SOC 2 Type 2 Audit for SaaS Companies

Explore the SOC 2 Type 2 audit process, readiness tips, cost of SOC 2 certification and frequency of SOC 2 certification for SaaS Companies

SOC 2 Type 2 Audit for SaaS CompaniesGetting a SOC 2 Type II Report can be a game-changer for a SaaS Company. It can transform how you respond to RFQs and how you assure potential leads that your systems are secure. Most SaaS companies view the cost of a SOC 2 Certification / Examination as an investment in their future revenue. They plan meticulously to succeed in their SOC 2 audit and stay certified.

A SOC 2 audit is conducted by an authorized CPA firm or SOC 2 auditor that you select. During your SOC 2 audit, they assess the design and performance of your internal controls at a point in time or over a defined number of months. During the audit period they take a sample to test the end-to-end performance of these controls and report their findings. The results of the audit and the effectiveness of the controls are outlined in the SOC 2 audit report. This helps clients and business partners understand which Trust Services Criteria your systems adhere to. By staying SOC 2 certified, you can continue to assure stakeholders of the value of working with your company.

Preparing for your SOC 2 audit

SaaS companies begin preparing for their SOC 2 audit by implementing the internal controls that are important to their clients. They gather evidence and documentation and look for a SOC 2 auditor who understands their industry and customer requirements. One way to verify the authenticity of the CPA Firm / SOC 2 auditor is by checking the AICPA’s Public File Search.

As you prepare for your SOC 2 Type II audit or during the audit itself, you may face challenges with their SOC 2 auditor that can be avoided. One such confusion is with regards to the Trust Services Criteria.

Are you expected to follow all the Trust Services Criteria?

AICPA has outlined 5 Trust Services Criteria as part of the SOC 2 framework – Security, Availability, Confidentiality, Privacy and Processing Integrity. However, any organization that wants to get SOC 2 certified, is allowed to select the criteria they want and implement the respective internal controls. During the SOC 2 audit, your auditor is only expected to review the criteria that you have selected. They cannot ask you to comply with more criteria than the one(s) you have selected.

Typically, a SaaS company may choose to implement the follow Trust Services criteria:

  1. Security: This focuses on protecting information and all systems from unauthorized access.
  2. Availability: This focuses on the resiliency of the infrastructure, information and software.
  3. Confidentiality: This refers to the company’ ability to restrict access and ensure that data is disclosed only to authorized personnel or organizations.

They may also choose to implement certain controls under the remaining 2 criteria if their clients require it.

  1. Privacy: This addresses the organization’ ability to protect Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and ensure that it cannot be used to identify any individual. Privacy as a TSC, is primarily essential for Direct to Consumer engagement.
  2. Processing integrity: This verifies if the systems achieve their purpose – the delivery of complete and accurate data, within the correct timeframe and level of access.

What happens in a SOC 2 audit of a SaaS company?

A SOC 2 audit only begins when all the controls are in place and all aspects of information security are performing as designed. To check their level of preparedness, SaaS companies may opt for a SOC 2 Readiness Assessment. This can be a failsafe option since all the controls are tested and evidence is systematically organized and checked by a consultant. You get an opportunity to plug the gaps, complete your evidence collection and begin writing the ‘Management’ Assertion’. This section is submitted by the company to the SOC 2 auditor and included in your SOC 2 Report. During this time, you can also vet potential SOC 2 auditors and finalize the scope of your engagement.

Once you select your auditor, discuss your engagement and finalize your scope, the audit period begins on the date decided by the SOC 2 auditor. The first SOC 2 examination period is usually 3-6 months. The company cannot modify any process during the audit period. The start date of a SOC 2 audit is in the future, and it is shared with the CPA firm. Performance evaluated outside of the SOC 2 audit period cannot influence or be part of the SOC 2 report.

The audit period begins with the auditors collecting evidence for all the controls and for some controls with populations, selecting a random sample from a population of data, based on AICPA Guidelines and scientific sampling principles. During the SOC 2 audit, auditors observe security controls in action as they relate to the random sample. The company is expected to showcase evidence and confirm that all the controls have been designed and implemented per intent. If controls are implemented correctly and the company is SOC 2 ready, customer data is protected, and no violation is observed. The absence of activity during the audit is a sign of success since it implies that all aspects of data protection are in place. The testing of the controls starts immediately after the audit period ends. The sample’s test results are included in the SOC 2 report.

How is a SOC 2 Type II audit different for a SaaS Company?

Physical security controls may not be applicable for a SOC 2 certification / examination of a SaaS company because the tech infrastructure is hosted with a Cloud Service Provider. Since  SaaS companies outsource it to a 3rd party, they are responsible for it. As a result, an on-site audit may also be optional for a SaaS company.

Your SOC 2 audit might also include reviewing the SOC 2 reports of your vendors and partners. Your SOC 2 auditor might verify and validate CUECs of your vendors as well.

How regularly are you required to perform a SOC 2 audit?

A SOC 2 report is valid for 12 months. SOC 2 audits are conducted every 12 -18 months to help you stay certified. You reserve the right to change your SOC 2 auditor after every engagement and modify the Trust Services Criteria during each SOC 2 audit. In our experience as SOC 2 Readiness Assessment consultants, we have observed that SaaS companies usually add additional controls and criteria while continuing to implement previous controls. They also tend to improve in the way they structure and gather evidence to reduce the amount of time and effort during each SOC 2 audit.

What is the cost of a SOC 2 Certification / Examination?

The cost of a SOC 2 certification can be divided into 2 sections:

Cost of SOC 2 Readiness Assessment: Consultants who specialize in preparing firms for SOC 2 can help you  design /implement new controls, draft and implement policies and procedures, provide customized staff training, review your evidence documents and help you draft the ‘Management’ Assertion’. They can also help you streamline the Complementary User Entity Controls (CUECs) that your customers will need to have in place to use your services properly. Some examples of CUECs are password complexities, time out parameters and MFA.  These have to be set up by the customer, not necessarily the SaaS company. The client and SaaS company have shared a responsibility to ensure security. The SaaS company is responsible for defining CUECs clearly and your customer is responsible for implementing them.

Working with a SOC 2 readiness partner who has previous experience in your industry can also help you streamline the Trust Services Criteria that will be important to your clients. This will help you plug any gaps and not only help you prepare for your SOC 2 audit but also for the RFQs where you will include your SOC 2 Report. A typical SOC 2 engagement for readiness could cost anywhere from USD 10,000 – 50,000.

Cost of SOC 2 Certification / Examination: A SOC 2 examination by a CPA firm could cost anywhere from USD 15,000 – 30,000 depending on the trust services criteria you select. However, the price should not be the predominant factor that influences your decision. A SOC 2 auditor who understands your industry will be able to clearly mention the Complementary User Entity Controls (CUECs) in the SOC 2 Report. These controls are intended for your customer – the actual consumer of the SOC 2 report. They inform your customer about the controls they need to implement in their systems to properly use your services. You also need to read the fine print that is part of the engagement contract and ensure that you are not legally obligated to work with the same SOC 2 auditor or authorized CPA firm for the next few years.

The ideal SOC 2 auditor is the one who respects your selection of the Trust Services Criteria, understands what your customer’s need to know and ensures that your scope is clearly mapped before the engagement begins. You can review some recommendations to help you avoid challenges you may face with a SOC 2 auditor.

 How databrackets can support your SOC 2 Journey ?

Experts at databrackets have extensive experience in supporting organizations that align their processes with AICPA’s Trust Services Criteria and prepare for a SOC 2 Audit. If you would like to connect with an expert to better understand SOC 2 and plan your SOC 2 journey, do not hesitate to schedule a consultation.

 Related Links:

Last Updated on January 19, 2023 By databracketsIn SOC 2
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  • Challenges you may face with a SOC 2 auditor

    Explore some challenges you may face with your SOC 2 auditor and discover ways to avoid them

    databrackets Infographics on Challenges with a SOC 2 auditorA SOC 2 certification / examination is pursued by service organizations who want to prove to potential customers that they can manage their data effectively. Typically a SaaS provider, Managed Service Provider (MSP), Network service provider and other service providers select an authorized CPA firm and an authorized SOC 2 auditor in it, to audit their system. Usually, the process may be smooth if they go through a readiness prep assessment and then select a SOC 2 auditor who is familiar with their industry and customer requirements. However, sometimes, you may find yourself in a difficult situation during your SOC 2 audit and you may want to consider changing your SOC 2 auditor.

    A SOC 2 examination can be time consuming, and you can exceed your budget if it is not systematically planned. Sometimes, the challenges may arise from within the company and can lead to a blame game with the auditor. We highly recommend undergoing a SOC 2 readiness assessment, getting organized and vetting your SOC 2 auditor, to avoid such an occurrence.

