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The May 2019 Microsoft patch releases included an update for a very high-risk vulnerability (CVE-2019-0708, aka BlueKeep) that affects Windows XP, Windows 7, Server 2003, Server 2008, and Server 2008 R2.

This vulnerability allows an unauthenticated attacker (or malware) to remotely execute code on the vulnerable system. It is considered as VERY high risk, particularly for systems with Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP, port 3389) directly exposed to the Internet. However if a system inside the network is compromised it could easily spread to other PC's and servers because RDP is enabled by default.

CoNetrix strongly recommends all customers ensure the May updates are installed as soon as possible.

Microsoft has not only released updates for Windows 7, Server 2008 & R2, but also has issued updates for Windows XP and Server 2003 which are not officially supported.

All CoNetrix Technology customers with managed services agreements and all cloud hosted Aspire systems, were updated shortly after this vulnerability was announced.

This vulnerability can be mitigated by enabling Network Level Authentication (NLA) - https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/previous-versions/windows/it-pro/windows-server-2008-R2-and-2008/cc732713(v=ws.11). Additionally CoNetrix recommends disabling RDP access over the Internet to internal systems.


 

What is the FSSCC Cybersecurity Profile?

The FSSCC Cybersecurity Profile was published on October 25, 2018 by the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council (FSSCC). The FSSCC is a private entity comprised of 70 members from financial services organizations. Their cybersecurity profile has multiple tiers, which allow users to answer a scalable set of questions. This scaling is designed to provide an expedited assessment of the user's organization's cybersecurity preparedness.

The FSSCC has publicized their Cybersecurity Profile as a resource, designed to simplify the regulatory burden placed on financial institutions. According to the FSSCC's Benefits to Financial Institutions section of their website, the tool offers a "73% reduction for community institution assessment questions" when compared to the FFIEC CAT.

In addition to the tool's claims of efficiency, the tool's development is largely credited to organizations familiar to the financial services industry. The Press Release includes names such as the American Bankers Association, Bank Policy Institute, the Institute of International Bankers, and more.

Beyond this, the FSSCC has made multiple appeals to the Cybersecurity Profile's usefulness in regulatory examinations, going so far as to claim, "The numerous and substantial benefits [of using the FSSCC Cybersecurity Profile] to the financial services sector are: […] Supports tailored supervision, examinations, and collaboration among state, federal, and international supervisors," per the FSSCC Overview and Users Guide.

What is the FFIEC Cybersecurity Assessment Tool?

The FFIEC Cybersecurity Assessment Tool (CAT) was initially published on June 30, 2015, and updated May 31, 2017. The CAT was designed by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), a formal interagency body, comprised of members from the FRB, FDIC, NCUA, OCC, CFPB, and SLC. The CAT is standardized, which allows users to answer a specific set of questions, designed to provide a thorough assessment of their organization's cybersecurity preparedness.

The FFIEC CAT includes 494 cybersecurity maturity statements, which has resulted in some complaints. However, it is not only designed to provide a detailed assessment of a financial institution's current state of cybersecurity preparedness, it also enables targeted and long-term planning for growth and improvement.

With regard to examinations:

• The FDIC continues to heavily rely on the InTREx Work Program. While InTREx does state financial institutions are not required to use the FFIEC CAT to assess cybersecurity preparedness, the program also states FDIC examiners will reference the CAT's Appendix A when performing examinations.

• The NCUA is currently implementing the Automated Cybersecurity Examination Tool (ACET). The ACET is based on the FFIEC CAT, with a document request list to help credit unions understand, gather, and organize the documents needed for the examination. Read our blog on FAQs about the ACET

• In their Spring 2018 Semiannual Risk Perspective, the OCC announced they had "implemented the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) Cybersecurity Assessment Tool (CAT) into its examination process." In addition, an OCC representative at the 2019 CoNetrix KEYS Conference Examiner Panel indicated the OCC is piloting their own segmented version of the FFIEC CAT, to be fully completed on a three-year cycle.

• The FRB's supervisory letter about the tool, SR 15-9, indicated the CAT's planned use in examinations, and the FRB was a contributor in the May 2017 update of the tool, per their 2017 Annual Report. Additionally, a list of Information Technology Guidance was published, including the FFIEC CAT as a "Policy Letter."

