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Role of Interoperability In Cyber Response Effectiveness

In general terms, Interoperability refers to the ability of diverse software and computer-based systems to exchange and utilize information. It involves uninterrupted and seamless data communication between apps, servers, and devices followed by the processing of data without any involvement of end users. Different apps, software, and devices understand different data structures and languages; interoperability relies on a data dictionary that sets definitive rules for data such that it is understandable across apps and software.

Need for Interoperability in Cyber Security

Cyber security is a highly dynamic landscape which needs constant upgrades to tackle new threats. Besides cyber threats, new software vulnerabilities, misconfigured devices, and human errors make it tough for cyber security professionals to ensure complete security of a network.

Interoperability among software, apps, and devices helps in improving cyber security efficiency for a business.

  1. Cyber security professionals have to perform many tasks such as conducting regular cyber security audits, mitigating IT threats, configuring and updating devices, and setting up diverse cybersecurity tools. This puts cyber security professionals at a shortage of time and resources to analyze threat trends/data and make preparations to prevent attacks.
  2. Apps, software, and data of an organization are spread across multiple on-site and cloud locations. Data has to travel from one software/location to another to ensure seamless operations. It is practically impossible to manually change data structure every time it travels while maintaining security procedures. This is both time-consuming and prone to errors which may lead to breaches. Thus, it is important for software, apps, and devices to transmit, receive, understand, and process data seamlessly and automatically.
  3. Diverse threats require organizations to deploy software and tools to ensure multiple layers of cyber security defense. These tools may include analytical tools, firewalls, penetration testing apps, peripheral security software, antivirus software, etc. To perform efficiently, multiple software share and utilize data from one another. For example, firewalls need data from analytical tools to understand the latest threat patterns and trends to reconfigure themselves and block malicious traffic efficiently. Hence, it arises need for seamless data sharing among apps/devices.

Importance of Interoperability in Cyber Security:

Interoperability offers multiple benefits that vouch for its importance in today’s cyber security landscape.

  1. Adaptability: It allows the systems, apps, and software to connect and share the threat information automatically. It helps in transmitting the information to the relevant defense team in the organization without the time-consuming process of downloading, converting, and re-transmitting the information.
  2. Higher Efficiency: It improves the efficiency of different cyber security tools as the updated information is available and accessible across the system. Thus, it leads to smooth and efficient operations of the cyber defense machinery.
  3. Data Unity: Interoperability promotes data unity which facilitates the cyber security tools to receive, process, and act upon information from external sources such as threat intelligence.
  4. Data Protection: Interoperability allows the users to access sensitive data via shared records instead of manually and repeatedly punching in information or user login information to access data. This lowers the chances of data breaches and improves data protection.
  5. Cost Efficiency: Interoperable systems are capable of communicating information automatically which reduces the costs associated.

For more information about role of interoperability in cyber security and to know about the latest cybersecurity tools, contact Centex Technologies. You can contact Centex Technologies at Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.

Expert Tips to Protect Active Directory

What is Active Directory & Why is it Important?

An Active Directory can be defined as a database and identity management system. The directory contains information about the network environment, including details of all users, systems connected to the network, applications, devices such as printers, and shared folders. It further contains details of the level of access for every user.

The Active Directory services also serve the role of user authentication based on the login credentials entered by the user and allow access to the data based on authorization.

The Active Directory stores files at a centralized location, making them accessible to all users and devices across the network as per their access level. Thus, an active directory is essential to ensure that all the users can access network resources required to perform their tasks.

How To Secure Active Directory?

The importance of Active Directory makes it a desirable target for cybercriminals. Here are some expert tips to help you protect the Active Directory:

  1. Follow Industry Best Practices: Implementing industry best practices, such as security guidelines laid out by NIST (National Institute of Standards & Technology, USA), is the first step towards securing Active Directory. The guidelines issued by NIST are based on data and statistical analysis, making them highly impactful in preventing cyberattacks.
  2. Limit Domain Admins: Privileged groups such as Domain Admins have extensive access authority. The users added to Domain Admins group have deep rooted access across the network, including all systems connected to the network and all data created, stored or shared across the network. In case hackers crack the user credentials of any member of Domain Admins group, they can gain access to all the data and information across the network. Additionally, they can move laterally across the network and gain access to other systems connected to the network. It is important to check the user accounts in Domain Admins group and remove the dead user accounts from the group.
  3. Multiple Accounts: Instead of adding all the users to privileged groups, encourage multiple user accounts and provide different privileges. This is referred to as a tiered approach. User accounts can be provided with different access levels, such as a regular account (with minimum privileges), server administration account, network administration account, and workforce administration account. Encourage users to login with a regular account for daily tasks and use privileged accounts for administrative tasks only. This limits the exposure to cyber-attacks.
  4. Password Security: Cyber criminals usually employ tactics to steal user credentials such as passwords to gain access to the Active Directory. Implement password strengthening strategies to avoid falling victim to identity theft attacks.
  5. Detect Delegation: Delegation allows users to impersonate other accounts on the Active Directory if their unconstrained delegation is enabled. This can lead to security issues if hackers access one account and use delegation to gain further access. The problem is aggravated by privileged accounts with unconstrained delegation. Make sure to regularly check for accounts with delegation enabled and report these accounts. Additionally, make a list of privileged users, delegated admins, and service accounts to help IT professionals keep a check on the potential vulnerabilities and authorization risks.

To know more about IT security for businesses, contact Centex Technologies at Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.

Understanding BlueSky Ransomware

Ransomware is malicious software that is designed to encrypt files on the victim’s system or device and demand a ransom in exchange for the decryption key or tools. BlueSky is a modern ransomware that uses multiple techniques for security evasions and device infection. It targets Windows hosts & encrypts the files on the system using multi-threading.

BlueSky was first spotted in June 2022. A deeper analysis of the multithread architecture of BlueSky ransomware has revealed code resemblance to Conti v3. Additionally, it has been found that the BlueSky ransomware uses the ChaCha20 algorithm for file encryption and Curve25519 for key generation which marks its similarity to Babuk ransomware.

How does BlueSky Ransomware infect a system?

The ransomware uses downloads from fake sites and phishing emails for initial infection. Once the user clicks on the malicious link, a PowerShell script is dropped in the target device using a Base64-encoded initial dropper. After extraction, it launches another PowerShell script which contains multiple comments to overshadow the malicious code.

This code analyzes the device configuration and downloads multiple payloads in accordance with the configuration to increase the privilege of the script. Some examples of these payloads include JuicyPotato, CVE-2022-21882, and SMBGhost. These payloads allow the script to run as a privileged user and gain access to all files on the system.

What does BlueSky Ransomware do?

Once the ransomware code runs successfully, it encrypts the files on the system. The encrypted files are saved with a new file extension ‘.bluesky’. For example, if a file was initially saved as ‘1.pptx’ on the system, it will be saved as ‘1.pptx.bluesky’ after encryption.

After encrypting all files, the ransomware drops two ransomware notes (one in html format and other in txt format) on the desktop. The notes are identical in contents and inform the user about the ransomware attack & ways to contact the cyber criminals via their Tor network.

The ransomware notes also contain warnings against the use of decryption methods other than contacting cyber criminals as it may lead to permanent encryption of files.

The website of the ransomware attackers creates a panic environment by stating decryption fees on the first day and then increasing ransom after week 1. It also states

How to stay protected against BlueSky Ransomware?

Prevention is the best action against BlueSky ransomware. Exercise following cautionary practices to stay protected against BlueSky ransomware.

  • Make sure to download software from the official website only.
  • Do not crack software & always use authentic activation tools provided by the developer to activate the software.
  • Be cautious with emails and avoid clicking on links in irrelevant or suspicious emails.
  • It is highly important to install an antivirus on the system and keep it updated.
  • Regularly scan your system.

For more information about cybersecurity solutions, contact Centex Technologies. You can call the following office locations - Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.

What is Secure Distributed Data Storage?

Data is the foundation of every organization. Business organizations collect and generate large amounts of data which may include trade secrets, client information, financial data, employee information, R&D data, etc. Cybercriminals target this data to cause business disruption for multiple reasons including financial benefits (ransom), causing harm to the business organization, etc.

A data breach can cause significant financial and reputational harm to a business. This makes it imperative for all organizations to protect their data. Secure Distributed Data Storage has evolved as an effective solution for storing data.

What is Secure Distributed Data Storage?

Secure Distributed Data Storage is a system that stores and processes data at multiple physical locations instead of one centralized location. This approach is the exact opposite of the traditional cloud storage system as it eliminates the use of a central server. The data is distributed across a number of physical network nodes or even multiple cloud servers.