     

    Challenges you may face with a SOC 2 auditor:

    1) Lack of engagement overview & scope analysis

    Your SOC 2 audit can be a relatively seamless experience when your evidence matches the SOC 2 controls and the Trust Services Criteria you want audited. After you agree on the scope of the audit and your customer requirements, it is up to the SOC 2 auditor to discuss all the steps involved and the evidence that you will be required to submit. If the scoping is not clearly defined at the start, the auditor can go out of scope. This can be particularly confusing for companies who are new to SOC 2 and who need a proper orientation to the process. The process has to be matured and you need to gauge the process maturity of the CPA firm before finalizing your contract to work with them.

    SOC 2 audits need to be conducted annually. As a result some CPA Firms also mandate the continuity of work for 3-5 years in their contracts. The SOC 2 framework and AICPA does not mandate continuing with the same SOC 2 auditor after you complete your engagement. This is yet another area of conflict that needs to be discussed at the outset, so you are well-informed before you sign your contract to work with the authorized CPA Firm.

    There can be several pitfalls and unnecessary obstacles in your SOC 2 journey if your initial discussions are not thorough and if your auditor does not guide you properly. This is the root cause for most of the challenges you may face. We recommend that you review the rest of the challenges and draft a set of questions to vet the SOC 2 auditor before you finalize who will conduct your SOC 2 audit.

    2) Time

    The time spent with a SOC 2 auditor can seem excessive and hamper your ability to manage daily business operations. This can be challenging since the auditor might request a lot of information for the SOC 2 report, which you may not know is required. For example: documented proof of the management’s engagement on security issues. Proving this can involve going through several meeting documents. Audit time is not defined for a SOC 2 examination as it is for an ISO certification and this might result in unpleasant surprises for your team.

    Additionally, some auditors share a spreadsheet and ask you to email evidence documents. This system can be chaotic since you need to see the correlation between the controls and the evidence / documents.

    One solution we recommend is engaging the services of a SOC 2 readiness assessment partner, like databrackets, to help you get organized before your engagement with an auditor. At the outset we invite you to share your evidence on our platform as per the controls and corresponding Trust Services Criteria you have selected. This helps you to work systematically and share the evidence further with your chosen auditor. A SOC 2 readiness assessment not only helps you to save time and effort but also ensures that you have someone to check your evidence / documents and share feedback before the actual SOC 2 audit.

    3) Lack of Industry Knowledge

    The purpose of a SOC 2 examination / SOC 2 certification is to prove to your customers that your systems will effectively manage their data. However, at times, your SOC 2 auditor may not be familiar with your industry, day-to-day operations, SLAs and customer expectations. As a result, they may not be able to produce the kind of report that meets your customer’s expectations. This defeats the purpose of getting certified and could lead to frustration since the actual consumer of the SOC 2 report is your customer / stakeholder. If they do not get the impression that you are the right vendor for them after reading the report, the whole exercise will seem counterproductive.

    Lack of industry knowledge also impacts a critical part of the report – Complementary User Entity Controls (CUECs). We have discussed this at length in the next section.

    4) Unclear Complementary User Entity Controls (CUECs) in the SOC 2 Report

    A customized SOC 2 report clearly outlines the Complementary User Entity Controls or CUECs in the description of the customer’s system. These controls are intended for your customer – the actual consumer of the SOC 2 report. They inform your customer about the controls they need to implement in their systems to properly use your services.

    A SOC 2 auditor who is familiar with your industry can explain these CUECs in the SOC 2 Report. This is critical since the level of security, availability, privacy, confidentiality and processing integrity of your system can only be maintained when it is properly configured in the systems used by your customer. If your SOC 2 auditor does not understand your service requirements and which CUECs are critical in your industry, you may receive a SOC 2 report that does satisfy your customers and meet your objectives.

    5) Selective examination of Trust Services Criteria

    The SOC 2 framework permits clients to focus on the Trust Services Criteria which they want audited and exclude the rest. This flexibility exists since the SOC 2 Report outlines at the start which criteria and controls are being examined and then showcases if they function at optimal levels or not. SOC 2 allows you to select the Trust Services Criteria which you want to showcase. By using this method, the client’s customers are informed and empowered to take a decision to work with the client or not. While this is the ideal situation, if your SOC 2 auditor is unwilling to accept your decision, even when the rules permit, you may face a difficult situation. Your SOC 2 auditor may insist on an audit of all the Trust Services Criteria and not respect the flexibility accorded by the SOC 2 framework, 

    6) Hidden Costs and Additional Expenses

    SOC 2 audits are done by authorized CPA firms who may have sister concerns or partners who offer other services which may be helpful to your company. Sometimes, your SOC 2 auditor may try to up-sell / cross sell these services aggressively, under the guise of good advice. This can lead to a conflict and unplanned expenses.

    Before your SOC 2 audit, you may also be advised to undergo penetration testing to check the security of your systems. This can be yet another hidden cost, which you can predict with a SOC 2 readiness assessment.

    Each of these challenges are severe and it is important to avoid the possibility of going through any of them. Through this blog, we hope that you have been empowered to foresee potential pitfalls and vet the SOC 2 auditor in the introductory meeting, ask for a sample report for your industry, review the terms of the contract you will sign and follow-up on their references before you begin your engagement.

    How databrackets can support your SOC 2 Journey

    Experts at databrackets have extensive experience in supporting organizations align their processes with AICPA’s Trust Services Criteria and prepare for a SOC 2 Audit. If you would like to connect with an expert to better understand SOC 2 and plan your SOC 2 journey, do not hesitate to schedule a consultation.

     Related Links:

    Last Updated on January 2, 2023 By databracketsIn SOC 2
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  • Anatomy of a Ransomware Attack and Lessons Learned

    Anatomy of Kaseya ransomware attack and lessons learned : Zero Trust Security

    The average ransomware attack caused $1.85 million in losses to the company in 2021, up 41% from 2020. This estimate factors in  the amount paid, downtime, expense for IT technicians, device cost, network cost, lost opportunity, and more. Leadership turnover is another cost that few companies consider; after a ransomware attack, 32% of C-level employees leave. Also, 80% of targeted organizations are re-attacked.

    What is Ransomware?

    Malicious software, known as “malware,” encompasses all computer-harming software like Trojans and viruses. These attacks take advantage of weaknesses in people, systems, networks, and software to infect a victim’s computer, printer, smartphone, wearable, or other endpoints. Ransomware is a type of malware that uses encryption to lock a user out of their files, then demands payment to unlock and decode it. Instructions on the amount and how to pay are displayed, generally ranging from a few hundred to thousands of dollars in Bitcoin. The attacker often gives the target a limited amount of time to make a payment before all data is destroyed. today.

    Ransomware attack

    Kaseya’s VSA Mass Ransomware attack

    Ransomware attack-Kaseya-databrackets infographics

    Kaseya VSA is an RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) system that keeps tabs on your network from afar. Managed service providers use it to manage their customers’ computers, servers, networks, and related infrastructure, including email, phones, firewalls, switches, and modems. Endpoints, such as client workstations and servers, have the RMM agent installed.  This program allows MSPs to manage and monitor their platforms from a single location, saving time and money.

    Kaseya serves 35,000 companies. These include 17,000 managed service providers, 18,000 direct or VAR (Value-Added Reseller)  customers, and many end users at their supported enterprises.

    The number of companies using Kaseya software and the potential levels of access have made this one of the most popular targets for ransomware attacks. Threat actors who target Kaseya VSA have a vast attack surface.

    The Attack

    What happened to Kaseya?

    In July 2021, the REvil ransomware gang used Kaseya VSA remote monitoring and management software to lock up 50 to 60 MSPs and their clients.

    Who was affected by the attack in Kaseya?

    The Kaseya ransomware attack hit over 50 MSPs and between 800 and 1500 businesses.

    Consider that these 37,000 customers are only 0.001 percent of Kaseya’s total. This may seem to be a small number, but when one managed service provider (MSP) is breached, it has a knock-on effect on all the apparent other businesses it serves. The impact can quickly spread if it were to gain momentum, and reports have shown that it can take weeks or months for the full effects of an attack to become apparent.  The initial fifty managed service providers (MSPs) could quickly balloon into the hundreds, and affected companies can easily grow into the thousands.

    Does anyone know who launched the Kaseya cyberattack?

    The ransomware attack on Kasyea was carried out by the REvil RaaS group, also known as Sodinokibi.

    Ransom-as-a-Service (RaaS) groups of the criminal underworld let anyone who wants to hold a company for ransom use their services. This group is responsible for around 300 ransomware campaigns every single month. The key driver is financial motivation.

