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Tips For Successful Penetration Testing

Penetration testing is an important step while evaluating the security of a corporate network. It involves simulating a hacking attack on the network with an aim to breach its security and gain access to the confidential data. This helps IT professionals to determine the potential vulnerabilities that can be exploited by the hackers and how they can be fixed. However, carrying out an efficient penetration testing requires a lot of research and in-depth technical knowledge.

Given below are some steps that need to be followed for successful penetration testing:

Perform A Thorough Analysis

Firstly, you should have a clear idea about all the physical and intellectual assets of your company that you want to protect. Assess your network inside-out to determine the elements that are more susceptible to an attack and can severely hamper the functioning of your organization. Also, review your security policies to ensure that the penetration testing team is not able to get into the network.

Conduct A Pilot Study

Before initiating the penetration testing process, consider performing a pilot study on a small portion of the organization’s resources. This will help to identify the type of problems being faced and if any additional training or knowledge is required to deal with them. A pilot study will also allow the team to plan and structure the large scale penetration testing.

Choose A Penetration Testing Method

The next step is to select the most suitable method for conducting the penetration testing. Typically, you can choose from black box or white box tests. The former one involves initiating the attack without any prior knowledge of the company’s security systems and unpatched vulnerabilities. In a white box test, on the other hand, the tester has access to the sensitive information, such as network diagrams, IP addresses, source code etc.

Determine Who Will Perform The Test

This involves creating a strategy for the test. Determine who will perform the penetration test, an in-house team or an outsourced one. If the test involves the use of social engineering techniques, decide on the type of email that will be formulated and which employees will be the targeted. Create an information security incident response team who will stay updated with the penetration testing and ensure objectivity of the results.

For more tips on conducting successful penetration testing, you can contact Centex Technologies at (972) 375 – 9654.

NAS Vs. SAN – How To Build Your Network?

Choosing the right storage solution for your company’s data can sometimes be a complex decision. It is important that you gain a deep insight into all the options available to determine the one that will be most suitable for your virtual environment. The technology will depend upon the following factors:

  • The type of data you want to store
  • Your budget
  • Usage pattern
  • Scaling concerns

Discussed below are the two main types of data storage, Network Attached Storage and Storage Area Network.

Network Attached Storage (NAS)

NAS involves the use of TCP/IP protocol, such as Ethernet, to connect to the network. An external device is attached to the web servers through a LAN or WAN. NAS devices usually run on a built-in operating system and management interface. Employees can easily access the files stored on the NAS just as they are on a local hard disc.

Benefits

  • Installation of NAS devices is very easy and does not require much time. In case you are in an urgent need for additional storage, NAS is your best option.
  • As file serving and storage is not handled by the web server, it reduces downtime to a great extent.
  • The NAS system is quite flexible and can work efficiently in organizations that work with different operating systems.
  • The low capital investment makes it a good choice for small to medium sized businesses.

Limitations

  • The scope of NAS devices is limited. They are only suitable for sharing files over the network.
  • The performance of NAS devices depends a lot on the network quality. Therefore, you need to get extended bandwidth while deploying a NAS solution.

Storage Area Network (SAN)

SAN is a more complex technology that connects to the network through a fiber channel or SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) protocol. The files are managed centrally and can be shared between multiple computer systems.

Benefits

  • SAN offers a high level of scalability. You can add as many storage drives you need to keep your data secure.
  • It is a suitable option if you require reliable storage solution to handle large volumes of data.
  • SAN system allows multiples users to access the files seamlessly, without any slowdown or downtime.

Limitations

  • The requirement of specialized equipment increases the upfront cost of installing a SAN system.
  • There is an increased risk of data corruption if several host machines connect to the same SAN device.

For more tips on choosing the right network storage solution for your organization, feel free to contact Centex Technologies at (972) 375 – 9654.

Ways To Secure Your Network Infrastructure

Maintaining a secure network infrastructure is one of the major challenges faced by IT security professionals. All the hardware and software components are critical for seamless connectivity, communication, operations and management of the network. However, the rise of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) culture and cloud computing resources has made it even more important to protect your company’s information as well as assets.

Given below are some of the tips that can help to secure your network infrastructure:

Understand your network design

First and foremost, you need to understand how the network infrastructure at your organization functions. Gain knowledge about the devices that are connected to the network and the points through which data is transmitted between them. 

