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CYBER DEFENSE FOR BUSINESS: MAPPING PAIN AREAS AND SECURING THEM

Sometimes cyberattacks just seem to happen. Even in those instances, when you have: some cybersecurity measures in place and your employees know of good cybersecurity hygiene.

The Defensive Strategist at Nord Security, Adrianus Warmenhowen, points out that having systems in place often is not enough. They may protect your company at an 80% or 90% rate, but good hackers will target your weak points. Therefore, in this interview, he explains how organizations can identify their vulnerabilities and what are the best ways to secure those pain areas.

Tech person by nature

First, could you tell us a bit about your role here at Nord Security?

At Nord Security, I am a Defensive Strategist, meaning I advise on areas that need a strategic focus on the protection of customers.

Could you give us a brief overview of your career path?

I started my journey with the internet and cybersecurity in the middle of the 1980s. And since then, I’ve had many adventures along the way. I’ve helped in the pioneering years of the internet, where cybersecurity kind of crept into my daily responsibilities, and soon after, hacking became another area of interest for me.

Earlier in my career, I worked with the aviation industry, electric companies on high voltage equipment, satellites, and more.

The growing cyber threat to companies

2021 was a record-breaking year with a 50% increase in corporate cyberattacks. What do you think are the major reasons behind it?

The pandemic in the first place. People had less mental ‘back-up’ from colleagues while working from home.

In general, the past years felt for me like a watershed moment for criminals in how to conduct cyberattacks with a return on investment: cybercrime got professional.

What are the most common types of cyberattacks that companies are exposed to, and what disruptions can they cause?

In general, companies are most likely to experience either ransomware or (d)DOS attacks. Ransomware because it pays the criminal well, and denial-of-service attacks because people want to be actionable instead of just doing more talking.

However, those cyberattacks that cause no direct disruptions are actually the ones you should worry about. By this, I mean information stealing. It can range from intellectual property to bid books, from vendor assessments to information on where you buy your hardware. That last one is important for supply-chain poisoning.

How do cybercriminals identify which companies or employees will be their next targets? Where and how are they looking for pain points they could exploit?

Well, when a vulnerability comes out that is remotely exploitable, then search engines like Shodan or BinaryEdge can be used to identify potential victims quickly. A good example of such a case is the Kaseya or Solar Winds debacle.

As for ransomware, an organization’s digital footprint is one of the ways attackers can target their victims and plan their attacks. For instance, monitoring a company’s LinkedIn page can give an insight into the churn and the rate at which people get hired/leave the company. If a company has a high churn rate, there will be many inexperienced and/or disgruntled people. That is the perfect phishing spot or moment to try a CEO fraud.

Sites like Glassdoor are also good for gathering this kind of information. Another valuable source of information can also be announcements of new partnerships or acquisitions.

Identifying pain points and securing them

How can companies best identify their pain points? How should they look for them?

One of the most effective ways is to get someone from the outside looking in. And by that, I mean someone who will be searching not for the solutions to the problems but for vulnerabilities and unprotected areas that your company has.

The truth is that we all rather run through our “happy paths” to do our work and are just glad we can avoid the day-to-day pitfalls of what we are doing. But for the sake of security, we really should take the pain and enumerate as much as possible what could go wrong and why. For that, an outsider can usually help. Just don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean “hire a pentester and be done with it.” The pentester will probably find something, but not all the things that make “you being at risk.”

A really good starting point could be to leverage your audits if you have certifications. An auditor is quite meticulous (if you have a good one), and an audit process is pretty transparent to all involved because all shortcomings are discussed during this procedure.

After an audit and the subsequent resolution of any issues found, various specialists can be used to target specific areas. That could be a pentester, pickpocket, or lockpicker (depending on your business type). Finally, if your company discusses a lot of sensitive information, then you might want to set up a spying operation on yourself.

Also, set up a permanent bug bounty program so that well-willing people can report to you if they find anything out of the ordinary.

But above all, start with a “cleaning out the crud” session.

What measures or actions should businesses take to protect themselves from potential cyber threats?

  1. Organize and systemize everything you have.

    For your tech, have a form of CMDB (Configuration management database) with ownership (for risk acceptance). For your personnel, have proper onboarding/offboarding procedures. And make transfers like offboarding->onboarding so you can avoid accrual rights. Make sure you spot unhappy employees and unhappy customers – document this (but keep their privacy decent). Even if you are a small business, know your battlefield.

  2. Do regular updates and patches.

    For instance, have every odd-week Tuesday be your patch day. Always reserve that time. If nothing is to be patched, use that time to review vendors and check if anything approaches end-of-life and such.

  3. Use encryption everywhere.

    A VPN will help make your infrastructure less visible to attackers and protect you during client meetings, lunch discussions, or work-from-anywhere.

  4. Use an antivirus.

    Even if it is unused 99.9%, you will be happy for that one single time it blocks ransomware.

  5. Use offline rotating backups for your most important data.

    A couple of SSDs should be able to hold a backup of most of your documents and probably even export your database. At the very least, keep a copy of all the contact information of your customers and employees with an offline backup.

  6. Use a password manager.

    Secure that password manager with a passphrase (a sentence, maybe from a book you liked, a song, or a poem). The reason for using a password manager is simple, SSO is not available everywhere, and using OAuth gives away a lot of information to your identity provider. And some websites simply need a separate account/log-in.

