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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.

Website designer sorting wire-frame screen of mobile applications

Optimize Your Content for Mobile 

On June 29, 2007, the first iPhone was released, and the rest, as they say, is history. Flash forward over 15 years, and mobile devices have become one of the top ways in which we receive information and make buying decisions. This has naturally had huge implications for businesses. To keep up with this changing customer behavior, it is essential to optimize content for smart devices regardless of the channel you’re using. Here, we will look at how you can ensure your content is picture-perfect for audiences who are more connected, agile and mobile than ever before. 

Your digital front door 

An organization’s website is one of its most important digital assets – acting, in a sense, as its digital front door. Logically, this makes it a natural place to start your mobile optimization efforts. The good news is that, unless your website is a digital dinosaur, it likely is already functioning properly for mobile. For nearly 15 years, “responsive design” has been a standard practice for web developers, but it is still worth reviewing how your website’s content is rendered across a wide variety of devices. Some important things to keep in mind include:  

  • Review your website’s layout changes depending on the device on which it is being displayed.
  • When viewing your website on a mobile phone or tablet, make sure the main navigation switches from every main tab are visible in a simplified format, typically consisting of three lines stacked upon one another. 
  • Be sure pictures and videos are displayed correctly and are not cut off horizontally. 
  • Note whether forms are rendered appropriately and displayed in a simple and straightforward fashion. 
  • Determine whether website pages load quickly and efficiently. 

These are all standard website functions that modern buyers expect to see, so if you find issues with one or more of these elements, consult your web developer to make the necessary updates. 

Go channel-by-channel 

After you’re positive that your website is in tip-top shape, it’s time to move on to your other digital assets and take it channel-by-channel. Start with your email marketing software. Even in 2024, email remains one of the most popular marketing channels, making it a valuable place to begin. As with your website, most of today’s email marketing software implemented responsive design practices long ago. Still, it never hurts to verify that you are providing your audiences with the best possible user experience.

Keep the following in mind as you do: 

  • Double-check to see if you are building and sending emails with mobile-friendly templates. 
  • Be careful with the fonts you use and keep your email content short, snackable and to the point. 
  • Reduce the size of any imagery to ensure that your emails load quickly and cleanly. 
  • Conduct ample testing to confirm whether your emails are displaying correctly across devices and email applications. 
  • Keep your overall design simple by avoiding things like columns or code-heavy features. 

Once your website and email are ready to go, give some consideration to remaining channels like social media. As with email, most major social media sites have the infrastructure in place to ensure users’ content will be mobile optimized. Agencies would still be well-advised to take the following actions to reduce the possibility of something problematic turning up in their audiences’ feeds: 

  • Review your profile to ensure that each element will appear on your audiences’ screens in the best possible light. That includes using a logo and banner image whose details can still be seen even on a very small screen. 
  • Take particular care regarding your call to action (CTA) element. As the most important part of any given post, it is essential that your CTA is visible and legible. 
  • Be aware of where you are linking your social posts. While your social media profiles will typically render well across devices, you cannot extend that guarantee to other areas of the internet where you are trying to direct traffic.

Final thoughts 

The advent of the smartphone changed the marketing game forever, with increasing emphasis being placed on delivering a crisp, clear and powerful digital experience across any device. Thankfully, many marketing platforms are designed to facilitate responsive design and do not require additional technical skills to execute. That doesn’t mean you should just set and forget your marketing campaigns, though. It’s worth taking the time to double- and triple-check your materials to provide an ideal viewer experience. That’s the way you’ll win in today’s marketing environment.

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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.

VPN concept

Securing Remote Work: Essential VPN Features For Your Agency

Virtual private networks (VPNs) are a type of technology that allow businesses like yours to secure and encrypt connections to corporate networks and resources from remote locations. If you think back to the COVID-19 pandemic and the explosion of remote work, then it becomes easy to understand why VPNs have surged in popularity in recent years. If you’re considering taking the plunge and purchasing a VPN solution for your agency, you’ll want to read on for some best practices and tips.

Why VPN?

VPNs are used across industry verticals and are particularly common in finance, healthcare and, yes, insurance. These fields routinely deal with large amounts of highly sensitive information. Ensuring data security and cyber resilience is integral to business longevity, making selecting a VPN provider a strategic business decision.

Focus on top features and industry compliance

As you explore the market, you will quickly see there are many VPN providers to choose between. Cut through the noise by focusing on key priorities and features like:

  • Robust encryption: Look for a VPN provider that offers 256-bit encryption, which is the industry standard for ensuring that data sent over your network is unreadable to unauthorized parties.

  • Secure cybersecurity protocols: Verify that your provider offers tunneling protocols like OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec or IKEv2/IPsec.

  • No logging: Unprotected online activity is logged by a variety of sources – including internet service providers,cookies, search engines and third-party services.A VPN service will protect you from this type of surveillance and tracking.

Any VPN you choose must also be compliant. Before implementing a service, stay apprised of all regulations that your title agency may be subject to and verify that your VPN will meet and exceed any requirements.

User management and ease of use

Ease of use and intuitive management are critical factors when considering VPNs. This goes double if you are working with a team that is heavily dispersed. Inquire with vendors about the learning curve involved with adding this tool to your security stack. Any worthwhile provider will walk you through how to set up or remove users, add permission levels or implement two-factor authentication.

Scalability and flexibility

Your business is always evolving. Therefore, you need to work with a VPN provider whose product is flexible and scalable enough to support your team as it continues to grow. Some factors to consider include:

  • Network capacity: You will want to inquire into any provider’s network and carrying capacity. Remind yourself to ask about how they handle fluctuations in network traffic and how they prevent service quality from degrading during periods of high use.
  • Remote work: Your VPN provider should also support remote work – regardless of whether your agency currently has a telecommuting policy. You need to know that your provider’s solution can handle simultaneous, dispersed connections.
     
  • Load balancing: Another critical point to investigate is load balancing and redundancy. A VPN that can scale effectively along with your business should come with strong measures in place for distributing network traffic in a way that avoids failures and downtime.

Stay safe and productive online

When your team is armed with a good VPN, they can stay productive and secure regardless of whether they are in the office or working at home. Following these tips can help you gain this additional level of protection, allowing you to then do what you do best: continuing to meet the needs of your customers.

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