We survived Y2K – 19 Years into the Future

The New State of Security

By Tyler Hardy - December 31, 2018

Let’s begin with a little history. Starting in the early 1990’s, the internet was a new, and fresh commodity within both public and private sectors. Quickly, the internet grew with unbeknownst issues, that would later cause unruly, and problematic dilemmas. Ushering in the new millennium, the year 2000 was approaching, and so was the first IT disruption of magnus proportions. The now notorious "Y2K" bug precipitated a years’ worth of worldwide concerns around major outages of technology platforms leading into the New Year. The issue was simple: software and hardware using 2 digits for the year instead of 4 would throw off all programs using time-based calculations when the digits went from 99 (1999) to 00 (2000). Time would be resetting backwards, not forwards.

The fallout was potentially disastrous. How would banks use software to forecast interest rates if year was wrong? Could they amortize bank loans? Bill their clients on a schedule? Continue automated withdrawals? Any critical function that was automated based on a calendar was in jeopardy — nuclear power plants to hospitals were affected. Massive efforts to avoid a crisis were put into play. Finally, the New Year came and went, and all the "Y2K" panic seemed overhyped. No major problems were reported.

Centralized Systems Made Y2K Easy to Solve


Let’s take a moment to go through some statistics from the years:
  • United States cost to repair from Y2K - $100 Billion (Chandrasekaran,1999)
  • 738 Million internet users in 2000 globally
  • 3.2 Billion internet users in 2015 globally (Smiths, 2017)
  • Worldwide IT spends for 2018 – $3.7 Trillion
  • Expected worldwide IT spends for 2019 – $3.8 Trillion
These numbers speak volumes on where we were to where we are now. In 2018, the total IT spend globally will be around $3.8 trillion. So, we averted a 'worldwide disaster' and 'economic collapse' by spending only 3% of that amount ($100B) over the course of 5ish years to fix the Y2K bug — now that's efficiency! But what were IT teams dealing with in the year 2000?

Perhaps a better question to ask is, what were they not dealing with?

Personal laptops didn’t exist in mass use at that point, and tablets sure as hell didn’t. The iPhone wasn’t invented yet, and the 'Cloud' was still referred to moisture in the sky. Software as a service, isn't an established market yet, and no, there isn't an app for that. The Blackberry was also born in 1999. No one would know what you meant by BYOD, and few IT teams were strategizing on mobile device management (MDM). Oh and least we forget, the original 802.11 WIFI was just released in 1997.

Not to mention, Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears were also Americas top couple. Does this help to put it in perspective?

Indeed, this was a time where business IT platforms were highly centralized and meticulously controlled. Technology programs used by employees could typically be counted on half of one hand. Remediating a few core systems of a business with a multi-year timeline wasn't an impossible task.

What's interesting to note though, Y2K was a generalized security issue in 2000. That being said, cybersecurity was rarely its own job position. Representing the state of security in the 90's, security almost always fell under the system engineering positions. Security concerns of the yesteryear were simply the uptime and security of several main business systems.

A lot has changed, as we know. Security teams have evolved outside of systems engineering to large separate teams of dedicated security professionals (both IT and business), tasked with the expanding responsibility of varied outside and inside threats.

The Accelerating Threats of Decentralized Technology


The reasons seem obvious as to why IT security teams need to be so much more dynamic today. Mobile users, IoT, social engineering, increased connectivity, 'the cloud,' etc. Despite it being obvious, I still hear some clients say "we want to improve our edge security." And in my own head I'm screaming:

EDGE!? WHAT THE DO YOU MEAN BY EDGE!? IT DOESN'T EXIST ANYMORE!

There is no edge. There is no perimeter. There is an ever-expanding series of doorways constantly being opened by people other than technology teams — internally and externally. Any business spending money to improve its "edge" while forgoing spend on social engineering training to educate its employees on how to avoid email phishing scams is missing the point.

Clients, customers, employees, partners, vendors, friends, and hackers all pose substantial security risk to any business regardless of their intent being malicious or inadvertent. Connectivity is anywhere and everywhere. Data is being pushed in every direction in and out of the office, and Godspeed to the careers of any IT team not accelerating this advancement and impeding productivity of the business. Successful IT teams are helping the decentralizing of technology while creating frictionless security controls across all risk mediums — and that isn't an easy task.
To meet these growing threats, the market has seen a proliferation of new security hardware, software, and tools. With this a new problem has been born.

