Ghost (Account) Busters

Be Afraid of These Ghosts

A whisper in an empty office; files moving without anyone there; the eyes of a portrait following you as you pass. Your office has ghosts. Not spectral hauntings that spew ectoplasm, but ghost accounts which haunt your organization’s cybersecurity. Ghost accounts are accounts which have credentials even though there are no longer any active users associated with them. To those attempting to exploit, ghost accounts are like extra doors on the outside of a building: each one is potential way into your network. Once inside, there’s no telling what things heinous exploiters will exfiltrate. Bad is a ghost account only giving an evil third-party entry into your organization; catastrophic is a ghost account which still has access to various file shares, data, and other protected parts of your network.

data leak with ghost accounts

‘But where do these ghost accounts come from?’ you wonder. Well, large organizations have a large number of users. That seems silly to mention, but it is important to spell out. By having a large number of users, quite often adding and removing user credentials take time. Well, to be honest, an organization needs to get the new user up and running as fast as possible, so those credentials and the access they entail are normally set up quite quickly. But when a user leaves an organization (either honorably or dishonorably), often the removal of those credentials is pushed to some later date or merely forgotten. And then your organization becomes a haunted house.

Ghost (Account) Busters

We’ve already written a bunch about Identity & Access Management (IAM) — the process of defining an employee’s role in the company as detailed as possible and then giving them exactly the access they need to do their job (no more, no less). IAM is extremely important for an organization’s internal security when new users are added, but it is equally as important when they leave. IAM strategies need to include the deletion of users and not just the creation. It’s second nature to make sure a departing employee gives back the keys to the office, so should it be to terminate their keys to connecting to your organization’s network.

employee cyber access

But as said before, there always seems time to help a new employee settle in, but never any time once they leave, normally because you’re preoccupied with on-boarding their replacement. And this problem compounds itself if more than one worker is leaving at the same time. All is not lost, however. Fognigma is here to not only protect your network, not only bolster your cybersecurity with leading-edge technology, but also to let you automate a little more than you thought you could.

Fognigma & Active Directory Make It Easy

Many companies use Active Directory to manage all their employees. Fognigma integrates with Active Directory to make IAM even easier. Just as Fognigma’s invisible and encrypted networks and communications help protect an organization, so can teaming it up with Active Directory.  Since Active Directory administrators already have their employees entered in, it would be silly to have them redo all that work when they add the leading-edge tech of Fognigma to their cybersecurity arsenal. That’s why Fognigma can import Active Directory users right into its console!

Active Directory is engaged to activate and deactivate the user. Fognigma, on the other hand, is where admins put users into all the groups they need to do their job. (A Fognigma network has its construction and components microsegmented, with access to each part given only to a specified group. Being in a group, then determines the amount of access a user has to Fognigma capabilities, such as file share, telephony, VDI, etc.) This means the setup of a user when on-boarding is just as easy as it always has been: create user and add permissions.

The brilliance comes when it’s time to say goodbye to a user. When that day arrives, all an admin has to do is deactivate the user in Active Directory. Active Directory then tells Fognigma about the deactivation, Fognigma deactivates the user in every group they were a part of, and the user instantly has all their access revoked at once. Fognigma and Active Directory easily eliminate the risk of ghost accounts haunting your network.

To learn more about how Fognigma, contact us today.

Cybersecurity New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year

The New Year is here, and with it a deluge of resolutions to lose weight, watch less TV, exercise more, eat better, and all sorts of other promises which will be kept for a week or two before tapering off back into regular life. The best of us, however, will actually have the willpower to keep hold of a resolution or two and change our lives for the better. There is one resolution we all should take to heart and make sure we follow through with: bettering our cybersecurity practices.

Now, of course, this resolution isn’t just one easy thing to do. Much like “get in shape,” improving our cybersecurity habits is a multi-prong resolution. But just like “get in shape,” fostering a better total mindthink on a life-change as important as cybersecurity will only make your future easier and safer.

Simple Ways to Improve Cybersecurity

Update, Update, Update!

One of the easiest ways to improve your cybersecurity it to make sure your stuff is updated: programs and devices. Sadly, the rush to get products to consumers often means, upon release, there are holes and cracks in the software and/or hardware’s security. The suppliers of these products realize this and routinely release software updates.

update your software

These updates sometimes add functionalities to the products, but more often than not, they fix errors in the code, making the product more secure in the process. So make a schedule to check for updates for all your things and when you find them, take the time to actually update them. Not only will your stuff work better, it will also be more secure.

