A Dime of Every ICO Dollar has Already Been Stolen

Over half of all the ICOs optioned in 2017 have already failed, according to analysts, and no small portion of those failures have been due to the scandalous 10% theft rate amongst ICOs.

Of the $3.7 billion raised to fund ICOs so far, around $400 million have been stolen, mostly by very basic phishing techniques that rack up over $1.5 million per month in pilfered cryptocurrency.

While many ICOs fail simply because the companies behind them aren’t sound (or the ICOs are designed to fail as good, old-fashioned “exit scams” for nefarious founders), ICO security is emerging as a cause for concern amongst savvy cryptocurrency investors.

After all, part of the appeal of cryptocurrency is that high-grade encryption and security are integral to the technology. If simple phishing attacks can scam one in 10 customers out of your virtual currency, that’s a perfectly valid reason for investors to pass on your ICO. Even if the phishing isn’t “your fault” — some customers are going to get scammed simply because they are dumb customers, regardless of how you try to protect them — it still creates a customer service and public relations problem if your theft rate is very high.

This problem grows worse when a typical response to ICO adversity is to simply ghost on your investors and customers, in what Bitcoin.com calls a pattern of “abandoned Twitter accounts, empty Telegram groups, websites no longer hosted, and communities no longer tended.”

Investors want to know you have processes in place not just to prevent hacks, but to adequately and professionally respond when hacks occur and times are tough. Proving you have basic internal controls and professional processes in place will soon be a standard part of ICOs, just like it is for any viable investment practice.

If you want to be sure you’re taking every reasonable professional measure to make your ICO secure and sustainable, you need an ICO security audit. An audit can demonstrate to your investors (and yourself) that you won’t be part of the 10% of ICOs that get easily hacked, which will help you stay out of the 59% percent of ICOS that fail.

Get your ICO security audit today.

Is Your ICO Prepared for a “51% Attack”…?

Blockchain-based technologies are appealing because they theoretically offer decentralized transactions with no corruptible (or hackable) central management authority — but the reality of blockchain is proving somewhat different than the theory. If your ICO is built on the same basic principles as Bitcoin or Ethereum, you need to be prepared for the fallout of a possible “51% attack.”

As outlined here, a 51% attack is a case where 51% of all the miners in blockchain ecosystem are aligned with a single hashpool, or consortium of centrally controlled miners. (You could actually enact this attack with any absolute majority of miners in an ecosystem, so anything above 50%.) With a majority of miners under one controlling authority, the entire blockchain ledger is vulnerable to manipulation.

Now, blockchain was ostensibly designed to not require a central authority, but it doesn’t prevent anyone from creating one by cornering the market on miners. Recent research has shown that greater than 50% of mining on both Bitcoin and Ethereum is performed by four of fewer miners.

In a way, blockchain encourages centralization, as the more miners you control, the less variance in mining occurs — because you increase the likelihood that any transaction in the ecosystem will be routed to your miners for initial authentication. While “paying” miners in Bitcoin should theoretically encourage a diverse group of miners to all get in on the action, in reality it simply encourages the creation of bulk mining operations to get a nice stable chunk of the Bitcoin output available.

Similar unexpected externalities also seem to be encouraging the physical collocation of several blockchain mining operations. Hydro Quebec, a Canadian hydroelectric utility, ran a campaign to encourage tech companies to set up data centers in its service area, as cold weather and cheap power are ideal for inexpensive server farms. Instead of tech startups, they attracted Bitcoin miners. As a result, any major outage or disaster to befall Hydro Quebec could now have a non-trivial effect on the entire cryptocurrency ecosystem.

Most developers and investors assume that a blockchain ecosystem will be naturally decentralized and thus naturally resistant to any brute force attack or natural disaster. It turns out that the real-world implementation of blockchain – especially blockchain as it is implemented under Bitcoin – perversely encourages centralization in unexpected ways. And, because there is no Bitcoin version of the Federal Reserve to oversee these market-cornering mining operations, the risks posed by blockchain centralization are hard to assess and harder still to thwart.

That’s why every ICO needs to perform a full security and operational audit to ensure your blockchain-type technology is hardened against these unexpected brute-force attacks, and to establish protocols to respond if your blockchain is targeted for 51% majority manipulation.

If you want the market to have confidence in your ICO, you must ensure your ICO is hardened against market manipulation. Sign up for an ICO audit today.

The Security Risks of the “Junk Food ICO” Trend

One of the most dangerous aspects of an ICO is the general ignorance regarding blockchain amongst not just the public, but investors as well. The public views blockchain tokens as some sort of weird hybrid of fairy dust and gold bouillon, in that you can sprinkle blockchain on an ordinary product and suddenly it becomes immensely valuable.

For example, the Long Island Iced Tea company saw its stock value triple when it changed its name to Long Blockchain. No one knows what, if anything, Long Blockchain will actually use blockchain tech for, but the name change alone was assumed to be valuable.

By the same token (pun intended), a major Hooters franchisee is planning to convert its customer loyalty system to a blockchain rewards program, so that you can now literally measure the value of certain tokens in chicken wings and hamburgers.

