Digital viruses just as critical as coronavirus
When it comes to securing a company’s IT infrastructure, Brian Sullivan, CEO of FitNetworks, believes the world has become a smaller place, and cybersecurity is more important than ever before. Along with the novel coronavirus, he encourages the industry not to forget the threat of digital viruses!
Revealing the cyber threats & vulnerabilities of remote work
When it comes to working and conducting business within this new virtual universe, FitNetworks was ahead of the curve. As a cybersecurity company that manages information technology (IT) infrastructure and end-user systems, we have been implementing security standards for a virtual workforce for years. Interaction with our employees, customers and business partners has always been heavily remote in nature.
FitNetworks’ processes, procedures and guidelines for best practices put a great deal of emphasis on cybersecurity as it relates to remote access to corporate networks and resources. A high percentage of our customers were already set up for “working from home” with these same standards. However, as you can imagine, we were inundated with supporting many workers heading to home offices practically overnight. This has created an enormous paradigm shift that has to be addressed proactively by every company.
By working outside their offices, employees realized early on that efficiency and technology is very unsecure – especially with popular digital platforms like Zoom. At the outset of the pandemic, Zoom had serious security flaws, and millions started using that platform virtually overnight. While the platform is currently more secure, threats to digital platforms are constantly evolving. Those creating the threats are very smart, smarter than most workers.
In the past, most personnel were behind a firewall in the company – inside the castle, so to speak, in a controlled environment. Now, almost every employee is working remotely from an unsecure environment and must securely access the resources of the company, many of which are inside the castle. To do this and prevent intrusion and the loss of valuable assets, numerous security mechanisms need to be implemented, serviced and monitored regularly to ensure secure continuity of operations.
Staying ahead of the curve
With so many additional individuals connecting remotely to our clients’ plant or facility networks, FitNetworks’ cybersecurity efforts took on an increased focus. The secure architecture we work from allows us to remotely install, update and monitor all software services on clients’ computers. When a new employee is hired by one of our customers, we can ship them a computer already set up, or remotely install the necessary software services and mechanisms on their machine, depending upon the company’s policies.
Industrial DMZ a key component
Our clients are taking digital security much more seriously, not only in terms of securing access for the new remote workforce, but also in terms of rethinking how networks are designed, and access is granted to vendors and service providers. FitNetworks has long been a proponent of implementing the Industrial DMZ in chemical manufacturing as a means of accessing data from the Industrial Control System (ICS) in a secure fashion. The modern industrial DMZ acts as a zone and conduit system protecting physical processes and separating networks according to their different purposes, requirements and risks. This type of network design is long overdue for chemical manufacturers who are not already set up for it, especially those managing risks associated with producing or utilizing hazardous chemicals (e.g., DHS chemicals of interest).
Holistic perspective a challenge
The struggle we’ve long dealt with is that cybersecurity means something different to everyone and to each company. We had the excellent opportunity to talk to many companies at SOCMA Week in New Orleans last year. One of our main takeaways was the lack of a holistic perspective. To some, cybersecurity is the disaster recovery or backup solution in place to mitigate ransomware threats. To others, cybersecurity is handled by legal and insurance. FitNetworks’ approach to cybersecurity is much more comprehensive and fully encompasses how to support the remote workforce along with protecting plant and business assets.
“We also believe in SOCMA as a platform for networking and education as it relates to cybersecurity.”
Our Cybersecurity Risk Assessments are a holistic assessment of threats that face an organization, careful evaluation of vulnerabilities that currently exist in an operating environment, and an honest look at how risk is currently managed. FitNetworks creates cybersecurity practices and procedures using standards like DHS RPBS-8 Cyber, NIST Cybersecurity Framework, etc. And, we utilize secure virtual private networks (VPNs), collaboration tools and additional user cybersecurity training.
Utilizing tools and resources
FitNetworks will continue to use the plethora of tools we have grown accustomed to. As an organization, we have implemented many of the Microsoft 365 collaboration tools, including Teams, SharePoint, OneNote and Exchange Online. As previously mentioned, many of FitNetworks’ clients are across the United States and Canada. These and other programs have made the world a little smaller recently, which has been eyeopening to all of us. But out of the box, nothing is secure.
We also believe in SOCMA as a platform for networking and education as it relates to cybersecurity. The roundtables, forums, webinars and articles all offer valuable, tailored insight and intelligence that businesses across the specialty chemical industry need to aptly conduct business. Additionally, FitNetworks provides a complementary high-level cybersecurity assessment to all fellow SOCMA members as well as access to our cybersecurity solutions white papers.
Greater emphasis needed on cyber
Chemical manufacturers will always have a reliance on an essential onsite workforce. That need may evolve as the landscape evolves and stabilizes, but our Quality, Production, EHS and Maintenance departments will return onsite. However, support personnel may have less of a presence at physical locations. Greater emphasis on cybersecurity is required as more outside connections to a company’s network increases vulnerabilities. As more employees require outside connections to a company’s network, those increasing security vulnerabilities will place even greater emphasis on
Top 5 safeguards and safety processes companies should have in place
- Perform a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment and contract with a Managed Security Service Provider to help implement and manage your cybersecurity plan.
- Industrial DMZ – proper network design to accommodate the virtual workforce as well as vendors and service providers.
- SIEM/SOC-System Information Event Management and Security Operations Center – Real-time evaluation of security alerts generated by your network equipment, applications, servers, antivirus software, as well as the workforce to monitor and respond to anomalous events.
- Multifactor Authentication especially for all VPN connections – Under no circumstances should a remote user have access to a corporate or ICS network without utilizing a second factor (something you have or something you can get).
- Next Generation Firewalls – Traditional layer 3 firewalls are no longer adequate for securing your networks. Application layer firewalls with advanced security protection are a must.
Most common vulnerability issues:
- People are the weakest link
- Poor username and password
- Lack of holistic cybersecurity program
- Lack of training and knowledge
Reducing cyber incidents
Continuity of operations and emphasis on security will be greatly impacted and potentially improved. Specifically, as our clients increase their knowledge on how to support plant operations most effectively and efficiently in a remote setting, consequences from onsite or cyber-related incidents can be reduced. It is imperative that everyone understands this paradigm shift of people no longer working inside the firewall. They are outside the firewall, which is where the cybersecurity criminals are. These criminals are always looking for a way to get inside the firewall. It is critical that companies truly understand the actions that must be taken to not allow cybersecurity criminals to manipulate the fact that businesses
are working in remote environments.
FitNetworks partners with its clients like no other managed service provider when implementing Cybersecurity.
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