Will the FSSCC Cybersecurity Profile Replace the FFIEC Cybersecurity Assessment Tool?

While the FSSCC Cybersecurity profile has fewer questions, and the FSSCC has expressed interest in seeing the tool used during regulatory examinations, the federal banking agencies have not yet expressed the same interest.

In addition, while completing the FFIEC CAT is not required, four years into the CAT's implementation, examiners are now familiar with the tool and the agencies continue to supplement and reference the CAT in their own examination programs. In light of this, using the CAT to assess cybersecurity preparedness could help expedite the examination process, as the tool may be used during an exam.

At this point in time, it is not clear what the future holds for the FSSCC Cybersecurity Profile. Due to the thorough nature and widespread adoption of the FFIEC CAT, it is difficult to imagine the CAT will be replaced by any tool in the foreseeable future.

Does CoNetrix have anything that can help with assessing cybersecurity preparedness?

Yes. The Tandem Cybersecurity module took the FFIEC CAT PDF content and streamlined it into an easy-to-use web-based application. With email reminders, charts and graphs, presentation documents, optional peer comparison, and tools for the NCUA's ACET, you can put the FFIEC CAT to work for you. Get started for free with Tandem Cybersecurity.


 

Cybersecurity budgets for financial institutions are continuing to increase in an effort to keep pace with advances in technology. CoNetrix conducted a survey to gain insights into cybersecurity and how institutions are using their funds to support their cybersecurity program. 

Cybersecurity Budget for Financial Institutions

Here is some of the information you will find in the report concerning IT and Cybersecurity budgets for financial institutions.

  • 52% of all respondents indicated their IT budget for 2019 will exceed the allotted amount for 2018.
  • 31% reported they will neither increase nor decrease their IT budget for 2019.
  • Institutions with a larger asset size are more likely to increase their IT budget in 2019.
  • 52% of respondents reported they plan to increase Network Infrastructure making it one of the top priorities in 2019.
  • 41% of financial institutions will be increasing their cybersecurity budget in 2019.
  • 44% will maintain the same cybersecurity budget.
  • Institutions with higher confidence in their Board's understanding of cybersecurity posture results in a higher likelihood the budget will increase.
  • 66% of institutions have a shared budget with IT with no designated line item for cybersecurity.
  • 19% have a shared budget with IT with a designated line item for cybersecurity.

Find out more about how institutions are managing their IT and Cybersecurity budget by downloading our report on The State of Cybersecurity in the Financial Institution Industry. https://conetrix.com/cyber-report


 

On April 2, 2019, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) released a new financial institution letter (FIL-19-2019) called "Technology Service Provider Contracts."

Why was this guidance published?

When FIL-19-2019 was published, it had been five years, almost to the date, since the last vendor management guidance was released by the FDIC (see FIL-13-2014, published on April 7, 2014). Presumably, it was a good time for a reminder about vendor management expectations.

In addition, the guidance stated FDIC examination findings recently noted some financial instruction contracts with Technology Service Providers (TSP) lack of sufficient detail around business continuity and incident response. 

What does it mean when the guidance states "contracts do not adequately" address some risks?

In recent exams, the FDIC was looking for a few key areas to be covered in TSP contracts, but the contracts did not always meet those expectations. Missing items included:

  • A Business Continuity Plan (BCP): Contracts should require TSPs to have BCP and acceptable recovery standards.
  • Remedies: Contracts should include assurance of compensation if a business disruption occurs and the TSP fails to restore services in the established timeframe.
  • Notification Requirements: Contracts should define who the TSP should contact (e.g., the financial institution, regulators, law enforcement, etc.) and in what timeframe, if an incident occurs.
  • Key Terms: Contracts should define what constitutes a "business disruption" or an "incident," since rights and responsibilities could be debatable without clear definitions.

How can you ensure TSP contracts are "adequate?"

It would be beneficial for you to review your TSP contracts again with these items in mind, especially if they are long-term or automatically renewing contracts. If your existing contracts are not sufficient in these areas, it is important to note that the financial institution is still responsible for assessing and applying controls to mitigate the risk.