The problem with these gimmicks isn’t that they are fleecing investors who still think of Bitcoin as a conventional currency. The danger is the huge risks posed by tacking on blockchain as a cash-grab, rather than as a fully secured technology. These “Junk Food ICOs” — so called not because they involve fast food companies, but because they treat blockchain as something you can just grab as quick-profit takeout food — pose real “health risks” to their parent companies.

Blockchain in general, and Bitcoin in particular, can’t be counterfeited, but can very easily be lost or stolen. And if your ICO investors assume that your tokens can be used like a conventional currency, and that they have the same protections and conveniences as modern credit cards, you’re setting yourself up for some serious customer dissatisfaction the moment the first cache of your tokens gets misplaced or social-engineered away.

Conventional currency has a safety net built in. The amount of cash in circulation is regulated by central banks, most American consumer bank accounts are insured by the FDIC, mainstream credit cards have built-in fraud protections, and American investment vehicles are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. If something goes wrong, there are established protections to limit the damage and protocols for seeking restitution.

Blockchain tokens don’t have this same mature security ecosystem, and the public (nor investors nor corporations) clearly doesn’t appreciate the risks that entails. Thus, it is incumbent on you to build security into your blockchain ecosystem prior to any ICO — if only to prevent a wave of customer and partner backlash should anything go wrong.

Moreover, at some point a major consumer blockchain play is going to go bad, and the public will demand proof that any other token offering has better protections in place. The companies that invest in ICO security and compliance now will have a head start on every other blockchain firm when the public finally starts to take token security and management seriously.

Initial Coin Offerings are the Wild West of technology and investment — which means you might strike gold, or you might get robbed by bandits — but it also means that those who build their ICOs on secure foundations are best positioned to survive the chaos ahead.

If you want to ensure the security of your token technology, sign up for an ICO security and compliance audit today.

The Other “Security Problem” with ICOs

Independent Coin Offerings are called “ICOs” and not “token sales” precisely because they want to appear similar to investor-friendly initial public offerings of stock (IPO) — which raises a catch-22 compliance problem many startups and investors haven’t much thought about. Specifically, ICOs represent a gray area in U.S. Securities Exchange and Commission (SEC) regulations, and that could make investing in an ICO a compliance minefield for many investors.

The main question in any ICO is this: do the tokens in the sale qualify as a financial security?

If so, then the ICO must follow some very specific rules to govern the sale, many of them identical to a conventional stock IPO. If your tokens are securities, your ICO must be registered with the SEC, and must be overseen by a registered broker. This is no small undertaking, but it has the advantage of laying out some clear rules to handle the token sale.

Many times, however, the SEC simply refuses to comment on whether an ICO is actually selling a qualified security. This means that — at some undetermined point in the future — your tokens could be retroactively classified as any of several asset classes, which in turn means that any initial investors are taking a risk beyond just the normal possibility of coins declining in value.

Anyone can buy a publicly traded stock, but if the SEC doesn’t consider your token equivalent to a public stock, it limits who is allowed to buy your coins under U.S. law. In theory, investors could be forced to divest themselves of their coins should the SEC later decide that your ICO sold an asset class that your investors weren’t qualified to buy — even if that divestiture causes a serious financial loss. Your investors could be forced to sell their tokens when their price is at rock bottom, all based on some unforeseen SEC decision.

This limitation applies even to sophisticated investors. For example, while hedge funds and accredited individual investors can buy pretty much anything, many mutual funds or retirement funds can only hold public stocks or bonds, and many venture capital funds can only hold stock in companies that have not yet issued an IPO. (Once a stock goes public, a VC fund usually has a window to divest, but can’t hold the publicly-traded stock for very long.)

Complicating matters further, unless your ICO qualifies as a crowdfunding instrument, it may be impossible for non-accredited investors — which is to say, average people who don’t have high net worth — to buy tokens during your sale. No one has stopped non-accredited investors from buying Bitcoin, but there’s no legal standard to prevent the SEC from treating your ICO differently.

Both the SEC and FINRA have issued investor guidelines for participating in ICOs. This is the playbook that smart coin-buyers will be following, and the standard your firm must be ready to meet.

Before issuing an ICO, it’s critical that your organization review the legal structure underpinning your token sale, both to prevent it from running afoul of regulatory guidance, and to protect yourself from investor backlash should the SEC decide to reclassify your tokens as a highly regulated asset class at some point in the future.

12 Critical Due Diligence Questions to Ask ICOs

Many of the most innovative companies today are choosing to raise money through token sales. Cryptocurrencies seem to be flowing more freely than investments through traditional VC route. Additionally, we’re seeing participation on a worldwide scale. It’s exciting! Who doesn’t want to earn 25x on their money? Yes, it’s fun to throw a few Ethereum at a “too good to be true” deal, but the risks are extraordinary. It’s almost certain you’ll end up losing money.

Some deals are better than others, and it’s up to you to find the good ones. Due diligence shouldn’t be reserved just traditional investors. To support the long time viability of ICOs as a funding model, it’s critical that we start being selective into which project we back. A focus on diligence and quality will raise make it nearly impossible for a scam to be successful.

