IT Brief New Zealand logo
Technology news for New Zealand's largest enterprises
Story image

Security training – a vital first step, but not a solution

Thu 15 Jun 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Spear-phishing attacks are unstoppable. Every enhancement made towards filtering spam and phishing simply invites attackers to up their game even further. Years ago we learnt to avoid e-mails that looked dodgy and were full of spelling and grammatical errors. But then they grew more sophisticated: copying logos and house styles to look and read like genuine corporate announcements.

So we were taught to check the browser’s address bar to check that the loading web page was served over a valid HTTPS site. But now we face Punycode phishing attacks that play on tiny typographical differences between the Roman and other language alphabets: so even a trained typographer might be fooled by a fraudulent website.

Attackers operate at many layers, from amateurs to low-level professionals through to nation-state and specialist gangs highly focused on attacking specific targets – either for their financial value or their political sensitivity. At that upper level you find phishing emails that are truly unique, being tailored to snare just one specific individual – called 'patient zero’ in the industry – by including convincing personal details – favourite hobbies, activities or names of trusted friends – to make them look totally authentic. One click on that e-mail, and they have a foot in the door to your corporate network.

The Internet and e-mail have become so infected with malware that we have to give up hoping for any universal rule to nail down and identify every possible type of phishing email. Instead we are faced with an ever-expanding list of possible hacks to look out for, to the extent that employees might spend so much time taking precautions that they can no longer do their job thoroughly and efficiently.

So let us look at the problem from a new angle: comparing our malware-infected Internet to an infected water supply. If you learned that the tap water in your organization was contaminated, what would you do? You might begin by warning everybody, suggesting a few simple precautions such as not drinking the water unless it has been first boiled.

Would you then go on and on, broadcasting ever-more precautions: not to use any vessel or cutlery unless it has been washed in previously boiled water; not to wash your hands in un-boiled water; not to shake hands with anyone or touch a door handle or light switch without checking that no-one with contaminated hands has touched it… The list of possible precautions would be endless.

Or, having sounded that initial warning, would you simply take immediate steps to make sure the water will in future be filtered and sterilized before it enters the building?

This, basically, is the radical solution that was developed for the financial industry, and is now being taken up by other critical sectors across the globe – including government, technology, healthcare, oil and gas industries. It is a form of isolation technology called “DOM mirroring” that is delivered as a cloud service that ensures that only cyber-sterile e-mails, documents or websites can be accessed by employees on your network.

Education can only go so far

Yes, we must begin by increasing security awareness with basic training. But a typical employee cannot expect such training more than once or twice a year at best. Follow that up with posters and warnings about the increasing sophistication of phishing attacks – but people have other priorities and can easily forget and just get on with their work.

Even top anti-spam solutions will fail to detect the very cleverest spear-phishing emails. A brilliant sandbox may expose hundreds of threats – but it only takes one getting through to compromise the organisation’s security. The economic model is always in favour of the attacker: they can send hundreds of mails and it only needs that one to get through, whereas the defender needs the right thing to happen every time.

User-awareness and detection-based technologies only get you so far: after 20 years fighting this battle, there is no silver bullet to stop clever phishing emails hitting their target. So it is worth asking yourself how safe do you feel when reading this article? If you are reading it on a website, there might be any amount of malware lurking behind this page. The problem is that the Internet pleases its users by providing a rich, responsive multimedia experience –­ a far cry from the static pages of 20 years earlier.

All that responsiveness is possible because of the hidden “active content” that lies behind surface appearance – the Flash and Java and other interactive elements. Beneath that polished surface sophisticated attackers can play with combinations of browser types, versions, IP ranges, language settings and many other variables to trigger malware delivery or to block delivery of protection measures.

But perhaps you feel safe reading this article because you downloaded it as a PDF? Then you should know that PDF downloads are a very popular malware vector and even a Word document is a lot more complicated than it appears on the surface.

