Category: Information Security

05 Jun 2020

How to Select Email Data Protection

Organizations continue to place too much focus on feature and function when evaluating security technology. At a time of fierce digital transformation, the distance between technical promise and business impact continues to widen as over 124.5 billion business emails are sent and received each day.

When COVID-19 first emerged, many organizations scrambled to find quick-fix security solutions to prop up their now-remote workforces for a business delay expected to last a couple of weeks. Add to the mix the acceleration of long-term working from home and shifting attitudes to digital privacy.

“This is a wake-up call for organizations that have placed too much focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience,” says Sandy Shen, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner. “Businesses that can shift technology capacity and investments to digital platforms will mitigate the impact of the outbreak and keep their companies running smoothly now, and over the long term.”

But simply buying an encryption product, to protect your data being sent in emails, does not guarantee long term organizational value.

According to a survey from encryption technology experts Echoworx, 81 per cent of organizations prioritized encryption for protecting data sent in email as important, even critical, to their technology stack, but only 40 per cent are using email encryption throughout their business.

To end this disconnect, we argue that organizations need to start thinking differently about their email data protection strategy and the way they evaluate and select solutions and vendors.

Technology alone delivers no value

The fact that the technical “experts” believe a technology or product will work for the business is not a guarantee that the business will actually use it. Through our years of experience, we have heard these three email encryption misconceptions repeated over and over.

Misconception #1: “We invest in encryption tools because it is mandatory”
Reality: Investment in an encryption tool should address specific business needs.

Misconception #2: “We have encryption, we are safe. It’s good enough.”
Reality: Protecting data sent through email is less dependent on technology than you think.

Misconception #3: “Data protection is all about compliance”
Reality: The ability to protect data is just as important as the ability to use and move data.

Why do you need a particular product? How well do you know the business and their needs? And, how well will this product meet those needs? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, with total clarity, you don’t understand the business and you won’t be able to add real value.

One bank, for example, wanted to easily recall emails and customer documentation so that they could reduce implicating the Chief Data Officer and eliminate lengthy audit processes. That’s what the business needed. What the business got was an onerous multi-step approach, requiring physical actions from multiple staff, external individuals, organizations, and 3rd party email providers to confirm emails and attachments have been deleted from all backups and archives.

In another example, an insurance company wanted their customers to be able to simply respond to an email so that they could return sensitive documentation easily to a centralized mailbox. That’s what the business wanted. What the business got was a time-consuming multi-step approach, requiring the resources of multiple staff, sending instructional emails to customers, requiring registration to an encrypted email service – before being able to access and return requested documents safely.

The list goes on.

Ask better questions, align technology to business needs

Instead of arming yourself with a checklist of features and functions, prepare questions that will help you evaluate the fit of an email data encryption solution to your business needs. Here’s how …

To learn: How well the offering meets your business need.
Ask. Why do you need this particular security product? Why now?

To learn: What does success look like for the business.
Ask. How well does this offering resolve your specific need?

To learn: How end users will use this solution.
Ask. How well does the offering fit into your existing way of working?

To learn: Can this meet the business needs today and the bigger picture needs tomorrow.
Ask. How well the offering integrates with your other systems and technologies? Could the way you use this solution change over time?

21 May 2020

Security Shopping Based on the Lowest Bidder

Bang-for-buck is less about cost and more about strategic fit and operational value when it comes to email security

Overnight digital transformations in the wake of COVID-19 are pushing organizations to the brink of what their infrastructure can handle. In the case of large enterprises, with thousands of employees and offices around the world, actions as simple as sending an email can quickly become overwhelming – requiring new hardware, software and the IT staff to run it all. Consequentially, many organizations have had to rapidly upgrade and evaluate new technologies, in a cost-driven manner, to help bridge the gaps.

Yet, a new study by Echoworx reveals a disconnect between the immediate rewards of low initial price tags to actual long-term value amid growing security breaches and brand distrust. While cost remains a primary driver behind the decision-making process for information security shoppers, there is an alarming lack of other factors contributing to ultimate assessments of value.

