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Cam Roberson, Beachhead Solutions: “organizations should consider implementing zero-trust policies”

Unpredictable employee behavior, stringent security compliance mandates, lost and stolen hardware, ransomware, and other variables continue to demand modern—and thorough—approaches to cybersecurity.

With cyber threats getting increasingly sophisticated, all businesses demand more robust solutions than just an antivirus. However, as more cloud-based security platforms and tools have entered the market, picking the right ones and implementing the security practices correctly can be unexpectedly hard.

To bring some thoughts to the search, Cam Roberson, Vice President of Beachhead Solutions – a cloud-managed security platform for enforcing encryption and security policies – talked us through the importance of a modernized security posture that delivers device and data protection without hampering employee productivity.

How did Beachhead Solutions get started? How has Beachhead evolved with the security industry?

Beachhead Solutions actually got its start working with military applications; we were tasked with developing a way to eliminate sensitive military data in scenarios where vehicles with onboard PCs become compromised. Our initial solution for protecting data under such circumstances was to actually trigger the hard drive on the remote device to blow itself up.

That experience showed us the value we could deliver for companies who needed more effective tools for securing their corporate and customer data, and for controlling data access from devices both in the office and on the move. Of course, we did away with the explosions: the subsequent commercial version of our platform – BeachheadSecure – offers a safe and recoverable approach to enforcing data encryption, and quarantining or deleting sensitive data from compromised devices wherever those devices might go.

In the nearly 20 years since we started, Beachhead has evolved to address the specific needs of not just enterprises but also SMBs with minimal in-house IT support. We offer solutions specifically tailored to the needs of managed service providers (MSPs) as well. Our tools have also evolved to provide flexible control over robust automated responses to detected risk factors, and compliance reporting that enables our customers to clearly demonstrate regulatory compliance to auditors if and when necessary.

What’s your role at Beachhead?

I lead the company’s sales and channel development. Beachhead serves two types of clients: direct customers representing organizations of all sizes and across industries, and MSPs and resellers within the channel (who use BeachheadSecure as part of the security services they deliver to their customers). We offer different platforms custom-made for each of these audiences.

What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the device encryption field throughout the past few years?

Certainly, security administrators have become more effective in enforcing the employee best practices that ultimately make encryption effective, i.e., requiring complex passwords and better security hygiene around keeping credentials secret.

More organizations have also embraced (and mandated) two-factor authentication (which BeachheadSecure also offers), adding another line of defense able to thwart attacks even when credentials are compromised. Progress, yes, but as headlines continue to show, there is still much room for more robust data and device security processes.

How did the pandemic affect cybersecurity practices as Beachhead has seen it?

The pandemic forced organizations to implement work-from-home policies and new cybersecurity strategies rapidly. Just about every employee-used device is now a remote device, beyond the protections of the centralized corporate office.

It quickly became crucial for administrators to have greater visibility into where devices are located, and to set policies to enforce more secure device usage and protection of credentials. For example, an employee unaccustomed to working at home might be tempted to share devices carrying sensitive data with family members. From a security perspective, that’s high-risk behavior.

Family members using shared credentials might inadvertently download malware, or cause a device to become lost or stolen, risking a data breach. In the early days of the pandemic, Beachhead helped many organizations implement the data encryption, remote access control, and automated risk responses they needed to secure their distributed workforces. But long story short: devices with sensitive data are more mobile than ever, and demand a security strategy built for this reality.

Besides data encryption, what other security measures do you believe are essential to address today’s security threat landscape?

When data on a remote device comes under threat of exposure, manual interventions are far too slow to respond. The damage will have been done. Today’s security stacks and access control tools must enable automated, dynamic, customizable responses to risk incidents.

Organizations need measures in place to immediately begin mitigating threat conditions and to tailor those measures to address their most pressing risks and deliver the most appropriate protections.

For example, organizations should utilize tools that can prepare responses to scenarios where a device experiences a certain number of invalid login attempts, where devices leave pre-designated geo-locations, or where there’s an attempt to remove security features.

Organizations should also consider implementing zero-trust policies that remove data access from any device that fails to verify its safety. Administrators should also be able to immediately restore data access after a device is known to be safe.

Security compliance mandates are getting stricter and stricter – how are organizations doing at keeping up?

Privacy concerns and data breach risks continue to rise, alarmingly fast in my opinion, as attacks become more sophisticated. As a result, regulatory frameworks like NIST, HIPAA, GDPR, and others will only get stricter.

That said, the reputational damage of a data breach event can easily be as harmful to an organization as regulatory fines but, on a more positive note, effective and secure data handling can serve as a competitive differentiator. All this is to say that implementing compliant practices isn’t just a dutiful necessity, it’s good business as well.

I recommend the U.S. government’s NIST Cybersecurity Framework for its comprehensive benchmarks in assessing an organization’s security posture, which is valuable even for organizations not under NIST’s purview. An organization that succeeds in meeting NIST requirements can stand assured that its data security protections are effective for its needs.

We’ve made sure that our own tool offers organizations a considerable head start in achieving the holistic security protections NIST calls for: our platform was objectively assessed to fully or partially satisfy 76% (69 out of 90 subcategories) of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.

What’re the greatest security risks organizations face right now?

Organizations’ most significant risk continues to be employees themselves. The human element is unpredictable, and without careful and regimented employee training in security best practices, employees can and will thwart any technological security measures. Often, employees do so accidentally and in the pursuit of efficiency.

Employees will write passwords on post-it notes attached to their laptops, neutralizing encryption protections. However, we also see plenty of stories where nefarious insiders are causing trouble. Insider threats make access control and device visibility essential, such that security measures can respond with warnings and more decisive action if an employee attempts to perform unauthorized activities.

Ransomware is rightfully a tremendous risk, but companies often err by thinking it’s their only risk. Too often, organizations that overprioritize ransomware protections will suffer worse harm from mundane threats, for example, an employee leaving an unencrypted device in an airport lobby.

What’s next for Beachhead Solutions?

Beachhead has unique talents with layered encryption, key management, and authentication – all of which will be leveraged to deliver new tools to give customers and MSP partners visibility, control, and security over remote PCs and device data. We’ll be continuing to expand these tools via more RiskResponders, which address risks automatically via responses appropriate for the escalation of risk (and before those risks become a catastrophic problem).

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