Are Apologies from Cyber Criminals Enough? Are we Prepared?


Author: Derek Nugent, Vice President Sales, Marketing & Customer Success at Difenda

It’s been a strange year to say the least. 

Recently, a hacking group known as DarkSide managed to take down a major U.S. pipeline. That isn’t unusual — cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure are frighteningly common these days.

What’s odd is the fact that the group apologized for doing so. 

One might expect that given the damage caused by the attack, it would be complex or sophisticated. But it wasn’t. 

The hackers used the same tried-and-true tactics we’ve seen time and time again.

 

How Did the Colonial Hack Happen?

The same thing that happens in 99% of cyberattacks, DarkSide used social engineering to break into a single user’s desktop. Specifically, they used a phishing email laden with ransomware representing their namesake. 

And despite this, it still happened.

Now, before blaming Colonial Pipeline, take a moment to consider: a business targeted by cybercriminals needs to prevent or mitigate every single hacking attempt. Meanwhile, cybercriminals only need to succeed once. 

And they know this. They understand that when attacking an organization, they can take their time, study the environment, and find the ideal weakness to exploit. More often than not, even in otherwise secure organizations, that weakness is its people. 

Here’s a simple example: In a company with 1,000+ employees, 7% of employees will open that phishing email, and only one needs to download it. That’s all it takes for a cybercriminal to establish a foothold within a company. And this is exactly what happened at Colonial Pipeline.

How Will This Latest Ransomware Attack Impact Canada?

Let me start by saying this recent attack speaks to several disconcerting trends in the cybersecurity space. Although this attack targeted U.S. infrastructure, Canada is just as vulnerable and could face similar attacks.

Here’s what you need to understand.

Critical national infrastructure is under threat. From electrical networks to water treatment to oil and gas pipelines, we are incorporating Internet access into more and more of our critical systems. 

We live in an era of cyberwarfare. War now takes place in four dimensions — air, land, water, and cyber. The Colonial hack, like similar attacks, can be seen as a proof of concept to demonstrate that anyone, anywhere in the world, can gain direct access to a nation without regard for physical boundaries.

What we are doing isn’t working. This attack will lead to rapid adoption of the latest cybersecurity solutions. Although, cybersecurity products aren’t enough when all it takes is one person, one email, and one phishing attempt to bring it all down. 

The real problem is how we are implementing recognized frameworks. Frameworks only work if they are applied in their entirety and monitored by the businesses using them.

Cyber Hygiene Isn’t Optional Anymore—It’s Table Stakes

The path to better security posture is neither blind spending nor blind ignorance. It’s the enforcement of basic cybersecurity hygiene. Many businesses, and governments included, likely already have the necessary components for this in your environment.

It’s time to accept the failures of both IT and OT. We need to reassess the foundations that cybersecurity programs are built on. And that means taking a deep look into the basics—the people, processes, and policies guiding these programs and the software they rely on.

And more importantly, it means that businesses and governments of all sizes need to accept that they could be targeted at any time.

But what does it take to implement an effective cyber hygiene program? It takes a proactive approach built upon a strong foundation.

It starts with understanding your threat landscape, modeling threats you face, understanding who may target you, and why. 

Next, you need to define your assets and map out security controls for your asset categories. Accept that you can protect everything, and instead, focus on establishing security controls and organizing assets by priority. In most cases, you may already have these security controls in place and simply need to start enforcing them.

The final step is to focus on long-term sustainability. Cybersecurity is a continuous process, and hygiene is only the first step.

Build a Sustainable Cybersecurity Program Before It’s Too Late

Look at the last ten major security breaches and consider what all of those businesses had in common. Each and every one of them had best-in-breed cybersecurity products in place. And those products did nothing to prevent a breach from happening. 

The lesson here is simple. Basic, properly implemented, and hygienic, security controls offer more protection than poorly implemented advanced security products. If you look at the Colonial breach as simply justification for going out and buying a shiny new piece of software, you’re taking away the wrong message.

Don’t go out and buy another product to add to your existing stack of poorly maintained tools. 

Start by assessing your current situation and leverage what you already have in place first. If, at that point, you still need additional software, you can purchase it then.


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Megan Miller

Megan Miller’s energy and passion for learning flow into all aspects of her work. As the Growth Manager, North America, she brings a background in sciences which she has transitioned to the tech sector in her role at Difenda.