Prepare for the next GDPR, align to the goals of business leaders

Meeting immediate business requirements is tempting for organizations operating under time constraints – it’s human nature. But focusing evaluation criteria for data protection on cost and business compliance, often results in adopting solutions that meet a narrow checklist of requirements or immediate needs. Theoretically this approach ensures the organization can maintain compliance, with minimal impact to their bottom lines, while preserving their ability to compete in their new digital world.

But it is not that simple.

Adopting a checklist strategy for protecting data sent through email does not anticipate unexpected turns or developments down the road. Regulations, or other security demands, are known to change without warning – suddenly adding more boxes needing to be checked off. While a low-price tag might create initial attraction to a security solution, organizations need to ensure it is flexible enough to accommodate new demands and the impact it can have on innovation and their strategic vision.

Introduced in the spring of 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the EU, for example, revolutionized the way organizations were able to capture, store and exchange the personal digital data of the citizens of affected European nations. Yet, less than a year later, in January 2019, Denmark introduced more literal interpretations of the new GDPR, making encryption mandatory for all sensitive data overnight – including data sent in emails. For organizations not set up to accommodate this new Danish development, conducting business in Denmark became incredibly difficult.

Opt for value optimization instead of short-term cost impact

More than 50 per cent of CIOs from banks and insurers operate their IT environments in a cost-inefficient way, according to Gartner’s cost value matrix. Another report by Forrester found that cost is, by far, the highest consideration of decision-makers shopping for an email security solution. But respondent also touched on other considerations seemingly unrelated to cost, with unquantifiable benefits, like customer impact, listed as important determining factors. This suggests that the actual business value of email protection is not set solely by the lowest possible initial investment – and is instead a value-for-money equation.

And this value equation can be played out in various scenarios.

According to Siddharth Deshpande, former-Research Director at Gartner, organizations continue to see the additional value brought by security solutions – in addition to the security they provide. “Security leaders are striving to help their organizations securely use technology platforms to become more competitive and drive growth for the business,” says Deshpande, as reported by Forbes.

If the solution is chosen on account of cost, without consideration being paid to a mix of business needs, the result may meet the tactical requirements set by IT but could be detrimental to the business on account of a poor or overly rigid customer experience, for example.

Digitalization will lead to the value-for-money

We need to remember that any digital tool on the market is designed to replace a clunky offline process – email data protection tools are no exception. Decision-makers need to keep business use cases top-of-mind when shopping for email security tools that help with digital transformations. Cost means nothing if a tool does not do what it’s supposed to do or proves detrimental to business flow.

A bank, for example, might need to send millions of secure financial statements to their customers at the end of each month. While this might normally be done using post, requiring reams of paper and expensive postage, an email data protection solution can enable them to send digital copies to customers faster and at substantially lower costs. Checkbox marked. But the true cost-efficiency is only realized if the same solution can handle the intensive demands and mass distribution of virtually unlimited encrypted documents – not hinder it.

And our new digital world appears to be here to stay, with 74 per cent of CFOs toying with the idea of increasing remote work capabilities after the current global pandemic passes. While others, like Twitter, already publicly stating, “If our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen.”  But ensuring that these workers can do all their work from home, requires security. Analysts are predicting further investment into IT solutions to accommodate this increased demand for remote work.

Reap the benefits of digital transformation by smarter spending

Initial costs of an email data protection solution can be misleading if their business value over time is not considered. If the technology is effective at adapting to various business use cases and securing vulnerabilities, without detrimental impacts to customer experience, initial monetary investment can quickly become irrelevant.

Even a higher initial investment into encryption technology can be offset by less investments into maintenance, hardware, or software upgrades. This can lead to substantially shorter payback periods and allows for valuable IT resources to be allocated to other projects.

Further supplementary cost savings can also work over a period to make the solution more valuable. A more valuable security tool, for example, might grant access for users to self-help resources or access to third-party specialists to help navigate any user confusion. Mitigating the costs of email related help desk queries alone can save organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars.

An investment in email data protection, based on stakeholder needs and strategic fit, will lead organizations into value-for-money.

08 May 2020

New Streamlined Ways of Authenticating People Quickly Proving Their Value

Traditional ways of gaining access to an account or information, think usernames and passwords, remain common, but their shortcomings pose liabilities.

