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July 08, 2016

What Exactly Is North Korea Up To?

With so much happening in the news this week, it’s easy to overlook the developing story surrounding U.S. sanctions on North Korea. But from a cybersecurity perspective, this is something to pay attention to.

Here’s the rundown, in case you are just catching up:

On Wednesday, the U.S. announced its first-ever sanctions on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Kim, along with ten other officials, is accused of enabling a long list if human rights violations including murder, torture, rape and other atrocities.

As the Wall Street Journal explained, the sanctions are part of a larger campaign aimed at punishing North Korea for recent ballistic missile and nuclear weapons tests. Any financial assets in the U.S. that are held by the group are now frozen.

As you can imagine, the North Korean government—which is denying the allegations—is not too pleased about the U.S. sanctions. In fact, yesterday Kim announced that the sanctions are a “declaration of war” against North Korea, which, as a side note, is technically impossible because the Korean War never actually ended. While an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, a peace treaty never followed. The two countries are in a perpetual truce.

Still, Kim’s words were somewhat alarming and it begs the question of how North Korea will respond. While an actual military conflict is unlikely (it’s easy to chalk his response up to mere rhetoric), it is worth considering what North Korea is capable of unleashing on the digital front.

Let’s not forget, after all, that North Korean hackers claimed responsibility for the high-profile hack at Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014. And more recently, in June, North Korea hacked more than 140,000 South Korean computers that were connected to government agencies and businesses.

So with all the saber rattling going on, and the threats coming from other sources as well, all U.S. organizations—particularly government agencies, financial and healthcare institutions—should be on full alert for suspicious cyberactivities and unexpected attacks.

Here are some easy ways you can protect your organization:

Brief your employees: Hold a meeting and make sure that all of your employees are aware of the dangers that lurk online. In your group discussion, go over best practices about staying safe online—like avoiding suspicious emails (for phishing scams) and websites, as well as public Wi-Fi networks which could allow hackers easy access into the network.

Enforce two-factor authentication: Enforcing passwords is the first step in keeping employee accounts safe. Make sure that employees are using two-factor authentication wherever possible—such as with cloud storage systems or email platforms. Two-factor authentication involves using a second identity verification technology besides just a password. It could include biometrics (like fingerprint scanners), security questions or a one-time security code. You should also warn your employees about storing password lists in documents on their computers. To a hacker, this is like getting the keys to the kingdom.

Purge unnecessary data: Run through the data that you have on file. Are you storing unnecessary information—like cardholder names or account numbers—that could be valuable to hackers? Consider deleting the information that you no longer require so that if hackers do get inside, they won’t find a trove of files.

Overhaul your network’s security strategy: While taking the above-mentioned security measures will mitigate risk, you should ultimately be wary of performing complex do-it-yourself network security procedures. While you may think you are doing the right thing, you could actually be putting your company in harm’s way by taking security into your own hands.

Did you know, for instance, that using a MAC filter for your Wi-Fi is actually futile? Many businesses use MAC filters to identify all of the devices on their networks. They are used to prevent unauthorized devices from connecting. But as PC World explained, hackers can simply use a network analyzer to bypass a MAC filter and see all of the devices that are connected to the network. They can then use the MAC addresses in the database to mirror other devices and gain entry.

It makes far more sense to put your faith in a managed services provider (MSP) like Apex Technology services. Apex will provide constant monitoring and maintenance for your network, providing you with the peace of mind you need to stay safe from cybercrime. It will allow you and your colleagues to devote more attention to growing your business, rather than fighting hackers that are constantly trying to break into your network.

A new breed of hacktrepeneurs has awoken and they have little to fear and everything to gain by infecting as many companies as possible and extorting money from them. Apex Technology Services stands ready to protect your company regardless of whether it’s located in New York CityWhite Plains, New York; Connecticut; Australia; Europe; or anywhere else. Our full suite of cybersecurity and IT support services is at your disposal, enabling you to spend less time worrying about and more time growing your business.

In addition, our new Cybersecurity Compliance Certification for law firms will help keep your legal practice from becoming the next Panama Papers victim. This baseline cybersecurity audit for the legal industry should be considered seriously by all law firms.


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