Skip to main content

Why Segregation of Duties is Important for Information Security

When we talk about IT security, the first things that come to mind are programs such as firewalls or malware detection software. However, security is as much about the organization systems and process your company has in place as anything else. Of those organizational structures, one of the most important matter is how companies assign responsibility for certain IT-related tasks. This is called Segregation of Duties.

What is Segregation of Duties

Segregation of Duties is an internal control that prevents a single person from completing two or more tasks in a business process. Separation of Duties, as it relates to security, has two primary objectives. The first is the prevention of conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest, wrongful acts, fraud, abuse and errors. The second is the detection of control failures that include security breaches, information theft and circumvention of security controls. Organizations require Segregation of Duties controls to separate duties among more than one individual to complete tasks in a business process to mitigate the risk of fraud, waste and error (for example in financial enterprises).

SoD processes break down tasks, which can be completed by one individual, into multiple tasks. The goal is to ensure that control is never in the hands of one individual, either by splitting the transaction into 2 or more pieces, or requiring sign-off approval from another party before completion.

Breaking tasks down prevents risks, however, it doesn’t come without other costs. For one, it can negatively impact business efficiency. Payroll management, for example, often faces error and fraud risks. A common SoD for payroll is to ask one employee to be responsible for setting up the payroll run and asking another employee to be responsible for signing checks. This way, there is no short circuit where someone could pay themselves or a colleague more or less than they are entitled to.

The Importance of Segregation of Duties

The concept behind Segregation of Duties is that the duty of running a business should be divided among several people, so that no one person has the power to cause damage to the business or to perform fraudulent or criminal activity. Separation of duties is an important part of risk management, and also relates to adhering to SOX compliance.

Segregation of Duties is recommended across the enterprise, but it’s arguably most critical in accounting, cybersecurity, and information technology departments. Individuals in these roles can cause significant damage to a company, whether inadvertently or intentionally. Therefore, finance and security leaders should pay attention to separation of duties. It is important to build a role with IT security capabilities so that no one can abuse it.

Segregation of Duties in IT security

The issue of separation of duties is of a great importance. A lack of clear and concise responsibilities for the CSO and chief information security officer has fuelled confusion. It is imperative that there be separation between the development, operation and testing of security and all controls. Similarly, if one individual is responsible for both developing and testing a security system, they are more likely to be blind to its weaknesses.

To avoid these situations, responsibilities must be assigned to individuals in such a way as to establish checks and balances within the system. Different people must be responsible for different parts of critical IT processes, and there must be regular internal audits performed by individuals who are not part of the IT organization, and report directly to the CEO or board of directors. SoD in the IT department can prevent control failures that can result in disastrous consequences, such as data theft or sabotage of corporate systems.

An important part of SoD implementation is the principle of least privilege, as well. Everyone should have the minimum permissions they need to perform their duties. Even within a certain IT system, individuals should only have access to the data and features they specifically require. Permissions should be regularly reviewed, and revoked in case an employee changed role, no longer participates in a certain activity, or has left the company.

SOD in risk management

Segregation of Duties is a fundamental internal accounting control prohibiting single entities from possessing unchecked power to conceal financial errors or misappropriate assets in their specific role. SOD controls require a thorough analysis of all accounting roles with the segregation of all duties deemed incompatible. For example, someone responsible for inventory custody can’t also oversee transactional recordkeeping regarding inventory.

SOD policies can also help manage risk in information technology by preventing control failures around access permission. By segregating workflow duties, your team ensures the same individual or group isn’t responsible for multiple steps in the access permission process.

When it comes to risk management in Governance Risk and Compliance, effective SOD practices can help reduce innocent employee errors and catch the not-so-innocent fraudulent filings. Both can elevate compliance risk by violating regulations like the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002, penalizing companies for filing incorrect financial information capable of misleading investors

Including a Segregation of Duties control component in your risk management strategy helps reduce risks that can be costly to your organization – whether it’s financial, damage to your brand, or the stiff penalties imposed for regulatory infractions. By segregating duties to minimize errors and potential fraud, your organization can remain at or below its desired risk threshold.  Working with experienced cybersecurity experts is crucial for companies of all sizes, across all industries. That is why businesses have to take charge of their own protection and implement strategies designed to limit the damage a single attack is capable of.

How Do Managed Services Help to Reinforce IT Security?

Nowadays the technology is moving at a faster pace than ever. Whilst advances in technology present a number of opportunities, they also present businesses with challenges they must manage effectively in order to remain successful and profitable. Many businesses have users with multiple computer models and operating systems, so it can be difficult to manage costs and keep people connected and productive. This is where Managed services can help. They include any information technology service and support handled by an outside firm through cloud-based software. These information technology solutions provide remote monitoring of your systems, along with proactive support, and timely managing, updating and resolving issues in real time related to selected IT systems and functions on your behalf.