IAM FTW!

Identity and Access Management is very important to the cybersecurity of organizations. Basically, it’s first determining a user’s specific role in the organization (Identity) and then assigning permissions based only on what that role needs (Access). Proper Identity and Access Management (IAM) is the easiest way to limit the risk of insider threat, while also limiting external threat should the user’s credentials become compromised. IAM is tricky to implement (as users always want access to more than they need), but just like getting more exercise improves the whole body, IAM improves the security of the entire organization all at once.

Deputize Cybersecurity Rangers!

Though the bulk of cybersecurity is on the shoulders of a few in each organization, those few should make sure the many are informed and actively aware of their own cybersecurity. It is, in a way, a social contract — each user in an organization gives up a little bit of their own rights in order to maximize the safety of the organization. Every user tacitly agrees to be a part of the gestalt solution. And a big part of this resolution prong is information and training.

Cybersecurity Training

Everyone in an organization should have some cybersecurity training since every action from every user affects overall security. Training sessions should be scheduled for everyone, including management (all the way to the top). One of the first things taught should be the danger of phishing.

No Phishing!

We all know what phishing is, but getting an entire workforce always on alert for these sorts of scams is very difficult. Often, they prey on our own willingness to help someone out. An email from the boss near the holidays asking an employee to pick up some gift cards as presents for the board of directors sounds like something that could actually be real. But the knowledge to take a step back and examine the email more thoroughly, to never click on any links from a suspected phishing email, and to let admins know the suspect address the email’s sender (without forwarding any possibly risky message) is invaluable. It is this very knowledge which is important to impart to everyone within an organization. Show a person a phishing email and they’ll be safe for a day; teach them how to recognize and avoid phishing emails and they’ll be . . . well, you know.

phishing attempts

Plan Ahead!

No matter how long a person has been walking, they are bound to, at least once in their lives, trip and fall. The best way to help your organization minimize the fallout from a possible future cybersecurity trip-up is through planning. Starting with IAM plans from an employee’s onboarding, continue planning for everything. Plan for all the training, plan for all the updates. Plan for the policy if a breach is detected and what will be done to secure the breach and recover from the disaster. Make up possible worst-case scenarios and plan for those. Plan for what to do when someone leaves the organization (terminating accounts and credentials, resetting passwords, etc.). Often this last step is forgotten about, leaving a host of possible intrusion points.  And finally, plan for being surprised by something no one ever thought of – but plan on how to keep a level head while adapting to whatever happens. Always being prepared is actually extremely good advice.

Use the Best Tools!

The team behind Fognigma is proud to be creating tomorrow’s solutions for today’s cybersecurity problems. Or, rather, in creating solutions that allow organizations to deftly dodge the deluge of digital duplicity which constantly buffet the shores of security. If you care enough about your organization, your mission, and your users to safeguard them with the best leading-edge protection available, then contact Fognigma today.

Scrooge’s Three Ghosts of Cybersecurity

Three Visitations

Just as Scrooge was visited by three apparitions, so shall ye be greeted by three specters. These are not hauntings to change your feelings for the holidays, though. These diaphanous blobs of ectoplasm are here to remind you about cybersecurity and how to think about it as the holidays pass and the new year begins. They are here to show you the three directions you must always look in as you think about protecting your network, users, and organization. Do you feel that chill in the air all of a sudden? Yes, that’s right: The Ghost of Cybersecurity Past has arrived.

Ghost of Cybersecurity

The Ghost of Cybersecurity Past

There’s a knock on your office door. When you open it, you are face to face with the Ghost of Cybersecurity Past. It is small like a child, yet there’s something old about its face. It beckons you to follow it, and you both walk hand in hand into your cybersecurity past. Insert flashback special effects here.

Once in the past, you see how simple cybersecurity used to be. Organizations would set up firewalls to stop intrusion and install virus protection to deal with any viruses which found their way into your systems. Sometimes sites would be blacklisted so employees couldn’t access them. It was an early time, where organizations were slowly coming online for the first time. Things were new. And yet, it was during this time of technological change where the seeds of compromise were planted. (For a wonderful interview with the first person to create a virus, read this!)

Phishing Attempt

This was the beginning, the Ghost shows you, how organizations began to connect together, yet fought hard to remain separate and insulated. The Ghost leaves with a shiver (insert flashforward special effects here), and you are alone.