With a Bachelors of Science in Geology, Megan is a lifelong learner who is voracious about learning anything she can get her hands on about cybersecurity. Her positive energy has built a sales strategy with a focus on expanding in the United States while nurturing the Canadian presence. She is responsible for recruiting and training the sales team. Together with the company’s leadership, she creates the sales process and the company’s product strategy in order to better serve the customer base. This ensures that our customers have a highly trained and highly motivated team to help them every step of the way, Megan has completed Microsoft SC-900 training and working towards mastering Microsoft.

Whether at work or play, Megan is fully committed. She took her love of hockey all the way to the semi-professional level as a competitive hockey player. Megan loves all things sports including water skiing, scuba diving, cycling, and snowboarding. She also enjoys time with family and reading about alternative energy, innovation, and cybersecurity.

Natasha Phanor

As the Customer Success Manager at Difenda, Natasha Phanor is the voice of the customer, responsible for driving satisfaction, retention, and growth among our valued clients. With six years in the industry, she offers a fresh, energetic approach, and the ability to focus on a customer’s needs throughout the entire process. Natasha has the innate ability to foresee customer needs and solve problems before they arise, which creates a smooth road for each customer she encounters.

As the recipient of the Outstanding Services Partner of the Year Award in 2018, it is clear that Natasha responds quickly to customer needs, creates a platform for understanding a customer’s business requirements, and walks them through the process to ensure their complete satisfaction.

In her spare time, Natasha is as energetic and passionate as she is on the job. A self-proclaimed foodie-extraordinaire, she enjoys dinner parties, traveling, downhill skiing, hiking, biking, and reading. Natasha has a Bachelor of Fine Arts, specializing in Dance, from Ryerson University.

Ian Miersch

Ian Miersch has energy to spare, and uses his eclectic background to make a positive mark on the cybersecurity industry. As Vice President of Finance & Human Resources, Ian Miersch is responsible for overseeing scalable business growth as Difenda expands throughout North America. But it is the way he does it that sets him apart. By leveraging his engineering background and critical thinking skills, he has been able to develop unique strategies that balance the company’s current business needs with its long-term growth plans. And the results of his unique background and drive mean that the company is growing in a fiscally responsible manner, all with the customer’s needs at the forefront.

With a Bachelor’s of Mechanical Engineering, coupled with an MBA in Finance, both from McMaster University, Ian’s ability to analyze data and make informed decisions is augmented by his ability to understand all facets of the business. He has a holistic understanding of the craft, from operations to project delivery and management, to his niche in financial planning. Ian’s ten years of experience in the industry mean that he has seen it all, and knows how to create a dynamic team and manage the resources needed for success.

Outside of work, he uses his energy to help others through the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program, earning the Group Recreation Volunteer of the Year Status.

Ian also enjoys exploring and hiking with his three young children, exercising (so he can keep up with them), and reading professional development books. He is an avid but generally heartbroken fan of the Toronto sports teams, including the Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, and Raptors.

Derek Nugent

Derek Nugent, Vice President, Revenue lives by the motto “Be early, be better.” Derek leads our Sales and Marketing team and is responsible for customer success, as well as pre-sales and sales enablement. His high energy level and creativity have built high performing teams, whether at the Herjavec Group, CDW, or in his current leadership role at Difenda.

After earning a Bachelor Administration and Management degree from the Academy of Learning, Derek started in the information technology industry in 2004 and transitioned to the cybersecurity industry in 2014. With so much experience in a wide-variety of roles, he is poised to take the team at Difenda to the next level.

He excels at leading revenue strategies, new market entry, partnership engagement, and customer acquisition and retention. His work ethic and interest in rising to the top motivate his sales teams, who respond well to his passion and zeal. Under his tutelage, they are able to achieve attractive lead generation, YOY growth, and sizable deals. Derek works tirelessly to build a better team, and his constituents follow his road to success, which ultimately leads to a rewarding experience for the customer.

Even when volunteering, Derek is all in. He was a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters from 2005-2015, earning Group Recreation Volunteer of the Year Status.

And when he isn’t busy leading the team to the acme of sales, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two kids, running, working out, watching thrillers, action and dramatic television shows

Manoj Arora

Manoj Arora, Difenda’s Founder and CEO has always been ahead of the curve in Technology and Cyber Security. After securing his engineering degree in Computer Science, he wrote his first mobile banking application when he was just 23 years old. This accomplishment certainly set him apart from the crowd and prepared him for a lifetime of innovation and success in his field. At just 25 years old, he was selected as the youngest Cyber Security Officer for one of the largest banks in Asia.