  7. Have regular security meetups with employees to check what is new, what is wrong, and what to do about it.

  8. Keep in mind that there is always something to protect. Make a policy that explicitly states: that if there is no budget for securing something, it is automatically a risk accepted by the board.

On what things should organizations focus on when mapping their cyber battlefield and building up their cyber defenses?

  1. Knowledge.

    Know what you have, what connects to what and why (do you really need plugins in Slack or Jira, or are they “just” quality of life improvements), who has access to what and why (and, very important – from when to when). What software runs on what, and does it really need to be accessible from the outside world.

     

    Really, take the pain and map out what you have now and then adjust your processes so that this knowledge is updated all the time. Do a two-yearly check if everything is as it is documented.

     

    Don’t fall into the “productivity fallacy” trap – all arguments there are comparable to removing the safety measures of your car so that you can drive faster. It might seem the right thing when you blast across the highway doing 200, but the crash when you did not turn out to be Max Verstappen will be much more devastating. This goes for cybersecurity all the same: you might feel like the proper business king when you outdo your competition in time-to-market, but when it goes wrong, it is not just you. It is your clients’ lives as well that get mangled in the “incident.”

  2. On processes and audit trails.

    The audit trails are an essential part of the knowledge because they document what is changing in our current state of knowledge.

     

    Processes make things predictable and reliable. A process does not have to be an oppressive set of micromanagement instructions but can be as simple as “for each system in our CMDB, do a security check and document it.” In fact, the most crucial part of a process is not the steps within it but the interfaces with other processes, input, and output. Whenever there is a handover, it pays to check the CIA triad (Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability) and what the handover means to each of these.

     

    Also, to dispel a myth: you can have an open culture and still be very good at keeping things a secret. It should be normalized that you can tell your co-workers, “I can not tell because of confidentiality,” because it simply means those co-workers are not instrumental in that specific case. If they were, access would be granted when needed.

About Version 2 Limited
Version 2 Limited is one of the most dynamic IT companies in Asia. The company develops and distributes IT products for Internet and IP-based networks, including communication systems, Internet software, security, network, and media products. Through an extensive network of channels, point of sales, resellers, and partnership companies, Version 2 Limited offers quality products and services which are highly acclaimed in the market. Its customers cover a wide spectrum which include Global 1000 enterprises, regional listed companies, public utilities, Government, a vast number of successful SMEs, and consumers in various Asian cities.

About Nord Security
The web has become a chaotic space where safety and trust have been compromised by cybercrime and data protection issues. Therefore, our team has a global mission to shape a more trusted and peaceful online future for people everywhere.

IOT: INTERNET OF THINGS VS. INTERNET OF THREATS

Internet of Things (IoT) is a rapidly growing industry. It is forecasted that in 2025 there will be 152,200 IoT devices connecting to the internet every minute. Nowadays, modern businesses utilize IoT technologies such as remote healthcare medical devices, agricultural drones, intelligent production lines, and financial modeling systems to reduce costs, increase productivity, and perform economic forecasts. But users often forget about these technologies’ security aspects, making them an easy target for cybercriminals. Therefore, in this blog, we will discuss how to secure your IoT devices and protect yourself from potential cyber-attacks.

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What are IoT devices?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of physical items implanted with sensors, software, and other technologies that act on the collected data via machine learning. They are devices created to adapt to users’ daily needs and improve daily repetitive tasks. It can be anything from intelligent kids’ toys or smart home appliances to healthcare devices, vehicles, etc.

However, businesses use IoT technology on a larger scale, starting with smart office systems that include smart locks, remote security cameras, and climate control, and ending with complex solutions, such as digital financial modeling, AI-based management solutions, intelligent factory systems, autonomous agriculture, etc.

How IoT is transforming businesses

Research shows that companies who utilized IoT devices for a year noticed these positive trends: improved productivity, reduced labor, increased worker safety, etc.

Here are a few examples of how IoT improves business solutions:

  1. They help you manage and track your inventory by providing various remote control choices.

  2. They are becoming smarter with every connection to the device – the more they track, the more they learn about the patterns, and by doing so, they optimize the user’s experience.

  3. They innovate businesses with the help of predictive maintenance. For example, these devices will help monitor your harvest if you work in agriculture.

  4. They reduce waste by improving power management and water consumption, making businesses more eco-friendly.

  5. They reduce human labor by automating repetitive tasks and helping to allocate workforce resources to more complex tasks.

  6. They automatically schedule and control various production tasks, increasing productivity.

  7. They assist in maintenance. For example, IoT devices measure temperature, humidity, and other indicators to achieve necessary storage conditions.

  8. They can even prevent diseases or health issues by tracking necessary health data, such as blood sugar levels, and reminding about insulin injections.

The hidden dangers of IoT

The advantages are outstanding, but many IoT devices still don’t meet the minimum cybersecurity standards. If not secured, they’re sensitive to cyberattacks, such as an incident with a hijacked Tesla when the attackers gained access to car control while it was driving.

The number of cyberattacks on IoT devices is growing at alarming rates. In the first half of 2021, it was twice as high as the total number of attacks in 2020. Here are the most frequent types of threats carried out against IoT devices:

  • DoS (denial-of-service) attacks are carried out to take down company online assets and steal their sensitive data.

  • Brute-force password attacks lead to criminals gaining access to a particular device.