    The Trigger

    What Was the Root Cause of the Kaseya Cyber Attack?

    REvil used zero-day exploits to get into Kaseya’s VSA Software as a Service (SaaS) platform and spread malicious software to its customers and systems. Ransomware actors then exploited the weakened systems to encrypt all data.

    Kaseya’s managed service provider (MSP) customers have the Kaseya VSA agent (C: Program Files (X86)KASEYAID>AGENTMON.EXE) installed on their computers.

    This component is accountable for retrieving data from remote Kaseya servers. This agent pulls from Kaseya’s cloud servers.

    Threat actors circumvent security by signing malware. Malware installers mask themselves as Kaseya traffic. Kaseya’s platform signed the virus because it’s wrapped in it. Thus, malware can bypass all protections on clients’ systems.

    Huntress and others in the industry say that the Ransomware attack chain included bypassing authentication, letting files be uploaded without control, and running code from afar.

    How did hackers get the information to overcome authentication?

    After exploitation, the first malicious request was made to the public-facing file /dl.asp.

    This file had an authentication logic problem. The end user could connect with a valid Kaseya agent GUID but no password. Without a password, the actor might access further authentication-required services.

    The attack analysis showed malicious access with a unique agent GUID. The threat actors merely knew agent GUIDs. No logs showed failed attempts.

    How did threat actors get a unique Agent GUID?

    The agent GUID is a random 15-character string unrelated to the hostname. The event logs showed no Agent GUID or display name brute-forcing attempts.

    There may be a few alternatives.

    1. A valid Agent GUID has been anticipated by the threat actors
    2. Threat actors created a “rogue” agent with a new agent GUID.
    3. Threat actors stole an agent GUID from a VSA agent-running host.
    4. Other vulnerabilities leaked Agent GUIDs
    5. Agent GUIDs and display names were publicly available.

    If the threat actor only had Agent GUIDs, it would be tougher to match them to the organization.

    What are the indications of compromise?

    A collection of these technical details and Indications of Compromise (IOCs) has been made available by Kaseya. This list includes network, endpoint, and weblog indicators.

    The Response – Aftermath

    Didn’t Kaseya Close Everything?

    Kaseya disabled the VSA SaaS platform so its customers wouldn’t be exposed to malware.  Then, they enlisted the support of the FBI, the CISA, and third-party suppliers like Huntress and Sophos to deal with the problem. The corporation has also assumed the duty of communicating this information to its clients. MSPs themselves have a responsibility to inform their clients about the attack. Part of this process is actively looking for the signs of compromise that Kaseya has shown. After spotting the threat, Kaseya shut down their VSA SaaS platform and directed clients to shut down their on-premises servers at 1400 ET. This might explain why so few VSA customers were affected by a vulnerability that was so big and widespread.

    Did Kaseya pay the ransom?

    Kaseya denies paying the REvil cybercrime organization as it distributes a ransomware decryptor. Kaseya announced on July 22 that it had gotten a decryption tool from a “third party” and was working with Emsisoft to restore affected organizations’ environments. The update sparked speculation about the identity of the unnamed third party, with Allan Liska of Recorded Future’s CSIRT team speculating that it was a disgruntled REvil affiliate, the Russian government, or Kaseya themselves who had paid the ransom.

    On July 13, REvil’s dark web domains stopped working, which supports the idea that the universal decryptor key was given to law enforcement. The cybercrime group initially asked Kaseya for $70 million but lowered its price to $50 million. Kaseya said, “the decryption tool has proven 100% effective at decrypting files that were entirely encrypted in the attack.”

    What Are the Payment Terms for Ransomware?

    The ransom demanded from each victim ranges from $50,000 to $5 million.

    However, there is also a $70 million master key available as part of a bundled deal paid in Bitcoin.

     

    Has there ever been a larger ransomware attack than this one?

    The criteria for the “largest” ransomware assault include the following three elements, which are also factors to consider when negotiating a ransom:

    • Ransom demand
    • Number of systems affected
    • Total damage

    WannaCry was the biggest ransomware attack in terms of how many computers were affected. It affected 230,000 machines in 150 countries, but the total ransom was only $130,000. Experts in cyber security have put the cost of the WannaCry assault anywhere from the hundreds of millions  in July 2021, including a multinational software company called Kaseya. The department also said that it had seized $6.1 million in funds that may have been used to pay a ransom to Yevgeniy Polyanin, a Russian citizen who is 28 years old and is accused of using Sodinokibi/REvil ransomware attacks on multiple businesses and government agencies in Texas on or around August 16, 2019. According to the accusations, Vasinskyi and Polyanin infiltrated the internal computer networks of many victim companies and encrypted their data with Sodinokibi/REvil ransomware.

    Lessons Learned

    How can businesses safeguard themselves against or lessen the impact of Ransomware?

    Most ransomware attacks can be avoided or minimized by

    • Implementing user education and training
    • Automating backups
    • Minimizing attack surfaces
    • Developing an incident response plan
    • Investing in an EDR tool and MDR
    • Purchasing ransomware insurance
    • Storing physical and remote backups
    • Implementing zero-trust security

    It’s important to have both local and remote backups, since backups stored in the cloud can also be attacked. Attacks like Kayesa can cause less damage when there are business continuity plans and regular backup testing.

    Zero-Trust should be implemented.

    Zero-trust security can mitigate ransomware attacks. Unlike traditional models, zero trust views the entire world as its boundary. All communication must happen between me (the program), my computer (the user), and myself (the user). You can modify the channels through which they can communicate and the privileges they have when doing so. In a zero-trust setting, the attacker has much less space to move around, no matter how they got into your system in the first place.

    How can databrackets help you?

    To secure data, apps, and networks from increasingly complex assaults, many organizations use Managed Security and Compliance Services, which include SIEM, incident handling, and Threat Intelligence.

    The Managed Security and Compliance services from databrackets will check your organization’s readiness for security and find any weaknesses to protect them.

    Contact us to learn more about how our services and specialists can help your company defend against security threats and attacks.

    Last Updated on December 21, 2022 By databracketsIn cybersecurity, VAPT
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  • How to Select a Security Vendor

    Know the factors that need to be considered before selecting a security vendor

    databrackets infographics on Security Vendor SelectionAccording to the 2022 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 62% of network breaches occurred through an organization’s partner. Statistics like this challenge the notion that having security vendors and sharing data is a secure way to achieve organic growth.

    Organizations today are also facing the new reality of a hybrid work environment with decentralized offices, flexible remote work practices, greater health precautions in the workplace, and dynamic security threats. As you navigate the altering landscape of work during a pandemic, it becomes increasingly important to minimize costs, respond to new conditions, and plan to future-proof your organization.

    Finding the right security vendor to protect your organization’s data while meeting your budget can prove challenging, given the sheer number of vendors and solutions available.  A good starting point would be a checklist to evaluate vendors and ascertain if they are the right fit for your organization.

    We have outlined how to select a security vendor based on the factors listed below:

    1. Data Sharing Process
    2. Background
    3. Certifications and Credentials

    4. Security posture
    5. Customer References
    6. Pen Testing Report
    7. Policies and Procedures
    8. Post engagement support

    1. Data Sharing Process

    To conduct a successful vendor selection process, you must begin by analyzing the protocol of the working relationship you plan to create with the vendor. You need to understand the information / data that will be shared between your organization and the vendor. Organizations often tend to narrow down a list of possible security providers to the top 3-5 and pass it along without going into these crucial details – a recipe for failure.

    Review the following questions vis-à-vis the internal processes in your organization.

    1. How much access will they have? This might be in a tiered internal system, with level one access becoming the least critical and level four access being the most critical.
    2. Which systems will they be able to access?
    3. What information will be shared between the organization and the security vendor? Will Personally Identifiable Information (PII), health care data, intellectual property, or similar sensitive files be disclosed?
    1.  

    Different organizations have varying levels of risk. For some organizations this necessitates an on-site assessment, including pen testing, while for others, it can be conducted from the desk. Knowing ahead of time how much access the security vendor will have and what type of data will be shared is critical. With this information in mind, you should have an idea of how thoroughly your security vendor should handle your organization’s data.

    2. Background

    Assess critical aspects of a vendor’s credentials and background. Review the following questions vis-à-vis the portfolios of the vendors you are considering.

    a. Are they trustworthy?

    While only some security vendors are ready to share information about their clients, they should be able to issue letters of recommendation. A simple phone call or email to a previous or present client can clear up any confusion about a vendor’s credentials, abilities, and capacity. Additional research, including online reviews, discussion board comments, etc., can also go a long way toward finding the right fit for your business.

    b. Do they understand your industry?