Managed Services against Cyber threats

As cyber threats evolve and become more complex, many businesses recognize the opportunity to work with managed services providers that can provide a cost-effective alternative to manage the monitoring, detecting, investigating, alerting and responding to cyber threats. Managed services are able to provide security operations, information security and event management, solution implementation and integration, actionable threat intelligence, and incident response. They also ensure organizations the visibility needed to better protect their sensitive data and critical infrastructure, and the incident response solutions provide rapid response and recovery to cyber threats. Getting to cyber confidence first requires a comprehensive suite of cybersecurity offerings that integrate strategy and governance with the core capabilities needed for helping organizations become more secure, vigilant, and resilient.

6 Ways Managed Services Improve Cyber Security

  • 24/7 Monitoring

A significant way that managed services improve cyber security involves system monitoring. A reputable MSP can provide monitoring not just during business hours, but 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When using machine learning your MSP can identify unusual activity and proactively address issues even before a breach occurs.

Monitoring can include both your network and your cloud infrastructure and in this way addresses the numerous data access points. Furthermore, many providers offer automated compliance monitoring. Thanks to the privacy and security regulations affecting industries across the board, compliance monitoring can save problem situations and protects your business reputation.

  • Threat intelligence and analytics

Through MSP’s global network of threat intelligence-sharing, it is possible to proactively monitor the clients’ environments and the external threat landscape to help prevent and detect targeted cyberattacks and insider threats. Managed services are able to turn intelligence updates into actionable mitigation strategies to help the clients respond to threats relevant to their business. The global network for sharing threat intelligence and the powerful analytics resources provide organizations with the visibility they need to better protect their sensitive data and critical infrastructure.

  • Risk Assessment

Risk assessment supports the business to get an idea about its risk posture for key assets and systems, procedures, policies and controls. It also helps to assess and mitigate risks when sharing information, especially with third-party vendors. Besides, it also addresses emerging threats so that you can integrate new technology to secure the risks.

  • Vulnerability Identification and Remediation

As mentioned above, The MSP typically conducts risk assessments to determine the state of your organization’s cyber security and make recommendations. In this process they conduct vulnerability scans and penetration testing. A vulnerability scan often uses automated tools to identify weaknesses in the perimeter, places where unauthorized persons could enter the system. Penetration testing goes further by simulating an actual cyber-attack, with a skilled tester acting like a hacker to try and exploit weaknesses. Some regulations require vulnerability scans and penetration testing on a regular basis. But whether required or not, they both form an essential part of a comprehensive cyber security strategy.

  • Endpoint Protection

Endpoint protection ensures that all access points on the business’ network are secure. Without this element, it is practically difficult to know whether a network has been somehow breached. Having in mind that today’s businesses are widely implementing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy to enable employees work from anywhere at any time, the Managed Services provide the assurance that the organization’s network is same irrespective of how its employees work.

  • Incident response

Sometimes, despite all attempts at prevention and detection, the inevitable could happen. Managed Services could help the clients to proactively respond to and recover from a sustained attack. The incident response capabilities support clients in the immediate, mid-term, and long-term aftermath of an incident, including crisis management, technical investigation, security remediation, cyber-risk program enhancement, and regulatory compliance.

With security breaches that are critically increasing day by day, businesses are looking for solutions that are more effective and cost-efficient. If you don’t know who to choose as your MSP, contact PATECCO today to understand more of what we have accomplished in terms of handling managed services benefits and risks. We are a reliable MSP and we commit to helping you achieve all the IT services mentioned above and even more.

PATECCO managed IT solutions allow a business of any size to focus on its core competencies while leaving its day-to-day IT needs to a team of professionals that are not only proactive in managing your IT services, but are also available 24/7 for your peace of mind. As your managed service provider, PATECCO offers a single point of contact, convenience and flexibility for all of your IT needs.

How to Manage and Protect Privileged Accounts?

In recent times a great number of organizations are highly concerned about the evolving threat landscape of cyber-attacks. This is due to the fact that large well-known enterprise organizations have fallen victim to cyber-crimes. Every year billions of records are stolen, identity theft increases, more credentials are abused and financial fraud is now extending into billions of dollars. This is the reason why senior executives are deeply involved in cyber security than ever before. While executives and CISOs continue trying to reduce the risk of these threats, compliance requirements are increasing, as well. The defence against cyber-crime should not rely on technology, but it must involve people, and therefore needs to be less complex and quick to value.

Start from the basics. Define what “privileged access” means in your organisation

The problem for many organizations is that they are not aware where to start and how they can easily adopt a privileged access solution that will lead them to success and maturity.  Most of the companies are just getting started with protecting and securing privileged access need to identify which privileged accounts should be targeted as well as ensuring that those who will be using those privileged accounts are clear on the acceptable use and responsibility.