  • Firmware hijacking is used to access a device when software is downloaded from an illegitimate source.

  • Eavesdropping attack occurs when a hacker intercepts, deletes or changes data sent between two devices.

Top causes making IoT devices insecure

A recent study addressed the most common IoT security issues: lack of personal information privacy, unprotected software, insecure web, weak passwords, and lack of encryption. In general, many people and businesses don’t prioritize security simply because they are unaware of why they need it. Unlike laptops and other types of consumer electronic hardware, many of these devices don’t have built-in security that provides regular security updates.

Another issue is that people don’t change the initial default settings and leave them as they were after setting up IoT devices at their home or office. Many off-brand IoT producers manufacture devices with fewer resources and cheaper components that usually are insecure, creating an ever-increasing threat to the device owners.

How to secure your business IoTs

The main problem for businesses is that they have too many devices and don’t usually supervise them. That creates security gaps in your cybersecurity and opens the doors for eager cybercriminals. So, here are 10 steps for how you can secure your business IoT devices:

  1. Understand the current IoT assets. Run an internal audit to determine how many and what kind of IoT devices you have and who has the access.

  2. Monitor ALL the devices. Keep an eye on all of your devices to protect them from being infected – utilize a tech solution to automate this process.

  3. Apply a tracking system. Implement an identity and access management (IAM) solution that will allow you to track which IoT devices are active and when they go online and offline.

  4. Build an internal security system. Block any potential threat by using network access control (NCA) technologies that authenticate and authorize network users to access your company’s information.

  5. Remove all data from old devices. Pay attention to the devices that aren’t in use anymore, as they may store important information. After removing all data, consider returning them to manufacturers for recycling.

  6. Choose reliable suppliers. Pay attention to the manufacturer of your IoT devices, because it’s very important to know whether the device comes with built-in security and how you should update it from reliable sources in the future.

  7. Keep the devices up-to-date. Various software updates bring bug fixes and security patches, so it’s essential to be updated regularly.

  8. Make unlockable passwords. Build strong password combinations consisting of various symbols, letters, and numbers to make them hard to crack. Also, creating a master password would do the trick if the devices are connected to a phone, tablet, or computer.

  9. Guarantee IoT security. Ensure that you are using port security, invest in a network intrusion detection system, disable port forwarding, and use security solutions like VPN and firewalls.

  10. Secure the Wi-Fi. Last but not least, ensure the Wi-Fi router’s safety – strengthen the router firewall, deactivate WPS, and enable the WPA2 protocol. And, as always, use a strong password for it!

About Version 2 Limited
Version 2 Limited is one of the most dynamic IT companies in Asia. The company develops and distributes IT products for Internet and IP-based networks, including communication systems, Internet software, security, network, and media products. Through an extensive network of channels, point of sales, resellers, and partnership companies, Version 2 Limited offers quality products and services which are highly acclaimed in the market. Its customers cover a wide spectrum which include Global 1000 enterprises, regional listed companies, public utilities, Government, a vast number of successful SMEs, and consumers in various Asian cities.

About Nord Security
The web has become a chaotic space where safety and trust have been compromised by cybercrime and data protection issues. Therefore, our team has a global mission to shape a more trusted and peaceful online future for people everywhere.

HOW DATA ENCRYPTION CAN SAFEGUARD YOUR BUSINESS

Embracing the cloud is more than a simple infrastructure upgrade – it’s a way towards a more efficient business transformation. And while companies store their data in the clouds, the number of intruders that seek to steal data or hold it hostage is constantly growing. So, in this interview, we talked with Aivaras Vencevičius, the Head of Product at NordLocker, about how business leaders should look at cybersecurity and why data encryption is the next big thing.

 

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First, could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do here at Nord Security?

Hey, my name is Aivaras, and I am the Head of Product at NordLocker. I lead the team who provides an encrypted cloud solution for anyone who wants to safely store their data and still be its original owner. I know it sounds similar to what usual cloud providers say, but, believe me, you lose control over your files the moment you upload them to the cloud. The simple truth is that many providers still have the decryption key and can access the files at any time. With NordLocker, it’s the opposite – we secure your data without the ability to see it, a.k.a zero-knowledge architecture. Together with a team of excellent Product Owners and Designers, we successfully lead the product’s vision, roadmap development, and new feature discovery.

Weakest nodes of security in business

From your experience, how likely are companies to protect their data and have a data protection policy in place? Why?

Well, this likelihood usually comes down to several different factors. First of all, it depends on the company size, the industry in which it operates, IT maturity, and more. Secondly, it’s also somewhat affected by the growing awareness of data security risks and the necessity to secure it through various data protection measures. And finally, the most impactful factor is the rising number of breaches and the fear of becoming one of the targets. As a result, companies tend to care more about their data security when they or someone close to them experience a breach. So, it’s still more “reacting to disaster” than preparing for it proactively.

In your opinion, what can cause more security breaches and damage – lack of security policy or employee carelessness? Why?

It is unquestionably both. Businesses that don’t have at least basic security policies in place often become easy prey for cybercriminals. Unfortunately, the same thing can happen due to the employee’s carelessness. A company with the most sophisticated, well-described, and thought-through security procedures can be compromised if employees keep their passwords written on sticky notes on their desks. In that case, no policy can help. Cybercriminals spend a lot of time looking for the weakest links in a company’s protection, and if there are any, it’s bound to be exploited.