The Ghost of Cybersecurity Present

But you are only alone for a millisecond before a loud, booming knock shakes your office. It is the Ghost of Cybersecurity Present. This Ghost is not small like your first spectral visitation; this Ghost is a giant. It is the present, after all. The world is all connected, everything is attached to the Internet, and there are malicious third-parties hiding in every nook and cranny waiting to feast on your data. The present of Cybersecurity is expansive, as it strives to protect a global attack surface where over 77% of organizations have suffered some form of attack in 2018 alone.

Gone is just putting up walls and patching holes after they appear. Current cybersecurity must be proactive and seek to shore up weak spots before they become holes. It must evade and obscure, encrypt and disappear. It is as giant an undertaking as the Ghost who is by your side.

Privacy and security

You turn exhausted and you notice the Ghost is similarly spent. And yet it shows you two more things: children hiding in the robes around its feet. “These are Connectivity and Privacy – the two issues that plague all humankind now,” the Ghost explains. Each child grabs and hangs onto one of the Ghost’s arms and you watch as he attempts to balance them. You silently nod, realizing this balancing act is what makes the present state of cybersecurity so difficult: managing everyone’s interconnectivity, while respecting and protecting their privacy. Before you can say another word to the giant spirit, you are alone again.

The Ghost of Cybersecurity Yet to Come

Before you can take three breaths, you feel a presence behind you. Turning, you lift your eyes and behold a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards you. If drifts along, taking you somehow with it, into the future of cybersecurity.

Clouds roll in and lightning flashes. In front of you, there are no more wires. There are just vacuum cleaners talking to microwaves talking to thermostats talking to computers talking to cars talking to cell phones talking to cloud storage talking to…. well, you understand.

Iot isometric Device


In the future, everything is connected and nothing exists in an isolated state. All new electronics access the Internet to provide more services to the user. It’s as if the digital world is made of whiffle balls — little points of access surrounded by holes that third-parties can exploit. The battlefield of the cybersecurity warrior of the future is one who instantly goes on the offensive when bringing a new device, network, or user online. One who moves their defense all around them, dynamically altering it as they go; one who appears to be one place and then another and then nowhere at all.

The future of cybersecurity is both terrifying and exciting — exciting because of the new tech which will be developed, but terrifying because each new connected device is also a new attack surface, so compromise can come from anywhere (not just the single point of entry from a modem like in the past).

But don’t be afraid. As the Ghost of Cybersecurity Yet to Come pulls back its hood revealing a sickly, skeletal form (looking ever so much like the Grim Reaper), you are reminded of the Death Tarot card. In Tarot, the Death card represents change. The Ghost is reminding you of the change that is to come in how you deal with cybersecurity, spurring you on to embrace that change. And then it is gone.

Bonus Ghost: Marley

You are left standing in the room where you started. No one is around, and no time has passed (the Ghosts have those timey-wimey, Twilight Zone skillz). There’s a lot of work to do. ‘But the title there mentions a bonus Ghost,’ you wonder, ‘where and who is this extra apparition?’

The fourth Ghost, reader, is the one writing these words. The one warning you to look to the past, present, and future as you craft your cybersecurity plans and processes. The one showing you the best way to prepare for the future is to combine the visions each Ghost showed you into one ever-evolving plan; the one who puts a little plug at the end of this night of visitations for an enterprise software product which can bring you leading-edge technology, the future of cybersecurity, today. That product is Fognigma.

Learn more how Fognigma can give your organization more than a ghost of a chance.

Defend Forward – Cloud Smart

A Change in Cybersecurity Tactics

The 2018 Department of Defense Cyber Strategy was released on September 18, 2018, and set the cyber-world humming. The path of cyber defense is shifting. No longer will cyber defense (at least as they DoD views it) be content to building a wall and making sure nothing breaches that wall.  The new directive is for cybersecurity to “defend forward to disrupt or halt malicious cyber activity at its source….” But what exactly does this mean?

