Welcome to the Sentinel Blog!
We are proud to feature a carefully curated collection of articles and other content related to the most important technology topics of today and beyond. Our posts are composed and edited by Sentinel’s ALWAYS ENGAGED team of solutions architects, engineers, project managers and other subject matter experts.
Three Takeaways From the 2019 HIMSS Conference
By Rick Spatafore, Sentinel Advisory Services Manager
Healthcare professionals from around the world gathered in Orlando last week for the annual HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) Conference & Exhibition. The five day event focuses on healthcare education, innovation, and collaboration through the convergence of information and technology, so providers can deliver top quality, transformational patient care. There are plenty of classes and seminars to choose from, as well as special programs and networking opportunities. It’s nearly impossible to detail all of the fresh ideas, products, and trends that were highlighted over the course of the week, but here are some of this year’s notable highlights.
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in hospitals and medical centers has shown slow but steady growth over the last few years. There are many ways to deploy this type of technology in a clinical setting, but most of the primary benefits thus far have come in the area of research, as analysis of patient data allows for better and more predictive diagnoses. Adoption has remained slow overall for a number of reasons, but mainly because most healthcare organizations aren’t yet sure how to properly incorporate AI into their day-to-day operations in order to maximize its effectiveness. Continued concern over patient safety and the ethical impacts of how patient data might be used have also held back its expansion. Recent use case studies at the university level have generated very promising results so far, which suggests a brighter future ahead.
One path to advanced technology implementation by healthcare organizations involves deploying an adoption model developed by HIMSS. There were a few new ones announced at this year’s conference, but the most interesting among them is INFRAM (Infrastructure Adoption Model). It is designed to help healthcare organizations assess and map the technology infrastructure capabilities required to achieve their business goals, benchmarks, and standards. Your facility’s IT adoption and maturity levels are ranked according to an international eight stage model, so you can better understand how to proceed in a way that improves care delivery, reduces cyber risk, and establishes a clear path toward future development.
HIMSS also announced the results of their 2019 Cybersecurity Survey, which pooled data from 166 different healthcare security professionals to provide insight into what steps organizations are taking to protect their information and assets.
+As the number of security incidents continues to rise, virtually every U.S. healthcare organization experienced a significant breach in 2018. Most were the result of attackers using email with malicious links to gain access to networks and credentials.
+Healthcare organizations are starting to place a greater emphasis on cybersecurity, allotting more money to spend on protection technologies.
+Complacency when it comes to cybersecurity creates a significantly higher risk for healthcare organizations. It’s essential to consistently evolve your security solutions and strategies, because hackers are always changing their approach and developing new tools in an attempt to breach your environment.
+There are notable cybersecurity gaps in many healthcare organizations, particularly those conducting day-to-day operations with legacy systems. Gap and penetration tests should be a regular occurrence in healthcare IT departments to ensure sensitive and private data remains safe in the event of an attack.
Sentinel works with a large number of healthcare organizations to provide smart IT solutions and services designed to enhance patient care, improve productivity, and protect critical data. If you are interested in learning more about our complete portfolio of healthcare-related technology offerings, please contact us.
Will You Be Our Valentine?
Love is in the air at Sentinel, and not just because Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. In honor of the holiday, we asked some of our staff to share what ignites passion for their jobs and the IT industry in general. There were many enthusiastic responses, from building lasting relationships with customers to learning something new every day to the simple yet profound pleasures of using a wireless mouse. Check out the full list below. Sentinel’s highly knowledgeable and passionate technology experts are ready to help your organization achieve unprecedented growth and success with IT solutions you’ll love. Please contact us for more information.
“I love helping our customers and their IT departments drive valuable business outcomes for their company.”
- Chris Danly, Sales Executive
“I love technology. My cordless mouse has changed my life.”
-Kevin Mondry, Solution Specialist
“I love the Sentinel support team for their tireless work in developing projects and ensuring customer satisfaction.”
-Mike Sherrill, Sales Executive
“I love having co-workers that feel like family.”
-Marissa Mathis, Project Administrator
“I love the Sentinel bench, because they are incredibly smart and utilize a consultative approach to best assist our customers.”