Even though people are often a company’s weakest link in security, this doesn’t happen just because they are careless. Usually, our basic habits, knowledge of cyber threats, and understanding of security policies and tools differ, and we aren’t very aware of complex security measures. So to ensure that employees aren’t the cause of a breach, every business should ask itself whether it’s easy for people to use already applied security tools and what additional effort employees have to make to follow those security policies.

The growing scale of ransomware

Let’s talk a little bit about ransomware. How big of a threat to company security is it? Could you share a bit of data on that?

The truth is that nowadays, ransomware is one of the biggest and fastest-growing threats. Mainly because it causes two very harmful things for businesses – it steals sensitive data that can cause reputational damage if exposed and blocks business access to crucial data needed to run daily operations. This fear of disruption and data loss pushes company owners to pay ransoms, increasing the attackers’ desire to carry out even larger operations. In fact, in 2021 alone, ransomware attacks rose to 1,000 per day, mostly targeting industries such as construction, manufacturing, finance, and others. So no business is safe from ransomware and other types of malware unless they do data encryption to protect against these threats.

What is the more attractive target for cybercriminals – confidential business information or employee information?

At the end of an attack, attackers typically seek to gain access to confidential company information, which is the ‘highest tier’ in data value scales. However, this data is usually the most protected from hackers. So, this is where employee information comes into play: breaching employee data can lead attackers further and provide them with access to more important corporate data. Simply put, stealing employees’ information could be the start of a very complex and harmful data breach.

Evaluating the risks

Does the size of a company directly impact the effectiveness of its cybersecurity policy? Why? How should a company solve such a problem?

Well, the company size doesn’t necessarily affect the effectiveness of cybersecurity. Larger companies may seem more resilient to cyber-attacks because they have more resources and a greater number of dedicated IT specialists who can examine the company’s cybersecurity ecosystem. However, this is not the case. They may have much more flaws, and it is far more difficult to oversee the training and safety of thousands of people rather than 10 or 20. On the other hand, small businesses cannot dedicate large budgets to cybersecurity and employ IT security professionals. However, being small, they are less likely to attract the attention of criminals. Nevertheless, there is always a risk. So, no matter how big or small the company is, all businesses should think about potential cybersecurity dangers regularly.

Usually, a ‘what-if’ scenario helps to evaluate the scale of risk:

  1. What if your business gets attacked?

  2. How difficult would it be to continue business operations?

  3. What are the costs of a potential loss of data?

  4. What appropriate resources and attention should be dedicated to cybersecurity?

Practical tips to ensure your data is safe

How important is it to encrypt corporate information? How effective are NordLocker’s algorithms used to encrypt the company’s data?

Data encryption is one of the safest ways to protect corporate information from cyberattacks. Even if a file is stolen, the content is encrypted and cannot be accessed by anyone else. And this is where our NordLocker product succeeds – it combines data encryption with secure cloud storage and backup. So, in the event of a ransomware attack, the company’s data is protected and cannot be taken hostage, while the backups provide business continuity.

From your point of view – what steps should a company take to protect its information? What advice would you give to them?

  1. First of all, a company should treat cybersecurity as a continuous business activity by making sure they are aware of the latest cyber threats. It is important to keep in mind that there is no one perfect solution or tool that could protect against all threats.

  2. The second step is to identify possible dangers and weak areas in your firm. Once you find thems, make sure you implement the best security measures to strengthen your company’s vulnerabilities.

  3. Finally, keep in mind that even the most modern security policies and tools may be considered worthless if the company’s employees do not naturally apply them. Using security tools that are simple to deploy and easy to use by employees with different technical knowledge can help make their daily routines much safer.

Thus, it is important to maintain a holistic approach and use a wide range of security tools that are easy to use and do not stand in the user’s way. It will help build a security net over the business and make it more resilient to ever-increasing cyber threats.

About Version 2 Limited
Version 2 Limited is one of the most dynamic IT companies in Asia. The company develops and distributes IT products for Internet and IP-based networks, including communication systems, Internet software, security, network, and media products. Through an extensive network of channels, point of sales, resellers, and partnership companies, Version 2 Limited offers quality products and services which are highly acclaimed in the market. Its customers cover a wide spectrum which include Global 1000 enterprises, regional listed companies, public utilities, Government, a vast number of successful SMEs, and consumers in various Asian cities.

About Nord Security
The web has become a chaotic space where safety and trust have been compromised by cybercrime and data protection issues. Therefore, our team has a global mission to shape a more trusted and peaceful online future for people everywhere.

4 TAKEAWAYS ON NAVIGATING UNCERTAINTY FROM THE NEW CHAMPION DIALOGUES SUMMIT

Disruption and uncertainty. That is the economic and geopolitical context many countries, businesses, and local communities face today. Strained by inflation and disrupted supply chains caused by the global pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, entrepreneurs are looking for answers on how to maintain stability in the upcoming future.

Tom Okman, co-founder of Nord Security

Finding answers to that question and discussing ways to scale and transform industries for long-term sustainable growth was the goal of the recent World Economic Forums’ annual meeting, the New Champion Dialogues. Held annually in China since 2007, it differs from the annual meeting held in Davos because the summit focuses on engaging entrepreneurs and innovators from emerging markets.