How do you confirm that people requesting access to your system and files are who they say they are? One way is to ask them to confirm their identity multiple times before granting access – otherwise known as Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). Chastised in the past for awkward or clunky user experiences, new streamlined ways of authenticating people are quickly proving their value.

Bad password habits pose vulnerabilities

As the saying goes: A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The same mantra may be applied to a cybersecurity program, where a single weak lock can pose a critical vulnerability to an entire company’s network. In the case of authentication, internal employee slipups can render even the strongest digital locks obsolete. Passwords were responsible for 81 per cent of breaches in 2017.

From weak or easy-to-guess passwords, like ‘p@ssword,’ to password reuse across multiple accounts, people cannot be trusted to create keys granting access to digital assets. But if multiple digital locks are created, each requiring a unique authenticating factor to grant access, it is theoretically harder to force access. That is what makes MFA systems so effective at protecting valuable data.

Address inherent vulnerabilities: authenticate beyond username and password

MFA helps mitigate the vulnerabilities presented by weak password habits by requiring additional authenticating ‘factors’ before granting access. These factors can vary in terms of complexity but are usually something unique or known only to the individual. This ensures that if a single factor is compromised, guessed or lost, like a password or PIN, other factors, maybe a birth date, remain to accurately verify the identity of who or what is trying to gain access.

“Imagine somebody is trying to hack an account and they correctly guess a user’s password,” says Chris Peel, VP Customer Engineering at Echoworx. “With MFA, they may try to log in, but the owner of the account gets a pop-up on their mobile device notifying them that someone is attempting to login. Access can then be denied by the person – using this second factor of authentication.”

Advocate for user friendly MFA

There is no ‘one way’ of conducting MFA. The term is loose and can be applied to a variety of authentication systems – from so-called ‘Strong Authentication,’ a variant of Two-Factor Authentication now a requirement for transactions over €30 in Europe, to hard-token MFA, where a physical token is required to gain access. These systems vary in the amount of security they provide – with some even deliberately hindering user experience to emphasize the importance of the access they provide.

“People won’t accept more security than they think they need.” – Google’s Mark Risher

But new digital variants help make MFA a relatively frictionless experience – with little to no impact on user experience. A bank portal, for example, might ask a banking customer for a password as one factor, or way, of authenticating their identity. But, as a second factor of authentication, the bank may also demand a Time-Based One-Time Password (TOTP) – a single-use and time-stamped random code – issued from an app installed on the customer’s mobile phone. This additional verification is completed by the customer without leaving their mobile phone. The key, you must keep it simple. Mark Risher, who manages Google’s identity systems says, “People won’t accept more security than they think they need.”

Adequate authentication, not an option

When it comes to protecting customers and the digital infrastructure of an organization, adequate authentication should not be an option – and it does not have to be. According to a report conducted by the Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC), 87 per cent of respondents were favourable of having to authenticate themselves after being told what it was for.

The GIAC study illustrates that, while MFA might be initially viewed as security overkill by people, the same people view it favourably once they are made aware of what it is, and the protection benefits it provides them. Today most service organizations got the message: consumers want two-factor. If you do not offer it, they’ll find the service that does.

Authentication is an integral part of digital business

If digital trust is the new currency of customer experience, MFA is one of the locks holding everything in-place. The average user assesses the safety of an email in just 30 seconds before replying with personal information, says Echoworx in a survey they conducted.  Yet, more than three quarters of people will leave a company who mishandles their data. If people cannot be trusted to safeguard access to their own data, organizations need to ensure a single digital slip-up doesn’t enable fraudulent access.

To make sure that right people enter and access the right information, MFA assures organizations that their entire network won’t be compromised by a single person – helping solidify levels of digital trust.

The future does not include more complex passwords

While not uniformly mandatory under any regulation, MFA is quickly becoming a recommended default. For example, as per the European Central Bank (ECB)’s European Payment Services Directive (PSD2), transactions conducted over €30 must feature ‘Strong Authentication,’ to comply with their ‘Strong Customer Authentication (SCA)’ practice. In the wake of this regulatory development, 84 per cent of affected organizations outline MFA as a priority investment. For independent bodies, this trend continues, with certification bodies, like the PCI Security Standards Council, which is responsible for managing PCI DSS, highly recommending MFA for any future developments.

