February 22, 2017Crippling financial penalties and strict new privacy rules have grabbed most of the EU General Data Protection Act (GDPR) headlines so far. This is no surprise, given the sweeping nature of the act, but ahead of the May 2018 implementation date, it’s important to look at some of the more detailed compliance requirements, especially for email.
A key tenet of the GDPR – that organizations must respond in a timely manner to Subject Access Requests (SARs), inquiries from EU residents about the location and processing of their personal data, as well as to requests that it be erased – will likely force a sea-change in how organizations manage all data, personal or otherwise.
In the meantime, little’s been said about the challenges of overhauling privacy in the current era of phishing and ransomware. The two developments – growing regulatory burdens and the increasingly volatile threat landscape – put organizations in a double bind. The GDPR emerged in part as a response to the growing cybercrime threat, yet its directives to retool organizational policies, processes and structures stand to compound the burdens of well-intentioned organizations.
To manage the dual risks of GDPR compliance and cybercrime, you need to focus on email security and governance. Here are some guidelines for formulating such a strategy:
Review your email infrastructure
Over 90 percent of phishing cybercrime exploits begin with email, making it the single biggest threat vector to organizations and the data they manage. Furthermore, not only are emails a common vehicle to share and exchange personal data, email servers are prime repositories for such data as names, email addresses and associated contact information.
Managing GDPR risk starts with securing your data and infrastructure against the litany of email threats mentioned above.
Implement strong search and e-discovery
To suit GDPR mandates for reporting on and deleting personal data upon request, your email infrastructure needs to streamline search and e-discovery. A robust complement of case management tools – early case assessment, search and saved search, legal hold application, retention adjustments, and export, to name a few – will also expedite your ability to respond effectively to requests.
Educate and inform your mailbox holders
One careless click can undermine even the most capable security or governance infrastructure. This makes social engineering exploits such as phishing and impersonation attacks so devastatingly effective. A well-informed workforce is an essential component of an effective GDPR compliance strategy. Every user in your domain must be vigilant against the onslaught of email-based attacks, and play a vital role in notifying your Data Protection Officer (DPO) of any suspected privacy breaches.
Bear in mind that the guidance above addresses compliance issues related specifically to email. To manage GDPR, you’ll need to transform your privacy and governance operations wherever personal data is stored or processed: customer records, databases, CRM systems, and ERP platforms, etc. But chances are good you’ve already considered these repositories; it’s email that’s often overlooked in the compliance conversation. In reality, nearly all email servers and archives contain personal data.
No matter where your organization is based, if you manage or process personal data associated with EU residents, you will be impacted by the GDPR. Managing against GDPR penalties involves securing and tightly controlling your email servers and archives. The countdown to prepare has begun.
To help inform your journey to GDPR compliance, download the Osterman Research White Paper, GDPR Compliance and its Impact on Security and Data Protection Programs.
February 14, 2017
Would it surprise you to learn that in recent testing Mimecast has seen a 13.2% false negative rate for incumbent email security systems? Does your current email security system let through an inordinate amount of spam, malware, malicious URLs, or impersonation emails?
How would you find out if it did? Is your primary source for detecting false negatives your users? Do you wonder how your email security performance compares with your peers?
The fact is, until now, there hasn’t been much data comparing or benchmarking the performance of email security systems. They all claim the ability to defend against spam, malware, spear-phishing, malicious links and other email attack techniques. But how good are they really? How do they compare in their ability to block opportunistic email-borne attacks as well as more targeted attacks?
In working with our more than 25,000 customers, Mimecast has seen firsthand that email security systems do not perform equally well. To address this lack of data head-on, Mimecast launched its Email Security Risk Assessment (ESRA).
The Mimecast ESRA has three goals:
- To test the Mimecast cloud security service against an individual organization’s incumbent email security system. To help the organization see in one report the number, type, and severity of email-borne threats that are currently getting into their organization.
- To inform the security industry with hard data on the effectiveness of various commonly-deployed, email security systems.
- To inform the security industry with hard data regarding the number, type, and severity of email-borne threats that are actively being used in attacks.
In an ESRA, Mimecast uses its cloud-based Advanced Security service to assess the effectiveness of other email security systems. The ESRA test passively inspects emails that have been inspected by the organization’s incumbent email security system and received by their email management system. In an ESRA, the Mimecast service re-inspects the emails deemed safe by the incumbent email security system and thus looks for false negatives, such as spam, malicious files, and impersonation emails.
The results we’ve uncovered so far are concerning: Email attacks ranging from opportunistic spams to highly-targeted impersonation attacks are getting through incumbent email security systems both in large number and in various types.