On 18-19 July, the New Champion Dialogues provided a forum for more than 1,100 participants to exchange insights with their peers. But the main theme of the summit – navigating uncertainty – is topical and important for the rest of the world as well. So here are four insights from the cybersecurity perspective worthy of additional discussion that I took away from the summit:

Enabling SMEs to utilize scale through digital tools will shape global economies

By some estimates, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent 70% of the global workforce and GDP. As a result, these businesses play a significant role in shaping local and global economies. Yet, at the same time, SMEs are most vulnerable to the issues of global and domestic uncertainty and disruptions at the economic and supply chain levels. So finding a way to ensure the long-term resilience of SMEs is a key to future-proofing the growth, innovation, and sustainability of our economies.

Providing SMEs with scale opportunities with digital tools is an answer that continues to be a successful approach in emerging markets. Enabling small or even micro companies to integrate into the larger sectors by connecting them to accessible and secure platforms offers multiple benefits. One of these benefits is allowing large-scale workforce mobility and diverse job options to local communities. It also helps minimize the resources spent on innovating and securing SMEs’ technical infrastructures.

The metaverse’s growth will need to address data privacy and security questions

While the metaverse still has no widely accepted definition, the global trend of trying to prepare for the next stage of the internet and decentralized economies is accelerating at a rapid pace. But it is not the lack of vision of what the metaverse should look like that currently bottlenecks the full potential of the metaverse. It is still a matter of technology breakthroughs in hardware. If we take a look back and see the tech evolution in the sector, VR and other remote-control technologies are now showing spectacular results in a variety of digital devices, battery life, and supporting hardware. Yet, users will need more powerful wearable devices, sensors, and hardware upgrades for truly diverse environments and metaverse use cases.

But while the technological aspect is still being tweaked in the background, now is the time to start building a foundation of trust when we talk about personal data used in the metaverse. There is no doubt that user data has become a precious resource in a time when its application methods and uses are getting more diverse. So from the start, users need to demand a level of sovereignty over their personal data. Well-managed and regulated user data should be considered a fundamental part of the metaverse’s design rather than a feature added later. Transparent use of data will also help determine the actual value of the user’s data for the user themselves.

Instead of competing with human force, AI is putting people’s skills at the very front of future work

There was an example being used about the interventional radiology field in medicine and how it is one of the largest medical sectors where AI already has many applications. Now, intuitively we could think that choosing to be a radiologist in such a context would be an unpromising career choice. But the reality is showing the opposite effect – with new tech and AI improvements, X-ray scan prices are being driven down. With lower prices, more patients are comfortable having complex scans performed, and the demand for radiologists is higher than ever.

The radiology example illustrates a point observed in many different industries – rather than destroying jobs in the particular sector as some feared it would, AI actually increases the scale of businesses and brings costs down. A work transformation is happening without cutting people out of the equation. We observe increasing examples of AI improving business models when it focuses on more analytical tasks, and people can concentrate on human-touch requiring assignments. In times of uncertainty, where upskilling and reskilling questions are high on the agenda, AI is becoming a helpful companion instead of a competitive force.

Before deciding on remote and office work approaches, companies need to answer their cultural questions

Hybrid, office-only, or remote-only work? The global pandemic forced most businesses to use different approaches, and with the pandemic slowing down globally, the question of which work model is here to stay is heavily debated. However, that question also unmasked a concerning lack of accurate measurement of employees’ productivity in office-only work. For example, some companies insisted on returning to the office because if middle or high-level managers couldn’t see their workers, they assumed they were slacking off.

But the notion of only one approach being a silver bullet is similarly far-fetched. Instead, industries have started recognizing that different businesses benefit from other work models, even in the same sector. And one of the main factors when deciding the most suitable model requires correctly identifying a company’s culture. Workplace dynamics are vastly different when employees work remotely, and so are the workflows. For example, in a lot of tech-focused sectors, the element of constant learning is essential, so ensuring in-person interactions may be necessary. Summit panelists noted that it is also a question of identity. For many employees, work takes up a large part of their identity. Keeping that identity intact while maintaining engagement and motivation of their workforce can become challenging to companies focused on remote work only. Forming long-lasting relationships is another less talked about aspect of the in-person work model. The ability to form new friendships provides additional motivation, but it remains a question if the business can ensure that in Zoom-like environments. And of course, there is an additional question of ensuring secure network access for your remote workers, but with a reliable SASE provider, that can be solved without difficulty.

The hybrid work model covers a lot of previously mentioned bases, but at least for now, it is a less attractive model than a fully-remote one to sell to potential future workers. However, if your business culture allows for fully remote work, you are in a great position to attract talent from competitors. Whatever course a business chooses to take, following established company culture and offering trust and flexibility to its talent force remain among the most important factors in these uncertain times.

About Version 2 Limited
Version 2 Limited is one of the most dynamic IT companies in Asia. The company develops and distributes IT products for Internet and IP-based networks, including communication systems, Internet software, security, network, and media products. Through an extensive network of channels, point of sales, resellers, and partnership companies, Version 2 Limited offers quality products and services which are highly acclaimed in the market. Its customers cover a wide spectrum which include Global 1000 enterprises, regional listed companies, public utilities, Government, a vast number of successful SMEs, and consumers in various Asian cities.

About Nord Security
The web has become a chaotic space where safety and trust have been compromised by cybercrime and data protection issues. Therefore, our team has a global mission to shape a more trusted and peaceful online future for people everywhere.

