ExchangeDefender CEO talks email-borne threats with Cybernews
Recently, Cybernews reached out to ExchangeDefender CEO, Vlad Mazek to learn more about how we keep businesses safe from cyber-attacks using top of the line security solutions. The informative discussion centers around the topic of cybersecurity, and what that means for the modern business.
With the recent rise in phishing attacks, it is smart to double-check if it’s really your coworker that emailed you.
By now, it’s probably hard to find an Internet user who has never received emails from someone claiming to be a long-lost relative who wants to share their fortune. While the majority of us are familiar with this type of malware, phishing attacks shouldn’t be underestimated. Nowadays, when threat actors start to include more personal details, posing as coworkers or even bosses, staying vigilant is key.
To discuss the topic of cybersecurity and phishing prevention, we reached out to Vlad Mazek, the CEO of ExchangeDefender, a company eliminating email threats before they even reach your inbox.
ExchangeDefender has been providing various security solutions for more than 2 decades. What was your journey like throughout the years?
We originally started ExchangeDefender to improve the reliability of our Microsoft Exchange servers by offloading all the security tools to a more scalable infrastructure. Over the years we’ve expanded our security portfolio to protect other email servers, as well as deliver more secure ways to rely on common office tasks such as file sharing, collaboration, and compliance.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you do? What are the main problems you help solve?
We used to say “We kill SPAM for a living” and to this day we simply eliminate common threats that lead to security compromises and service outages by providing email encryption, long-term archiving & eDiscovery.
We make it easier to rely on email for secure and reliable communication; which we do by keeping potentially dangerous content away from your webmail, mailbox, desktop, or phone. Simply put, we make it easy to get things done more securely.
What technologies do you use to detect and stop threats in their tracks?
We primarily rely on our internal early warning system which tracks unusual activity from known threat actors. Because of our size and client base, we often have the luxury of being among the first to be targeted which helps us identify safe and unsafe developments before they go “viral”.
We also participate in many proprietary, open-source, and data/intel sharing projects that help raise the security profile of everyone involved.
How did the pandemic affect the cybersecurity landscape? Were there any new features added to your services?
Pandemic actually improved the security landscape for our clients because they suddenly had to shift to a remote work model which inherently came with more stringent security requirements and more awareness for security policies and secure collaboration.
We noticed a significant shift from traditional office communication methods to SMS/TXT and we moved quickly to make all of our services SMS-aware. Mobile phones have become a security identification token, a mobile presence device, and far too often a failover computer. That’s why we invested heavily in extending our services to meet our clients’ needs to go beyond just sending email messages.
What sectors (for example, financial, healthcare, etc.) do you think should put extra attention towards email security?
The best way to answer this question is to think like a hacker because for them it’s not personal, it’s business.
Organizations get compromised for one of two reasons:
- They have assets (data) that are valuable
- They have a reputation that is valuable
If you have a lot of valuable data or a trustworthy relationship with your clients, you’re a valuable target regardless of your industry. It would be difficult to hack a financial institution because they have dedicated IT and security teams, go through routine audits, and can respond to threats quickly. Compare that to a small CPA firm that uses standard tools and an antivirus bundle that came with their PC.
When it comes to cyber threats carried out via email, what are the most common ones?
Email is the most popular way to get cyber threats into an organization, according to a recent study over 90% of security compromises started with email and it has not changed significantly in the past few years: the #1 cyber threat is from spear phishing. Spear phishing is a practice of forging the identity of the sender and the look of the email to something the recipient would find trustworthy enough to click on. What has changed significantly is the end goal of spear phishing:
- Deployment of RAT (Remote Access Trojan) software
- Theft of PII (personally identifiable information)
- Theft of security credentials
This list actually flipped in the last two years mostly due to the sophistication of RAT software that can give an attacker access to the entire network instead of just a single PC or cloud account. The latest variants target UEFI bios which keep the threat in place even after you get rid of the infected hard drives. As these threats evolve, they also highlight other security issues on the network which makes them difficult to remove and require constant monitoring.
With so many teams working remotely nowadays, what are the best practices when it comes to secure file sharing?
The single most important recent advancement in overall IT security that really deserves wider adoption is the use of MFA/2FA/OTP: multi-factor authentication that requires secondary verification before accessing any sensitive system or information. Working remotely, outside of a managed network and access to IT staff, creates a new universe of security threats that should be mitigated by:
- Deploying & requiring MFA for access
- Deploying a more aggressive backup and imaging solution
- Controlling and reducing the attack surface (by limiting access only to required web sites & services)
Besides secure collaboration solutions, what other security measures do you think modern companies should invest in?
You are probably already spending too much on overlapping, redundant, and underutilized security solutions.
The best security investment you can make today is to get an audit of your existing security portfolio and its integration. Being secure doesn’t come simply from paying for a security software/service license – it has to be properly integrated, configured, and monitored in order to truly keep users away from dangerous content. Due to the chronic lack of security focus and the habit of deprioritizing security for the sake of end-user comfort, many organizations find themselves in a perilous situation with cyber insurance demands.
We are seeing organizations getting compromised not because they don’t have security solutions or adequate training but because they don’t take the time to properly and fully implement the security solutions they are already paying for. An overwhelming majority of ExchangeDefender subscribers rely on less than 30% of the security features they already pay for.
Can you give us a sneak peek into some of your future plans for ExchangeDefender?
Our biggest technical investment for 2022/2023 is to make it possible to access external content (email attachments, files, messages, sites & services) in a secure online sandbox environment where dangerous content wouldn’t even have a chance to reach the user’s desktop, phone, or network.
Our biggest investment is in the area of security audits and assessments. While there is always a shiny new tool or service that promises better security, our data indicates that it’s rarely the lack of a tool, and more often the lack of proper deployment and management of sensitive information that leads to a security compromise.
We’ve helped countless businesses that have been compromised over the years and it usually comes down to neglect of security processes combined with a lack of a plan to respond and recover from a hack. Our future plans are to help organizations change that scenario because cybersecurity isn’t something you buy, it’s something you do.