-Alex Brnilovich, Sales Executive
“I love getting to work with a diverse group of people and growing with them.”
-Nadia Rios, Solution Analyst
“I love learning from the unique experiences of our customers and growing my relationships with them.”
-Bill Owens, Sr. Sales Executive
“I love always learning! People in IT constantly discuss how they solve problems, so every day I feel like I learn something new, even in the smallest way.”
-Diane Jackson, Solutions Architect
“I love building relationships with customers, co-workers, and our partners.”
-Chris Vasquez, Sr. Sales Executive
"I love helping students upgrade their technology at school through E-Rate projects. I also love working in an industry that is forever changing, and plays an increasingly important role in the overall security of a business."
-Mike Kmiotek, Sales Executive
The Vital Importance of Cloud Readiness Assessments
By DJ Coluzzi, Sentinel Product Manager for Cloud and Managed Services
If your organization is planning to move a portion of its IT environment into the cloud, make sure to go through a readiness assessment of some sort first. There are a lot more than technical issues you can run into when transitioning into the public cloud. It can have a serious impact on your finances, compliance, and security as well, so you need to be prepared for all that before making such a major decision.
One of the most misleading ideas I’ve heard recently is that businesses need to jump into the cloud with both feet and migrate large portions of their environment all at once. The reality is that almost every organization invests in the cloud slowly, going piece by piece over many years. The other common piece of misinformation about the cloud, especially when you're talking about Infrastructure as a Service, is that it’s always "cheaper" than buying it outright. It's cheaper in the sense that you don't need a lot of capital in order to make those purchases, but you could very easily spend a lot monthly for the lifetime of that system. Plus, it continues to require regular maintenance and management. For example, you still have to patch Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) because it's comprised of servers. That’s different compared to something like Office 365, where the entire back end is handled by Microsoft.
There are so many different paths you can take into the cloud, and what works for one organization might not work for another. Say you’re thinking about adding IaaS to your cloud portfolio through Amazon Web Services (AWS). Beyond the solution itself, you also need to consider how it might affect Office 365 or Salesforce or Dynamics – all of which can be cloud-based. A cloud readiness assessment will help you understand your environment not just from a technical architecture perspective, but a business one as well, so you know what can and can’t be supported. That’s especially true when it comes to finances, because you’re moving from a CapEx model to an OpEx one, where expenses are subscription-based rather than a single lump sum purchase.
When Sentinel conducts a cloud readiness assessment, it enables your organization to do a number of different things. You can evaluate different cloud solutions to figure out which one fits best with your IT requirements and future business goals, or simply determine the impact of one specific solution. It helps uncover weak spots within your environment so you know what area or areas are in need of reinforcement. An assessment also answers questions you may not have thought to ask, such as: What happens if your network goes down and you can’t connect to the cloud? Has the company properly budgeted in anticipation of the monthly OpEx costs? How will on site hardware and intellectual property integrate with the cloud? These are important things to know before you commit to the cloud.
As part of a cloud readiness assessment, the Sentinel team conducts thorough technical reviews by looking at your bandwidth, reliability, resiliency, network, and other important factors. We need to know what portions of your IT environment will be moving into the cloud and what services it will take so we have the right information to put together a proper financial and business impact analysis. That analysis is then presented to your executive team so they understand what will happen when the business shifts to a cloud-based model. Our experts also consult with your IT department to make sure any technical gaps are addressed prior to the migration.
Sentinel offers smart and comprehensive cloud solutions for organizations of every size and type of environment. Our goal is to ensure you have all the necessary tools and expertise throughout every step of your cloud journey. If you are interested in learning more about our cloud readiness assessment or any of our other cloud-focused solutions, please contact us.
Sentinel Technology Summit 2019: A Recap
Sentinel held our third annual Technology Summit last Thursday. Around 60 of our customers braved the cold and snowy conditions to pack a large conference room at the Cisco offices in Rosemont, where a group of experts from Sentinel detailed emerging IT industry trends and new innovations designed to enhance the way we conduct business. It was a highly informative and interactive afternoon, with presentations focused on communication and collaboration, cloud, and security. Here are a few highlights on each topic, in case you were unable to attend or just need a reminder of what was covered.