    Although many security components are universal, several organizations have specific technical requirements and rules. Ensure that your security vendors are familiar with your organization’s software, technology, and any industry-specific legal requirements. It is preferable to have a vendor who has worked in a similar setup.

    c. Is the company stable and financially sound and has insurance?

    According to a recent poll, 25% of SMBs declared bankruptcy after a data breach, and 10% went out of business. In worst-case scenarios, the vendor’s insurance could potentially cover your business loss for negligence and errors during the engagement.

    d. What is their contingency plan if something goes wrong?

    Since breaches have become the third certainty in life, after death and taxes, it’s critical to choose a security vendor with a reputation for adequately preparing their clients for the terrifying reality of a breach and a track record of getting them through it.

    3. Certifications and Credentials

    Certifications confirm that a vendor has good security hygiene. Many security vendors claim to be experts while having very few industry-standard credentials or qualifications. Before working with a vendor, look for certifications such as CompTIA, GSEC, CISSP, or CCSP. You also need to ensure that everybody who has access to your network and data has been thoroughly trained and verified.

    ISO 27001, or its American counterpart, NIST, is one of the most widely used standards for describing information security management. These standards make it mandatory for all procedures to be documented and adhere to data security protocols. They govern both the technical infrastructure requirements and the manner in which a business operates. Adhering to these standards ensures that your client data is secure, communication is private, and your employees have been adequately vetted and trained.

    The PCI DSS is a payment card industry standard. It is one of the highest security certifications a supplier may acquire for payment information data protection. Other security certificates are more industry-specific, although they also indicate a high level of maturity in the security program. HIPAA compliance is necessary in the United States if you deal with Protected Health Information (PHI). GDPR mandates the data privacy rules that are essential in Europe.

    In addition, a recent SOC 2 examination report of a vendor validates their technology, processes, and people by a third-party auditing firm.

    4. Security Posture

    Revisiting the 2022 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report – it was found that 62% of network breaches occurred through an organization’s partner. Before onboarding a security vendor, you must thoroughly examine their security posture to avoid being part of this statistic. For most organizations, this is an expensive and time-consuming process. However, you can define acceptable risk levels and create language to verify that your entire third-party network satisfies the security standards and protocols that your organization adheres to.

    Establish a culture of cross-collaboration across departments. Everyone from the CEO, CIO, and CFO to the head of the legal department should be involved in assessing your organization’s risk appetite – what is acceptable and what is not. Then, define risk parameters, for example, the imposition of additional contractual controls depending on a specific vendor’s rating. Lower-rated items may require more extensive controls to satisfy your acceptable risk threshold.

    5. Customer References

    Require each security vendor to provide a list of three references. Then, make sure to call or email those references and respectfully ask questions , including but not limited to the following:

        • Were their personnel knowledgeable?
        • How would you rank their product or service quality?
        • Did you get the level of service you were promised?
        • What steps did they take if something went wrong?
        • Did you have to revisit any shortcomings in the security protocols?
        • Would you recommend the vendor to other businesses? Why or why not?

    6. Pen Testing Report

    Many security certifications necessitate a penetration test to uncover potential flaws. Security-conscious businesses frequently run them internally to prevent leaks and breaches. A formal report on the test results will contain sensitive information they would be reluctant to reveal. However, you might discuss test results during chats and negotiations with a potential security partner. It would help to inquire about the last time the security vendor conducted a test, who conducted it, and what suggestions were provided. You may not be given complete details, but the fact that the test was taken illustrates the company’s commitment to security standards. It is permissible to enquire whether the vulnerabilities have been addressed and additional safeguards have been taken.

    7. Policies And Procedures

    If an organization values security, it will implement policies and procedures to meet that critical objective. A solid information security policy should address software and hardware usage and maintenance, Internet usage, email communications, access controls such as password management, and customer data processing. Organizations must inquire about the security vendors’ policies, procedures, and implementation.

    Hiring And Training Procedures :

    People are the weakest link in any security system, no matter how sophisticated the cyberattack is. According to a Tessian Report, 43% of US and UK employees made mistakes that weakened the level of cybersecurity.

    Inquire about how the security vendor hires and trains new staff. What are the credentials and certifications of their personnel? Do they conduct background checks? How frequently do people undergo retraining? Do employees have to sign NDAs? Were there any previous data leaks? All of these inquiries are appropriate before entrusting someone with your assignment.

    8. Post Engagement Support

    Hackers are opportunistic; ransomware, malware, and phishing efforts have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, and they can strike anytime. IT and security vendors should ideally have resources available to respond to a cyber incident 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and develop a communication channel with you.

    The only way to defend everything you’ve worked so hard to create is to be cautious about security lapses. There are several factors to consider while choosing the ideal business partner. We encourage you to use this checklist to evaluate the list of vendors you shortlist and make a sound business decision.

    databrackets as your security vendor

    With over a decade of industry experience and technical excellence, a dedicated team at databrackets can protect your organization from threats and adapt to each industry’s unique requirements, including law firms, healthcare, financial services, law enforcement agencies, SaaS providers, Managed Service Providers, and other commercial organizations. Contact us to know more about how our services will help your company. We would be happy to connect with you.

    Last Updated on December 5, 2022 By databracketsIn IT & Operations consulting services
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  • Vulnerability Assessment vs. Penetration Testing

    Know the difference between vulnerability assessment and penetration testing; and the importance of implementing both

    Growing need for VAPT infographic-databrackets

    Every business with digital assets is at risk of being hacked, no matter how big or successful it is on a global scale. Reports show one ransomware attack occurred every 11 seconds in 2021.  These attacks could hurt anyone, from a multimillion-dollar company to a small business starting to make some sales online.

    A vulnerability assessment report tells you where potential risk is and the steps you can take to reduce it. A vulnerability assessment focuses on your systems, network, and the places people can connect.

    A Penetration Test or Pentest is an authorized simulated attack on computer systems to assess security. Penetration tests simulate various business-threatening attacks and can examine any system component with the right scope. Penetration testers use the same Tools, Tactics, and Procedures (TTPs) as attackers to find weaknesses in a system and show how they affect business.

    Comparing penetration testing and vulnerability assessments helps understand their roles in your organization’s security practices and determine your needs.

     

    Vulnerability Assessment

     

    What is a Vulnerability Assessment?

    Vulnerability assessments identify, classify, and prioritize computer, application, and network vulnerabilities. Vulnerability assessments examine information system security flaws; it checks for vulnerabilities, assign severity levels, and suggest solutions.

    Why are Vulnerability Assessments needed?

    A vulnerability assessment determines an organization’s areas that need improvement. This process helps the company understand its assets, security flaws, and risk, reducing the likelihood of a cyberattack. It also guides risk assessment for weaknesses.

    Depending on your organization, you may need regular vulnerability assessments to stay compliant. Compliance regulations have evolved to address security issues and vary by region/industry. Examples include GDPRs, PCI DSS, and HIPAA. These standards require regular assessments to demonstrate sensitive customer data is being protected properly. Vulnerability Assessments are comprehensive security processes that include:

    • Checking security protocols
    • Password safety of routers and Wi-Fi networks
    • Reviewing network strength against network intrusions, DDoS, and MITM attacks
    • Network port vulnerability scanning

    How often do you need to perform a Vulnerability Assessment?

    How often assessments must be done is set by compliance requirements. While legal regulations may require them less frequently, in the best-case scenario, assessments should be done once a month. Businesses generally get the recommendation to scan their internal and external systems at least once every three months.

    Major standards’ frequency levels:

    • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS): Every three months
    • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): Does not require scanning but mandates that a detailed assessment process must be set up
    • Cyber Security Maturity Model Certification (CMMC): Once a week to once every three months, depending on what auditors need
    • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): Every three to four months, depending on how the organization is run

    What’s in the Vulnerability Assessment Report?

    Vulnerability Assessment involves vulnerability scanning and technical judgment. A Vulnerability Assessment report includes an organization’s security policy and other security products utilized. The Vulnerability Assessment suggests risk-mitigation measures afterward.

    A Vulnerability Assessment report analyzes an organization’s systems, identifies vulnerabilities, and rates their severity. Security professionals use automated and manual testing tools for these assessments.

    How do Vulnerability Assessments benefit you?

    Vulnerability Assessments help you:

    • Discover security flaws to help organizations stay one step ahead of attackers
    • Catalog all network devices, including the purpose and system information
    • Plan upgrades, installations, and inventory of all enterprise devices
    • Define network risk
    • Optimize security investments with a business risk/benefit curve

    How do you perform a Vulnerability Assessment?