A popular example of Secure Distributed Data Storage is Google Cloud Platform’s Spanner.

What is the Importance of Secure Distributed Data Storage?

The importance of Secure Distributed Data Storage lies in the advantages this approach offers as compared to a single machine or single server data store.

  1. Performance: Even the minutest delay in data retrieval or an app loading can immensely impact a business. When a large amount of data is stored on a centralized server, multiple data requests can lower its performance by causing data traffic resulting in user frustration, loss of sales, and revenue loss. When data is distributed across multiple locations, data requests are also distributed, which helps in improving the performance by lowering the response time.
  2. Scalability: Rapid growth in user number and cyclical usage pattern are two major reasons why businesses or applications need to scale up the data storage regularly. Scaling up helps in meeting the load requirements without causing a delay in response time. In case of a single machine storage system, only vertical scaling is possible. Vertical scaling refers to the process of upgrading the machine’s CPU, RAM, or storage capacity. However, Secure Distributed Data Storage offers horizontal scaling in addition to vertical scaling. Horizontal scaling means adding new network nodes or cloud servers.
  3. Reliability: Secure Distributed Data Storage is highly reliable. By distributing data across multiple locations, it also distributes the risk factor. Most Secure Distributed Data Storage systems replicate data before storing it at multiple locations. So, in case one server is compromised resulting in data loss, data can easily be retrieved from other servers. Additionally, use of multiple servers helps in improving the percentage availability time and fault-tolerance of the system.

Key Features of Secure Distributed Data Storage:

  1. Secure Environment
  2. Fully Authenticated System
  3. Zero-Trust Practice
  4. Data Replication
  5. Data Encryption at Rest & in Transit

Contact Centex Technologies for more information on Secure Distributed Data Storage and enterprise network planning. You can contact Centex Technologies at Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.

Understanding Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)

Cryptography is fundamentally dependent on mathematical operations and computations. The complexity of data computations directly relates to how secure the technique is. AES is one of the most complex encryption software. It encrypts data using highly complex mathematical operations.

Data transmissions via the internet are secured by ciphers like AES (Advanced Encryption Standard). AES employs a symmetric encryption methodology. Symmetric encryption algorithms use the same key for performing both encryption as well as decryption operations. It involves multiple iterations of implementing the SPN (Substitution Permutation Network) algorithm to encrypt data. The impenetrability of AES results from these encryption rounds, which are impossible to get through due to their sheer number.

The AES algorithm is compact, safe, and suitable for various hardware, software, and firmware. It is available for public or private businesses, for-profit or nonprofit endeavors, without any cost to any third party.

How does AES provide secure encryption using multiple lengths of encryption keys?

AES keys come in three different lengths. Several key combinations may be used for each key length, including: -

  • AES 128-bit key length: 3.4 x 1038 (or 3.4 x 1038 possible combinations),
  • AES 192-bit key length: 6.2 x 1057 (or 6.2 x 1057 possible combinations),
  • AES 256-bit key length: 1.1 x 1077 (or 1.1 x 1077 possible combinations).

The static size of the encryption block is 128 bits equating to 16 bytes. The use of varied key lengths has exacerbated a few problems. Since it is the least crackable, some experts prefer to utilize the key length of 256 bits. Several military forces and LEAs (Law Enforcement Agencies) also use 256-bit keys. The AES method with 256-bit keys is frequently referred to as military-grade encryption. However, the longer the key length, the more processing power is needed to encrypt and decode the data or message.

For instance, software that uses AES-256 rather than AES-128 may cause the laptop battery to discharge a little bit more quickly. Thankfully, contemporary technology reduces the resource difference to such a negligible level that there is no justification for not using 256-bit AES encryption.

How has AES facilitated and benefitted the secure communications arena?

  • The length of the encryption key is customizable as per application use

Keys of lengths of 128 bits, 192 bits, and 256 bits can all be used for AES encryption. Cybersecurity experts recommend using a 128-bit key for commercial business purposes. AES-256 offers higher security and can be used by governments to secure their private servers.

  • Publicly vetted and approved algorithm used by Law Enforcement and Military forces

The AES algorithm has been standardized by NIST and made available as an open-source resource, making it simpler for the general public to trust. Furthermore, since the same method is used by hardware, software, and firmware, there are no interoperability problems.