Communication and Collaboration
The modern workplace continues to show strong growth in the areas of communication and collaboration, as more people use social tools and mobile devices to conduct business. Today’s employees spend about 80% of their time at work collaborating with others, and the number of team-based projects has nearly doubled in recent years. An estimated 72% of employees will have the ability to work remotely by 2020 as well, further diversifying the workforce while making it easier than ever to connect, share, and contribute.
A majority of the latest communication and collaboration tools, such as telephony, messaging, and conferencing are being developed through the cloud, as businesses continue to shift their environments with an eye on future growth and increased adaptability. Meanwhile, demand for premise-based endpoints and infrastructure tools is expected to remain steady or slightly decline over the next couple of years.
Meetings are also undergoing a major upgrade. Developers are creating new platforms that combine a number of different tools to address many of the biggest challenges associated with scheduling and conducting meetings. Smart calendar integration, bot-assisted scheduling, connected chat and document sharing, one button click to join, facial recognition for participants, plus AI-powered transcription and notes are all features either already in use or currently in development to create an easy and truly modern meeting experience for businesses.
Hybrid and Multicloud
Today’s cloud experience can be divided into three distinct parts: Workload, Consumption, and Operations. Workloads are the core business function – what your organization consumes in order to generate revenue. Consumption of IT using measured services or pooled resources then run those workloads in the cloud. Operations such as broad network access, on demand self-service, and rapid scalability of your environment also play an essential role by helping maintain workloads.
A workload is the holistic view of the applications, systems, compute/storage, and network infrastructure performing a function or process. Think of all those different elements like pieces of a greater whole – they can have value on their own, but when combined they are the primary building blocks in the creation of a workload. Not every workload is a great candidate to be moved to the cloud, so when determining your cloud posture it’s important to perform a detailed analysis to figure out and move only the workloads that best align with your business drivers, outcomes, and goals.
Traditional consumption models include environment, networking, storage, servers, hypervisor, OS, middleware, runtime, applications, and data, entirely managed by your organization outside of the cloud. As you invest more in cloud through Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS), many of those different elements become managed by your provider, which makes them easier to maintain and gives your IT department more time to work on other important projects.
Your level of operational maturity should also be a major factor when determining the best way to use the cloud in your environment. Once you have consolidated and started to virtualize your environment, it would be wise to select a framework to provide further guidance in your migration to the cloud. There are a number of different models available, though the AWS Well Architected Framework (WAF) is ideal for just about every type of workload. Some of its benefits include:
+Run and monitor systems to deliver business value and to continually improve supporting processes and procedures.
+Protect information, systems, and assets while delivering business value through risk assessments and mitigation strategies.
+Recover from infrastructure or service disruptions, dynamically acquire computing resources to meet demand, and mitigate disruptions such as misconfigurations or transient network issues.
+Use computing resources efficiently to meet system requirements, and to maintain that efficiency as demand changes and technologies evolve.
+Run systems to deliver business value at the lowest price point.
Whether you’re just getting started or are looking to move further along in your cloud journey, there are a couple of key things to keep an eye on. The first is your cloud landing zones, which form the foundation of any public cloud. Do your research and know what you’ll be getting in terms of connectivity, user access control, activity logging and monitoring, as well as automation services that might be available. Secondly, make sure you have a robust cloud backup available should something go wrong. Keep your business and configuration data separated, make sure you have on demand testing for your backup data, maintain a third copy of your data at an offsite location, and don’t forget to accommodate for changes in your environment as you invest more in a public cloud.
Gartner estimates that by 2021, 50% of data will be outside of the physical control of enterprise IT, up from 10% today. As companies migrate their systems to the cloud, the need to scale their vendor risk management program and focus on cloud security will continue to grow.
The median cost of a data breach for an enterprise organization in the U.S. was $7.9 million in 2018. Ransomware remains the top variety of malicious software, found in 39% of all cases. Of those that experienced a breach, 65% say the attacks evaded their existing preventive tools. When malware gets in, it acts quickly. A majority of data winds up stolen within hours of an attack, and it takes an average of 197 days for most companies to actually identify a breach. This is why organizations need to consider solutions that go beyond simple malware detection tools to help identify malware quickly once it has penetrated the network.
