Want a Safer IT Environment? Combine Tools and Employee Mindset


If you asked 100 different people to succinctly describe IT’s overall role and function in a business, you would probably get 100 different answers. We do so many things, but most of all we are a commodity. People think of it as being normal, but it’s only when something doesn’t work that we are aware of the importance of IT.

As an IT professional, it's the job of our team to ensure people can work with the tools they have available. We make sure the network is safe and free of viruses and other threats. 

From that perspective, it's not too dissimilar to heating in a house. IT is the heating that makes sure everyone feels comfortable and safe. That analogy is particularly apt for Matexi, where we’re dedicated to creating inspiring neighborhoods.

We also take a close look at the environment and the surroundings people need to thrive. Is there a grocery store? Is there a doctor nearby? What would someone need to live their best possible life here? These and other important questions are the ones we answer every day.

But none of our work can happen if our staff aren’t able to use technology in a safe and effective manner. To enable this, IT must combine the right tools with a strong mindset of safety among our employees. 

The Security Factor

Not too long ago, our team collectively realized we had a problem on our hands.

On an infuriatingly regular basis, our network was regularly becoming infected with CryptoLockers—a sophisticated type of ransomware attack. For the record, this is the most common type of cyber attack happening anywhere in the world right now, and it's only getting more popular as time goes on. So it's safe to say we're not the only ones dealing with this issue.

At our Antwerp location, they were hit with a ransomware attack that was so bad they were locked out for five whole days. Because all of the data was encrypted and we weren't going to pay the ransom, we had to basically start over. We were forced to go back in and build everything from scratch.

Your company doesn’t just have personal or financial data to protect. Also think about your IP. @ciscogateway

Security is always an issue with any organization. It's critical to ensure no one gets access to our financial data. We also want to make sure our intellectual property is locked down. We have ideas, plans, and other things we don't want getting into the hands of our competitors to give them an advantage.

After this whole experience was finally behind us, we knew we had to start taking security more seriously.

The Search for a New Solution

Our go-to IT partner is ConXioN. After we outlined our problem and our long-term needs, they recommended Cisco. Their confidence didn’t simply come from their status as a premium partner of Cisco, but because they were the best vendor to fill the gaps in our security. Other vendors were considered, but Cisco was the industry leader in the field. 

We soon landed on multiple Cisco solutions, all of which would work together to help make our environment more secure. One of those was Cisco AMP, because we needed to guarantee we had real malware protection we could depend on. 

Cisco AMP is our endpoint protection. We started with all of our Windows 10 users to provide real-time malware protection on those PCs. Before, we used McAfee for employees and Kaspersky on the servers. To be honest, those tools did little to stop issues like CryptoLockers. Since we implemented Cisco AMP, we no longer run into those problems. 

We also use Cisco Umbrella, which is a type of advanced web filtering. It works alongside OpenDNS to scan everything that comes into our network and isolate anything that looks suspicious. We also use the "Tag" functionality, which has been invaluable. If an employee receives a mass email, for example, it gets tagged "Bulk." This process was one of the first to help build a mindset of safety among our employees. They’re more conscious than ever of the types of email they receive. 

Tagging mass emails can help provide a visual red flag for end users. Help make security easy. @ciscogateway

Finally, we also deployed Cisco CES, which includes features like advanced phishing protection and domain protection to help adapt to threats in real time and protect our entire email infrastructure. We’re now protected from not only ransomware and phishing, but also spoofing and more.

The key impact here is that we stop issues before they arise in the first place. Our email is being scanned to detect small issues today before they become much larger—and potentially expensive ones—tomorrow.

Even today, for example, roughly 80% of the emails we get on a daily basis are spam. But we're only in a position to know that because we can see in real time how many are being blocked by our Cisco email security. 

The Right Tool Is Just the Beginning

These are the tools we've put in place to help address what was, for us, a very pressing issue. The tools are an important part of the process, but they are just one part of a much larger story. To ensure your organization is safe, mindset is equally important.

Part of our original issue was a general lack of awareness about cyber security and safety measures within our company. At the same time we started deploying those Cisco solutions, we also reached out to as many people as we could for training and education. We told people about telltale signs that a message isn’t legitimate. We taught them how to recognize a false email. We even explained what to do in the event they're unsure about a sender, link, or attachment.

It took a lot of time, but now our employees have that reflex they didn't have before. When they’re suspicious, they come to us for guidance. It was a big effort, yes, but necessary because the safety of our entire company is at stake. 

We're All in This Together

Because our systems are so inherently fragile, there is no such thing as a small problem. All of our network drives are connected to each other across the entire network. If even one person lets their guard down for a minute, the whole network can be corrupted by that lone individual clicking on the wrong email. This doesn't just create a lot of frustration, but it also leads to a massive productivity loss as well.

Every employee needs to play a part in your IT safety. @ciscogateway

It's the same type of relationship you have with your neighbors. If a criminal comes into the neighborhood and starts robbing houses, and one of your neighbors sees something and says nothing, everyone who lives in that area is at risk.

To protect that neighborhood, everyone needs to work together. Having the tools is one thing. But now that we’ve combined the best technology and the right employee mindset, we’re safer than ever.