Day in the life of a front-end developer

Meet Samantha Ponce, a front-end developer at NordPass, and take an insider’s view on what it’s like to build leading cybersecurity solutions from our office in Berlin. She’ll lead you through her typical workday and tell you more about her team and work challenges.

 

sam ponce

 


Frame 1

 

Wake up time

WFH: 7.30 AM

Office: 7.00 AM

My usual routine is to wake up, shower, get dressed, and maybe fix my hair or do my makeup. However, that depends on my time and or my mood. Since I’m located in Berlin, and most of my team works in Lithuania, I’ve chosen to work different hours from 8.00 AM to 5.00 PM from the rest of the company (9.00 AM to 6.00 PM). It allows me to be more in sync and have more free time in the afternoon.

Breakfast o’clock

WFH: 8.00 AM

Office: 7.30 AM

I usually have German bread with cheese and ham for breakfast during the week since it’s fast and easy to prepare. And, of course, a nice liter of tea. I would say a cup, but I like to drink lots of tea. Not a fan of coffee, unlike most of the developers that I know.

Frame 2

 

Head to work

7.40 AM

When I go to the office, I usually take public transport because it’s better for the environment, and we have a monthly ticket compensation as a benefit.

It usually takes 20 minutes to reach the office with the U-Bahn.

Frame 10

 

Welcome to the office

8.00 AM

Two things that I do when I get to the office – wash my hands (crucial after the public transport) and get another cup of tea (also crucial for a productive day ahead).

Frame 3

 

First work portion

WFH: 8.00 AM – 2.00 PM

Office: 8.00 AM – 12.00 PM

Daily standup: 9.30 AM (5-10 minutes)

NordPass Update/Meeting: 10.00 AM – 11.00 AM

Normally I don’t have a lot of meetings. I know – the dream of every developer. I usually have my daily standup, and on Mondays, we have an update about what’s going on in the company or any other relevant theme.

Guild meetings happen once a month, where all the front-end developers from NordPass get together and talk about things: from cool tech we just read about to important information about upcoming changes.

Frame 9

 

So I usually check my emails and some merge requests before my first meeting. And afterward, I just work completely on any task or bug I choose from our sprint board.

Frame 4

 

WFH: 2.00 PM

Office: 12.00 PM

My lunchtime normally changes a lot when I work from home because I like to cook and eat with my husband. Therefore, we must agree on a time that suits both of us. We take turns preparing the food, but it normally happens after 1.00 PM.

We like to eat Mexican food because we’re from Mexico, so we try to include tacos and other foods with lime and chili on our menus.

Frame 5

 

WFH: 3.00 PM – 5.00 PM

Office: 1.00 PM – 5.00 PM

After lunchtime, I prefer to finish up my tasks and start testing and fixing anything that’s not working properly. If I haven’t finished my tasks, then I continue working on them, maybe pausing for a couple of minutes to stretch out and eat a snack. Especially if I’m at the office, where I get the chance to talk with people from other teams.

Frame 6

 

Getting my sweat on

My ideal schedule would include going to the gym after work every day. However, currently, I go only once a week or less. But it’s good to have a goal for improvement.

Sprechen sie deutsch?

I’m learning German because I want to be able to communicate better in Berlin. Even though almost everyone here speaks English or even Spanish, I still think it’s important to know the local language.

The classes are held online on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 6.30 PM until 8.00 PM. At the moment, I’m learning B1 level – so not a complete beginner.

Frame 8

 

Family bonding

Both my and my husband’s family live in Mexico. Therefore, we have to wait until they have some free time to talk with us. We aim to have long video calls with everyone at least once a week.

Light dinner (mostly)

I usually have dinner around 8.00 or 9.00 PM while talking with our families. It makes me feel as if we’re sitting down together for a meal. I prefer something light for dinner, like cereal, but sometimes we spice it up with pizza or some Korean chicken.

Night night

I mostly go to bed around 11.00 PM after washing the dinner dishes and making all the preparations for the next day ahead.

Frame 7

 

Which one do you prefer, working from the office or home? Why?

I prefer working from home because I like cooking my own lunch. However, sometimes taking a break and going for lunch with people from the office is also nice.

At what time of the day do you feel most productive, and what tasks do you do then?

I think the time after my daily stand-up and before lunch is my most productive time – I do most of my work then. After lunch is more for testing, fixing, and other pending things.

Things that you like most about being a front-end developer at Nord Security?

My teammates, hands down. They are supporting me at all times and encourage me to learn more and be better.

Things you wouldn’t miss being a front-end developer?

The fun issues with CSS.

What are the front-end stereotypes that you’d like to break?

That we don’t know anything about the back-end. In fact, I worked as a full-stack developer before. And, of course, we need to know how the back-end works to do our jobs better.

What challenges are you currently working on, and what have been the most interesting ones you had to deal with at Nord Security?

Developing new features is always challenging, but it’s the most interesting part of the job. So figuring out how to implement new stuff while ensuring everything else still works fine is the most stimulating thing about being a developer.

Also, migrating to newer versions of libraries and other tools is always a way to keep learning while suffering a bit. However, when everything works in the end – it’s truly awesome.

Please, briefly describe your team? What kind of people work there, and how do you collaborate?

My team is the best. Everyone is always eager to help. We always have the best team buildings. And even if we’re located in different countries, we still keep in touch and are close to each other.

