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Which Cloud Model Is Right For You?

Public, private, or hybrid—what suits your agency best?

Once a novelty, cloud networks now personify the modern workspace. Businesses leveraging cloud deployments typically enjoy enhanced flexibility and productivity. Moreover, with the rise of remote work, the cloud has become crucial in attracting and retaining valuable talent. However, maximizing the benefits of your cloud network depends on selecting a deployment model that aligns with your organization’s goals. If you’re considering the cloud for your agency, you’ll need to choose between public, private, and hybrid options. Let’s explore the differences to help you determine the best route for your business.

Public Cloud Deployments

Public cloud networks rely on the infrastructure provided by third-party cloud service providers. In this setup, companies utilize shared resources and are often charged based on a pay-as-you-go model. Let’s delve into the pros and cons of this deployment model.

Pros:

  • Greater accessibility: Public cloud providers often have a large service area, meaning agents can access vital tools and data from any location.
  • Easier scalability: Public cloud providers typically offer flexible pricing models, which can be ideal for agencies seeking to scale their infrastructure up and down depending on business demand.
  • Better focus on core business goals: Migrating to the public cloud offloads IT management to a third party, which empowers agencies to focus more on their transactions and customer relations. 

Cons:

  • Security concerns: Despite their robust features, the fact that resources are shared on a public cloud may trigger potential security and privacy concerns.
  • Third-party dependence: Using the public cloud means your IT setup becomes largely dependent on a third-party provider.  
  • Cost overruns: Public cloud is rightly celebrated for its flexible pricing, but without careful due diligence, it can also lead to cost-overruns.

Private Cloud Deployments

Private cloud networks are designed for the exclusive use of a single organization and are managed either by the network’s owner or third-party. Here are a few of the benefits and potential drawbacks.

Pros:

  • Customized security: Private networks enable administrators to create customized security controls and exercise greater data sovereignty, which greatly assists with compliance in regulated industries like title insurance.
  • Performance gains: Plus, with private networks being designed for exclusive use, companies can potentially gain more consistent network performance.
  • Effective resource allocation: Private clouds permit more effective control over digital resources, which optimizes an organization’s productivity and cost-effectiveness.

Cons:

  • Up-front investment: Private clouds can involve sizable up-front costs, as businesses will need to invest in infrastructure like servers and networking equipment.
  • Rigid structure: Relying on private clouds can pose problems for agencies if they want to make changes to their deployment setup. Investing in additional infrastructure may be required to support higher-intensity workloads.
  • Higher maintenance costs: Maintaining a private cloud necessitates that agencies continually invest in sufficient resources like specialized IT knowledge, which can potentially strain budgets that could go toward other revenue-producing activities.

Hybrid Cloud Deployments

Aside from these two options, there is also the hybrid cloud deployment model, which combines elements of both public and private clouds. Hybrid-cloud organizations will typically host some resources, data and workloads within a private cloud while also utilizing third-party providers like AWS or Microsoft Azure. Check out the pros and cons of this approach.

Pros:

  • A fluid model: Hybrid deployments can easily scale to meet fluctuating demand within the real estate industry and ensure optimal resource allocation.  
  • Cost-effective: Hybrid clouds afford agencies flexibility in how they use their cloud infrastructure. Agencies can leverage the public cloud during peak worktimes and avoid overprovisioning their private network.
  • Customizable security: Hybrid cloud businesses can create customizable security measures regarding where they house critical data or workloads. Agencies deal with highly sensitive information. With hybrid cloud, this data can be kept out of a public network and managed on-premises for greater peace of mind.

Cons:

  • Complex management: Managing a hybrid cloud can be complex. Agencies must be adept at navigating diverse environments and integrating various systems into a cohesive whole.
  • Cost control: Using multiple cloud networks can cause billing headaches, as users sometimes find it difficult to track resource allocation, transfer data and reduce waste.
  • Regulatory compliance roadblocks: Finally, hybrid clouds can create security and compliance risks with data that is moving between environments. Agencies will need to implement stringent controls to secure data that is “in-transit” between networks as well as data “at rest” within a single network.