Review all the applications

The applications and programs installed on your organization’s computer systems can provide a backdoor for the hackers to gain unauthorized access. Undetected malware, viruses and Trojans can make the entire corporate network vulnerable to various hacking attacks. Hence, it is essential to constantly review all your applications and software programs to ensure that they are completely secured.

Build a security culture

Provide proper IT security training to your employees and set clear guidelines regarding safe usage of the infrastructure. Make them familiar with the common online threats and what should be done to stay protected. This will create a strong security culture and help employees understand their responsibilities towards protecting the company’s resources.

Use secure socket layer

A secure socket layer (SSL) can add a layer of protection to your network infrastructure. It encrypts all the information while it is being transmitted between a user and the web browser. This ensures that the information being shared within your corporate network is not read, manipulated or used by any unauthorized individual.

Avoid adding complexity to your network infrastructure

Unless it is absolutely necessary for the optimal functioning of your organization, do not complicate your network infrastructure. Adding superfluous devices, servers, wireless endpoints etc. increases the chances of your network getting compromised. In case you need to add a network service, ensure that it is properly secured. This, way, even in the event of a breach, the functioning of your entire network will not be jeopardized. 

For more tips on securing your network infrastructure, feel free to contact Centex Technologies at (972) 375 – 9654.

Common Causes Of SaaS Data Loss And How To Prevent Them

Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud storage solutions have offered numerous benefits for the business owners. By simplifying access to technological resources, reducing delivery times to clients and giving employees the freedom to work from anywhere, cloud applications play a major role in increasing business productivity. However, with all critical information stored off-premise, data loss remains a constant concern.

Here are some of the common causes of SaaS data loss:

  • User Deletion: This is one of the biggest reasons of data loss in the cloud. The registered users may accidentally overwrite a shared file or delete a scrapped document, just to realize later that the data was important.
  • Phishing And Hacking Attacks: Cyber criminals may launch a hacking or phishing attack to gain unauthorized access to data stored in the cloud. By tricking the users to click on a spam link or download a file, the hackers may be successful in stealing their cloud login credentials and manipulating the data stored therein.
  • Data Corruption: At times, the data center of the SaaS cloud provider may be unable to retrieve the stored data. Without proper backup solution, important information may become inaccessible or corrupted.
  • Third Party Applications: Using a third party application can put SaaS data at risk. These apps may contain viruses that overwrite or delete the information stored in the cloud. There are higher chances of data loss if emails, documents, contacts etc. are stored in multiple devices.
  • Closed Accounts: Considering the employee turnover in a company, the SaaS accounts may also be closed or deleted. This may lead to the loss of important data stored by the former employee.

Tips To Prevent SaaS Data Loss

  • Identify Important Information: Firstly, you need to identify the sensitive information stored on all the computers connected to the cloud. The data may include client names, personal details of employees, salary information, credit card information, social security numbers etc.
  • Prevent Document Sharing: You should implement strict policies that prevent accidental or intentional sharing of files outside the organization. Restrict access to the sensitive information and block file transmission to email addresses that do not have your company’s domain.
  • Backup Your Data: There are many cloud backup applications that allow you to store a secure and easily retrievable copy of your data. The information is stored in an encrypted form and can be accessed only by the authorized users.

For more tips on preventing SaaS data loss, you can contact Centex Technologies at (972) 375 – 9654.

ImageGate: Ransomware That Spreads Through Social Networks

ImageGate is a recent form of ransomware that attempts to spread malware through images and graphic files on social media websites. It has been discovered by two security researchers at Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., Roman Ziskin and Dikla Barda. The ransomware works in the same way as Locky virus that automatically encrypts the victim’s files and demands a ransom in order to reveal the decryption key.

Considering the massive increase in the use of social media platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, hackers are directing their focus on breaching the security of these websites. They are continually looking for ways to use these platforms as hosts to carry out their malicious activities.

How Does ImageGate Work?

According to the security researchers, ImageGate works by embedding malicious code into the image files and posting them on ‘white listed’ social media websites. The targeted image files usually have extensions other than ‘.jpg’ or ‘.jpeg’. The malware aims at manipulating the misconfigurations in the social media platforms to purposely compel the users to click on the image. Once the file has been downloaded and the user clicks to open it, all the files on the computer system are encrypted. In order to regain access to the locked files, the user is required to pay the hackers a certain amount as ransom in bitcoins.