Many organizations are shifting from point-in-time security assessments to constant monitoring of both internal and external assets. Three primary options worth consideration are:
+Data-Centric Audit and Protection (DCAP) – Central monitoring of user activities and administrators for specific data sets, including vendors adding AI/machine learning or behavior analytics, to provide greater insight through monitoring and intelligence.
+Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) – Provides security access controls at the API level to services such as O365, Dropbox, Salesforce and much more.
+Data Loss Prevention (DLP) – Not only at the email level, but within the network and endpoints both on the network and while mobile. Discover data, pattern match, set policies on data based on sensitivity and encryption level.
Of course if your IT department needs some additional help and/or fewer security responsibilities, Sentinel’s Security Operations Center (SOC) provides high value, “eyes on glass” 24x7x365 monitoring of your environment. When you combine that with our managed services for additional triage via retainer-based or T&M engagements, we offer one of the only end-to-end security options on the market. Those interested in improving their current security posture should also engage with our Security Advisory Services, who have a comprehensive array of assessments including security gap analysis, NIST cybersecurity framework alignment, device scans, penetration testing, social engineering testing, security awareness employee training, virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO), and a whole lot more.
If you are interested in learning more about any of the information, solutions, and services highlighted at this year’s Tech Summit, please don’t hesitate to contact us. A very special thank you to all of the customers who joined us last week for this incredible event. We hope it was helpful as you figure out your plans for IT in 2019. And of course thanks to our presenters: Sentinel Chief Technology Officer Robert Keblusek, Advanced Strategic Solutions Advisor Mark Combs, as well as Sentinel Strategic Solutions Advisors Adam Bertram and Michael Soule. We hope to see everybody again next year for our Technology Summit 2020!
A Preview of Sentinel's 2019 Technology Summit
Sentinel’s third annual Technology Summit takes place on Thursday, January 24th, and we couldn’t be more excited about it. Several experts and thought leaders from Sentinel will detail the latest trends and emerging technologies over the course of an engaging and interactive afternoon with a select group of our customers. It’s a highly informative and fun way to kick off 2019, and can provide some additional guidance as you work toward creating an IT plan for the year. Here’s a brief glimpse into what we have planned for the event:
Our keynote speaker for the 2019 Tech Summit will once again be Sentinel Chief Technology Officer Robert Keblusek. He’s set to provide a comprehensive look at how the IT industry continues to evolve in an effort to meet the needs of businesses today while positioning them for greater success in the future. More organizations are turning to cloud-based enterprise networking to optimize their environments. These secure, intelligent and highly adaptable networks use data and user behavior to provide deep insights and recommend adjustments to streamline resources and automation. Aligning your IT environment with business goals and compliance requirements is another challenge facing many organizations today. Bob will introduce Sentinel’s Advisory Impact Methodology (AIM), and how it can help transform your technology and processes to significantly improve business outcomes.
Sentinel Advanced Strategic Solutions Advisor Adam Bertram will follow the keynote presentation with a lively discussion about the future of collaboration. As the number of smart devices we use both inside and outside the workplace continue to increase, it creates whole new challenges when attempting to connect and collaborate with co-workers, partners, and customers. Thankfully new technologies such as customizable cloud-based applications are redefining the ways we work together, so it becomes easier to schedule meetings, share files, and communicate with others no matter your device or location. He'll also talk about Communications Platform as a Service and how it can help embed communications into digital business processes to improve interaction and engagement.
As investment in and adoption of the cloud continues to expand at a rapid pace, Sentinel Strategic Solutions Advisor Michael Soule wants your organization to be prepared for the journey ahead. Just because certain cloud technologies are popular or come with an expanded portfolio of features doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the right fit for your organization. For example, those in the earliest stages of cloud adoption shouldn’t suddenly be trying to develop a multicloud environment complete with automation and complex workloads. You need to learn how to walk before you can run. During this presentation, you’ll get some tips on developing a strong cloud strategy, as well as how to optimize costs so your organization gets the most from your cloud investments.