Final Thoughts

As with any critical IT decision, all cloud deployments have their pros and cons. Before pulling the trigger, spend time talking critically about your business and what will work well for your team. Some considerations to mull over include your security requirements, budgets, current IT capabilities and future business projections. After having these important conversations, you can reference our list of pros and cons to select a network that will take your business to the next level.

business team standing in a circle back to back

How To Build a Cybersecure Culture  

Protect your business by taking a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity.

Sometimes the cybersecurity landscape can feel a bit hopeless, especially when you look at recent data. News headlines are abuzz about breaches. Major companies across the economy are routinely victimized by hackers. Municipalities are open targets. Despite millions invested in security solutions, attacks seem to continue with unrelenting frequency. It all begs the question: Where do we go next? 

The answer is deceptively simple. Agencies seeking to keep their networks secure and data safe must build a cybersecure culture. How do you do it? Let’s look at a few ideas.

What is a cybersecure culture?

A workplace with a “cybersecure culture” is one with a broad understanding of cybersecurity’s importance. Additionally, these are workplaces that promote cybersecurity training and consider every employee an important contributor to their overall security posture. Cybersecurity is not an afterthought in these organizations but a key goal that directly informs the workplace’s strategic decision-making.

Start with some simple questions

The work of building a cybersecure culture begins with the recognition that a long-term commitment is required. Start by asking stakeholders for their buy-in and ensure you will be properly resourced for the long haul. Once assured of your organization’s support, you can develop strategies and tactics to achieve your cybersecurity goals.

Security awareness training  

Companies are increasingly realizing that technology solutions are not a magic bullet in the war against hackers and fraudsters, and many have begun supplementing their tools with security awareness training. The importance of such training really cannot be overstated, as the data shows that human error is one of the primary causes of major cyber incidents like data breaches. Just a few years ago, Stanford University partnered with a cybersecurity organization and found “that approximately 88% of all data breaches are caused by an employee mistake.”[i]

Security awareness training that provides tailored and comprehensive content can directly address this issue. More specifically, an effective program will also look at the most pressing threats facing your organization. It will then offer guidance on how employees can recognize suspicious activity and take action. Some additional tips for building a great program are:

  • Cover the latest and most important cyberthreats affecting your agency, including malware, ransomware, modern phishing and dark web activity.
  • Share actionable tips on how to create strong passwords, properly identify suspicious emails and assess which links are safe.
  • Consider consulting a provider that offers security awareness training programs with customized content.

Apply a critical policy eye

Another step for building a cybersecure organization is to review relevant policies and adjust where necessary. Oftentimes, organizations fail to specify core parts of their cybersecurity strategy, which results in inconsistencies in acceptable use, data protection and incident response procedures. Fleshing these out needs to be a business priority, as it will create the consistency essential to keeping attackers at bay.

Create a collaborative, responsible culture

One of the last pillars of a cybersecure culture is arguably the trickiest. You need to also establish a workplace where people speak up about suspicious or illegal cyberactivity. This requires multiple steps. Obviously, you need to establish clear reporting channels and processes, but you must also ensure that employees believe that your company’s response will be fair and non-punitive. Investing in team building activities throughout the year can be one of the best ways to create this type of culture. When employees feel committed to the well-being of their workplace and their co-workers, they are naturally incentivized to make positive contributions to their employer’s cybersecurity strategy.

Final thoughts

Technology is integral to any organization’s defense posture in a world full of ever evolving cyberthreats like ours. But that is only the first step. It is also critical to gain buy-in, provide education and training, and create a culture where people feel genuinely passionate about contributing to your defense posture. It is the best way to move toward a more resilient and cybersecure workplace.