About Version 2 Limited
Version 2 Limited is one of the most dynamic IT companies in Asia. The company develops and distributes IT products for Internet and IP-based networks, including communication systems, Internet software, security, network, and media products. Through an extensive network of channels, point of sales, resellers, and partnership companies, Version 2 Limited offers quality products and services which are highly acclaimed in the market. Its customers cover a wide spectrum which include Global 1000 enterprises, regional listed companies, public utilities, Government, a vast number of successful SMEs, and consumers in various Asian cities.

About Nord Security
The web has become a chaotic space where safety and trust have been compromised by cybercrime and data protection issues. Therefore, our team has a global mission to shape a more trusted and peaceful online future for people everywhere.

UNDERSTANDING OBSERVABILITY VS. MONITORING. PART 1

The development of clouds, the DevOps movement, and distributed microservice-based architecture have come together to make observability vital for modern architecture. We’re going to dive into what observability is and how to approach the metrics we need to track.

Observability is a way of spotting and troubleshooting the root causes of problems involving software systems whose internals we might not understand. It extends the concept of monitoring, applying it to complex systems with unpredictable and/or complex failure scenarios.

I’ll start with some of the basic principles of observability that I’ve been helping to implement across a growing number of products and teams at Nord Security.

 

observability

 

Monitoring vs. Observability

“Monitoring” and “observability” are often used interchangeably, but these concepts have a few fundamental differences.

Monitoring is the process of using telemetry data to understand the health and performance of your application. Monitoring telemetry data is preconfigured, implying that the user has detailed information on their system’s possible failure scenarios and wants to detect them as soon as they happen.

In the classical approach to monitoring, we define a set of metrics, collect them from our software system, and react to any changes in the values of these metrics that are of interest to us.

For example:

Excessive CPU usage can indicate that we need to scale it up to compensate for increasing system loads;

A drop in successfully served requests after a fresh release can indicate that the newly released version of the API is malfunctioning;

Health checks process binary metrics that represent whether the system is alive at all or not.

Observability extends this approach. Observability is the ability to understand the state of the system by performing continuous real time analysis of the data it outputs.

Instead of just collecting and watching predefined metrics, we continuously collect different output signals. The most common types of signals – the three pillars of observability – are:

  • Metrics: Numeric data aggregates representing software system performance;

  • Logs: Time-stamped messages gathered by the software system and its components while working;

  • Traces: Maps of the paths taken by requests as they move through the software system.

The development of complex distributed microservice architectures has led to complex failure scenarios that can be hard or even impossible to predict. Simple monitoring is not enough to catch them. Observability helps by improving our understanding of the internal state of the system.

Metrics

Choosing the right metrics to collect is key to establishing an observability layer for our software system. Here are a few different popular approaches that define a unified framework of must-have metrics in any software system.

USE

Originally described by Brendan Gregg, this approach focuses more on white-box monitoring – monitoring of the infrastructure itself. Here’s the framework:

  • Utilization – resource utilization.

    • % of CPU / RAM / Network I/O being utilized.

  • Saturation – how much remaining work hasn’t been processed yet.

    • CPU run queue length;

    • Storage wait queue length;

  • Errors – errors per second

    • CPU cache miss;

    • Storage system fail events;

Note: Defining “saturation” in this approach can be a tricky task and may not be possible in specific cases.

Four Golden signals

Originally described in the Google SRE Handbook, the Four Golden signals framework is defined as follows:

  • Latency – time to process requests;

  • Traffic – requests per second;

  • Errors – errors per second;

  • Saturation – resource utilization.

RED

Originally described by Tom Wilkie, this approach focuses on black-box monitoring – monitoring the microservices themselves. This simplified subset of the Four Golden Signals uses the following framework:

  • Rate – requests per second;

  • Errors – errors per second;

  • Duration – time to process requests.

Choosing and following one of these approaches allows you to unify your monitoring concept throughout the whole system and make it easier to understand what is happening. They complement one another, and your choice may depend on which part of a system we want to monitor. These approaches also don´t exclude additional business-related metrics that vary from one component of the software system to another.

Logs

System logs are a useful source of additional context when investigating what is going on inside a system. They are immutable, time-stamped text records that provide context to your metrics.

Logs should be kept in a unified structured format like JSON. Use additional log storage/visualization tools to simplify interaction with the massive amount of text data the software system provides. One very well-known and popular solution for log storage is ElasticSearch.

Traces

Traces help us better understand the request flow in our system by representing the full path any given request takes through a distributed software system. This is very helpful in identifying failing nodes and bottlenecks.

Traces themselves are hierarchical structures of spans, where each span is a structure representing the request and its context in every node in its path. Most common tracing visualization tools like Jaeger or Grafana display traces as waterfall diagrams showing the parent and child spans caused by the request.

Conclusion

Building an observable software system lets you identify failure scenarios and possible risks during the whole system life cycle. A combination of metrics, extensive log collection, and traces helps us understand what’s happening inside our system at any moment and speeds up investigations of abnormal behavior.

This article was just the first step. We’ve covered the standard approaches to metrics and briefly discussed traces and logs. But to implement an observable software system, we need to set up its components correctly to supply us with the signals we need. In part 2, we’ll discuss instrumentation approaches and modern standards in this field.