Security remains a top priority for many businesses, and the number of security solutions available on the market today seems to the growing along with the number of cyber attacks. With so many different security products and applications to choose from, it’s tougher than ever to find the right combination that will keep your environment, sensitive data, devices, and users safe. Sentinel Strategic Solutions Advisor Mark Combs will discuss the most effective way to develop a security strategy for your organization, as well as highlight the importance of regular assessments, penetration testing, and security training. You’ll also hear more about two-factor authentication and the advanced threat detection behind Sentinel’s Security Operations Center. There may even be an in-depth analysis of an attack, so you can better understand the necessary steps to take when facing a major threat.
Once the presentations are finished, all of our speakers as well as some additional Sentinel experts will be on hand for a wide-ranging discussion and Q&A, where those in attendance can dive deeper into any topic they’d like or get help with a specific IT issue their organization is facing. If there is enough time, Sentinel CTO Robert Keblusek might also host a short breakout session on the topic of networking should there be enough interest.
Overall we hope the 2019 Tech Summit provides a comprehensive portrait of the IT landscape both today and for the future, so those in attendance can use technology to enhance and protect every aspect of their organizations. If you are interested in learning more but are unable to attend the event, please contact us for additional information.
The Importance of Regular Disaster Recovery Testing
By Geoff Woodhouse, Sentinel Solutions Architect
It is essential for organizations from every industry to have a proper disaster recovery (DR) plan in place. A well-established and regularly tested DR plan serves as an insurance policy so that if something happens and production fails, you’ll have business continuity and can return to work quickly with just about everything intact.
Most organizations should check on their DR plans as part of a yearly cycle, just to make sure you’re fully covered and actually can failover. Of course size, industry, and budget are also factors when determining the frequency of your checkups. Some large enterprise companies do quarterly DR testing, while smaller companies might have never done a DR test or even be aware of what one is. If your business occupies three floors of a skyscraper, you've probably done a DR test, because millions of dollars are at stake if your site and production shuts down. There may also be compliance laws that require DR testing at a regular cadence. A family-run business with 30 employees might think they can get away with being down for a few days, but without the ability to process orders or access accounting software things can get brutal very quickly. Many companies can’t survive being down for more than a week, no matter their size.
The DR testing process is relatively straightforward, but involves a lot of different elements that make it challenging. In the most basic sense, Sentinel examines information from your organization to determine if the amount of CPU, memory, and storage is available at your DR site is equal to or larger than the hardware requirements currently being used in production. If it fits, that’s great and you should be able to restore everything in the event of a disaster. If it doesn’t, certain data and applications may not restore properly, creating additional problems and extending the recovery time, perhaps indefinitely. It's all about math, sizing and adding the pieces up trying to make sure everything will work. Sentinel can update the current DR environment and will ensure you have the correct product licensing to establish a robust solution your organization can failover and not run into any problems.
Don’t assume your DR setup from two or three years ago is fine. Maybe your business has grown and you're using more VMs or more servers. Will the older DR plan you have work with your current situation? The good news is that most organizations will never experience a DR event where production shuts down and there are problems with the failover. Better to test it and find out rather than keeping your fingers crossed there will be enough capacity when you really need it. If you are interested in learning more about Sentinel’s DR testing services, please contact us for additional information.
Password Security Tips
By Mark Combs, Sentinel Strategic Solution Advisor
As you work on your resolutions at the start of 2019, one of them should be to improve your password security. Between frequent data breaches, improvements in hacking tools, and generally poor password selection by users, it has become easier than ever for cyber criminals to gain access to your otherwise secure accounts. Depending on what information an attacker gains access to, your data or identity can be stolen or held for ransom.
Here’s a report from CBS News about a nasty sexploitation password scam that has been going around these last several months. My wife and I both received very similar ransom threats recently, and you can check out the screenshot below to see what one of them looked like.
My account password must have been compromised on a site I used a long time ago. Although the password mentioned in the ransom email was relatively simple, I only use those types of passwords for things I really don’t care about. It also helped me identify exactly what site was compromised because I very rarely reuse passwords.
It is important to educate yourself and others about these types of password security scams. Organizations should invest in cyber security awareness training to ensure all of their users understand the threats that are out there and the methods criminals employ to obtain your password and other sensitive information. A single training session won’t do the trick, which is why a solution like Wombat (Proofpoint) requires users to complete security training modules at regular intervals as a way to refresh their memories and stay up-to-date on new or changing tactics.