[i] Stanford Research: 88% Of Data Breaches Are Caused By Human Error (knowbe4.com)

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Breach Detection: Top Signs Your Business Has Been Hacked

Breach Detection: Top Signs Your Business Has Been Hacked

In 2024, cybersecurity has firmly entrenched itself in the public imagination. It seems like barely a week goes by, for example, without a high-profile data breach. Terms like “hacking,” “malware” and even “multi-factor authentication” have become part of our everyday vernacular. Even extensive security training is now routine at many workplaces.

Yet despite this welcome increase in awareness and understanding, it can still be difficult to know exactly when your network has suffered a breach – which can have serious consequences for your business. That’s because the faster you can detect a malicious incident, the faster you can begin remediation, prevent financial or reputational fallout, and get your agency back on track. Let’s explore what potential breaches can look, feel and sound like. We will also examine steps you can take to respond in the unfortunate event of an incident.

What does a breach look like?

One of the biggest warning signs that something is amiss with your business network is simply unusual activity that you can typically see within your technology or security software. While this can sound like vague advice, it really isn’t when you know what to look for, including:

  • Strange or unrecognized logins.
  • Odd purchases made through business accounts.
  • Unauthorized changes to your account settings.
  • Unfamiliar devices connecting to your systems or network.
  • Abnormal spikes in data use or activity.

What does a breach feel like?

The warning signs of a breach are not solely visual. You can also be tipped off by how your network feels and the way your software performs. A cyberattack may result in a dramatic slowdown in performance. There is no universal experience, of course, but some of the common performance problems include:

  • Slow network speeds or crashing applications.
  • General connectivity problems.
  • Inefficient CPU or system memory usage.
  • Poor customer experience.

What does a breach sound like?

When it comes to network breaches, it may feel a bit odd to talk about warning signs that you can hear. While your technology systems aren’t typically going to tip you off this way, your agency’s human stakeholders might. Keep your ears open for feedback from those who interact with your digital assets and infrastructure. Their thoughts, feelings and experiences may prove crucial to discovering a breach and taking corrective action. Some comments that you need to take very seriously are:

  • Reports of increased phishing attempts or other suspicious emails.
  • Complaints from customers about using your digital assets.
  • Increased IT support desk tickets, depending on if you have managed security in place.
  • Occasionally, albeit rarely, compromised devices can also emit auditory signals that suggest something has gone wrong.

A four-point plan to respond to breaches

If you notice these abnormal activities, don’t brush them off! Instead, take the following four actions to contain the potential damage and reestablish your security perimeter.

  • First: Secure your compromised accounts, which can involve switching passwords and establishing multi-factor authentication if you don’t have it in place already. You should also disable affected accounts, notify all affected stakeholders, and begin preserving evidence of what has occurred.

  • Second: Focus next on investigating the malicious activity. Develop an overview of the incident by assessing the “who,” “what,” “when,” and “where” of the network breach. The purpose of this exercise is two-fold: You want to determine the scope of the problem while also determining the root causes so you can ensure it doesn’t happen again.

  • Third: Build a plan to improve the long-term security of your IT systems and to prevent similar breaches. Conduct a comprehensive review of your vulnerabilities. Implement stronger access controls, encryption protocols and cybersecurity approaches. Finally, update training programs to keep employees apprised of security changes and reinforce security standards across your organization.

  • Fourth: Don’t forget to adhere to all relevant standards and requirements regarding data breach notification. Then, conduct a review of your compliance obligations to ensure you are taking appropriate due diligence and properly protecting sensitive personal information.

A thrilling yet threatening business era

Seven decades into the information age, more people than ever are aware of both the promise and the perils of using digital systems in both life and work. Yet while cybersecurity awareness has never been more widespread than it is today, some of the common signs and symptoms of a data breach are not that widely known. Learning more about them and keeping your co-workers and team apprised is a great way to sharpen your defenses and respond decisively should the need arise.

foreboding cyborg

AI Safety For Small Business

The rapid rise of AI in business sometimes evokes memories of the 1984 sci-fi classic The Terminator, and particularly its description of a technology that “can’t be reasoned with,” “can’t be bargained with,” and which “will not stop, ever” until it completes its mission.