Before implementing a privileged access management strategy it is recommended to identify what a privileged account is for your organization and to map out what important business functions rely on data, systems and access. A good practice is to classify or categorize privileged accounts. This helps for the clear identification of the privileged accounts’ importance to the business and makes future decisions easier when it comes to applying security controls. Like any IT security measure designed to help protect critical information assets, managing and protecting privileged account access requires both a plan and an ongoing program. You must identify which privileged accounts should be a priority in your company, and ensure that those who are using these privileged accounts understand acceptable use and their responsibilities. After defining and discovering your privileged accounts, it is time to focus on their protection. The privileged account access must be constantly and proactively managed, monitored, and controlled.

In what ways privileged accounts could compromise your security?

  • Unintentionally

Compromising the security is supposed to happen unintentionally. Unauthorized modifications to critical data can happen without thinking at any time. Besides, the files that store sensitive data can be shared without checking the legitimacy of the business need, getting you in serious trouble.

  • Maliciously

Privileged accounts have legitimate access rights, so if they engage in malicious actions, they would be quite difficult to spot. Malicious use of privileged accounts is a serious threat, since these users’ activity may not be closely monitored or they usually have the expertise to dodge controls and do maximum damage without leaving any trace.

  • By attackers

Cyber attackers use different kinds of techniques to obtain the powerful credentials of privileged accounts. Phishing, brute force or coercion are the most familiar.

Despite the steady recommendations and strict regulations, many privileged accounts still remain poorly protected, ignored, or mismanaged, making them easy targets. Having that in mind, here’s a number of essential policies that every IT manager or security administrator should follow to avoid compromised privileged account management:

1. Provide training to all your employees

It is important for all your employees to be able to recognize suspicious or unsecure behaviour. This aspect is crucial nowadays, since phishing and social engineering attacks are getting more sophisticated and more personal devices are being used for business purpose.

2. Limit IT admin access to systems

Developing a least-privilege policy is another good tactic. That means that privileges are only granted when required and approved. Enforce least privilege on endpoints by keeping end-users configured to a standard user profile and automatically elevating their privileges to run only approved and trusted applications. For IT administrator privileged account users, you should control access and implement super user privilege management for Windows and UNIX systems to prevent attackers from running malicious applications, remote access tools, and commands. Least-privilege and application control solutions enable seamless elevation of approved, trusted, and whitelisted applications while minimizing the risk of running unauthorized applications.

3. Develop a privileged account password policy

It’s critical to create clear policies that everyone who uses and manages privileged accounts can understand and accept. Put in place a privileged account password protection policy that covers human and non-human accounts to prevent unauthorized access and demonstrate compliance with regulations. It is better to use long passphrases and multi-factor authentication for human accounts. For non-human (services and applications) accounts, passwords should be changed frequently. PAM controls automatically randomize, manage, and vault passwords, and enable you to update all privileged account passwords automatically and simultaneously.

4. Choose the right solution

There are various PAM technology providers to choose from, offering different kinds of features and deployment options. Before choosing, it’s important to define use cases for privileged access in your environment and preferred solution capabilities such as service account management, discovery functions, asset and vulnerability management, analytics, file integrity monitoring, SSH key management, and more. Some organizations prefer a vendor-independent technology partner to help them test and evaluate potential solutions. When it comes to a successful deployment, professional security assessments are helpful, by identifying what your privileged accounts are protecting and objectively detailing current security policies, controls, and processes.

5. Monitor accounts with analytics

Privileged accounts should be monitored continuously in order to identify outsiders leveraging stolen credentials, insiders that are not following policies and procedures, and malicious insiders. Privileged user behavior analytics solutions help you gain insight into privileged activity with a behavioral baseline based on machine learning algorithms that consider user activity, account behavior, access behavior, credential sensitivity, and similar user behavior. In case a breach occurs, monitoring privileged account use helps digital forensics identify the root cause and identify critical controls that can be improved to reduce your risk of future cybersecurity threats.

6. Implement multi-factor authentication for employees and third parties

According to Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report, 80 per cent of breaches can be prevented by using multi-factor authentication. Implementing two-factor or multi-factor authentication for both PAM administrators and end users will guarantee that only the right people have access to sensitive resources.

7. Audit and analyze privileged account activity

Continuously observing how privileged accounts are being used through audits and reports will help identify unusual behaviors that may indicate a breach or misuse.  You should capture every single user operation and establish accountability and transparency for all PAM-related actions. The automated reports also help track the cause of security incidents, as well as demonstrate compliance with policies and regulations. Auditing of privileged accounts will also ensure you cybersecurity metrics that provide executives with vital information to make more informed business decisions.