As a globetrotting young cyber security professional, Manoj was instrumental in designing cyber security infrastructure and controls for some of the largest institutions around the world. Depth of his expertise and passion to serve customers at the highest level of competence and integrity lead to Difenda. Founded in 2008, Difenda is a rapidly growing cybersecurity firm operating in North America and Asia.

As the CEO at Difenda, Manoj drives the strategic vision to protect our customers and enable our team members to deliver our services in line with core values- competence, integrity, and innovation. Currently one of Microsoft’s leading North American partners, Difenda reflects Manoj’ single-minded focus on our customers. Difenda is fully vested in success of its customers and takes pride in considering our success as a byproduct of our customers. Manoj has always been committed to building a great team and forging strong partnerships to serve our customers with standards that top our industry.

When he is not busy bringing cybersecurity to the world, Manoj enjoys playing golf and squash, and continues to travel the world.

Lisa Templeton

Lisa Templeton is the perfect combination of human empathy and technological prowess. In her role as People Services Manager, she takes care of our team members to support them in their daily work, as well as on their personal life paths. Happy employees make for happy customers, and Lisa excels in giving our employees the tools they need for success in order to become the best possible versions of themselves. Along with employee formation, she shines in the service delivery support domain to continuously improve the process. Her 24 years of experience in IT Operations and Service Management help her create quality and efficiency at Difenda.

Having attended the Information Systems Management certificate program at Ryerson University, and with various other certifications to her credit, Lisa is perceptive and innovative when it comes to information technology, but also sensitive to the needs of her human constituents. Responsible for achieving the first privately owned company HDI Support Center certification in Canada, she has also designed and implemented Service Management excellence programs and 24×7 IT Operations departments for multiple IT organizations, and has created corporate rewards and recognition programs to keep her employees engaged and motivated.

On the personal side, Lisa passionately supports the cause of breast cancer research, having lost her mother to the disease. She reads voraciously in her spare time, and enjoys the art of home renovation. The summer months also bring time on her boat and exploring new hiking trails.

Miranda McCurdy

Miranda McCurdy uses her myriad super powers in all aspects of her job and personal life. As the Marketing Director at Difenda, Miranda McCurdy brings over a decade of experience to the table, which includes expertise in all facets of operations, brand management, and content marketing, as well as a multitude of successful strategies for the ever-expanding digital world. She is an expert at simplifying the message the company is trying to send, filling in gaps in the information, and strengthening the content in order to create compelling narratives that strengthen the brand and developing programs that bring teams together.

With several Addy Awards issued by the American Advertising Federation Cleveland to her credit, and her never say die attitude, Miranda understands both the broader picture and the minute details that are needed to successfully market a product. With her abilities to harness both the talent needed to spread the message, as well as to create the message itself, she is an integral cog in the company’s ability to communicate with customers and other stakeholders.

When she is not building a brand, she shares her ability to fill the gaps in her community by volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, the Special Olympics, and the Charleston Food Bank. In her spare time, Miranda spends time with her family, enjoys fitness and health, paddle boarding, reading, and arts and crafts.

Juliana Zaremba

Connections are the name of the game for Juliana Zaremba. As Strategic Partnerships Director, she is responsible for Difenda’s channel partnerships and the development and ownership of the channel partner program. She is also responsible for the global Microsoft Partnership, including the creation of strategic plans with MSFT contacts that will facilitate the continued growth of the business and establish certification and training protocols in all security technologies. Her role is multifaceted, as she acquires partners, manages relationships with them, and develops strategies that will provide cutting edge security solutions to our customer base. Another integral aspect of her job is to facilitate growth.

With a Bachelor’s in Math from the University of Waterloo and 14 years of experience from her previous roles at Herjavec Group and CDW, her cutting edge focus and ability to develop long-lasting relationships and strategies provides world class security solutions to our customer base.

Juliana thrives on connections outside of work as well. She is a philanthropist and contributor with Women4Change based in Hamilton. This group of local women is passionate about supporting local causes, and she focuses her efforts around Women in STEM. She is also a member of Club Italia in Niagara Falls and supports their youth events throughout the year.

When not managing the Microsoft Global partnership, Juliana enjoys reading, often reading several books at once. Juliana enjoys exploring the Niagara Escarpment with her family, as well as sharing meals and experiences with her extended family. Juliana’s competitive nature has her always trying new things, like Whoop band challenges and Peloton.

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