  • AES can function in limited computing resources

NIST said that it wants to replace DES and included a requirement that the new algorithm should work on hardware with a range of different computational power. That condition is exactly met by AES. On 8-bit smart cards and quick computers, it functions equally effectively.

  • Quicker rate of encryption and decryption operations

Compared to DES and Triple-DES, AES encryption processes data more quickly. AES outperforms Triple-DES by a factor of around six on the same hardware.

  • Resistant and impenetrable encryption to quantum computing attacks

AES-256 is a widely accepted encryption algorithm across the globe. The software has been tested to resist decryption or cracking attacks by quantum computers within a given amount of time.

Is AES the most secure encryption algorithm known?

A 128-bit AES encryption key may be cracked in as little as 36 quadrillion years. A 256-bit AES key has an incredible 984,665,640,564,039,457,584,007,913,129,639,936 possible combinations. Hence, experts assume that a brute-force cyber-attack on AES encryption might not occur without heavy computing resources. As a result, AES is one of the most secure symmetric encryption ciphers available today.

The development of social networking applications, remote work, and eCommerce were all made possible by the powerful encryption offered by AES. The AES algorithm is crucial for the majority of online businesses since it can function on devices with low computational power.

To know more about various encryption standards and how to keep your mobile and web applications secure, contact Centex Technologies at Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.

Hardware Firewall Vs Software Firewall

A firewall is a network security mechanism or layer of protection that sits between the internet and computer networks. An internet firewall can be described as a piece of hardware or software that safeguards the computer from unwanted data and viruses.

What is a Hardware Firewall at any NOC (Network Operations Center)?

A hardware firewall is a physical device that filters traffic to a computer, similar to a server. A network cable is generally hooked straight into a computer or server, however, with a hardware firewall, the cable is first plugged into the firewall. The firewall acts as an antivirus solution and a hard barrier against intrusions by sitting between the external network and the server. When put between a modem and wireless router, it helps stop attacks from reaching the devices and appliances.

What is a Software Firewall at any SOC (Security Operations Center)?

A software firewall is a sort of computer program that operates on a computer or server. Its main goal, depending on the software firewall being used, is to safeguard the computer/server from outside efforts to control or acquire access to the system. Any questionable outbound requests can also be checked with a software firewall.

Differentiating Hardware firewalls and Software firewalls based on their advantages

Hardware firewalls let a user use a single physical device to secure the whole network from the outside world. This gadget is connected to the internet through a computer network. A hardware firewall tracks data packets as they go over the network. According to established criteria, the firewall subsequently either blocks or sends the data. Installing dedicated hardware firewalls necessitates significant IT skills, and businesses require dedicated IT staff or department to monitor and manage hardware firewalls. As a result, hardware firewalls are typically used by large businesses or businesses that place a premium on security. Most routers nowadays feature rudimentary firewall functionality, however, these solutions are aimed at home or small business users.

Software firewalls, on the other hand, provide network internal protection. A software firewall is a piece of software that is placed on a single computer and serves to safeguard it. If a business needs to secure many computers, it will need to install the program on each one. A software firewall regulates how certain programs should behave. The administrator can, for instance, restrict access to specific websites or a network printer.

Why do organizations need to deploy both hardware and software firewalls?

A physical firewall protects a network from the outside world, whereas a software firewall protects a specific device from other devices connected to the network systems. If someone tries to access the systems from the outside, the physical firewall will stop them. However, if a user mistakenly opens a virus-infected email that has already entered the system, the software firewall on the workplace network may prevent the virus from infecting other workstations.

In some cases, due to the sensitive data being generated (for example in the healthcare and financial services industries), both firewalls will be used. The PCI DSS also requires both hardware and software firewalls (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards).

In terms of software, one way to think about it is on a spectrum from ease to security. Hardware firewalls prioritize security over convenience in terms of buying, setup, and application. When used correctly, the two can work together to counteract others’ flaws while promoting their positive qualities.

What about tiny businesses that aren't as concerned about security? It's tempting to go with the simplest firewall to set up but it is important to know that firewalls, both hardware, and software, defend against a variety of dangers. Software firewalls evaluate network traffic that gets past the hardware firewall, whereas hardware firewalls prevent malware from accessing your network. Most IT experts believe that all businesses should use a combination of hardware and software firewalls to improve network security.

Centex Technologies provides cybersecurity solutions to businesses. The team also assists businesses in planning a complete computer network and setting up adequate firewalls. To know more, contact Centex Technologies at Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.