Defend Forward

The Department must respond to these activities by exposing, disrupting, and degrading cyber activity threatening U.S. interests, strengthening the cybersecurity and resilience of key potential targets, and working closely with other departments and agencies, as well as with our allies and partners.” -2018 Department of Defense Cyber Strategy

As you can see from the above quote, cyber defense is, in essence, going on the offense. An easy way to visualize this is by picturing a phalanx of hoplite soldiers in Ancient Greece. They have their protective shields in place and they are in close formation – amazing protection from any attack. However, they don’t stand still. They march forward and engage the enemy. They are bringing the defense toward the enemy’s position and using their defense as part of an offensive plan. They are, to bring it back to the new cyber strategy, defending forward.

defend forward

Defending forward to cyber attacks

This is what the DoD plans for the future of cybersecurity. Rather than that waiting for the threat to attack, Defending Forward has your cyber defenses move forward to meet the attacker or, preferably, engage the threat before they can attack. In an aggressive defense, but one that is needed in today’s ever hostile world. But that’s not all. Not only must we change our defensive tactics, we must also evolve our thoughts on the cloud.

Cloud Smart

 “Cloud Smart is about equipping agencies with the tools, knowledge, and flexibilities they need to move to cloud according to their mission needs.” – 2018 Federal Cloud Computing Strategy

According to the most recent (recent as of the time of writing – October 2018) draft of the 2018 Federal Cloud Computing Strategy, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is adding a new spin to how government should think of and interact with the cloud. The new Cloud Smart initiative is a trident approach to being safe on the Internet: security, procurement, and workforce.

First, Cloud Smart calls for a modernization of cloud security. Network security at the outer layer should no longer be the be all and end all – the necessity for security throughout a network is imperative, expressly surrounding actual data stored on the network. The Cloud Smart strategy points out that data is key, and it is an agency’s responsibility to the public to keep that data safe and secure.

office cybersecurity

Agency on computers, responsible for keeping company safe.

The procurement tine of the Cloud Smart trident deals with giving agencies the power and knowledge to purchase the proper security products for their agency. But unlike the past, where each agency gets whatever it has found on its own, agencies are encouraged to share. In fact, the push is to standardize security products across all agencies.

The final prong of the Cloud Smart trident deals with the actual workforce of government agencies. To paraphrase the OMB, key cybersecurity talent needs to be recruited and/or grown and trained from current personnel. These new cyber-warriors will be responsible not just for cybersecurity, but also for procurement and engineering of Cloud Smart solutions.

Fognigma is Cloud Smart and Defends Forward

Fognigma is a patented enterprise software solution which creates secure, invisible, and encrypted networks on the cloud called Mission Partner Networks (MPNs). It does this by taking randomly leased virtual machines from multiple cloud servers and connecting them to form one network. Inside these networks are all the communication and collaboration tools organizations need for mission success: traceless telephony, encrypted file share, secure chat messaging and video conferencing, and virtual desktops (VDI) with Fognigma-unique features. These networks exist over public infrastructure yet are invisible to spying eyes.

Every connection in a Fognigma network is wrapped in cascading layers of AES-256 encryption using two separate encryption libraries, OpenSSL and wolfSSL, for added security. This encryption protects the connections that make the network, but also all the connections inside the network. This provides protection at the outer layer of the network, but also surrounding the data stored inside – just like Cloud Smart dictates. Plus, Fognigma is FIPS 140-2 validated.

Fognigma offers even more protection by giving admins granular user controls. Not just content to safeguard data from the outside, Fognigma lets admins set which users can access which tools, folders, and files – controlling even the type of access each user has (read only, write, etc.). And Fognigma does all of this without any third-party access or oversight – you own it and you run it.

granular controls for admin

Admin

Fognigma’s MPNs are designed to allow for the easy collaboration of multiple agencies without disrupting or endangering each agency’s users or data. In our experience, once an agency gets a taste of what Fognigma can do, it wants Fognigma for its own operations. We completely support that choice (and so does Cloud Smart)!

Fognigma embraces the Defend Forward mindset. Since MPNs are built across multiple cloud providers, they can reach out into over 50 regions spread across 5 continents. Though not on a hunting mission, Fognigma lets you boldly go into any part of the world your mission dictates. You will advance upon the enemy, yet they will not know you are there due to the invisible nature of MPNs. In fact, MPNs defend forward a little differently from other networks. They are not content to defend forward in mere space – they also defend forward in time.

Let’s explain. Fognigma lets you extend your network, part of your network, and/or one or more of your communication components into enemy territory – you have defended forward in space. But Fognigma also gives you complete control over when the network, parts, and/or components exist, giving you the ability to defend forward in time. Because Fognigma acknowledges that ‘always on’ isn’t always desired – both for conserving resources and even more security – it gives you the ability to manually or automatically on a schedule remove components, network parts, or the entire network. Or add them. Basically, your entire network’s topography can be constantly in flux; you will be defending forward by being everywhere and nowhere, seemingly at the same time (like Schrödinger’s network). Your shields will forever be raised, yet your troops will be constantly and silently moving around the battlefield defending forward in four dimensions (i.e., in space and in time).