What controls can you apply to ensure you are covered?

In vendor management, your primary control is performing adequate oversight, which is something you should already be doing. The FDIC seems to recognize this since a significant percentage of the FIL recaps guidance that already exists.

For more specific recommendations though, if your contract with a TSP does not clearly define business continuity and incident response requirements:

  • Request and Review Their BCP: Find out if your TSP actually has one and if they'd be willing to share it with you. You don't necessarily need their whole BCP; you just need to know that they have a plan and it is routinely tested.
  • Update Your BCP: If the TSP does not have a BCP or you find it inadequate, it is the financial institution's responsibility to compensate. Update your BCP to describe how you would continue to offer services to your customers or members if your TSP's services are unavailable.
  • Conduct More Frequent Reviews: Whatever the contract says, it is important to periodically confirm the TSP is holding up their end of the deal. You may want to assess this more often if the contract is weak in the areas of business continuity and incident response.
  • Renegotiate the Contract: Depending on the financial institution's risk tolerance, if the contract is deemed "inadequate," it may benefit the financial institution to consider renegotiation or an alternative TSP.

In Summary

Contracts with TSPs should address business continuity and incident response. The FDIC recommends financial institutions contractually require the TSP to have a BCP, as well as contractually define remedies, notification requirements, and key terms.

If existing TSP contracts do not stipulate these items, you should consider additional oversight options, such as requesting and reviewing their BCP documentation, updating your BCP, reviewing the TSP more frequently, or renegotiating the contract.

Does CoNetrix have anything that can help with this?

Absolutely. The Tandem Vendor Management software includes suggested significance questions, designed to help you determine if you need BCP documentation from your vendors. The module also includes a contract review template, designed with business continuity and incident response in mind. Learn more about Tandem Vendor Management.


 

Many businesses and financial institutions have seen an increase in the number of employee-owned devices over the past few years. Employees are using these devices to access email, download files, launch a remote desktop, or use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection for a remote "on network" experience.

Some customers prohibit or restrict personally-owned devices from connecting to the network. However, in some cases, this is not feasible, such as employees or contractors who rarely visit the home office, or employees with very specific device requirements and preferences. The common term for the policy of allowing personal devices is Bring Your Own Device or BYOD.

Unprotected personal devices connecting to the network are a significant security risk. The most common issue with these devices is inadequate anti-virus and anti-malware software. Built-in free solutions like Windows Defender are not up to the task of protecting against the sophisticated zero-day threats which are common today. Additional strategies to manage a BYOD environment include Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Network Access Control (NAC).

CylanceProtect is widely recognized as the leader in the endpoint protection segment, winning multiple industry awards for their machine learning approach to stopping security threats. Over the past 2 years since CoNetrix has been a Cylance partner. We have installed almost 5,000 endpoints for customers across the US.

Last year Cylance released a home version of CylanceProtect called Smart Antivirus. This product is specifically designed to provide the same technology as the corporate version, with easy self-administration and the ability to protect multiple devices in a household for a low annual cost. Windows and macOS devices are currently supported, with support for iOS and Android devices coming later this year.

Smart Antivirus is a great option for an employee security awareness program or as a company-paid benefit for employees and business partners. Individual licenses can be purchased from Cylance using the link below.

https://conetrix.com/cylance-smart-antivirus

Smart Antivirus licenses of 50 or more are available through CoNetrix for a discounted price. Contact CoNetrix Technology sales at techsales@conetrix.com for more information about licensing for CylanceProtect and Smart Antivirus.


 

Microsoft has been emphasizing Office 365 subscription services since the public introduction in 2011. As a result, the popularity of these services has grown to over 155 million active users as of October 2018, and is gaining new users at over 3 million seats per month. With this growth, on-going marketing, and the increasing acceptance of public cloud services, many businesses and financial institutions are starting to look at Office 365.

In this article, we will highlight several pros and cons of Office 365 you should consider to determine if it's right for your business.

Office 365 encompasses several different products and services, but in this article, we will address these services in two primary areas: user applications and back-end services.

Office 365 User Applications

As the name implies, most Office 365 subscription plans include Microsoft Office applications like Word and Excel running on Windows, macOS, and portable devices running iOS and Android. Applications are also available through a web browser but most customers are interested in Office 365 applications as a possible replacement for traditional Office licensing.

