecurity training. To enquire about this or any other of our managed IT services, give us a call at (516) 536-5006.

Make Sure Your Mobile Device Management Platform Has These Features

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Your mobile device management strategy is going to bleed into every other part of your business, especially in the realms of security and productivity. It is of critical importance that you ensure that your mobile device management platform is working toward your company’s operational goals, but it can be challenging at times to look at this type of technology with its many complications. Let’s dive into what makes for a solid MDM platform.

Now, we know that there are a ton of great features with mobile device management platforms, but there are some that you absolutely should never leave home without, so to speak. Here are just a few of them.

The Ability to Lock and Remotely Wipe Data

While you certainly hope that you never need to wipe your data, this feature is still necessary. If employees lose devices or if someone else steals them, you need to have a plan in place to respond to them. This includes wiping the data from these devices. This ensures that your data privacy remains intact.

Whitelisting and Blacklisting Apps

If your business has employees using mobile devices for company purposes, you should make sure that they are not downloading whatever applications they want. With a company policy in place that governs the use of applications on your mobile devices, you can control the flow of data to external applications and help to minimize data leakage. Plus, if an employee has a list of acceptable applications, they will be less likely to look for their own solutions to specific problems.

Device Tracking and Inventory

Your mobile device management platform should give you the ability to track devices and to know who is using which devices and for what purpose. With the right solution, you can collect information on how the devices are used. It can also provide you with paths to connect with employees should you discover anything about the device that presents a security problem. At the end of the day, you’re not out to breathe down your employees’ necks about how they use their devices; you just want to make sure that the device is being used for the right purposes.

Enforcement of Security Features

Mobile devices, due to their nature, should be protected in as many ways as possible, but don’t stop short at the password. You should also implement features like multi-factor authentication, including biometrics, and powerful encryption tools that can keep data located on such devices locked up tight and safe from prying eyes.

If your business wants to fully leverage the potential of its mobile device management platform, AE Technology Group can help. To learn more, reach out to us at (516) 536-5006.

Blockchain Technology Solutions For Your Business

a close up of a chain with a light in the background

Blockchain technology might be best known for its use with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Dogecoin, but that’s just one type of blockchain. There are other varieties that could prove useful in certain sectors. Let’s take a look at what they are, how they might be used, and what some of their benefits and shortcomings are.

The largest benefit of the blockchain, which is essentially a decentralized ledger of transactions, can be seen in Bitcoin, but the shortcomings are also notable. Blockchains consume a considerable amount of energy to operate, making them difficult at best for businesses to take advantage of. Bitcoin operates using what is called the public blockchain; as such, it cannot store sensitive information or proprietary data without putting it all at considerable risk. Here are the four varieties of blockchains that organizations can utilize.

Public Blockchain

The public blockchain is the most open form of blockchain, and anyone can participate in transactions and maintain their own copy of the ledger. The only prerequisite is a connection to the Internet. The public blockchain was the first type created, and it is the most common one used by cryptocurrencies, but it has other applications that could be considered in the future, such as voting and fundraising. All of these uses are only possible due to the openness of the system.

While the openness is a great benefit to the public blockchain, there are other challenges that can get in the way of its use–namely the fact that these transactions happen at a slow rate, which also limits the scope of the network in question.

Private Blockchain

Rather than being accessible to all, a private blockchain is a closed network that is maintained by a single central entity. Unlike the issues with the public blockchain, the private blockchain has greater security and trust within its own operations. Besides this difference in centralization, the private and public blockchains are similar in functionality.

The efficiency of this centralized system makes the entire blockchain operate more smoothly, but at the same time, security is hindered somewhat. Some of the key uses for a private blockchain include supply chain management, internal voting, and asset ownership–all uses that really want that security. It is critical that any organization seeking to implement a private blockchain consider this weakness.

Hybrid Blockchain

When you combine the public and private blockchains, you get a solution that can leverage the advantages of both. A hybrid blockchain allows users to connect to the public network without sacrificing privacy. Organizations can use customizable rules to keep data secure.

There are some downsides to this solution, though. A hybrid blockchain lacks the transparency of other blockchains, and as such, there is no prerogative for organizations to go through the adoption process. Despite this, there are some notable uses for a hybrid blockchain. For example, industries like real estate and retail might find it palatable.

Federated Blockchain

Similar to the hybrid blockchain, a federated blockchain combines benefits offered by the public and private blockchains, keeping some records open while securing others. This is beneficial because multiple organizations might get value out of the network, and thus, keeping it decentralized works in their favor. The federated blockchain is both customizable and efficient, but even with the use of access controls, this blockchain is more vulnerable, less transparent, and less anonymous than the others. Ideas for how to utilize the federated blockchain include banking, research, and food tracking.

Have you considered the use of blockchain technology for your organization? The latest blockchain technology solutions can be a great boon for your business if implemented properly. Contact AE Technology Group for an IT consultation; let our technicians help you determine the best path forward. To learn more, reach out to us at (516) 536-5006.