Malware

In the past, viruses were created with the sole purpose of wreaking havoc on the infected systems. A large fraction of today’s malware, on the other hand, are designed to generate revenues for the creator. Spyware, botnets, and keyloggers steal information from your system or control it so that someone else can profit. In other words, the motivation for making them is now more attractive than before.

Keyloggers can reveal your usernames, passwords, PIN numbers, and other authentication information to their creators by recording your key strokes. This information can then be used for breaking into various accounts: credit cards, payment programs (like PayPal), online banks, and others. You’re right, keyloggers are among the favourite tools of individuals involved in identity theft.

Much like the viruses of old, most present day malware drain the resources, such as memory and hard disk space, of contaminated systems; sometimes forcing them to crash. They can also degrade network performance and in extreme cases, may even cause a total collapse.

If that’s not daunting enough, imagine an outbreak in your entire organisation. The damage could easily cost your organisation thousands of euros to repair. That’s not even counting yet the value of missed opportunities.

Entry points for malware range from optical disks, flash drives, and of course, the Internet. That means, your doors could be wide open to these attacks at this very moment.

Now, we’re not here to promise total invulnerability, as only an unplugged computer locked up in a vault will ever be totally safe from malware. Instead, this is what we’ll do:

  • Perform an assessment of your computer usage practices and security policies. Software and hardware alone won’t do the trick.
  • Identify weak points as well as poor practices and propose changes wherever necessary. Weak points and poor practices range from the use of perennial passwords and keeping old, unused accounts to poorly configured firewalls.
  • Install malware scanners and firewalls and configure them for maximal protection with minimal effect on network and system performance.
  • Implement regular security patches.
  • Conduct a regular inspection on security policy compliance as well as a review of the policies to see if they are up to date with the latest threats.
  • Keep an audit trail for future use in forensic activities.
  • Establish a risk management system.
  • Apply data encryption where necessary.
  • Implement a backup system to make sure that, in a worst case scenario, archived data is safe.
  • Propose data replication so as to mitigate the after effects of data loss and to ensure your company can proceed with ‘business as usual’.

Once we’ve worked with you to make all these happen, you’ll be able to sleep better.

Other defences we’re capable of putting up include:

Check our similar posts

Spreadsheet Woes – Burden in SOX Compliance and Other Regulations

End User Computing (EUC) or end User Developed Application (UDA) systems like spreadsheets used to be ideal ad-hoc solutions for data processing and financial reporting. But those days are long gone.

Today, due to regulations like the:

  • Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act,
  • Dodd-Frank Act,
  • IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards),
  • E.U. Data Protection Directive,
  • Basel II,
  • NAIC Model Audit Rules,
  • FAS 157,
  • yes, there?s more ? and counting

a company can be bogged down when it tries to comply with such regulations while maintaining spreadsheet-reliant financial and information systems.

In an age where regulatory compliance have become part of the norm, companies need to enforce more stringent control measures like version control, access control, testing, reconciliation, and many others, in order to pass audits and to ensure that their spreadsheets are giving them only accurate and reliable information.

Now, the problem is, these control measures aren’t exactly tailor-made for a spreadsheet environment. While yes, it is possible to set up a spreadsheet and EUC control environment that utilises best practices, this is a potentially expensive, laborious, and time-consuming exercise, and even then, the system will still not be as foolproof or efficient as the regulations call for.

Testing and reconciliation alone can cost a significant amount of time and money to be effective:

  1. It requires multiple testers who need to test spreadsheets down to the cell level.
  2. Testers will have to deal with terribly disorganized and complicated spreadsheet systems that typically involve single cells being fed information by other cells in other sheets, which in turn may be found in other workbooks, or in another folder.
  3. Each month, an organisation may have new spreadsheets with new links, new macros, new formulas, new locations, and hence new objects to test.
  4. Spreadsheets rarely come with any kind of supporting documentation and version control, further hampering the verification process.
  5. Because Windows won’t allow you to open two Excel files with the same name simultaneously and because a succession of monthly-revised spreadsheets separated by mere folders but still bearing the same name is common in spreadsheet systems, it would be difficult to compare one spreadsheet with any of its older versions.

