How one small trade association manages their security

I spoke to the IT Manager of a 65-person trade association in the DC area. I have known this manager, whom I will call John, for decades through various IT positions, mostly in non-profits and trade associations.

(He has asked that I not use his name or the name of his association.)

Things have changed since he first began working at the association eight years ago. “When I was just a few months into my current position, we had about 15 laptops stolen from their docking stations by (what we believe was) the night-time cleaning crew. People came in to work and their laptops were gone. My logistical response was executed pretty well – I had folks up and running very quickly. But we never treated the incident as a serious information breach. These days we think about things differently.”

One of the biggest impacts that John has had was to hire a network management VAR to help setup and monitor their firewalls. He uses a combination of tools such as NetWrix for auditing their Active Directory logs (“I can unlock a user before they even realize it,” he said), Sophos for anti-virus full disk encryption and its web appliance.

He uses another VAR and additional monitoring tool that is industry-specific. “They have a monitoring appliance in our environment that sends a ton of alerts that tend to be very non-actionable – like someone used a cleartext password on a website. Well, there’s only so much I can do about that. The value is that they aggregate our data with our members’ data to look for unusual trends across the country so they can alert us to industry-wide attacks.” This VAR also performs vulnerability scans annually that he says is very disruptive to our storage array. But it is useful. ”For example, did you know that APC products (UPSs and PDUs) have three factory default login IDs and passwords? We knew about the first. Didn’t know about the second and third. So, I’m changing those asap.”

When it comes to dealing with insider threats, he says “a big win for us has been It is a very affordable training program that allows me to spam and phish my own staff. Plus they offer videos and a learning management system that we hope to implement next year with HR’s approval. They also send me a “scam of the week” which I repackage and send to staff. It’s both entertaining and educational.” Another classic phishing situation was when one of his VPs sent out member email addresses to a Yahoo address he thought was our CEOs. “ It happened on a weekend and the VP was on his phone and couldn’t really see the whole message on the screen. It was quickly discovered that the CEO did not have a Yahoo address. That was our first real cyber security incident. Calls were made. The board was notified. It was only names and email addresses, but those two items are considered personally identifiable information. This happened about a week before I implemented KnowBe4. If I had gotten approval for it earlier and set it up earlier, this might have been avoided.”

John also deploys a BYOD policy for some of the staff, and is still evaluating mobile device management strategies. They just migrated their email to Office 365 and haven’t yet implemented any two-factor authentication.

John’s total staff is a help desk technician and his VARs, one of whom is on site two days a month.

“Security is a bigger part of my job today because of the increased emphasis and because our association represents a high profile industry where security is also a high profile issue. Our CEO wants us to walk the walk if we’re telling our members to do the same.”

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