Security Products Alone Do Not Make You Secure

  • Intrusion Detection
  • Network Monitoring
  • Data Loss Prevention
  • Email Encryption
  • Identity Services
  • Firewalls
  • Antivirus
  • Firewalls
  • Antivirus/anti-malware
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Cloud Security
  • Big Data Security
  • Governance/Compliance Management
  • Security
  • SSL & Digital Certificate Authority & Management
The above list just scratches the surface on the areas in which security and IT teams need to have solutions. There are literally hundreds of thousands of products and tools for each one of these categories. It's an overwhelming portfolio to choose from, but too many teams make the mistake of over-evaluating the features of each tool and compare product vs. product in endless cycles. I use the analogy; a boat is taking on water, and the captain is more worried about what color tape to use to plug the leak.

What's even more damning is when IT teams pick the most robust security tool while failing to have any internal skill or availability to deploy, tune, and actually utilize the tool. Given the often-limited resources IT teams have, I have seen countless purchases of very expensive security tools which go un-deployed, underused, and unmonitored for months and even years. More often than not, this creates friction from the business units allocating budget to technology who consistently feel a lack of return on their investment.

Strong Security is Not a Product, it's a Procedure

Effective security and IT teams are evolving quickly, understanding that their impact is greatest when they focus on building a program that is augmented by security products. It's an ongoing operation with checks and balances, tools and people, changes and improvements. They realize that the threat landscape is evolving far too quickly to get hung up on any single feature of a product. Tools are useless if the are not utilized to their maximum abilities. Security and IT teams need good employees and strong partners they trust more than they need products. I'll take that one step further:

Bad products implemented and managed by a strong team and trusted partner are far better than great products that are poorly implemented by weak teams and incompetent partners.

It is disheartening to see technology partners and product manufactures alike rave on and on about how stellar and secure their products are, never once thinking to ask if their product actually fits into an existing program or how their client would implement, support, or fully leverage the product.

This is something your IT must learn to ask for themselves.
The days of centralized technology platforms are long gone. We can no longer avoid disaster by making one or two adjustments to a handful of systems or buying a product. Security and IT teams must shift their focus to building programs connected to the business in deeply valuable and impactful ways. The IT security teams of today must:
  1. Move away from being experts in security technology to being experts in identifying their organization's biggest risks and quantifying risks and opportunities of growth.
  2. Find strong and trusted partners to be their new experts in security technology, and who can provide varying options with full transparency.
  3. Build a strong team and process that manages the security operations with scheduled time dedication.
None of this is ground breaking though — I believe most would find these ideas to be accurate or at minimum, common sense. But one doesn't have to look far to see common sense is not adopted everywhere. Equifax spends roughly $200M a year on security upgrades after the notorious breach of 2017 (Sakelaris, 2017.) Come to find, their massive breach a year ago was not a failure in product, and it wasn't a missing feature. It was because a process wasn't followed and a server wasn't patched.

That's it. A 30 minute patch.

So, as we reflect on another New Year, saying goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019, we need to remember those times that put our tech world on high alert. We remember what past incidents occurred and how we can adjust towards the future. There will always be security alerts, attacks, and malware, but with the right process and team procedures, these “alerts” will become less and less detrimental. Remember, it is not about the products you have in place, it is how your team implements those products and utilizes them to the fullest degree.

References
https://www.upi.com/GAO-Equifax-spent-200M-on-security-upgrades-after-2017-data-breach/4991536324061/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPcap/1999-11/18/077r-111899-idx.html

https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2018-10-17-gartner-says-global-it-spending-to-grow-3-2-percent-in-2019

https://www.quora.com/What-percentage-of-people-in-this-world-have-a-computer-How-many-of-them-are-connected-to-the-internet-How-many-of-them-know-how-to-code

 
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VAR’s and IT Business Transformation


By Justin Fields - November 19, 2018

            The year was 2007.  Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears, 29-17 in Super bowl XLI (41), The Sopranos series finale aired on HBO (the infamous “cut to black” ending), Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron’s HR record with his 756th home run and Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple announces the iPhone – changing mobile computing forever!  
           
Before this evolutionary changing event, mobile phones saw minimal transformation from its early inception in 1973. The visionaries of this time foresaw wireless communication products that would be small enough to use anywhere.  By the early 80’s, the infrastructure to support cellular devices was still in its infancy and only a few mobile phones we in the market.  The DynaTAC 8000X mobile phone was launched in 1983 on the first US 1G network by Ameritech.  It cost $100m to develop and took over 10 years to reach the market.  The lifecycle of mobile devices / cellular phone took years from conception to market.  Each year, the infrastructure and devices became better and more available.