If, however, you are reading this article on paper, a printed copy, then you can feel pretty secure. Because there is absolutely nothing but the visible words, no hidden code to carry infection.

This points the way to a solution: would it be possible to isolate the browser so that it appears onscreen as a clean image without any good or bad software seething beneath the surface? And could this be done in real time?

The isolation solution

Browser isolation takes the radical step of assuming that any page – however innocent it seems or however reputable its source – might be infected. It assumes that no-one should ever trust a native web page, but should only work with a “safe page” reproduction – just like the printed page, but accessible and interactive on a normal screen.

The success of this approach depends on its ability to give the user as good an experience as an ordinary Internet browser. If it fell short by being slow, lower definition or relatively unresponsive, then productivity would suffer and users would simply risk using the original version. Any change in the appearance or behavior that forced users to change the way they work would be counter-productive: they would expect everyday operations such as copy-paste and printing to work just as normal.

“Pixel mirroring” was an early isolation approach. It treats the page as an array of pixels to be reproduced at the endpoint. The result is a one-size-fits-all approach that makes no allowance for the actual content – whether text, image or video – whereas the hidden active content is specifically designed to improve the user experience by adapting the rendering to suit the content. So pixel mirroring tends to slow down page loading, reduce responsiveness and elaborate common operations such as printing and copy-paste.

The newer approach takes into account the actual content type and the dynamic manner it is represented in the browser – ie the “Document Object Model” (DOM). “DOM Mirroring” actively monitors the page tab for changes, translates those changes into DOM commands (without the underlying active content) and sends those commands to the end user’s device, so the safe page automatically updates in sync with the original.

So, for example, instead of sending a Flash video to the end point, the same movie will be sent as crisp, suitable quality HTML5, while non-active safe elements are simply transmitted as they are. All the natively available fonts and images can be safely transmitted to the end-user‘s browser whilst being sanitized to prevent font & image exploits to be used. The whole page still looks, feels and behaves just as it should, but it is now safe.

When it comes to installing isolation technology, you do not want the complexity of extra software, hardware or endpoints to manage. So the best isolation platform sits in the cloud as a service. Instead of needing to buy and roll out extra hardware or software, this cloud service can be immediately accessed across the organisation – include smartphones and personal devices – and can be kept constantly up-to-date and centrally managed without adding to the IT burden.


Instead of yet another security training session, why not ask for a demonstration of the power of isolation? The worldwide user response has been uniformly positive – notably in the highly critical and time conscious financial sector.

The DOM mirroring isolation platform was first developed in collaboration with JPMorgan Chase & Co and, according to their Chief Information Security Officer, Rohan Amin, the platform was deployed “with zero impact to users, providing a seamless user experience for our employees”. Since then it has been successfully adopted by many organisations worldwide, and it is already supported by teams in the United States, UK, Germany, Japan, Singapore and Australia to meet the growing demand.

The common factor among all the early adopters has been the need for constant Internet access, combined with serious concern about the attendant risks. They find that a cloud-based isolation service is easily and quickly deployed, without any disruption of normal working patterns. The users like it, and the reduction in risk is boosting both morale and productivity.

Yes, basic security training is a vital first step. But it has to be admitted that most employees’ first priority is their daily workload, rather than cyber security. You can only go so far with education – after that you should insist on isolation technology.

Spear-phishing isn’t going to go away; it’s simply too effective. Nowadays it makes much more sense to purify your water – and your communications – before they reach your employees.

Article by Jason Steer, CTO EMEA at Menlo Security.