    1. Establishing the testing scope

    Establish a Vulnerability Assessment methodology:

    • Locate your sensitive data
    • Find hidden data
    • Identify mission-critical servers
    • Select systems and networks
    • Check ports, processes, and configurations
    • Map the IT infrastructure, digital assets, and devices
    • Streamline the process
    1. Identifying vulnerabilities

    Conduct a vulnerability scan of your IT infrastructure and list all security threats. This step needs an automated vulnerability scan and a manual penetration test to ensure correct results and reduce false positives.

    1. Analyze

    A scanning tool generates risk and vulnerability assessments. Most tools have a CVSS (common vulnerability scoring system) score. These scores show weaknesses. Prioritize them by severity, urgency, potential damage, and risk.

    1. Addressing vulnerabilities

    After identifying and analyzing vulnerabilities, choose a fix—options include mediation and remediation.

    Remediation resolves vulnerabilities. It can be done by installing security tools, keeping products up to date, or using other methods. All stakeholders must participate in vulnerability remediation based on identified priorities.

    Google Trends for Vulnerability Assessment vs. Penetration Testing

    Trends_Vulnerability Assessment_PenTest

    Google trends show that penetration testing’s relative interest nearly peaked last year. Organizations are grouping Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) to improve security maturity.

    Penetration Testing

    What is Penetration Testing?

    Penetration Testing (or Pentest) is the authorized simulation of various business-threatening attacks on computer systems to evaluate security. Penetration tests determine if a system can handle attacks from authenticated and unauthenticated users and system roles. Pen testers use the same tools, methods, and processes as attackers to find weaknesses in a system and show how they may affect business. Pentest can examine any system component with the right scope.

    Why is Penetration Testing important?

    • Find vulnerabilities that traditional IT security tools miss
    • Identify weak spots in an application or network that hackers might use to get into the system
    • Establish customer and company trust
    • Protect company data and reputation; data leaks ruin reputations

    Preparing for attacks from hackers or employees who leak confidential information is important. A non-destructive penetration test can identify security vulnerabilities before an attack and recommend improvements.

    How often do you need to perform Penetration Testing?

    At least once a year, penetration testing should be performed to improve IT and network security management and to reveal how malicious hackers may exploit newly discovered threats (0-days, 1-days) or emerging vulnerabilities. For example, PCI DSS compliance requires annual penetration testing or major infrastructure or application upgrades.

    IT Governance recommends an annual Level 2 penetration test for high-profile or high-value organizations. Organizations with a low-risk appetite should do level 1 penetration tests often (usually every three months).

    What’s in the Penetration Testing report?

    Penetration Testing reports detail security test vulnerabilities. The report lists weaknesses, threats, and solutions. The Pen Test Report provides a complete overview of vulnerabilities with a POC (Proof of Concept) and priority remediation rating for each issue and its impact on your application/website.

    A good penetration testing report includes an executive summary, vulnerabilities, business impact, and recommendations to fix them.

    How do you perform Penetration Testing?

    Planning and reconnaissance, scanning, system access, continued access, and analysis/report comprise the penetration testing process. Ethical hackers can look at a system, figure out its strengths and weaknesses, then choose the best tools and methods to break into it. Penetration testing begins long before a simulated attack.

    Planning and Reconnaissance

    The first penetration phase involves simulating a malicious assault to obtain as much system information as possible. Ethical hackers look at the system, its weaknesses, and how the technology stack reacts when a system is broken. The methods include Social engineering, dumpster diving, network scanning, and domain registration information retrieval. Employee names, emails, network topology, and IP addresses are searched. The audit goals determine the type of information and investigation depth.

    Scanning

    Penetration testers scan systems and networks based on planning findings. The scan identifies system vulnerabilities that could be exploited for targeted attacks. All this information is crucial to the success of the next steps.

    System Access

    Pen testers use system vulnerabilities to enter infrastructure. They escalate privileges to show how deep they can get into target environments.

    Continued Access

    In this step, the Pentest identifies which data and services one can access to gain the most privileges, network knowledge, and system access. Pentesters should stay in a system long enough to mimic hostile hackers’ intentions.

    Analysis and Reporting

    The security team writes a comprehensive penetration testing report of their results at the last stage. Finally, they recommend safeguards to prevent future attacks. Attacks have skyrocketed in recent years and don’t appear to be slowing down, so the number of precautions needs to be adjusted accordingly.

    How does Penetration Testing benefit you?

    • Reveals the system’s weaknesses
    • Reveals the system’s strengths
    • Prevents Hackers from Infiltrating Systems
    • Verifies if your system design meets the current regulations
    • Helps ensure an experienced hacker cannot access your data
    • Shows how a hacker might attack your system. This distinguishes them from most other testing choices
    • Helps establish customer trust, showing you’re correcting problems and working hard to serve clients well
    • Helps budget your security expenditure

     

    Vulnerability Assessment vs. Penetration Testing

    Vulnerability Assessment vs. Penetration Testing
    Vulnerability Assessment
    Penetration Testing
    Purpose
    Identifies, analyzes, remedies, and discloses security problems. Security techniques help companies limit their “attack surface.”
    Detect and exploit computer system flaws. This simulated attack finds vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit.
    Frequency
    On average, it is performed every quarter
    At least once a year
    Scope
    Finds and categorizes system vulnerabilities.
    Exploits weaknesses for insights.
    Report
    Lists all system vulnerabilities detected during a scan by severity and offers fixes.
    Details vulnerabilities found during a security test, list flaws, threats, and possible remedies.
    Performed by
    Vulnerability scanning is a largely automated process
    Penetration testing is a hybrid process that combines automated scanning with manual interaction.
    Timeline
    Automated vulnerability assessment saves time and money.
    A penetration test is a time-consuming and costly process.
    Cost
    Vulnerability assessments typically cost $2,000–$2,500, depending on the number of IPs, servers, or apps checked.
    Website penetration testing costs $349–$1499 per scan.
    Depending on your needs, SAAS or web application scans cost $700–$4999.
    Website penetration tests cost $2500–$50,000.
    Pentesting mobile and web apps cost $1500–$5000.
    Cloud, network and device pen testing quotes vary in cost $400–$2000.
    White-box penetration testing: $500–$2000 per scan
    Black-box penetration testing: $10,000–$50,000 per scan
    Grey-box penetration testing: $500–$50,000 per scan
    Limitation
    Rarely yield zero false positives.
    Exposes the network to fraudsters, hackers, or severe data loss.
    Best Suited
    Suitable for a multimillion-dollar SaaS firm or a small e-commerce venture that relies on data that must routinely check for security flaws.
    Ideal for firms with sophisticated applications and valuable data.
    Depth
    The report will detail all potential vulnerabilities and may rank vulnerabilities by network threat.
    The penetration tester acts like a hacker to attack vulnerabilities (in an ethical manner) without stealing, exploiting, or destroying network data.

     

    Why might an organization need to conduct Vulnerability Assessments and Pen Testing?

    Most of the time, Vulnerability Assessments and Penetration Tests are grouped. A good security program will use vulnerability and penetration testing to improve security maturity.

    Conclusion

    Vulnerability scans are often confused with penetration tests but provide different benefits. The best vulnerability management solutions regularly find, evaluate, report, and rank weaknesses in software and network systems. The findings are presented in an easily understandable format to protect your business-critical assets.

    Vulnerability scans cannot replace penetration tests. Vulnerability scans identify risks at a high level while penetration testers investigate them. Penetration tests can show if vulnerabilities can be exploited to access your environment, whereas vulnerability scans cannot. Most vulnerability scans are automated, making them a better option for daily use. Alongside penetration tests, reviewing your environment’s vulnerabilities frequently can alert you to new vulnerabilities and their severity.

    How can databrackets help with VAPT?

    Before an attacker can discover the network, application, cloud service, and code vulnerabilities, databrackets’ A2LA-accredited process and pen testers can quickly and cost-effectively identify security vulnerabilities.

    Contact us to learn more about how our services and specialists can help your company defend against security threats and attacks.

    Last Updated on November 10, 2022 By databracketsIn VAPT
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  • 7 Benefits of SOC 2

    Explore the benefits of being SOC 2 Certified as you begin your SOC 2 journey

    A SOC 2 Report helps organizations to prove their commitment to customer data security and meet the eligibility criteria of a potential client’ RFQ. More and more clients have been asking for proof of SOC 2 Compliance while evaluating if they want to work with a vendor. This is particularly relevant for technology service providers, SaaS providers, and any organization that stores and processes customer data.

    Technically, SOC 2® is not a certification. It is a report on the organization’s system and management’s internal controls relating to the Trust Services Criteria. It includes the auditor’s opinion of control efficacies on protecting data, also known as a ‘SOC 2® Attestation’.

    databrackets Infographics on 7 Benefits of SOC 2

    As security partners who have worked with countless SaaS providers to prep their organization for a SOC 2 Audit, we at databrackets have observed the following 7 key benefits of SOC 2:

    1. Meet regulatory requirements: Once you are SOC 2 Compliant, you are aligned with AICPA’s regulatory controls. A SOC 2 certificate is proof of that.