Fast forward to today.  There are more than 7.19 billion mobile devices in the world.  The rapid change of this technology is difficult to keep up with.  In previous years, the lifecycle of the product took so long that it was easier for organization to set a vision for how the product was going to be used, implemented and supported.  Now, that life cycle has rapidly decreased on time.  Organizations are consuming technology at a slower pace than that technology is changing.   There is now a need for rapid adoption of technology.

Technology Adoption of the Past:


Rapid Technology Adoption of Today:


As each organization has a vision.  Technology within that organization should have a vision.  How is technology changing the way consumers view and purchase your product or services? How are your employees utilizing technology to become more efficient in their daily activities?  How is your organization deploying technology to fully recognize the benefits of that technology?
As IT business consultants, we are responsible for helping organization achieve their technology vision… and if they don’t have one, we need to be the ones assisting them in creating that vision. 
The technology business economy of today isn’t that of large dollar hardware purchases followed with professional services to implement.  Consumption economics shows that organizations are spending dollars in a different manner.

Technology Adoption of the Past:

Technology Consumption Today:

Technology is changing at a rapid pace and the way organizations are consuming technology is changing. What are we doing as consultants to assist organizations in this rapid evolution of technology? 

The simple answer is business consulting, IT business consulting to be more specific.  As technology is changing, so is the value added reseller (VAR).  The evolution of the VAR is seeing more transformation now than they had ever seen before.  VAR’s in the late 90’s and early into the 2000’s capitalized on their customers need to build massive infrastructures, obtaining multiple million-dollar deals in one fail swoop.  This trend has significantly decreased over the past 10 years with the introduction of “the cloud.”

Cloud organizations such as AWS, AZURE and Google are again, changing how organizations are consuming technology.  Companies now have the ability to offload their infrastructures to these cloud providers and eliminate their IT staff… in theory. The simple reality of this concept is that only a few business verticals allow for a true “all in” cloud concept.  Most organization need to look at a hybrid-cloud approach to fulfil their business needs.  Going back to the VAR concept, VAR’s are evolving into the IT business consulting space to help these organizations move pieces of their infrastructure into the cloud.

The most successful VAR’s are not just selling products to their customers, they are partnering with them to understand their business and what problems their businesses have.  We now need to understand the detailed functions of business units and understand how they consume technology and guide them down the path to achieve their business goals and vision.     

Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric stated this concept well, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”   VAR’s will continue to evolve and become more strategic with the business to achieve their vision.









 
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Cisco Meraki Proactive Switch Replacement

Cisco Meraki MS210-48P, MS210-48FP, MS225-48LP & MS225-48FP

By Crystal Johnston - August 27, 2018

The Cisco Meraki MS210-48P, MS210-48FP, MS225-48LP & MS225-48FP have been detected to have fan component issues that are limiting the long-term reliability of the switches. Cisco is providing a proactive replacement solution for all switches that have been affected by this defect. It is being recommended that these switches are to be replaced as soon as possible with newly redesigned switches. 

In early October 2018, Cisco Meraki will be proactively replacing units that have experienced issues with new units. Starting August 27, 2018, you will be able to order replacement switches within the Dashboard. To request your replacement unit, or to determine if you are eligible for a replacement unit, please click here. If you have units that qualify, select "MS225/MS210-48LP/FP proactive replacement". This will initiate the replacement request.
 
If you would like to learn more on replacing the Cisco Meraki switches, have further questions, or would like to know more about the replacement process, please visit MS225/MS210-48LP/FP Proactive Replacement or contact us at 303.991.2224, support@247networks.com or visit us online at 247networks.com 
 
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Webex Version WBS33

Time Zone Bug Fix

By Crystal Johnston - August 16, 2018

As you may have noticed, the newest version of Webex (WBS33), has a bit of a time zone bug attached. When setting up a Webex within the new version, it will not update your current time zone, an any invite sent out will not provide the correct time zone. There is an easy fix to this bug and we would like to walk you through how to correct it within Webex

When you first login, you will notice that the platform has changed, the “work around” for this bug will be within the “Classic View” option.



(As a side note, once you are in “Classic View”, you can change back to “Modern View” at any time by clicking the top right.)