Tips To Protect Against ImageGate Ransomware

  • Make sure you do not click on any unidentified file downloaded to your computer system.
  • If a file gets forcibly downloaded, do not open or execute it. You should carefully delete the file so that the ransomware is not able to infect the files stored on the device.
  • You should avoid clicking and downloading images as well as graphic files from social media websites.
  • Do not open image files that have unknown file extensions, particularly ‘.svg’, ‘.hta’ and ‘.js’.
  • The anti-virus and anti-malware software on your computer should be regularly updated to stay protected against latest forms of ransomware.
  • It is recommended to be vigilant while accessing your social networking accounts. Even a single malicious download can make you lose access to your device and all the files stored within it.

Centex Technologies provides complete cyber security solutions to the business organizations in Dallas, TX. For more information on ImageGate and other forms of malware, feel free to contact us at (972) 375 – 9654.

Shortened URLs: Yet Another Security Risk

URL shortening is quite a common trend over the internet. These URLs are helpful while sharing lengthy and complex links through instant messaging, emails or on websites that have a strict character limit, such as Twitter. When the user clicks on the shortened link, he is automatically redirected to the original URL. There are a number of URL shortening services available on the internet, some of the popular ones being bit.ly, goog.gl and tinyurl.com.

What exactly is URL shortening?

The concept behind URL shortening is simple. When you enter a long URL, it is encrypted by the use of an algorithm in order to produces another link with lesser number of characters. The shortened URL address is then mapped to the original link so that the user lands on the web page that he intended to visit.

Security risks associated with shortened URLs

  • Link Manipulation: The first and foremost security risk is that a shortened URL hides the destination link. It means that there is no way to identify the landing page to which you will be redirected upon clicking the link. This is the reason why shortened URLs are used in various phishing scams. Hackers send these URLs embedded in emails or IMs so that the victim is not able to verify their authenticity.
  • Ineffective Spam Filters: As the original URL is not visible, the spam filters cannot identify the potential threat and do not blacklist the email. The safe browsing features in popular web browsers warns the users if they are about to visit a phishing website. However, in case of shortened URLs, as the landing web page is not known, no warning is issued and the user is directed to the potentially spam website.

Tips to stay safe while using shortened URLs

  • Many URL shortening services allow the users to check where a shortened URL will be redirected before they actually click on the link.
  • Shortened URLs that take the users to a log in or sign up page should never be trusted. Instead, you should access all your online accounts by manually typing in the website’s address. Also, verify that the URL begins with ‘https’ instead of ‘http’.

We, at Centex Technologies, offer effective IT security solutions to business firms in Dallas, TX. For more details, feel free to call us at (972) 375 – 9654.

Network Virtualization: Benefits, Risks And Best Practices

Network virtualization is a way of combining different physical networks to make them function collectively as a single virtual network or vice versa. At times, the process may also include virtualization of storage solution, which facilitates using all storage devices as a single resource. Network virtualization can serve multiple purposes, depending upon the specific requirements of an organization. This may be aimed at either improving the efficiency of the in-house IT systems or lowering investment in additional hardware components.

Given below are some of the benefits offered by network virtualization:

Centralizing Confidential Data

Due to the increasing data breaches and other online attacks, many business owners are considering storing their data on a centralized location. With this, a hacked computer system, lost/stolen device or negligence on the part of an employee would not pose a major risk to the security of sensitive information. When IT administrators store the data on a centralized server, it mitigates the risk of theft, malware infections and unauthorized access to the company’s intellectual property.

Setting Up A Sandbox

Sandboxing involves demarcating and isolating all the applications that may pose a potential threat to the internal network of the company. Network virtualization proves to be a great help in this regard. When a sandbox is created for web browsing, it prevents all the online attacks from affecting the host server and applications that are operating out of the virtual environment.

Facilitating Secure Network Access

With the increase in ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) and work from home culture, a lot of employees access the corporate network from their personal devices as well as from multiple locations. When virtualization is used, the employees do not have to deal with the management and security aspects of the network. All these can be handled at the back-end by trained IT staff at the office.

Security Risks Of Network Virtualization

  • When virtualization is added to the IT infrastructure, it can make it more difficult to monitor and detect security issues, such as advanced persistent threats (APTs).
  • Network virtualization creates a dynamic environment which, at times, may lead to virtual sprawl. This means that the administrator may not be able to keep a track of the online activities and security vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
  • To eliminate these risks, it is important to improve the security of the host machine. Virtual systems that are not performing important business operations or remain unused should be removed from the network. Lastly, strict access control policies must be implemented to secure the virtual network.

For more information on network virtualization, contact Centex Technologies at (972) 375 – 9654.