01 May 2020

Who Controls Your Encryption?

Security controls how our property is used, who has access to it and keeps it safe. But what happens to this secure sense of control when property and data goes beyond your reach – outside your digital perimeter?

Here are some points to consider when evaluating encryption options for email data protection – without relinquishing control:

Meets compliance needs 

Under international privacy rules, like the GDPR, non-compliance can lead to massive fines you can’t afford. And, while delivery methods like TLS or PGP are effective for protecting data in transit and end-to-end, they do not accommodate every situation – additional options are needed. If a TLS connection is not available, you may want automatic fallbacks to another secure delivery methods, such as via web portal or as an encrypted attachment – ensuring sensitive data always remains protected.

Automates processes

Encryption is a feature of any serious cybersecurity design – but real world application still lags, according to Echoworx data. When a platform is not user friendly and encrypting a message is difficult, there is a tendency for senders to favour the path of least resistance – sending sensitive data without protection. Setting proactive encryption policies in motion not only makes encryption mandatory based on pre-set rules, but also improves platform usability by automating a sometimes-confusing process. Take inbound encryption policies, for example. When a customer sends an organization sensitive information, like a credit card number, over an open or unrecognized channel, there is a chance existing email filters might flag and block their message for reasons of compliance. By setting inbound encryption policies, incoming emails containing sensitive data are automatically encrypted, before being delivered to a recipient’s inbox – safe, sound and compliant.

More secure ways to email

From the choice of email service provider to something as simple as a device-type, there are a variety of ways recipients might be inadvertently controlling their encryption experience. This unintended result can prove detrimental to their user experience – especially if there are better encryption delivery methods for their situation. Using proactive policies, your organization can push secure delivery methods tailored to specific customers. You might, for example, set policies which restrict TLS to trusted partners only – or employ attachment-only encryption for secure statement delivery.

Consistent experience for everyone

Part of a true streamlined user experience relies on a consistent user experience – regardless of device, location, location or connectivity. An encrypted message experience, for example, should offer the same user experience regardless of whether the secure message is accessed on a desktop computer or offline via a mobile device – without the need for third-party apps. This same consistent user experience also helps streamline working within collaborative environments. Common business scenarios, for example, often involve engaging with a sensitive document across multiple devices and environments. Is the document going to look and act the same offline and online? If working collaboratively on a sensitive encrypted document, is the user experience identical for all parties involved?

Recall email when needed

The ability to recall a compromised message even after it has been read, is a simple, yet fundamental feature enabling control of an encryption experience. Whether a message is sent to an unintended recipient or whether a message is no longer safe, control over a message shouldn’t have to be relinquished just by pressing ‘Send.’

Brand Safeguards

Branding and the separation of brands is crucial to any enterprise. The ability to brand, separate and segment customer interactions according to brand can mean anything from how a secure message is received to a preferred language. Different brands should also be siloed to prevent eavesdropping from other business units.

By Derek Christiansen, Engagement Manager, Echoworx

27 Apr 2020

Multi-Factor Authentication Is Redefining Digital Business

Why risk everything on someone’s poor password habits? Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is quickly becoming the new norm for verifying people are who they say they are before granting access to digital assets.

Yet there remains a certain reluctance to implement MFA on account of its supposed detrimental impact on the user experience. But MFA has come a long way from its clunky beginnings two decades ago – making it easy for everyone except attackers.

Easy to use

When people think of MFA, they usually think of the authentication system in its most extreme form – requiring a combination of disconnected physical tokens, location-based factors or USB keys which must always be carried on your person. Some of these more-severe MFA systems are designed to be difficult so that organizations can be sure, without a doubt, that users requesting access are who they say they are. While these factors are still used at organizations requiring more robust security protocols for their digital access points, today there are frictionless factors available for a streamlined user experience.

An organizational portal, for example, designed to grant access to sensitive communications, can be set up to require as password for a first factor and a Time-Based One-Time Password (TOTP) – a single-use, soft-token and time-stamped random code – issued from a third-party SaaS app installed on the user’s mobile device as a second factor before access is granted. With the app-issued TOTP, an additional authenticating factor is added with little change to the user experience.