To learn more and to see the results of the ESRA tests completed to date, please check out this paper.
February 13, 2017
If you equate internal threats with just malicious insiders you need to read on. When thinking of the people behind internal threats you need to be concerned about three profiles, not just one:
- Compromised Insiders: These employees have had their accounts or systems taken over by an external attacker through credential harvesting, phishing or the installation of various forms of malware. While many of these takeovers are initiated via email, web drive-bys, botnets, and other modes of entry can also be the source of the compromise.
- Careless Insiders: There are also employees at every organization who ignore or simply don’t fully understand the organization’s security policies and rules. We call these folks, Careless Insiders. While ignoring security policies is not done with malicious intent, the actions – such as sending sensitive information insecurely or to the wrong people – can put the organization at greater risk of sensitive data leakage or attack.
- Malicious Insiders: And last but not least, are the Malicious Insiders. Though not common, malicious insiders do exist, and when they strike can cause significant damage. These rogue employees either intend to profit personally from or do damage to the organization by stealing, leaking or compromising confidential data or systems.
So, which one is the real problem? Unfortunately, the answer is all of them! In a recently published survey and report from Forrester, respondents were asked whether their organizations had had security incidents from each of the three types of insiders over the last 24 months. The answering was sobering: 63%, 57%, and 41% respectively had incidents from each type, respectively – Compromised, Careless, and Malicious. Clearly, internal threats are really threatening and not as rare as one might hope.
To more fully address the security threats represented by the each of these internal threat profiles, Mimecast recently announced the latest addition to our Mimecast Target Threat Protection security service: Internal Email Protect. Internal Email Protect provides for the scanning of attachments and URLs for internal-to-internal emails as well as content filtering enforced by Data Leak Prevention services. It also includes the ability to automatically delete infected emails and attachments from employees’ inboxes. In addition, so that your organization doesn’t become an attack stepping stone to one of your partners or customers, Internal Email Protect also adds the scanning of attachments and URLs for your outbound emails. Even more exciting, Mimecast is the only cloud-based email security service that has this capability!
Unfortunately, internal threats are a fact of business life. But by adding Internal Email Protect to your implementation of Mimecast Targeted Threat Protection, this service can reduce the risk that your organization will be negatively impacted by them.
View our Internal Email Protect Press Release here.
The RSA Conference whirlwind is only days away. Are you ready? Is it possible to be ready? Don’t forget to pack your Tylenol and your sensible shoes. Like many of you, even though the conference is for a full week, my free time at the conference is extremely limited with many competing priorities. Planning is required to make the best use of my time. Beyond working the Mimecast booth and meeting with customers, prospects, industry analysts, and journalists, what will I do with my free time? Attend some sessions.
In no particular order, here are the 5 sessions that have caught my eye that I will make every effort to attend:
- Lessons from a Billion Breached Records-Ever wonder what happens with all those stolen data and how they were stolen? And why do attackers often dump this data publicly? With breaches representing a billion breached data records in scope, it sounds like the speakers are in a pretty good position to sort this out for me.
- Cyber-Insurance: Fraud, Waste, or Abuse – Does this session sound a bit pessimistic about cyber-insurance? I frankly have not understood how insurers can reasonably underwrite a risk, in this case cyberrisk, for a loss whose probability of occurrence and size of impact is impossible to predict. I am expecting a cautionary tale in this session for sure – maybe even some anger!
- Practical Intelligence Sharing: ISACs and ISAOs– Intelligence sharing has certainly made progress, but it seems to me that we still have a long way to go. This session is closely related to my current strategy focus at Mimecast as we collect a tremendous amount of data by processing the email of our 20K+ customers and inspecting ~650M emails every day for threats. But how best to share the meta-information we glean from this data with customers and industry groups? I hope this series of sessions will add to my insights on this.
- Targeted Attacks Against Corporate Inboxes – A Gmail Perspective– Another session of the five that directly relates to what we do at Mimecast for email security. Always interesting to hear what one of the big email service providers is seeing and doing (and not doing) around email security.
- Psychology of an Eastern European Cybercriminal: Mindset Drives Behavior– Under the guise of knowing your adversaries, this session looks quite interesting as it will focus on making some of the nameless and faceless cybercrime bosses a bit more human. While I don’t expect to come out of this session with any sympathy for them, perhaps I can pick up some tricks to help our customers better defend against them.
In my 15 consecutive years of attending RSAC, I never cease to be amazed by the scale and scope of the conference. Let’s all try to attend some sessions this year! These are my 5 suggestions. What other ones do you think should be on my list?