We’re obviously a long way off from cyborgs, but all signs indicate that AI’s march forward will inevitably disrupt the way people work in our industry. This disruption will come − ready or not. Fostering a culture of adaptability will be important as we position our teams to capitalize on tomorrow’s opportunities. The good news is that, with appropriate safeguards in place, people can work in parallel with AI to radically increase productivity. Let’s discuss some steps you can take to keep people, processes and data safe as you consider AI use in your business.  

AI: Amazing promise with potential pitfalls

You have likely already dipped your toe into applications like Chat GPT and Google Bard, and you’ve probably been amazed by the results. Leveraging sophisticated language models, these applications have an uncanny ability to understand user input and to generate responses that mimic human communication. End users have put these tools to work generating content, conducting research, designing graphics and even producing full application and website code.  

The ChatGPTs of the world are undoubtedly marvels of engineering, but using these programs without restraint may imperil sensitive consumer and company data. Moreover, AI models are not an exact science, with research pointing to how outputs are often marred by programmer bias and inaccurate information. Finally, relying on AI-generated code without additional review can cause problems with your website or other digital real estate. Safe to say, it is wise to proceed with caution.             

Cover your bases

So how then can you unleash AI’s power while maintaining your security posture? I wish I could say there was a silver bullet, but in reality, it requires a multi-prong security approach. Here are some areas to consider when developing a plan your business:

  • Information classification and hierarchy: A great place for title agencies to begin is to build a classification hierarchy for the data held within your corporate ecosystem. Apart from our consideration of AI, a classification system like can be deeply important for risk management and creating customized data controls. Once you have this in place, it is much easier to instruct your team regarding the types of data that can be used within an AI system and what must be kept sequestered.
  • End user education: Unless you have extensive experience with language models, it can be difficult to understand how AI applications work and how to use them safely. Seeking out resources and training can be an important step toward making the most of specific AI tools while still adhering to corporate policies and procedures.
  • Incident response: This is a standard part of your typical cybersecurity plan. Designed to encompass all actions your organization will take in the event of data breach or other security problem, it is advisable to expand your incident response plan to also include AI. That way, you will be able to execute efficiently in the event of an issue and mitigate potential negative impacts.

  • Compliance and regulations: Given the rapid rise of AI, it’s not surprising that lawmakers and regulators have lagged in their attempts to address the potential negative consequences of these new technologies. But you can bet regulation is coming.Considering the large volume of personal data title professionals deal with every day, it is enormously important to stay apprised of regulatory developments so you can respond appropriately and remain compliant.

AI will be back, but we can be ready

Easily one of the most memorable quotes from The Terminator comes when Arnold Schwarzenegger remarks in a complete deadpan, “I’ll be back.” This iconic line also describes where we currently are with the AI revolution. When ChatGPT was released on November 30, 2022, it was lauded as a revolution in the modern workforce. While some of that early hoopla has now died down, there is no doubt that the AI will come roaring back as it continues to integrate into our workflows. The only real question is whether we will be ready to deploy future iterations of this technology to maximize efficiency without sacrificing safety. By updating your security plan now, you will be better positioned to embrace AI advancements, ensuring a balance between technological progress and cybersecurity.

virtual reality ai concept

Information Technology And The Year Ahead

In the world of information technology, nothing stays the same for long, and that presents both challenges and opportunities. Staying current with the latest trends may be a business necessity, but it can also be a tall order to cut through the noise and implement the right solutions and systems. To make it a bit easier, we’ve compiled the top IT tips and developments you need to be aware of in 2024.

AI and cybersecurity risk

The fact that AI is at the top of the list will surprise no one. For much of 2023, the business world was abuzz about the promise of this emerging technology. In 2024, all signs point to AI becoming more and more intertwined with how companies conduct their operations. While this is largely a positive development, as AI can dramatically increase employee productivity, it does carry cybersecurity risks.