8. Prepare an incident response plan

An incident response plan is urgently needed in case a privileged account is compromised. When an account is breached, simply changing privileged account passwords or disabling the privileged account is not acceptable. If compromised by an outside attacker, hackers can install malware and even create their own privileged accounts. If a domain administrator account gets compromised, for example, you should assume that your entire Active Directory, so the attacker cannot easily return.

The execution of these eight policies are not supposed to be an end-all solution to security – there’s always more to be done.The proper management of privileged access helps organizations prevent devastating data breaches and comply with regulatory requirements. But at the same time it can be difficult for security teams that are understaffed and struggling to maintain access information across complex IT infrastructures. By providing comprehensive and clear visibility into privileged accounts, implementing least privilege, investing in the right solutions, and monitoring activity, you can be able to prevent privileged accounts from being abused and effectively tackle security risks both inside and outside your organization.

How Does Cloud Computing Benefit the Insurance Industry?

Insurance companies are a High-Value target to hackers. The reason is the multiple vulnerabilities included in the insurance provider data. They could be customer portals, credit card transactions, insider threats, external hackers (credential acquisition), Big data warehousing and applications, cloud data storage and more. Some of the insurance companies use outdated or not reliable security solutions which very often leads to cyber criminals’ attack with serious consequences for the company.  As a result, Insurance companies become more and more willing about cloud adoption and instead of asking ask “why”, they make plans about “when and how”.  

Several factors provoke the insurance companies to move their applications and data into the cloud as they reassess their business opportunities. These factors include the need for enhanced agility, the need for technology operating efficiencies and the opportunity of reducing infrastructure costs. For insurers navigating a complex risk, regulatory landscape and adoption of cloud comes with multiple challenges of data privacy, architecture, system interfaces and IT security. All that could be handled with a Cloud solution which offers rapid provisioning, clear visibility of assets, robust data governance and a seamless mix of delivery models.

The advantage of moving to Cloud for Insurance Companies

When we talk about Cloud computing, it is not enough to justify its implementation only in terms of cost and effort. Moving to the cloud changes the overall operation of the enterprise. It creates new ways of operating, creates value for the clients and makes your business grow faster.

When deploying and implementing cloud computing solutions, insurance companies could better drive revenue, improve collaboration, gain customer insight and reduce time to market for products. But that’s not everything: there are several other key strategic benefits that would change the way of work and connections in insurance companies.

Benefit #1: Fast Deployment

Cloud computing offers rapid deployment allowing businesses to be ready to take advantage of it in short order. Cloud has enough resources available at its disposal to allow for multiple tenants in the shared environment. These resources are always scalable.

Benefit #2: Higher Productivity and Collaboration

Cloud computing can help insurers provide their agents, brokers and partners with a common, unified platform. It allows them to easily gain access to real-time data and at the same time increases the productivity.

Benefit # 4: Business Growth and Progress

Cloud systems help insurers to deploy new business models, which are more customer oriented. A cloud-based solution offers better understanding of the customers’ needs and successfully develops the services to meet them.

Benefit # 5: Become more innovative

Insurance companies all over the world are in a constant competition to innovate and offer new things on the market. That’s why insurers need to make sure that their application portfolios meet the emerging needs of the customers. Thanks to the Cloud system, they can test and deploy new technologies and that helps them to better collaborate and to develop new products and services.

Benefit #6: Optimized Risk Management

Cloud allows you to integrate risk data, risk assessments and risk indicators within its environment. That allows insurance companies to protect their data against data breaches and data theft.

Benefit #7: Cost effectiveness

Insurance companies are also concerned about their regular expenses. The theory that Cloud is expensive is completely denied by the fact that Cloud computing can help insurers save a great amount of money which they can invest in better marketing activities or in the execution of specific insurance plans. That’s the reason why we say that Cloud ensures efficiency and flexibility.

Benefit #8: Simplified access with Single Sign-On

PATECCO has IAM consulting capabilities that can help insurance companies gain the benefits of moving to a cloud environment. Identity and Access Management supports single sign-on (SSO) and leverages protocols to integrate with enterprise’s cloud ecosystem. The IAM tools can also simplify the partner access. All user log-ins and activities are precisely managed and when an employee at your partner’s organization leaves, you should not worry about whether they still have access to your application. All access rights are strictly provided or removed according to the user status.

Cloud Computing is no more considered as a specific term in the business sphere. It’s more often regarded as a mandatory initiative and activity. As the number of breaches increases, more and more insurance companies start using the cloud technologies which defenitely changed the face of the insurance industry. Cloud computing is the first step of the insurance firms’ digital transition – from ordinary to modern insurance software. The adoption of cloud computing is beneficial not only for the insurance companies, but for their customers, as well. It efficiently encourages collaboration, communication, improves the security and productivity.