Hard to compromise

A password is only as strong as it is complex – and even the most complex password can be cracked. But people are notorious for choosing weak passwords, reusing old ones, and even using the same passwords for multiple points of access regardless of sensitivity. According to Verizon, 81 per cent of breaches in 2017 were due to weak or stolen passwords. By asking for additional factors of authentication, MFA ensures that even if a weak password is compromised, access is still denied.

In this way, MFA also acts as an effective deterrent to malicious actors. Consider, for example, that half a per cent of Azure Active Directory accounts used by Office 365 are compromised every month – that amounts to a yearly total of 600 compromised users at an enterprise composed of 10,000 accounts. Gartner says an organization which adopts MFA can see a figure like this drop 50 per cent by the end of 2020.

Works well with others: the case of Maersk

Large enterprises undergoing digital transformations are investing in cloud-based SaaS providers to help them bridge gaps in their massive tech stacks. Take Maersk of Denmark, for example, the world’s largest shipping empire, who’s ‘cloud-first’ policy means they outsource tasks and services which are not directly tied in with their product.

Rasmus Hald, Head of Cloud Center of Excellence at A. P. Moller – Maersk, told Computer Weekly, “Why in the world would I run an email system in the year 2019? You might have constraints, like legal requirements [that stop you], but if you don’t, why would you have the hassle of running an email service when you can buy great services off the Internet that probably give you a better service than you would every be able to provide yourself? [Our philosophy at Maersk is to] buy other people’s software as a service and then focus our efforts on building great software for our users, [and] for our customers.”

But with more third-party connections come more opportunities for malicious agents to gain access to organizational networks. This is what makes MFA such an important feature to look for when choosing a SaaS partnership. If MFA mechanisms are in-place, then a higher degree of security can help mitigate any authorization vulnerabilities outweighing the benefits of the service provided.

Perimeterless

Digital transformations enable organizations to be available anywhere and anytime to better serve customer bases across the planet. For an organizational leader, this customer-centric digital world is good for business. But for someone in charge of internal organizational IT infrastructure, a fully digital connected cloud-based environment, where sensitive data is flowing, SaaS providers are plugged in and users are mobile, can be a nightmare without help – especially for sensitive processes like authentication.

MFA can help an organization prepare itself for perimeterless cybersecurity postures in a zero-trust world – where every user needs to be vetted before access is granted. Gartner says, as digital organizations continue their digital transformations, they are going to begin relying less on traditional digital security tools, like VPNs, firewalls and hardware, and focus more budget on securing users outside their digital environment. With its ability to authenticate users more accurately according to various digital factors, MFA is going to play an important role in perimeterless security solutions.

By Alex Loo, VP Operations at Echoworx

15 Apr 2020

Goodbye Algorithms, Hello User Experience

Leading firms are revamping decades-old debt-heavy data protection technologies and processes to provide more productive experiences.

Most email data protection systems use the same encryption algorithms and specs; almost all contemporary email security products feature 2048-bit RSA encryption, 256-bit AES encryption and SHA2 signatures. There’s nothing new about that – it should be a given.

But not all solutions designed to protect data sent though email are easy for everyone to use – and that’s where user experience scores the winning goal.

Data protection only works if we put people first

We recently surveyed IT professionals and IT decision-makers and found that, while email data protection is a priority for most organizations, less than half of organizations with encryption software use it extensively. This often comes down to user-friendliness; it’s nearly impossible to roll-out a security feature that doesn’t integrate seamlessly into existing workflows. When searching for an email data protection solution, carefully consider the processes that come with the product and let a user-friendly secure communications experience differentiate you from the competition.

Keep email protection simple for everyone

Enterprises today are focused on flexible integration and customization – to provide more access across their entire business.