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Tech job moves - Forcepoint, Malwarebytes, SolarWinds & VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 13-20, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Let’s clear the cloud visibility haze with app awareness
Increasingly, organisations are heading for the cloud, initiating new born-in-the-cloud architectures and migrating existing applications via ‘lift and shift’ or refactoring.
Story image
Remote Working
Successful digital transformation in the hybrid work era is about embracing shifting goalposts
As organisations embraced remote working, many discovered they lacked the infrastructure needed to support history’s first global load test of remote work capabilities.
Story image
Vectra AI
Understanding the weight on security leader’s shoulders, and how to shift it
Millions of dollars of government funding and internal budgets are being funnelled into cybersecurity to build resilience against sophisticated threats, indicating how serious this issue has become.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Trading up: It's time to swap core systems for flexible digital applications
This year will see more oranisations planning and commencing high tech renovations that will shake up the way they operate.
Story image
Digital Transformation
The Huawei APAC conference kicks off with digital transformation
More than 1500 people from across APAC have gathered for the Huawei APAC Digital Innovation Congress to explore the future of digital innovation.
Story image
PwC NZ unveils new Cloud Security Operations Center
PwC New Zealand has unveiled its new Cloud Security Operations Center for the entire Microsoft technology stack.
Story image
A third of companies paying ransom don’t recover data - report
Veeam's report finds 76% of businesses who are victims of cyberattacks paid the ransom to recover data, but a third were still unable to get their information back.
Story image
Alarming surge in Conti Ransomware Group activity - report
A new report has identified a 7.6 per cent increase in the number of vulnerabilities tied to ransomware in Q1 2022.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
AI-based email security platform Abnormal Security valued at $4B
"A new breed of cybersecurity solutions that leverage AI is required to change the game and stop the rising threat of sophisticated and targeted email attacks."
For every 10PB of storage run on HyperDrive vs. comparable alternatives, an estimated 6,656 tonnes of CO₂ are saved by reduced energy consumption alone over its lifespan. That’s the equivalent of taking nearly 1,500 cars off the road for a year.
Link image
Find out how a behavioural analytics-driven approach can transform security operations with the new Exabeam commissioned Forrester study.
Link image
Story image
Digital Transformation
Pluralsight and Ingram Micro Cloud team up on cloud initiative
Pluralsight has teamed with Ingram Micro Cloud to build upon cloud competence and maturity internally, and externally support partners’ capabilities.
Story image
Grasping the opportunity to rethink the metrics of a sustainable data centre
A data centre traditionally has two distinct operations teams: the Facility Operations team, and the IT Operations team. Collaboration between them is the key to defining, measuring, and delivering long-term efficiency and sustainability improvements.
Story image
A10 Networks finds over 15 million DDoS weapons in 2021
A10 Networks notes that in the 2H 2021 reporting period, its security research team tracked more than 15.4 million Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) weapons.
Story image
Meadows exits Ingram Micro New Zealand on a good note
We look at the resignation of Danny Meadows from Ingram Micro's New Zealand Unified Communications & Collaboration business unit.
Story image
Digital Transformation
How to modernise legacy apps without compromising security
At a time when digital transformation has become central to business, even the most important applications come with a ‘use-by’ date.
Story image
Supply chain
Jetstack promotes better security with supply chain toolkit
The web-based resource is designed to help organisations evaluate and plan the crucial steps they need to establish effective software supply chain security.
Story image
Cradlepoint expands its Cellular Intelligence capabilities
Cradlepoint has announced additional Cellular Intelligence capabilities with its NetCloud service.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
SAS announces new products amid cloud portfolio success
Analytics and AI company SAS is deepening its broad industry portfolio with offerings that support life sciences, energy, and martech.
Story image
Data and analytics could be key to higher selling prices in APAC
Sisense's latest report has found that almost half of data professionals in APAC think customised data and analytics can create better selling prices for their products.
Story image
Application Security
What are the DDoS attack trend predictions for 2022?