One important way to improve the security of your own passwords is by making them longer. Many organizations and applications require users to come up with a password that meets certain complexity requirements, such as including some combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. That’s fine, but increasing the number of total characters used (a minimum of eight) offers greater password protection in the long run. Here’s a cool little tool to help you generate truly random words that you can string together for secure passwords. Throw a number or two in here or a special character and you have a strong password that is easy to remember. Humans are predictable, so when they think they are creating random words more likely they are probably not. This tool circumvents human error.
Unfortunately, standard passwords are often not enough and can still be compromised in a corporate data breach, regardless of the site or application. This is also why you should never reuse passwords or use the same password on multiple accounts, because it creates additional points of vulnerability. Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to login by providing both a password and a second identity confirmation element such as a code sent to your smartphone or a fingerprint ID. Our partners at Duo offer one of the best two-factor authentication solutions available to help your organization reduce risk and establish secure connections to all applications.
If you are interested in learning more about password security and the steps your organization can take to keep your users and critical data safe, please contact Sentinel for more information.
Sentinel's Tech Gift Guide 2018
It’s the holidays, and if you’re still shopping around for some last minute gifts to give friends and family this year, Sentinel is more than happy to provide a few smart tech suggestions that will help make anyone’s life a little easier. These cover a range of concepts and budgets, so hopefully there’s a little something for everyone on your list!
iPad Pro [$800 - $1,300]
Apple’s latest version of the iPad marks a great leap forward for the tablet, incorporating new features that make it smarter, more intuitive, and more powerful than ever before. The all-screen design with Liquid Retina display means there’s even more room to work and all of the colors are vibrant and true to life. True Tone adjusts the white balance to make the display easier on the eyes, and less reflective of the environment around you. New ProMotion technology automatically adjusts the screen’s refresh rate based on what you’re doing or watching on the iPad, so everything looks smooth and immersive. Face ID with TrueDepth cameras use facial recognition to unlock the iPad, login to apps, and make secure purchases. Then there are additional accessories like the Apple Pencil and Keyboard Folio, which have been redesigned to improve functionality. There are 11-inch and 12.9-inch models, both of which have 10 hours of battery life and varying amounts of storage space, so choose according to your needs!
Facebook Portal / Portal Plus [$149 - $299]
Video calling isn’t exactly new technology in 2018, but Facebook’s new Portal device aims to improve on the experience just a bit. It uses smart camera and smart sound technologies to generate more seamless video interactions between friends and loved ones. You can move around a room and talk freely, and the camera will follow you or widen out to include more people if you’re with a group. Background noises are minimized to ensure voices come across clearly. It connects with Facebook Messenger so you can pull up your contacts and have a video conversation even if they don’t own a Portal device. Plus, it has Alexa built in so you can issue voice commands to do things like play music, find out news or weather information, start a photo slideshow, or just look up information from the internet. There are two sizes available, a 10.1” display and a 15.6” display.
Skyroam Solis [$149 for the device, $9 per 24 hours of WiFi]
One of the most challenging things for travel junkies is keeping your smartphone, tablet, and/or laptop fully charged and connected to WiFi while navigating the globe. There are so many different types of electricity plugs and so many different wireless internet access points to try and navigate that the whole thing can become more trouble than it’s worth. Plus, if you don’t have an international data plan the roaming charges can reach astronomical levels. The Skyroam Solis provides 4G LTE mobile WiFi in over 130 countries plus power charging, all through a portable, hockey puck-sized device. You can connect up to 5 smart devices at once, and when fully charged it provides more than 16 hours of WiFi. So whether you’re traveling to Germany, China, Australia, and beyond, you can have a fast, secure, and inexpensive internet connection and power charging hub.
Ember mug [$80 - $150]
Perfect for the coffee or tea drinker in your life, Ember has created the world’s first temperature controlled mugs. Available in copper, ceramic, and travel varieties, you can set a temperature via a control on the mug itself or via an app on your smartphone, and it will ensure your beverage maintains a perfect degree of warmth no matter how long you leave it sitting out. The app also enables you to create temperature presets, receive a notification when your set temperature is reached, and combine with Apple Health to track your caffeine consumption.