    2. Supervise your organization: SOC 2 compliance mandates supervising all aspects of information security across all processes internally along with setting the benchmarks for vendors who manage customer data. In order to accomplish this, a robust process is designed, and its effectiveness is verified once an organization is SOC 2 Certified.

    3. Get a leading security certification issued by an independent 3rd party: A SOC 2 Examination is conducted by an authorized and certified CPA. This gives credibility to the process and ensures it is conducted in an objective way. As a result, it is considered to be a highly valued certification.

    4. Sign new deals: You can sign more deals and increase the number of clients once you prove your ability to effectively manage customer data with a SOC 2 Certificate.

    5. Assure existing customers: You can prove to your existing customers that your company not only manages their customer data with the highest level of information security, but that this has also been verified by an authorized CPA firm after a rigorous SOC 2 audit.

    6. Strengthen Vendor Management: You can set the benchmarks for vendors and ensure compliance with the highest level of information security.

    7. Monitor internal corporate governance and risk management processes: You can design and monitor risk management processes and internal corporate governance in accordance with the SOC 2 framework.

    Experts at databrackets have extensive experience in supporting organizations align their processes with AICPA’s Trust Services Criteria and prepare for a SOC 2 Audit. If you would like to connect with an expert to better understand SOC 2 and plan your SOC 2 journey, do not hesitate to schedule a consultation.

    Related Links:

    Last Updated on November 8, 2022 By databracketsIn SOC 2
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  • What is SOC 2?

    Explore the basics of SOC 2 Compliance and the difference between SOC 2 Compliance and SOC 2 Certification

    SOC 2 is a compliance standard for service organizations, developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). It specifies how organizations should manage customer data. The SOC 2 framework is applicable to all technology service providers or SaaS Product companies that store customer data. They are required to ensure that security controls and practices are designed and implemented effectively to safeguard the privacy and security of customer data. There are several benefits of being SOC 2 Compliance.

    This security framework does not provide a specific list of controls and tools. It merely cites the criteria required to maintain a high level of information security. It is up to each organization to establish the practices and processes relevant to their own objectives and operations. SOC 2 Certification is based on 5 Trust Services Criteria: security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and privacy of customer data.

    What is SOC 2 Compliance

    Basics of SOC 2 Compliance

    There are several components of becoming SOC 2 Compliant, a SOC 2 gap assessment, implementation of identified gaps, a SOC 2 audit and SOC 2 report that needs to be understood before you begin this journey. Getting SOC 2 Compliant fast is a marketing gimmick.

    SOC 2 Compliance versus SOC 2 Certification

    Being SOC 2 Compliant is essentially having a valid SOC 2 report by an independent third-party CPA firm. Technically, SOC 2 is not a certification – it is the auditor’s opinion of control efficacies on protecting data, also known as a ‘SOC 2 Attestation’. A SOC 2 attestation is based on the Trust Services Criteria and is provided  by a registered CPA firm authorized by the AICPA. Usually, a SOC 2 report is valid for a year and the organization is required to engage the same or a different CPA firm to conduct the next SOC 2 audit.

     

     

    *We would like to share that the official term is ‘SOC 2 examination’. In the industry the term ‘SOC 2 compliance’ is used interchangeably. Similarly, the official term is ‘reporting’, while the commonly used term is ‘certification’ interchangeably to help put the content into the appropriate context.

    Experts at databrackets have extensive experience in supporting organizations align their processes with AICPA’s Trust Services Criteria and prepare for a SOC 2 Audit. Our unique approach to SOC 2 readiness not only brings in experts from the industry but also leverages our assessment platform to identify controls, collect the required evidence and collaborate with auditors.  If you would like to connect with an expert to better understand SOC 2 and plan your SOC 2 journey, do not hesitate to schedule a consultation.

    Related Links:

    SOC 2 Guide : Get answers to all your SOC 2 questions

    How to succeed at SOC 2

    How long does it take to get SOC 2 compliant?

    How databrackets prepares you to succeed at SOC 2?

    Last Updated on November 3, 2022 By databracketsIn SOC 2
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  • NIST Security Standards

    The NIST security standards are a key resource for setting the organization’s network security and overall security posture

    NIST Security Standards databrackets infographicsOrganizations of all sizes are vulnerable to data theft and loss.  Vulnerability is regardless of the asset at risk – consumer information, intellectual property, or private corporate files.  The United States federal government and its commercial contractors have long relied on the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to provide information security standards and recommendations.  This blog will analyze NIST security standards and compliance to help improve your cybersecurity program.

    NIST creates information security standards and guidelines, including minimum requirements for federal systems. However, such standards and procedures shall not apply to national security systems without the express approval of relevant federal officials exercising policy authority over such systems.

    NIST compliance is essentially meeting the requirements of one or more NIST standards. The organization’s principal function is to provide guidelines (especially for security controls) applicable to various businesses and agencies. NIST is releasing several security standards widely used worldwide in response to the rising demand in the security sector.

    Although NIST has been active for some time, the NIST CSF (Cybersecurity Framework) was born out of the 2014 Cybersecurity Enhancement Act passed in December of that year. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) is one of their most popular security standards. This widely accepted framework provides organizations with guidance to help organizations manage cybersecurity risk.

    What Are NIST Security Standards?

    Businesses increasingly realize that network security requirements are a vital component of a contemporary organization and critical to its survival.

    According to IBM, only 23% of corporations said they had an incident response plan for their entire company before the pandemic, indicating that businesses were unprepared for cyberattacks.

    Cyberattacks are now more common than ever due to the pandemic.  Businesses must act to safeguard themselves and their customers.

    Companies are searching for direction in their cybersecurity and are hoping that frameworks like NIST can deliver it.

    What Is NIST?

    The National Bureau of Standards, as it was known until 1988, was established in 1901 as a non-regulatory organization.  The main aim was to produce standards in a variety of fields.  This included manufacturing, environmental research, public safety, nanotechnology, information technology, and others.

    Since its inception, NIST’s mandate has expanded to include an increasing number of businesses, including cybersecurity (under IT). NIST standards, particularly their cybersecurity framework, are meant to be voluntary guidelines for all organizations, with the exception of those engaged in government contracts, which must follow them.

    NIST Security Google Trend

    ‘NIST’ has reached the highest search interest in August-September ’22 since February ’22, edging towards an all-time high on Google Search in the U.S.  This is mainly due to its convening requirement to create a risk-based approach for organizations to improve their security posture.

    Key NIST Security Standards

    NIST CSF

    The NIST Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF) is the benchmark for designing a cybersecurity program. This framework, developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, tackles the absence of standards in cybersecurity by providing a consistent set of rules, guidelines, and standards for enterprises to adopt across the board.

    The NIST cybersecurity framework effectively organizes and develops an organization’s cybersecurity program. It is a set of guidelines and best practices designed to assist organizations in developing and improving cybersecurity posture. The framework proposes a series of suggestions and standards to help your organization better prepare to recognize and detect cyber-attacks and rules for responding to, preventing, and recovering from cyber disasters.

    The NIST CSF specifies your organization’s security procedures to protect digital assets from unwanted access. It does not create new security requirements or solutions that organizations must implement. Rather, the framework provides organizations with the best cybersecurity practices.

    These practices are the five basic functions listed below:

    Identify: Raise awareness within your organization about the need to manage cybersecurity risk. Then, determine the systems and data needed to safeguard your organization.

    Protect: Put in place security measures to protect your systems and data from attackers. These steps may include cybersecurity solutions, organization-wide security policy, and data management training for staff.

    Detect: Good cybersecurity necessitates increased visibility into enterprise networks, systems, and devices—a well-planned cybersecurity strategy, including protocols and tools for detecting cybersecurity incidents.

    Respond: Create crisis plans to eliminate threats and quickly mitigate harm.

    Recover: Implement a disaster recovery policy to restore data and services disrupted by your cyberattack, learn and grow from every cybersecurity event, and communicate your findings throughout your organization. 

    The framework also offers four tiers for assessing an organization’s cybersecurity posture.

    Tier 1 – Partial: The organization does not adhere to a minimum cybersecurity requirement and does not have a written security plan. Cybersecurity measures are frequently improvised and established in response to a previous occurrence.

    Tier 2 – Risk-informed: Although there are no organizational-wide cybersecurity safeguards, the organization is aware of cyber supply chain threats. Some cybersecurity measures are in place but not implemented at all levels of the business.

    Tier 3 – Repetitive: The firm formalizes implementing a company-wide cybersecurity policy, which is reviewed and modified to reflect the ever-changing technological world.