Popular with clients and staff:

  • Smooth and simple to use – Customers and employees tend to take the path of least resistance. Look for a secure communications system which makes protecting data in transit the path of least resistance. A recent case study by Echoworx, for example, enabled a U.K. bank to instantaneously reach its entire mortgage customer base during a time-sensitive emergency without changing the light look and feel of their regular customer communications. Communications could be sent via email as per usual, but with any sensitive information being packaged into protected secure encrypted attachments.
  • Customizable preferences – For international organizations, excellent customer experience includes on-brand communications in your client’s preferred language. Did you know that 79 per cent of people take less than 30 seconds to evaluate the safety of an email? This means off-brand but legitimate secure emails from your company can easily be categorized as spam, decreasing your organization’s digital trustworthiness. Even the most-secure communications should allow you to set language policies to automatically apply to secure communications based on sender, brand, locale and receiver attributes.
  • More ways to send secure email – Not every business use case is the same, so you need to ensure your email data protection solution if flexible enough to adapt to different conditions. While TLS remains a primary secure method of protecting data in transit, for example, what if a TLS connection is not available? In addition to providing fallback options, ensuring no sensitive message goes undeliverable or, worse, is sent in the clear, having access to multiple secure delivery methods gives more choice to both senders and recipients in how they choose to communicate with one another.

 

Popular with administrators and support:

  • More control over email security – Definable policies control which communications get protected (and how) based on message content. This is set up during implementation of an email data protection system—based on your needs and best practices—to be triggered by common message attributes, like subject, keywords, message type or recipient domains, for examples. Flexible controls for every scenario allow you to create a customized user experience for senders and recipients and stay in control of encrypted messages in transit and at rest.
  • Recall sensitive email – Whether a recipient is compromised, or a secure message is sent to an incorrect address, the ability to recall an email containing sensitive information is an important feature of any best-in-class email data protection system. Recipients should also be given the option to reply in a secure manner to any encrypted message.
  • Prevent unauthorized access Modern non-invasive Two Factor Authentication (2FA) options can accurately verify the identity of users before they are granted access to secure information. For access to a secure message portal, for example, a user can be required to provide a Time-Based One-Time Password (TOTP) – a random single-use, time-stamped soft token issued from a third-party SaaS app installed on a user’s phone – in addition to a username and password before access is granted.
  • Send unlimited email – For large enterprise organizations, numbers of recipients for mass communications pushed to customer bases can be in the millions. When the contents of these messages contain sensitive information which must be protected, like a bank statement, existing communications infrastructure needs to be able to scale to sudden bursts in activity without being overwhelmed.
  • Get full value on investment – With the right secure communications solution, your organization can provide a user-friendly experience—and save money. For example, a recent Forrester study, revealed that a typical enterprise-level organization using Echoworx’s OneWorld email data protection platform can expect an ROI of 155 per cent—with upwards of $2.7M in cost-mitigating benefits and a payback period of seven months.
  • Increase organizational use – According to Echoworx data, despite over half of IT professionals and decision-makers identifying email data protection as very important, even critical, to their organizations, only 40 per cent of the same group are using encryption technology extensively. When working with a third-party SaaS provider, you gain access to their team of experts and, paired with a simple interface and clear instructions, this can mean a streamlined UX – meaning less calls to your help desk and more successful and widespread implementation.

 

Offer email protection to everyone

While access to secure lines of communications is essential for any business, the reasons for email data protection vary. Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report[1] breaks down security incidents by industry, size and concerns. Here are a few takeaways:

  • Financial services and insurance – Use MFA, including 2FA or the European Central Bank (ECB)’s ‘Strong Authentication,’ for all customer-facing applications, train your employees on how to risky exchanges of sensitive data and set up secure communication controls to reduce the risk of insider threats and other communications-related vulnerabilities.
  • Healthcare –Ensure healthcare staff can safely send and receive sensitive documents containing patient information, which is protected under regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA).
  • Manufacturing – From sensitive data changing hands during an M&A deal to communicating personal details with customers to something as simple as exchanging trade secrets with a trusted partner, there are many instances where manufacturing organizations should be leveraging email data protection solutions.

It’s now a given that every industry has data it needs to protect. But how this data is communicated safely – packaged, sent and received – determines the experience for everyone.

In the end: People want safe communications, not usable cryptographic algorithms.

By Michael Roberts, VP Technology at Echoworx

[1] https://enterprise.verizon.com/resources/reports/dbir/