Data privacy is perhaps the most obvious concern when thinking about the intersection of AI and cybersecurity. When companies integrate programs like ChatGPT or similar technologies into their workflows, such programs may share critical data with the service provider and compromise the integrity of sensitive information. To avoid this problem, a best practice is to develop strict standards for how employees can use AI responsibly and protect personal or proprietary data. Some elements to consider including in an official policy are:

  • Risk assessment: Before implementing AI systems, agencies need to have a comprehensive view of their system vulnerabilities and safeguards.
  • Access controls: Define the roles and responsibilities of those with access to AI systems on equipment and networks.
  • Employee training: Consider what type of training and support staff need to leverage AI effectively without compromising cybersecurity and data safeguards.
  • Data protection: Clarify what type of information can be shared with AI programs and what must remain sequestered.

Remote work is here to stay

Four years on from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is clear: remote work is here to stay. Even large companies that have publicly resisted telecommuting have begun to signal that the pre-pandemic, fully in-office model is not coming back.

This has clear implications for our industry. As more employees come to expect flexibility, companies will need to adapt their technology suites. Prioritizing connection and collaboration tools, cloud computing and advanced security solutions like endpoint threat detection can help you succeed in an era of dispersed workforces. Companies will also need to build a remote onboarding program that can help them bring new employees into the fold from anywhere.

To learn more about the devices, tools and technologies that make remote work possible, check out our blog on mobility solutions.

Keep sustainability front and center

Businesses are under ever-increasing scrutiny to incorporate social and environmental concerns into their decision-making. Naturally, this also extends to IT. By making it a priority to implement sustainable solutions into your tech stack, you will enhance your reputation and become a more attractive partner to stakeholders.

Even better, making technology decisions through a green lens is also good for a business’s bottom line. In an earlier blog I wrote, I outlined how green IT tools do more with less, leading to better productivity and lower costs.

Building durable cyber resistance

Recent cybercrimes targeting major mortgage and title companies stand as a stark reminder that criminal activities can have enormous consequences in our industry. Successful attacks can have short and long term implications – ranging from service disruption and compromised systems to stolen credentials, reputational harm and sizable monetary loss.

At Alliant National, we take such threats extremely seriously and have implemented a variety of safeguards to better protect the stakeholders who rely on us every day. Just a few of these strategies include:

  • Hosting our servers at a secure data center protected by redundant firewalls.
  • Utilizing email filtering, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and endpoint threat detection and response (EDR) software.
  • Routinely backing up all email accounts, documents, and mission-critical data.
  • Conducting quarterly and annual network penetration and phishing tests.
  • Deploying cloud-based solutions and software for added security.
  • Adhering to a strict schedule for installing security patches to all relevant tools on servers and workstations.

In the wake of recent cyber attacks in our industry, we are also moving to implement additional security tools to further solidify our defense posture. We encourage agents to take a similar approach and see the New Year as a critical time to continue moving toward what’s known as “cyber resiliency.” This involves assessing the following dimensions of your cybersecurity strategy:

  • Robust risk management: Tackling your organization’s security involves creating a comprehensive view of your policies, procedures, data resources, vulnerabilities and protections.
  • Employee investment: Strong organizational cybersecurity relies in part on employees who have been trained in industry best practices as well as organizational safeguards and procedures.
  • Data security and recovery: Data is an enormously valuable business asset and requires strong security protocols and a comprehensive backup strategy.
  • Incident response: No security system is complete without a detailed approach to incident response. That includes the software and hardware that needs to be installed across your company, a business continuity plan as well as documentation procedures.

Stay apprised of new developments to win in 2024 People always say that the one constant in life is change, and that adage applies to technology.  As we move into the new year, new developments, technology solutions and tools are sure to emerge. The points that we have discussed here are a solid foundation as you start thinking about your 2024 IT strategy. At Alliant National, we are also committed to sharing relevant IT updates and tips for you to further refine your approach going forward. Keep checking in on the Alliant National Advantage blog to learn about building a solid security stack, protecting your company’s data and much more.

This blog contains general information only, not intended to be relied upon as, nor a substitute for, specific professional advice. We accept no responsibility for loss occasioned to any purpose acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material on this blog.

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