But testing and reconciliation are just two of the many activities that make regulatory compliance terribly tedious for a spreadsheet-reliant organisation. Therefore, the sheer intricacy of spreadsheet systems make examining and maintaining them next to impossible.

On the other hand, you can’t afford not to take these regulations seriously. Non-compliance with regulatory mandates can have dire consequences, not the least of which is the loss of investor confidence. And when investors start to doubt the management’s capability, customers will start to walk away too. Now that is a loss your competitors will only be too happy to gain.

Learn more about our server application solutions and discover a better way to comply with regulations.

More Spreadsheet Blogs


Spreadsheet Risks in Banks


Top 10 Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets – obstacles to compliance in the Healthcare Industry


How Internal Auditors can win the War against Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Reporting – No Room in your company in an age of Business Intelligence


Still looking for a Way to Consolidate Excel Spreadsheets?


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Spreadsheet woes – ill equipped for an Agile Business Environment


Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Woes – Limited features for easy adoption of a control framework


Spreadsheet woes – Burden in SOX Compliance and other Regulations


Spreadsheet Risk Issues


Server Application Solutions – Don’t let Spreadsheets hold your Business back


Why Spreadsheets can send the pillars of Solvency II crashing down

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How Westin Melbourne Hotel Trimmed its Footprint

Becoming sustainable is a three-pronged process. You must save money and push the buttons the government is pressing you to. But there?s a deeper, more urgent issue. If your customers mark you down for not being green enough you are heading for trouble. Let’s see how well this hotel is doing.

The Melbourne flagship of the Westin hotel chain boasts 262 spacious rooms with views of Melbourne Square and surrounding theatres, designer boutiques, galleries and national landmarks. The architects included conference facilities, a wellness centre and sundry bars and restaurants. After climate change arrived to stay, hotel management discovered they had inherited a water and energy-greedy monster. Their solution was to measure what was going through their systems, and then progressively cap the building?s greedy appetite.

The Melbourne Westin Hotel could not have achieved results without these metrics. They began by determining key indicators and measuring them. This provided them with criteria to set achievable, cost effective targets in the following key areas of their business:

  1. Water Management ? Demand-based linen and towel recycling, installation of back-washable water filters, water-saving shower heads, dual-flush toilets.
  2. Waste Management ? Conversion to green products, recycling kitchen oil, moving towards a paperless office, recycling everything possible.
  3. Energy Management ? Energy-efficient light bulbs, standby settings for lights, computers, televisions and air conditioners
  4. Stakeholder Communication ? Staff green-team training, guest education, ongoing employee briefings
  5. Strategic Positioning ? Visible, top-down commitment, optimised carbon offsets from clean, renewable energy sources, clearly stated position in the market

Westin?s Melbourne landmark has made good progress towards becoming the green hotel for others to follow. It has adjusted its environmental policies, increased water and energy awareness and implemented tight waste management.

Consumers are already shopping to make their carbon footsteps lighter. Food stores are on the bandwagon although apparel is lagging. Perhaps it’s time you found out just how your company is shaping up. It’s no longer a matter of ?if carbon taxes?. It’s a matter of ?when it does?.

ecoVaro is a software system-in-the-cloud that lets you enter your water and energy consumption and process it online so you can monitor and manage your usage. In no time at all you could be saving money like Westin Melbourne did. Does that sound like something worth investigating?

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Do you really need a Cloud Broker?

A cloud broker is someone who can serve as your trusted adviser when it comes to your dealings with a cloud service provider. Sort of an IT consultant who: is familiar with cloud computing, can negotiate a mutually beneficial relationship between you and a provider, and help you manage usage, performance and delivery of cloud services.?But do you need one?

Is it even time for cloud adoption?

Of course, if you haven’t even started considering moving your IT systems to the cloud, what’s the point of reading this article, right? Well, if you’re running a business in Ireland or the UK maybe you should start thinking about it. The benefits (of moving to the cloud) are simply overwhelming. But then that’s for another post.