Fognigma combines all the best parts of the Cloud Smart strategy with a solid Defend Forward stance. With Fognigma, your organization will be able to protect itself while not having to sit still hiding behind walls. It can move, it can flow, it can adapt to any situation. Your organization will be able to smartly glide through the cloud towards mission success, while defending in all directions. This is why we can proudly say: Fognigma helps you Cloud Smart while Defending Forward.

Protect Your Things

IoT Is Only Getting Bigger

The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing larger day by day. With thermostats monitoring and virtual personal assistants listening, it’s getting quite easy to become surrounded by things. Things are great! They can help you turn on lights and buy dog food and find out what the weather is like without having to look out a window. But things do come with risks. These things could risk your network security, data, users, intellectual property (IP), and even your entire company!

internet of things (ioT)

Connected to everything with cybersecurity

It’s to be expected, really, if you think about it. Each device asks to connect to your network and then monitors something, often communicating out to the Internet. Each thing is now a new window or door into your network – a new safety vulnerability disguised as a handy device.

People Forget About Security

Often, people add smart devices in their homes and offices without any thoughts of security. It’s assumed that the company who created the device was smart enough to add in some measure of safety. Sometimes this is true with the more conscientious manufacturers, but many times network safety is sacrificed for speed to market (gotta get those sales numbers up). This isn’t safe for your home network, and it can be disastrous for your office network.

open network

Opening your network to leaks due to devices

Imagine an enemy agent out there watching your company. Suddenly, a thing pops up on his radar. To you, it’s just a little monkey on your desk that opens its umbrella when it is going to rain (and if that doesn’t exist, it really should). To the enemy agent, it’s a poorly protected entry point to your company’s network. The monkey might tell you that it’s going to rain, but what it isn’t telling you is that the rain is really the tears of your company as all its important information is exploited.

Insecure IoT Can Ruin Your Company

The monkey might be a simplistic and dramatic example, but the main points are solid. Adding unsecure items to your office network can be disastrous. Though we highlighted a frivolous IoT toy, there are many things that are very valuable and useful to businesses and organizations: the aforementioned thermostat, moisture sensors, factory automation things, HAL 9000, security devices, and even a fishtank in a casino!

The first thing to do is make an IoT security plan (i.e., what to do when someone wants to add a new device to your network), and the first step of that plan is to take the new device to the IT department for evaluation. Is it from a known and/or trusted manufacturer? Does it have any safety features built into it? Does it often get its firmware updated? Who will monitor and make sure updates are done in a timely manner (this one is really important)? In short, is this good for the company (read: worth the risk to your network)?

How to securely add a device to your network, discuss with your IT department

Making a plan gets everyone in the habit of thinking before they add a new thing – and, to be quite blunt, users should never stop thinking. But we want to make your IoT security easier and safer – with Fognigma.

Fognigma takes a multi-prong approach in protecting your things by protecting everything on your network. In a nutshell, Fognigma creates a Mission Partner Network (MPN) in parts spread out across multiple cloud platforms, which function as one. This creates an invisible-to-outsiders network in which your data, your communication tools, even your current network (depending on your Fognigma deployment) live. Your IoT devices are also inside the protection of your MPN, as well.

IoT devices connect to the MPN through a bit of hardware called a Wicket. Depending on how you have your IoT spread out through your organization, each device can have its own Wicket, or they can clump into little IoT hives and several devices can connect through one Wicket. Once connected to the MPN, your things are now invisible to external threats.

MPNs prevent metadata snooping (a key way third parties discover networks to exploit), which means network threats won’t even know your IoT devices exist. Fognigma is already in line with the NIST’s recommendations for IoT security by wrapping each connection inside an MPN with the recommended AES-256 encryption. Only, Fognigma doesn’t just use one layer of AES-256 encryption – everything inside your MPN is double wrapped for extra security.

A company that uses Fognigma will have a major advantage in the IoT world, as Fognigma makes sure your IoT remains only your IoT. That’s the magic of Fognigma. We’d like to chat more about this, but the thing on our wrist (which is connected to our phone, which is connected to the refrigerator) is telling us it’s time to get up and get a snack.