Blink XT Home Security Camera [$78]
If you know somebody that receives packages at home all the time, but is consistently concerned about thieves snatching delivery boxes from their front porch or building lobby, provide them with a sense of comfort this holiday season with an advanced security camera. The Blink XT Home Security Camera is a wireless, weatherproof device able to monitor the outside or inside of your home. Features include HD video with night vision, a 2-year battery life, and motion detection for instant recording. You can adjust settings and watch the video feed through your smartphone, and footage is archived and stored in the cloud for easy access.
Etekcity WiFi Smart Plug [$20 for 2]
An update to the mechanical electricity timers, Etekcity’s WiFi Smart Plug fits on top of your regular outlet and allows you to fully control power to any devices plugged into it. You can sync it with your Amazon Echo or Google Home device and control the power settings with just your voice, or manage everything through your smartphone. Create a schedule to turn lights or appliances on and off at certain times of the day. Away from home and forgot to shut off a lamp? It’s as easy as pressing a button on your phone.
GDPR and Securing Your Data
By Rick Spatafore, Sentinel Advisory Services Manager
Earlier this year, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was put in place to protect the sensitive data and digital identities of European Union (EU) citizens. The regulation creates new definitions and obligations for the following roles in an organization:
Data Controller – Controls the usage and purpose of data usage
Data Processor – Processes the data provided by the Data Controller
Data Protection Officer – Designated individual who understands how their organization collects data and maintains user privacy by performing a risk assessment
European Union citizens are listed as Data Subjects within this regulation and have the following pieces of information protected:
Special Personal Data:
+Health & Genetic Data
+Racial or Ethnic Data
EU Consumer Rights under GDPR Include:
+Consumers have a right to be informed about the collection of their information. Apple, for example, has introduced privacy icons to explain when it is gathering data on users.
+People also have the right to access the information that companies collect on them by submitting a subject access request. Companies must provide this information to the consumer within a month. If any data is inaccurate, companies are responsible for correcting it.
+Consumers may request that any information collected about them be erased, also known as the right to be forgotten. They can also ask for their data to be restricted, so companies can store data but not use it.
+People have the ability to move or copy personal information from one source to another, known as data portability.
+Consumers have the right to object about how their data is used, including for direct marketing. They can also object to profiling, when companies automatically process data to make assumptions about a person for marketing purposes.
It has now been six months since the enforcement of GDPR began on May 25, 2018. Most organizations survived the initial panic of understanding the above requirements and are either compliant or have established that there is no GDPR data within their control. Security professionals have gotten used to this regulatory cycle – they faced similar challenges with HIPAA in 2005, PCI in 2005, and NIST 800-171 in 2017, among many others. The common thread among these regulations is that they are all effective means to protect specific types of data within your control. Whether your organization treats each regulation separately or in groups, in the end they’re all designed to protect consumer data in unique ways.
Security frameworks such as National Institute for Standards and Technologies (NIST) 800-53, NIST Cybersecurity Framework, International Organization of Standards (ISO) 27001 and Center for Internet Security Critical Security Controls, can help an organization efficiently improve their data protection while simultaneously satisfying the requirements for most regulations. It should be noted that there are nuances within each regulation that do not directly align with all of the frameworks, and therefore need additional attention. A security framework mainly enables organizations to take care of the fundamental requirements that are a part of all regulations. Here are a few examples of items that can give your organization a head start on GDPR compliance, PCI compliance, or HIPAA compliance:
+Align to a security framework
+Establish an Information Security Officer / Data Protection Officer
+Review and update privacy policies
+Educate staff on cybersecurity, what data they may encounter, and how to protect it
+Identify your data and develop a Data Classification Policy
+Develop a Data Destruction Policy
+Perform a risk assessment
Sentinel’s Advisory Services are ready to help your organization with all of its compliance needs, including GDPR, HIPAA, PCI, and SOC 2. Our team of expert consultants can also assist with process and framework alignment to improve productivity and security. Please contact us for more information.