For now, let’s just briefly talk about the rate of cloud adoption so far. This should give you an idea what other decision makers nearby think about cloud computing and what they’ve done in this regard so far.

According to research conducted by the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), the number of first-time users of cloud computing in the United Kingdom has risen by about 27% compared to last year.

The study, which was carried out by research company Vanson Bourne and which involved IT decision-makers from both the private and public sector in UK, also showed that 61% of companies are subscribing to cloud-based services. A similar research conducted last year (2011) revealed only 48%.

In Ireland, plans are underway to adopt cloud computing. According to Pricewaterhouse Coopers, 75% of Ireland’s CIOs and IT directors are already adopting a cloud computing strategy.

Definitely, the number of cloud adopters is growing. If that number already includes your hottest competitor, then perhaps there’s no time to waste.

But while a migration to the cloud should be in your pipeline, it shouldn’t be something you should rush into. Generally speaking, there are at least three kinds of services offered by cloud service providers: IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), and SaaS (Software as a Service).

Some providers offer variations of these services. You might only need one type of service or a little of everything. There are also technical and regulatory compliance issues that need consideration.

Obviously, if you have no idea where or how to start, you’ll need someone who can help you. But what kind of help do you need?

Let’s proceed by talking about the kinds of services cloud brokers offer as these are obviously indicative of the needs of current cloud customers.

What cloud brokers do?

Cloud brokers offer three main types of services.

Cloud?inter-mediation

Cloud inter-mediation services are designed to add value to existing services and improve capabilities. ?Examples of cloud inter-mediation include managing access to cloud-based services, carrying out performance reporting, and establishing stronger security.

Cloud aggregation

As mentioned earlier, some cloud customers may end up subscribing to multiple cloud services; most likely from different cloud service providers. To get optimal return on their various cloud subscriptions, these customers will need to apply data integration and make these disparate systems work together. They will also have to make sure data flowing from one system to another is kept secure. This is where cloud aggregation comes into play.

Cloud arbitrage

This entails finding the best cloud service provider(s) to solve a particular problem. One example is comparing different providers offering data storage services and identifying the one offering the most competitive rates.

Other cloud arbitrage brokers develop new solutions by combining the services of different cloud service providers and then offer them to cloud customers. While there are similarities between cloud arbitrage and cloud aggregation, the former is more flexible and allows the customer to transfer from one provider to another where conditions are more favourable.

Problems a cloud broker can help you solve

Just like with natural clouds, your experiences in cloud computing won’t be all white and fluffy. You’ll also encounter gray and uncertain (or even stormy) clouds.

One major issue in cloud computing is cloud security. In fact, cloud security (or the apparent lack of it) is the one thing that’s really clouding up the sky of cloud computing. But that doesn’t mean the cloud is totally insecure. Besides, there are certain types of information that really don’t require a high level of security. These types you can easily migrate to the cloud.

For sensitive information, you really need to conduct due diligence to make sure your cloud service providers’ data centres are secure enough.

Where exactly will your data be stored? Are there enough provisions for regulatory compliance? How will your data be segregated? Does the infrastructure readily support ?data forensics? Is there a sound disaster recovery/business continuity plan? These are just some of the questions that need clear answers before you sign a contract with a cloud service provider.

Suggested reading: 9 Cloud Security Questions You Need To Ask Service Providers

Also, before you sign, you need to study the SLA (Service Level Agreement) very carefully. Look at the guaranteed uptime. Is it enough to meet your own desired service levels?

Bear in mind that the answers to these questions may be too technical. This is one of those instances when a cloud broker can come in handy. As your trusted adviser, your cloud broker can break down the technical jargon and present everything in a language that you can make intelligent decisions from.

A cloud broker will also be able to study the cloud provider’s security architecture and policies and determine whether they’re sufficient to meet your own security requirements. Basically, a cloud broker will not only help you obtain answers to your questions.

He will also know exactly what vital information to extract from providers in order to ensure that you find the best deal possible.

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