    Tier 4 – Adaptable: The organization’s cybersecurity policy is constantly adjusted to line with industry standards and developing technology.

    NIST 800-53

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology created the NIST 800-53 standard and compliance framework for cybersecurity. An ongoing framework seeks to dynamically develop standards, controls, and evaluations by risk, cost-effectiveness, and capabilities.

    The NIST 800-53 framework offers a base of guiding components, strategies, systems, and controls that can neutrally support any organization’s cybersecurity needs and priorities.

    NIST 800-171

    The NIST 800-171 document specifies how federal contractors and subcontractors should maintain Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). It is also intended for non-federal information systems and organizations.

    Executive Order 13556, signed by President Obama in 2010, mandated that all federal agencies in the United States preserve CUI more stringently. Following several high-profile breaches of government entities, the federal government increased its focus on cybersecurity. The goal was to create a consistent strategy for data sharing and transparency that calls for adherence by all agencies.

    As a result, the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) was passed in 2014, followed by NIST 800-53 and NIST 800-171 in 2017. Since then, various iterations and upgrades to NIST 800-171 have been released to keep CUI safe inside the government contractor ecosystem.

    FIPS 140-2 

    The Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 (FIPS 140-2) is an information technology security accreditation procedure that verifies that private-sector cryptographic modules meet well-defined security standards.

    Other  standards

    Firms not subcontracted by a government contractor or employed directly by the government do not require NIST CSF compliance. However, many of its procedures and activities apply to other laws that require compliance, including HIPAA, PCI, and PII.

    NIST Compliance for Federal Agencies

    All organizations conducting business with the federal government, including academic institutions that receive federal funds, must conform to the NIST criteria to qualify for government contracts.

    Anyone processing, storing, or transmitting potentially sensitive information for the Department of Defense (DoD), General Services Administration (GSA), NASA, or other federal or state agencies must adhere to NIST compliance guidelines.

    Executive Order 13800 made the CSF mandatory for all federal entities in the United States. However, compliance with the NIST CSF is optional for commercial firms, while many private sector organizations prefer to employ these standards, which are routinely updated to combat changing cybersecurity threats.

    NIST Compliance for the Private Sector

    Compliance with NIST standards is optional for private-sector companies that do not compete for government contracts. Nonetheless, adopting NIST standards has various advantages that make the proposal well worth exploring.

    The flexible nature of the NIST cybersecurity framework can be highly valuable when an organization is attempting to chart its path to better protecting its critical infrastructure, implementing effective security measures, and reducing the risk of cyber assaults.

    If you follow NIST principles, you don’t have to start from scratch when designing your cybersecurity strategy. Adopting NIST shows that your company is serious about data security and developing robust security procedures.

    If you answered yes to any of the following questions, NIST compliance is a good next step for your company:

    Do you handle HIPAA-compliant data?

    Do you manage regulated, unclassified information regularly?

    Do you have a large number of third-party vendors and contractors?

    Will you ever compete for a contract with the United States government?

    Do you want to work as a service provider or a small company contractor in national security?

    Do you work on projects adhering to the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA)?

    Seeking NIST compliance does not have to be as difficult and time-consuming as it may appear. NIST compliance criteria have become industry standards, particularly for mitigating cybersecurity risks such as data breaches. As the COVID-19 outbreak subsides and the organization resumes normal operations, databrackets can assist you in remaining competitive.

    Comparing NIST with other standards

    Compliance standards and frameworks such as NIST CSF, ISO 27001, and SOC2 guarantee the integrity and protection of your organization’s data as well as the data of your customers.

    However, these regulations are not similar, and it’s not always clear which one applies to your company.  To determine which is ideal for you, let’s compare these frameworks. To know more, please visit our blog

    Cost of complying with NIST security standards

    Organizations often spend between $5,000 and $15,000 to be assessed for NIST compliance. If problems that need to be fixed are discovered during the examination, they can cost between $35,000 and $115,000 to remedy.

    How databrackets can help you comply with NIST security regulations?

    We offer an A2LA-accredited comprehensive suite of self-assessment and consulting services to help you navigate the NIST Cybersecurity framework requirements.

    We have compared well-known security frameworks and standards with the help of our partners and consultants. Our analysis and assessment focus on practical elements you should consider before implementing the controls in place for each framework.

    For more information, get in touch with our specialist to learn how databrackets can put your organization’s compliance in order right away.

    Last Updated on November 3, 2022 By databracketsIn NIST Cybersecurity framework
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  • Comparing Top 5 Security Regulations for Healthcare

    Explore security regulations for the Healthcare industry as Clinics, Hospitals, Diagnostic Centres, Health Insurance and Healthcare Services pursue benchmarks to secure patient data

    Comparing the top 5 security regulations for healthcareThe healthcare industry has been the target of countless hacking attempts despite adopting security protocols outlined in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) since 1996. Hackers have found innovative ways to create a data breach, leverage the high value of Protected Health Information (PHI) and create severe disruptions in the healthcare ecosystem. Over the last two decades, they have benefitted from loopholes in the IT architecture of healthcare organizations and the lack of security awareness training imparted to healthcare employees. Even today, it is not uncommon to hear about the next big data breach in a reputed chain of hospitals, diagnostic centers, or healthcare insurance companies, despite the growing advancements in security software, firewalls, and numerous methods to prevent a cyber attack. However, the truth about hacking attempts that failed is unknown. 

    There are many security regulations with benchmarks that make healthcare organizations consistently vigilant, including HIPAA. These contribute to the hidden success stories of failed hacking attempts and secure patient data. One such initiative is by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which enforces HIPAA compliance and shares regular updates about the dynamic nature of cyber threats to ensure the healthcare ecosystem is able to take preventive action. 

    Customers, vendors, regulatory bodies, and shareholders associated with the healthcare ecosystem have made a series of demands about compliance, regular attestation, and at times, certification. We have identified the top 5 security regulations in the healthcare ecosystem which are being considered by organizations and would like to share their differences regarding validity, impact of violations, cost, number of controls, etc. for your benefit.

    HIPAA: HIPAA is a set of mandatory standards to manage the use and disclosure of patient data or Protected Health Information (PHI). HIPAA compliance is mandatory for all Healthcare Providers, Business Associates (Vendors of Healthcare Providers), Healthcare SaaS companies, subcontractors, and any organization that directly or indirectly works with PHI. HIPAA has been amended to include additional rules that expand its scope and applicability and help the healthcare ecosystem prevent cyber attacks. The Office for Civil Rights (OCRenforces HIPAA, while the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulates HIPAA compliance. The OCR regularly publishes recommendations on new issues affecting healthcare and investigates common HIPAA violations on a regular basis.

    Organizations need to demonstrate HIPAA compliance by designing policies and procedures, conducting regular staff training, and ensuring their IT architecture and data privacy protocols are aligned with all HIPAA rules. They are also responsible for ensuring that their vendor contracts include mandatory HIPAA compliance protocols. HIPAA violations can lead to penalties, fines, and even jail time. 

    While the healthcare industry has been aware of HIPAA rules, due to the sharp increase in cyber attacks, their customers, vendors, and shareholders have begun asking for proof of compliance with other security regulations. 

    ISO 27001: ISO 27001 is a generic standard for information security developed and regulated by the International Organization for Standardization and is officially referred to as ‘ISO/IEC 27001’. It is part of the ISO/IEC 27000 family of standards for information security management. It is a very comprehensive set of controls covering the entire spectrum of information processing. ISO 27002 contains the implementation details and customization details of ISO 27001.

    ISO 27001 is a triennial certification with annual surveillance audits. Organizations usually pursue this voluntary certification to become eligible for RFQs for B2B or B2G contracts owing to its extensive list of controls, which prove that they can secure customer data. The impact of a violation is severe since they stand to lose their reputation and revenue from contracts that were signed with the condition that they maintain their ISO 27001 certification. While healthcare customers have a moderate level of acceptance for ISO 27001 certification, it is being considered by larger organizations in addition to HIPAA.  

    SOC 2: SOC 2 is a data privacy standard for compliance developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). It defines the criteria for managing customer data based on five ‘trust service principles’ – security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. Organizations undergo a SOC 2 examination and receive a SOC 2 Report, commonly referred to as a SOC 2 Certificate. The SOC 2 Certificate only assesses the maturity of controls during the time of the SOC 2 Audit period. Organizations need to renew their certification at regular intervals to prove their continuous compliance.

    SOC 2 is popular in the US and is considered by healthcare organizations since it is moderately challenging to implement. At databrackets, we have supported several healthcare SaaS companies to prepare for their SOC 2 examination and test their controls before their SOC 2 audit. In our experience, the commitment to data privacy it commands is rigorous, and the benefits far exceed the financial investment. 