Mitigation and recovery are vital to ensuring brand reputation remains solid in the face of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack and that business growth and innovation can continue.
Story image
Could your Excel practices be harming your business?
While Excel has been the de-facto standard for budgeting, planning, and forecasting, is it alone, enough to support organisations in the global marketplace that’s facing rapid changes due to digital transformation?
Story image
Legrand unveils Nexpand, a data center cabinet platform
Legrand has unveiled a new data center cabinet platform, Nexpand, to offer the necessary scalability and future-proof architecture for digital transformation.
Story image
Power at the edge: the role of data centers in sustainability
The Singaporean moratorium on new data center projects was recently lifted, with one of the conditions being an increased focus on power efficiency and sustainability.
Threat actors are exploiting weaknesses in interconnected IT/OT ecosystems. Darktrace illuminates your entire business and takes targeted action to stop emerging attacks.
Link image
Story image
New vulnerabilities found in Nuspire’s Q1 2022 Threat Report
“Threat actors are quickly adjusting their tactics and these exploits tend to get industry attention, but the threat posed by older and attacks still persists."
Story image
Qualys updates Cloud Platform solution with rapid remediation
The new update is designed to enable organisations to fix asset misconfigurations, patch OS and third-party applications, and deploy custom software.
Story image
Data Center
Preventing downtime costs and damage with Distributed Infrastructure Management
Distributed Infrastructure Management (DIM) can often be a lifeline for many enterprises that work with highly critical ICT infrastructure and power sources.
Story image
Cybersecurity starts with education
In 2021, 80% of Australian organisations responding to the Sophos State of Ransomware study reported being hit by ransomware. 
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
CFOs using digital workers and AI to prevent unnecessary loss
New technology is now allowing CFOs to use digital workers to automate their accounting processes, making it easier for them to avoid unnecessary losses.
Story image
New Relic enters multi-year partnership with Microsoft Azure
New Relic has announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft to help enterprises accelerate cloud migration and multi-cloud initiatives. 
Story image
Maintaining secure systems with expectations of flexible work
Most office workers feel they've proved they can work successfully from home, and as much as employers try, things aren't going back to the way they were anytime soon.
Story image
Data backup plans inadequate, data still at risk - study
The Apricorn 2022 Global IT Security Survey revealed that while the majority organisations have data backup plans in place, data for many are at risk.
Story image
ChildFund launches new campaign to protect children online
ChildFund says WEB Safe & Wise aims to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online while also empowering them to become digitally savvy. 
Story image
Sift shares crucial advice for preventing serious ATO breaches
Are you or your business struggling with Account Takeover Fraud (ATO)? One of the latest ebooks from Sift can provide readers with the tools and expertise to help launch them into the new era of account security.
Story image
Cloud Security
Aqua Security createa unified scanner for cloud native security
“By integrating more cloud native scanning targets into Trivy, such as Kubernetes, we are simplifying cloud native security."
Story image
Vodafone NZ buys remaining stake in retail joint venture
Vodafone New Zealand has purchased the remaining 50% stake in the specialist joint venture (JV) with private equity company Millennium Corp.
Story image
Rubrik Security Cloud marks 'next frontier' in cybersecurity
"The next frontier in cybersecurity pairs the investments in infrastructure security with data security giving companies security from the point of data."
Booster Innovation Fund. A fund of Kiwi ingenuity – for Kiwi investors.
Link image
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
How to ensure ethical deployment of AI implementations
The increase in automation and machine technology such as AI and machine learning has unlocked a whole new level of scale and service to organisations. 
Story image
Nutanix study reveals financial services sector lagging with multicloud adoption
Nutanix has released new research that reveals the financial services sector is lagging behind when it comes to multicloud adoption.
Story image
Wireless Nation
Wireless Nation, N4L provide 4G network to remote NZ schools
Wireless Nation and Network for Learning (N4L) have rolled out the Rural Connectivity Group’s (RCG) new 4G network to better connect three Chatham Islands schools.
Story image
Nozomi Networks
Nozomi Networks, Siemens reveal software integration
Nozomi Networks and Siemens have extended their partnership by embedding Nozomi Networks’ software into the Siemens Scalance LPE local processing engine.