What are the primary differences between Office 365 and traditional on-premise Office applications?
  • Office 365 is an annual subscription per user or seat. Each user is entitled to run the Office 365 applications on up to 5 devices for the term of the subscription. As long as you continue to pay the annual subscription you are covered for the Office applications included in your plan.
  • Office applications through Office 365 are designed to be downloaded from the O365 portal. There is no license key to determine if you have a valid license. After installation the applications routinely "check in" to the O365 portal to ensure there is an active account. Because of this check-in process IT administrations must use a specific procedure for mass deployment of O365 applications. Additionally, installation on multi-user servers like Remote Desktop Services and Citrix requires a new approach.
  • Office 365 applications are designed to install features and security updates directly from Microsoft when they are released. Legacy patch management solutions like Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and 3rd party solutions will not work with O365. This can create a challenge for regulated customers who are required to report on patch status. Scanning tools used by auditors to determine patch levels will need the ability to recognize the differences between O365 and traditional Office applications. The O365 update process could also create an issue for Office-integrated applications if a hotfix is released that affects the compatibility of those applications, as there will be no option to block that update from being installed.
  • Office 365 applications utilize a feature called Click to Run. This feature, which was originally introduced with Office 2016, provides a streaming method for installing features and patches for Office 365 and Office 2019 applications. Our experience is that Click to Run can use a significant amount of bandwidth if you are installing Office applications or large updates on multiple systems simultaneously.
Is licensing through Office 365 less expensive than traditional licensing?

For most customers the biggest question is: "Is licensing through Office 365 less expensive than traditional licensing?" The answer is "It depends!" Office 365 licensing could be financially attractive if:

  • Your business always updates to the latest release of Office.
  • You want the flexibility of per user licensing.
  • You want to take advantage of the licensing of up to 5 devices for multiple systems, mobile devices, home use, etc.
  • You need a simplified update process that works anywhere the PC has Internet connectivity.
  • You need to use the browser-based applications for a specific function or employee role.
  • You plan to implement one of the Office 365 back-end services.

Office 365 Back-End Services

Microsoft provides several cloud server applications through Office 365 including Exchange Online (email), Skype for Business Online (voice and messaging), SharePoint Online (web collaboration), and OneDrive (file storage and sharing). These back-end services can be implemented individually, or as part of a bundle with or without the Office applications depending on the plan. However Exchange Online vs. Exchange on-premise is receiving the most attention from our customers.

What should I look for when performing due diligence?

The security and compliance of back-end Office 365 services is not significantly different than any other cloud-based application or service. The areas that should be researched include:

  • External audit attestation – SSAE 18 or similar
  • Data location residency – production and failover scenarios
  • Data privacy policies - including encryption in transit and at rest
  • Contracts and licensing agreements
  • Intellectual property rights
  • Service Level Agreements – service availability, capacity monitoring, response time, and monetary remediation
  • Disaster recovery and data backup
  • Termination of service
  • Technical support – support hours, support ticket process, response time, location of support personnel
A few more things you should consider.

As a public cloud service Office 365 has several challenges that need specific attention:

  • The business plans listed on the primary pricing pages may include applications or services that you don't need. All of the various features can be confusing and it's easy to pick the plan that is close enough without realizing exactly what's included and paying for services you will never use.
  • Most of the back-end O365 services can integrate with an on-premise Active Directory environment to simplify the management of user accounts and passwords. This provides a "single sign-on" experience for the user with one username and password for both local and O365 logins. Microsoft has several options for this integration but there are significant security implications for each option that should be reviewed very carefully.
  • Microsoft has published several technical architecture documents on how to have the best experience with Office 365. This is especially important for larger deployments of 100+ employees, or customers with multiple physical locations. One of the notable recommendations is to have an Internet connection at each location with a next-generation firewall (NGFW) that can optimize Internet traffic for O365 applications. Redundant Internet connections are also strongly recommended to ensure consistent connectivity.
  • The default capabilities for email filtering, encryption, and compliance journaling in Exchange Online may not provide the same level of functionality as other add-on products you may be currently using. Many vendors now provide O365-integrated versions of these solutions, but there will be additional costs that should be included in the total.
  • Microsoft OneDrive is enabled by default on most Office 365 plans. Similar to other public file sharing solutions like Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive, the use of OneDrive should be evaluated very carefully to ensure that customer confidential data is not at risk.
  • Several other vendors provide Office 365 add-on products that provide additional functionality which may be useful for some businesses. Netwrix Auditor for Office 365 can provide logging and reporting for security events in your O365 environment. Veeam Backup for Office 365 can create an independent backup of your data to ensure it will always be available. Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB) such as Fortinet FortiCASB and Cisco Cloudlock can provide an additional layer of security between your users and cloud services such as O365.