By updating to “Classic View”, the time zones automatically update and will be correct in future. Keep in mind, that if you transfer back to “Modern View,” there is a chance the bug will return and all invites could have incorrect timezone information.
If you are unsure which version of Webex you are using, go to “Webex Support” within your home screen of “Classic View”.  On the left side, expand “Support” and then click on “About”. This will provide you the current version of Webex that you are utilizing.

If you have any questions regarding your Webex experience or need any further information on other needs, please do not hesitate to contact us at 303-991-2224, email hello@247networks.com or visit us at 247networks.com

 
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It's upgrade time: Do I pick Cisco ASA (5500) or FirePower Appliances?


By Liam Keegan - May 17, 2018

At 24/7 Networks, we get a lot of questions about Cisco's strategy regarding the legacy Cisco ASA appliances and the new FirePower 2100, 4100 and 9300-series appliances. Customers have been asking, "I have to upgrade - which one do I choose?" Not sure which is the best for your organization? Let me provide you some pros and cons of both options.
But first, a bit of history. 
In the beginning, there was the ubiquitous Cisco ASA (Adaptive Security Appliance). This was the de-facto standard for Layer 3 and 4 firewalls. VPN remote access, it was all done on this platform. However, security changed - instead of ports and protocols, firewalls needed to look at applications and behavior. Other vendors released their Next Generation Firewalls (NGFW), and Cisco had to catch up.
So, what does Cisco do? July of 2013, Cisco spent $2.3 billion for SourceFire, a preeminent manufacturer of Next Generation Firewalls. Since then, Cisco has spent millions integrating the SourceFire purchase with their existing ASA firewalls. The SourceFire firewall is commonly referred to as FirePower.
For the last few years, if you had a Cisco ASA 5500-X series firewall, you could run a virtualized instance of FirePower right on your ASA as a separate instance. You still had to manage the ASA, then manage the FirePower. Two interfaces were never great, so the security team at Cisco merged the functionality of the ASA with the NGFW capabilities of the FirePower. This new image is called FirePower Threat Defense, or FTD for short.
FTD does NOT have feature parity with the ASA. For the basic functionality, you're fine, but if you do complex remote access VPN policies (like DAP), that feature isn't included with FTD. They're working on it, but it's not a 1:1 replacement - you need to do a bit of due diligence.
On to today....
If you have a Cisco ASA 5500-X appliance, you can either run the legacy ASA image (plus a FirePower virtual NGFW), or now you have the option to convert your 5500-X to FTD. I wouldn't say that customers have been chomping at the bit to make this change, since everyone is familiar with ASA and doing upgrades for the sake of upgrades isn't high on anyone's list.
In the last year, Cisco has released the successor product line to the ASA 5500-X. The next-gen product lines are the Cisco FirePower 2100, 4100 and 9100 appliances. They are MUCH faster, have considerably more interfaces and scalability, and are at a much better price-per-gig price point. 
Here's an old vs. new chart on list price on the ASA and FPR appliances:
  • ASA 5525: $8,995 - 650 Mbps
  • ASA 5545: $17,995 - 1 Gbps
  • ASA 5555: $24,995 - 1.25 Gbps
 
  • FPR 2110: $10,995 - 2 Gbps
  • FPR 2120: $19,995 - 3 Gbps
  • FPR 2130: $29,995 - 4.75 Gbps
  • FPR 2140: $69,995 - 8.5 Gbps
For most mid-market customers, the 2110 is going to be the sweet spot. You get 2x the performance at 1/2 the cost. It's a no-brainer to pick the newer product line.
But read on… There’s a catch!
On the new FirePower appliances, you can run ASA or FTD images. It's very flexible. But, if you run ASA, you can ONLY run ASA - no NGFW capabilities. If you want NGFW - and you do - you must run an FTD image. Because you're switching to FTD, you need to make sure the capacities you need are in the product line.
TL;DR:
  •  The new Cisco 2100/4100/9300 appliances have more capacity/bang for the buck than the old ASA 5500-X appliances.
  •  The Firepower Threat Defense (FTD) software image that's available on the 5500-X and new 2100/4100/9300 appliances doesn't have all the features that the legacy ASA code has.
  •  If you want NGFW capabilities on the new 2100/4100/9300 appliances, you must run an FTD image. You can still run ASA code on the 2100/4100/9300 platform, without the NGFW feature.
If you need an evaluation of your current ASA platform and what it'd take to migrate to FTD, please feel free to contact us!
(Here are the part numbers referenced in the price chart above: ASA5525-K9,ASA5545-K9,ASA5555-K9,FPR2110,FPR2120,FPR2130,FPR2140)
 
 
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