    NIST Security Guidelines: The NIST security guidelines are voluntary guidance based on existing standards, policies, and practices for organizations to better manage and reduce cybersecurity risks. NIST 800-53 and NIST Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF) are the leading security guidelines for managing and communicating cybersecurity posture amongst internal and external organizational stakeholders. While NIST guidelines do not lead to a certification by external authorized personnel, organizations use attestation to prove they comply with the specific NIST standard.

    Regular maintenance and consistent vigilance are required to ensure you continue to comply with NIST CSF and NIST SP 800-53 rev 5. However, you don’t need to get re-assessed until a new version of the standard is published. Despite this flexibility, vendor contracts may require an attestation to a specific NIST Security Guideline because of the extensive controls which require substantial investment. 

    HITRUST CSF: HITRUST is specifically developed for organizations in the Healthcare ecosystem that want to leverage other leading security standards along with HIPAA regulations. HITRUST created and maintains the Common Security Framework (CSF), a certifiable framework to help healthcare organizations and their providers demonstrate their security and compliance in a consistent and streamlined manner. Several organizations view HITRUST CSF as the ideal benchmark for the healthcare ecosystem, which needs security protocols beyond HIPAA. Though this annual certification may sound like a panacea, the financial investment in implementing its dynamic mix of controls from various security standards is not viable for many organizations.

    Comparisons

    Comparing Top 5 Security Regulations for Healthcare
    HIPAA and HITECH
    ISO 27001
    SOC 2
    NIST Security Guidelines
    HITRUST CSF (Common Security Framework)
    Description
    HIPAA is mandated by the HHS and enforced by the OCR. HIPAA Compliance is mandatory for covered entities, business associates and subcontractors. Under the Act, there are 18 HIPAA identifiers or types of PHI that must be protected by all organizations that store, process and transmit it. HIPAA applies to the entire healthcare ecosystem.
    ISO 27001 is a generic standard for information security developed by ISO. It is a very comprehensive set of controls covering the entire spectrum of information processing. ISO 27002 contains the implementation details and customization details of ISO 27001.
    SOC 2 is a standard for compliance developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). It defines the criteria for managing customer data based on five ‘trust service principles’ – security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.
    The NIST security guidelines are voluntary guidance based on existing standards, policies, and practices for organizations to better manage and reduce cybersecurity risks. NIST 800-53 and NIST Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF) are the leading security guidelines for managing and communicating cybersecurity posture amongst internal and external organizational stakeholders.
    HITRUST is specifically developed for organizations in the Healthcare ecosystem that want to leverage other leading security standards alongwith HIPAA regulations. HITRUST created and maintains the Common Security Framework (CSF), a certifiable framework to help healthcare organizations and their providers demonstrate their security and compliance in a consistent and streamlined manner.
    Type of Data
    PHI and ePHI – 18 HIPAA Identifiers
    All processes included in the ISMS
    Customer data
    Depends on what is decided as the scope. It may be all the data that the organization works with.
    PHI and ePHI
    Controls based on
    HIPAA Rules with emphasis on 3 safeguards – Physical, Technical & Administrative
    ISO 27001 & ISO 27002 controls (140+ controls)
    5 Trust Services Criteria (61 controls)
    NIST CSF Version 2 (75+ controls) and NIST SP 800-53 revision 5 (390+ controls)
    150+ controls
    Certification / Assessment
    Assessment
    Certification
    Certification / Examination
    Assessment
    Certification
    Frequency / Validity
    Annual
    Triennial (once every 3 years) with annual surveillance audits
    Annual
    Maintenance is required to ensure you are continue to comply with NIST CSF / NIST SP 800-53 rev 5. You need to undergo a new assessment everytime a new version of the standard is published.
    Annual
    Cost of Implementation, Readiness Prep and Assessment / Certification
    >= $25,000
    $25,000 – $50,000
    $25,000 – $50,000
    >= $25,000
    $50,000 – $200,000
    Readiness Prep
    Optional
    Recommended
    Recommended
    Optional
    Recommended
    Mandatory / Voluntary
    Mandatory
    Voluntary
    Voluntary
    Voluntary
    Voluntary
    Reports are reviewed by
    OCR/HHS
    B2B, B2C or B2G customers / vendors
    B2B, B2C or B2G customers / vendors
    B2B, B2C or B2G customers / vendors
    B2B, B2C or B2G customers / vendors
    Level of Difficulty while implementing
    Low
    Moderate
    Moderate
    Moderate
    High level of complexity
    Impact of violation
    Penalties, Fines, Jail time
    Certification will be revoked. Loss of business if clients make it mandatory.
    SOC 2 Report will be revoked. Loss of business if clients make it mandatory.
    It is a voluntary compliance standard. Loss of business if clients make it mandatory.
    Certification will be revoked. Loss of business if clients make it mandatory.
    Acceptance Level by Clients
    Mandatory / High Acceptance
    Voluntary / Moderate Acceptance
    Voluntary / High Acceptance
    Voluntary / Moderate Acceptance
    Voluntary / High Acceptance

    * This comparison is based on our experience while supporting healthcare clients for over a decade.

    ** The cost is indicated in USD.

     

    With over a decade of experience with healthcare clients, we have observed the benefits of complying with a security standard beyond HIPAA. While customer requirements, RFQs, and vendor contracts usually drive this choice, we recommend organizations review their cyber hygiene from the perspective of risks they want to be prepared for and business priorities while selecting the appropriate additional standard to manage them.

    Partner with databrackets to secure patient data

    The only way to defend everything you’ve worked so hard to create is to be protect your systems from security lapses. With over a decade of industry experience and technical excellence, a dedicated team at databrackets can help you protect your organization from threats and adapt to healthcare industry’s unique requirements.

    Our certified experts have developed specialized Do-It-Yourself Assessments and we offer consulting and hybrid services for HIPAA, SOC 2, ISO 27001 and NIST. We conduct readiness prep assessments for SOC 2 and ISO 27001 as well. Contact us to know more about how our services can help your company.

    Related Links

    What is the difference between an Audit, Assessment and Certification?

    How to Select a Security Vendor

    Comparing NIST, ISO 27001, SOC 2, and Other Security Standards and Frameworks

    Last Updated on October 31, 2022 By databracketsIn cybersecurity, HealthCare
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  • Cybersecurity Best Practices

    Learn ways to protect your organization from a data breach and maintain a high level of cyber hygiene.

    Keeping yourself protected from cybercrime isn’t just about having the latest security solutions. Good IT security practices, including regular training for employees, are essential components of every single security setup. Make sure you’re following these 9 best practices:

    1. Patch Early, Patch Often

    The exploitation of unpatched vulnerabilities was the root cause for almost half of cyber incidents investigated by Sophos in 2021.¹ The earlier you patch, the fewer holes there are to be exploited.

    2. Back up regularly and keep a recent backup copy off-line and off-site

    73% of IT managers whose data was encrypted were able to restore it using backups.² Encrypt your backup data and keep it off-line and off-site. Practice restoring data from backups regularly.

    3. Enable file extensions

    File extensions in Windows are hidden by default. Enabling them makes it much easier to spot file types that wouldn’t commonly be sent to you and your users, such as JavaScript files.

    4. Open JavaScript (.JS) files in Notepad

    Opening a JavaScript file in Notepad blocks it from running any malicious scripts and allows you to examine the file contents.

    5. Don’t enable macros in document attachments received via email

    Microsoft deliberately turned off auto-execution of macros by default many years ago as a security measure. A lot of infections rely on persuading you to turn macros back on, so don’t do it!

    6. Be cautious about unsolicited attachments

    Cybercriminals often rely on an ages-old dilemma: knowing that you shouldn’t open a document until you are sure it’s legitimate, but not being able to tell if it’s malicious until you open it. If in doubt, leave it out.

    7. Monitor administrator rights

    Constantly review local and domain admin rights. Know who has them and remove those who don’t need them. Don’t stay logged in as an administrator any longer than necessary.

    8. Regulate internal and external network access

    Don’t leave ports exposed. Lock down your organization’s RDP access and other remote management protocols. Furthermore, use two-factor authentication and ensure remote users authenticate against a VPN.

    9. Use strong passwords

    A weak and predictable password can give hackers access to your entire network. We recommend making them impersonal, at least 12 characters long, using a mix of upper and lower case, and adding random punctuation Ju5t.LiKETh1s!

    References:

    1. The Active Adversary Playbook 2022 – Sophos
    2. State of Ransomware 2022

    This educational material is brought to you in partnership with Sophos Ltd. and Connectwise Inc.

    Last Updated on October 18, 2022 By databracketsIn cybersecurity
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