About Version 2 Limited
Version 2 Limited is one of the most dynamic IT companies in Asia. The company develops and distributes IT products for Internet and IP-based networks, including communication systems, Internet software, security, network, and media products. Through an extensive network of channels, point of sales, resellers, and partnership companies, Version 2 Limited offers quality products and services which are highly acclaimed in the market. Its customers cover a wide spectrum which include Global 1000 enterprises, regional listed companies, public utilities, Government, a vast number of successful SMEs, and consumers in various Asian cities.

About Nord Security
The web has become a chaotic space where safety and trust have been compromised by cybercrime and data protection issues. Therefore, our team has a global mission to shape a more trusted and peaceful online future for people everywhere.

CYBERSECURITY IN THE FACE OF MASS LAYOFFS: WHAT MAKES IT RESILIENT?

karina

In the face of inflation and interest rate hikes, companies started tightening their belts by reducing staff to survive the uncertain times ahead. As of July, all this resulted in more than 400 companies laying off over 80 000 workers worldwide.

In this interview, we speak to Karina Dajoraitė-Dirvonskienė, Chief People Officer at Nord Security, who shares her insights into the mass layoff trend, its impact on the cybersec industry, and the situation at Nord Security. She also gives tips on how to bounce back after experiencing a layoff.

The current job market

What, in your opinion, are the main reasons behind current layoffs in the tech sector?

There are several factors. Some of them come from the global perspective, like the looming threat of recession with the inflation and interest rates shooting up as well as the changing behavior of consumers. Of course, no one can account for a global crisis. Still, once it happens, some action scenarios should be put in place to secure your organization and ensure it stays afloat without making drastic sacrifices.

Also, there could be other factors at play here, too – like overplanning your hiring quotas, too much reliance on outside funding, as well as, changing evaluation of companies with the focus of investors from growth to profit, and failure to raise additional capital as a result.

The situation at Nord Security

What is our current situation in Lithuania, Berlin, and Nord Security in general?

Nothing is changing at Nord Security. We continue growing and expanding our global team with new locations and hires. After more than a decade of being a profitable bootstrapped business, last quarter, we officially became a tech unicorn by raising $100 million from investors at a valuation of $1.6 billion. And for the future, that means more growth and more talent joining our community worldwide.

Do you believe that the current trend will affect hiring goals at Nord Security? If so, how?

I believe it will. We will use this global trend of layoffs as an opportunity to fill our vacant positions more quickly. As I’ve mentioned, the growth of our organization continues. Therefore we’re looking for new talent to join our team.

Why do you think the situation at Nord Security is different from that of tech companies, that are currently laying off large numbers of staff?

Actually, our co-founder, Tom Okman, has recently commented on the situation that Lithuanian businesses are mainly profitable or bootstrapped. That was the case with us, too. Therefore, there’s no need to rely on outside funding too much. Also, I think the cybersecurity market that we work in also has an impact here. It is constantly growing and is expected to reach $376.32 billion in 2029. Moreover, the pandemic, geopolitical unrest, and an increase in cyberattacks have highlighted the need for our products.

Cybersecurity threats will continue to exist as long as we have our online lives. As a result, not only the demand for cyber products and services is growing, but also the need for cybersecurity professionals. Currently, there are more than 36,000 open positions for cybersec experts in the public sector and more than 700,000 available jobs in the private sector globally. These factors are the main reasons why the cybersecurity industry hasn’t seen hiring freezes or layoffs on a broad scale.

What should be considered when planning recruiting volumes, and how does this help us maintain sustainable growth?

We plan our recruiting volumes meticulously with every team in the organization, evaluating the needs, pain points, and plans for growth. I think it’s important to have this alignment throughout the whole organization and with the key stakeholders if you want your recruitment volumes to be on track and ensure sustainability. So for our team, communication and alignment are key in this accord.

Bouncing back after a painful layoff

Can you give some advice to people who have experienced layoff? How can they cope with the stress of losing their job?

Well, first of all – not to panic. Of course, it’s never pleasant to lose your job. However, while some companies are overhired, others are experiencing shortages. Therefore, there’re still plenty of job opportunities available, especially for those with tech skills. This demand will continue to grow in the future, notwithstanding the current hardships. So here are some tips on what you can do to find your next employment easier:

  • If your local market doesn’t have a suitable offer, check global companies – remote work is still very much a possibility.

  • Be active on LinkedIn – if you have recruiters in your connections, don’t hesitate to drop them a line.

  • Reach out to friends to refer you to their employer. Many companies have internal referral programs available. At Nord Security, we even launched an external referral program – you can check it HERE.

  • Network – there are plenty of events and meetups to attend online or offline for techies. Who knows, maybe there’s another job opportunity waiting for you.

About Version 2 Limited
Version 2 Limited is one of the most dynamic IT companies in Asia. The company develops and distributes IT products for Internet and IP-based networks, including communication systems, Internet software, security, network, and media products. Through an extensive network of channels, point of sales, resellers, and partnership companies, Version 2 Limited offers quality products and services which are highly acclaimed in the market. Its customers cover a wide spectrum which include Global 1000 enterprises, regional listed companies, public utilities, Government, a vast number of successful SMEs, and consumers in various Asian cities.

About Nord Security
The web has become a chaotic space where safety and trust have been compromised by cybercrime and data protection issues. Therefore, our team has a global mission to shape a more trusted and peaceful online future for people everywhere.