Five Hybrid and Multi-Cloud Security Tips
by Michael Soule, Sentinel Strategic Solutions Advisor
Microsoft recently published a great overview of hybrid and multi-cloud security. The piece included five main things to consider no matter how far along you are in your cloud journey. Sentinel remains committed to providing our customers with industry-best guidance, solutions, and tools to ensure your transition into the cloud is smooth and fully optimized. Here are some additional thoughts and tips based on the five points outlined in the Microsoft piece that we hope will help your organization improve its hybrid and multi-cloud security.
Having a detailed and unique cloud adoption plan enables your organization to stay focused on progress and measure success better. Sentinel works with customers at all points of the cloud adoption spectrum, from the ones looking to “get out of the data center business,” to those with clearly defined Cloud Centers of Excellence and cloud-first strategies. Regardless of your technology goals or how far along your organization is in achieving them, Sentinel firmly believes the right strategies will significantly increase the success experienced during any large change, cloud or not. Our approach to rationalizing apps really begins with an inventory of all the workloads your organization relies on, along with a review of your overall business goals. Once we understand those workloads, we identify which ones are best suited for changes to help your organization achieve its goals. Then we help your organization formulate migration strategies and define specific metrics that are pertinent to the specific workload’s success.
Build a solid foundation
After developing your strategy, a solid foundation is critical for successful cloud adoption. It’s similar to how performant shared storage and virtualization hosts are essential when starting the journey toward virtualization. The foundation of your cloud infrastructure is comprised of multiple pillars, such as connectivity, identity and access management, logging and monitoring, automation, and cost control. Sentinel can help modify your existing policies to meet the governance and operational changes required by cloud services. These steps are critical to establish a foundation your workloads can rely on when migrated.
Use built-in services
More important than using the built-in services offered by your cloud service provider of choice is your ability to determine when and when not to use them. Built-in services offer the core functionality needed by most organizations, often with some reasonable cost savings, but they can also include some functionality gaps that should be identified and supplemented with partner solutions in order to achieve the desired level of success. Every organization has different needs when it comes to adopting solutions that mitigate these gaps. Fixes can be as simple as using a tried-and-true virtual appliance from a vendor your teams are comfortable with, or it can be a solution that relies on additional services like AWS Lambda or Azure Functions to update and modify built-in service configurations based on environmental changes.
Establishing the identity layer
Identifying whether someone on a connected device is authorized to use specific resources is a complex topic. There are countless technologies and strategies to improve our ability to provide proper authorization and access. Standardizing identities across solutions and providers is necessary for ensuring an acceptable user experience. Monitoring how identities are used and determining where and what each identity is authorized to use is essential as well. Sentinel offers guidance and efficient implementation on this complex topic, so your organization understands where and when to use technologies like SAML, Certificate Based Authentication, Multi-Factor Authentication, or password synchronization services to achieve a desired outcome.
Adopt an assume-breach strategy
Tracking usage of resources between disparate premise and cloud infrastructures further adds to the complexity and challenges of cloud adoption. Your organization ideally defines controls for most elements to make things a little easier, but the vast amounts of data to review and the pressure to figure out what to do next create a whole other set of difficulties. Adopting an evolving security strategy can be very similar to adopting cloud services, and can often be improved by numerous offerings from cloud providers. It takes a lot of effort to develop a system with the ability to detect changes that threaten compliance, send alerts to the appropriate parties, and automatically revert those changes, but it is achievable. A cloud journey requires operational excellence, but it also requires security excellence. Define the acceptable tolerances for pertinent metrics and their associated constraints to at the least audit, then continually review and refine those definitions.
One final thing to consider. The cloud as a resource for consumption is not always a good solution for every workload or even for every organization. A number of very complex changes are required as part of the cloud adoption process, and that’s not always the best move for some organizations. Try to think of “the cloud” as more than just a resource for consumption. Use the cloud as a tool to improve your own processes and infrastructure. Consider a new or different approach to the cloud. The AWS Well-Architected Framework and associated whitepapers can provide insight and guide your organization to operational excellence even if you only run entirely on premise with bare metal server installs.
If you are interested in learning more about how Sentinel can help with your cloud journey, please contact us for additional information.