Everyone can’t be an expert in IT infrastructure and security. I’m thankful to have a team that focuses on security best practices and takes care of those issues for me. While I don’t know every ingredient in their “secret sauce,” I do know that they work quietly in the background, protecting our network from intrusions and data breaches. They’re like a warm, fuzzy blanket keeping us and our merchants safe.
This month, as the cooler weather ushers in what is typically a busier time of year, I want to share some of their knowledge to highlight the measures needed to keep merchants safe and secure all year long.
Keeping data safe is one of the big reasons why locking down your company’s computers is important.
FIGHT BACK ATTACKS
Attacks can happen at any time, so you must always be ready. Remember several years ago, when a group called “Fancy Bear” was bringing down financial institutions with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks or bot-like malicious traffic? They were sending out ransom letters requesting Bitcoin payments.
They came after us and several other gateway players in our space. This forced us to investigate solutions to fight back and protect our endpoints, which are ways into a company’s system. There are multiple and highly effective solutions out there to combat this kind of threat. For instance, we have taken advantage of Cloudflare to help hide our IPs, act as a firewall for our web applications and provide other DDoS protection.
We’ve recently added ThreatX to our arsenal as well, which adds redundancy to our security posture while also allowing us to custom-craft traffic rules to ward off the card runners and card cleaners that plague our industry. This same solution can be implemented at the merchant level to alert merchants to a potential DDoS. Having these kinds of tools in place can make a big difference and provide you with an extra layer of security.
LOCK IT DOWN
Keeping data safe is one of the big reasons why locking down your company’s computers is important. Processors like us are registered financial institutions in Europe, so we are regulated much like a large acquirer. This makes it even more important that our data is kept safe. It is important for merchants to protect their data too.
One way to do so is encrypting the hard drives of your company’s computers. With encryption, if someone steals a computer, all the data on it is protected. Another option is using a USB lockdown to help eliminate the possibility of a disgruntled employee downloading sensitive company data and using it somewhere else.
Here’s a tip a lot of people don’t like, but that could be very beneficial: remove admin rights on all company laptops. This prevents employees from downloading apps and software, or clicking through links that could be infected with malware, which could then infect your entire network. Our IT team also suggests implementing and randomizing the local administrator account password on all company machines. That way, even if one machine is compromised, the perpetrator cannot access all the machines. This also mitigates how much harm malware can cause if it discovers the admin password.
Lastly, adding two-factor or multi-factor authentication neutralizes the risks associated with compromised passwords and can help eliminate related security issues.
Phishing scams can be very creative and convincing. From time to time, I’ve had employees receive spoofed emails purporting to be from me, requesting that they go out and purchase gift cards immediately. For those unfamiliar, spoofing is a type of attack in which the “from” address of an email message is forged. As a preventative measure, our experts suggest implementing an email protection solution such as Proofpoint, which protects against email attacks and provides continuity for businesses in the event of an email outage.
Implementing Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) email authentication protocols will also help prevent email spoofing and phishing. DMARC helps mail administrators prevent hackers and other attackers from spoofing their organization and domain. We’ve seen DMARC minimize these types of attacks.
Another helpful idea is implementing Outlook user submissions. This allows employees to report spam or phishing emails to Microsoft for analysis. If you’re not an Outlook user, there are similar services associated with Gmail and other email providers.
It’s good to get your whole company involved in compliance. Host an event where the heavy lifting of the annual PCI audits and monthly compliance falls on the entire staff, not just the IT team. At Segpay, we all go through annual PCI training. Here are some suggestions to share with your new hires so they get a good start while also keeping company information safe:
- Lock your computer while you are away from your desk.
- Use a secure, encrypted solution to store your credentials, such as KeePass or Roboform.
- Do not store passwords in a spreadsheet, OneNote, Notepad or any other unencrypted format.
- Do not write passwords down on paper.
- When sending credentials, separate the username and password and send them on two different mediums. For example, you can send the username via email and the password via Microsoft Teams.
- Delete the credentials after sending. For example, in Teams and Skype, you can click the three dots to the right of your message and select “delete/remove.”
- Never provide your password to anyone asking for it.
- Beware of phishing emails trying to steal your personal information or credentials. If you are not expecting an email from someone and are not sure about it, ask your IT department for assistance.
In addition to these tips, it’s important for your programming team to complete secure coding training each year to keep their certification up to date. It is also a requirement for passing the annual PCI audit. Many banks have joined in and are now requiring that all merchants fill out a PCI self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ). Taking the time to complete an SAQ is helpful because it is a useful tool in making your organization and your program more secure. It doesn’t take long to complete, and it’s a nice tool to have in place, especially since it’s now a requirement for many banks.
Keeping all these security tools up to date can seem like a lot of work, but this work is well worth it. It provides you with confidence, allowing you to relax — under your network security blanket.
Cathy Beardsley is president and CEO of Segpay, a merchant services provider offering a wide range of custom financial solutions including payment facilitator, direct merchant accounts and secure gateway services. Under her direction, Segpay has become one of four companies approved by Visa to operate as a high-risk internet payment services provider. Segpay offers secure turnkey solutions to accept online payments, with a guarantee that funds are kept safe and protected with its proprietary Fraud Mitigation System and customer service and support. For any questions or help, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.