It is certainly a challenge to research and evaluate cloud solutions like Office 365. Financial institutions and other regulated businesses with high-security requirements have to take a thorough look at the pros and cons of any cloud solution to determine if it's the best fit for them.

CoNetrix Aspire has been providing private cloud solutions for businesses and financial institutions since 2007. Many of the potential security and compliance issues with the public cloud are more easily addressed in a private cloud environment when the solution can be customized for each business.

However, the combination of Office application licensing with back-end services like Exchange Online can be a good solution for some businesses. The key is to understand all of the issues related to Office 365 so you can make an informed decision.

Contact CoNetrix Technology at techsales@conetrix.com if you want more information about the differences between Aspire private cloud hosting and Office 365.


 

When something really messes up Chrome, being logged into your Google account and having Chrome sync settings makes repairing things pretty painless. 

Recently, I couldn't get my LastPass Chrome extension to log into my LastPass account. Since I rely heavily on LastPass to handle various website credentials, I'm handicapped if I can't get it working in the browser extension.

I tried a number of things, including removing and reinstalling the Chrome extension. However, the only thing that solved the problem was to reset Chrome completely. Fortunately, I could restart the browser, log into Google and wait a few minutes for everything (default home pages, bookmarks, browser extensions, etc.) to sync. In this particular case, I had to add the LastPass extension again since the last sync must have been when I had it removed while trying to troubleshoot this problem. The reset fixed the problem and the sync brought me back to my standard Chrome configuration.


 

I came across a few customers having trouble opening PDF attachments while in Quickbooks. The following message would be displayed, and sometimes it would be random.

"There is a problem with Adobe Acrobat/Reader. If it is running, please exit and try again. (523:523)"

The workaround to resolve the issue is to open Adobe Reader and uncheck "Enable Protected Mode" in the Edit -> Preferences -> Security (Enhanced) options.

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I recently had a patching issue with SQL Server 2014 SP3. When I tried installing the SP3 update it kept failing with error code 0x858C001E. It turns out that this can be caused if the program files directories for SQL Server are compressed.  The folder paths to check are listed below as documented here: https://wiert.me/2017/03/16/fixing-0x858c001e-error-on-sql-server-20122014-updates/ 

For x86 systems, ensure these directories are not compressed:

  • C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server
  • C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server Compact Edition

For x64 systems, ensure these directories are not compressed:

  • C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server
  • C:\Program Files x86\Microsoft SQL Server
  • C:\Program Files x86\Microsoft SQL Server Compact Edition

I found that some of the directories were compressed due to the customer trying to free up disk space on the system drive.  After uncompressing the Microsoft SQL Server folders, the update installed, and the server needed a reboot to complete.


 

We have a customer who is in the process of migrating from one domain ("domain 1") to another so the domain name that will match their current company name ("domain 2"). They have moved a majority of their client PCs from domain 1 to domain 2. The Exchange servers are still in domain 1 and using credentials for domain 1.

After moving to domain 2, users started reporting intermittent Outlook connectivity issues and that they were unable to search in Outlook. Domain 1 has an internal primary DNS zone for their public email domain. In testing, we found that Outlook functioned properly when not connected to the internal network and for client PCs still on domain 1. I originally added conditional forwarders for the public email domains to forward queries from domain 2 to the internal zone on domain 1. This resolved the connectivity issues, but their Outlook search still did not work. I removed the conditional forwarders and duplicated the internal primary DNS zones on domain 2, which resolved the issues.