Below I’ve assembled a list of key questions to consider when evaluating a token sale. If the company’s whitepaper or website doesn’t provide enough detail, I encourage you to ask the founders directly. You’ll quickly be able to determine which companies are mature enough to deserve your hard earned money.

Is the business entity properly structured? – Is there a formed business entity? What jurisdiction does the entity reside? Is it managed by a board of directors or foundation? How is the business structured?

How experienced are the founders? – Have the founders built companies or tremendous value in the past, or is this the first time? What makes the founders unique for this opportunity?

How experienced is the engineering team? – Are there industry leading experts on the team? Is key development being outsourced?

Do you have a personal connection with any on the executive team? – Do you have any close connections on LinkedIn with any key management? Is the team completely outside of your professional network?

How does the company approach risk management? – Is the company simply reactive to business and information security risks? Have contingencies been planned in detail? Are all attack vectors documented and managed?  Does the company have a culture that emphasizes security over convenience?

What are the internal fraud prevention controls? – Have segregation of duties been setup around key financial processes? How are funds moved and managed on a day by day basis? Does the company have a documented code of ethics?

How are key internal processes managed? – Is there an information security policy? What is the business continuity plan? Is there any incident response plan?  How is customer support managed?

Have you audited your smart contracts? – Have smart contracts and other code been audited by a third party? What are the internal processes for code quality and static analysis?

How are information security vulnerabilities managed – Is there internal vulnerability scanning? Are external endpoints pentested by a third party?  Have all medium and higher identified vulnerabilities been remediated?

How mature is the system architecture? – Are key components properly segregated to minimize risk? Can the system architecture be clearly described in a diagram? Has external exposure been minimized?

Is there a communication plan? — How are you notified if there are problems in the system or offering?  What are the scenarios in which token buyers would not be contacted?  What is the breach notification policy?

How transparent is the company? — How much information was provided up front? How did the company respond with regards to their weaknesses?

This is just a small sample of the questions you should be asking when evaluating an ICO.  If you’re planning an ICO, giving this type of information up front will help buyers evaluate the risks involved with yours company.  Building trust does not come easy.

As a token buyer, ICOs are a great way to participate in blockchain technology.  Asking the right questions will help you minimize risk.

Security for ICOs and Token Sales

Last week, we introduced the ICO Information Security Framework (IISF) to assist companies in the process of a token sale by improving information security practices.

ICOs and token sales have recently attracted a lot of attention from hackers/fraudsters due such large values at stake. If you’re considering a token sale, it’s important that you protect your own environment and communication channels to ensure that funds are not stolen. The IISF was created to so that you can have high assurance that your company’s internal processes are in-line with information security best practices and reduce the risk of a compromise.

Additionally, it’s extremely important to build a strong information security foundation so that you can gain a high level of trust with investors and/or potential token buyers. ICOs are usually opaque at best, we help companies prepare their security practices and communicate trust to all parties involved.

The ISO Information Security Framework™ has been developed with the core purpose of enabling companies that are planning an ICO or token sale to build a strong foundation of information security and compliance. This is important to increase investor and customer confidence and improve the maturity of the business processes under control by the company. The IISF can serve as a due diligence function for those wishing to buy tokens.

If you’re considering an ICO or token sale and are looking for guidance on how to improve your information security practices, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

OSSEC & ELK Stack Integration

OSSEC is the leading open-source host-based intrusion detection system (HIDS) software on the market today. OSSEC performs log analysis, integrity checking, Windows registry monitoring, and much more. It is setup in a server client configuration that can be installed and setup from simple scripts within minutes.

OSSEC offers an open-source web user interface (Web UI) that is very basic and not very customizable. To change this, companies started to integrate with Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana (ELK Stack) giving users more freedom to customize dashboards and find the data they needed faster. This integration has been lead by the open-source project from the team over at Wazuh. They have made a customized version of OSSEC that is configured to automatically integrate with the ELK Stack which also includes some custom OSSEC rules that helps you monitor your systems in regards to PCI and CIS compliance.

This post will guide you through the process of installing OSSEC Server and guide you how to integrate OSSEC with with the ELK Stack on Ubuntu 14.04 Server. We will also describe how to import the custom PCI and CIS Wazuh dashboards and custom rules.

OSSEC Server Installation

Copy scripts folder to server using a secure copy command

scp -r {{PATH_TO_TEMP_FOLDER}} {{ubuntu_user}}@{{Server_IP}}:/home/{{ubuntu_user}}/

SSH into your Ubuntu 14.04 Server and go to the OSSEC_ELK_Temp directory in your home directory. Run the OSSEC_Server_Install_Step1.sh bash script.

sudo bash OSSEC_Server_Install_Step1.sh

Answer Y to confirm the installation from apt-get and then enter your preferred language.


On the next screen, press ENTER to continue and then type “server” when the installation asks what kind of installation do you want.


For the proceeding questions, use the following answers:

  • Question 2 choose the default option [var/ossec]
  • Question 3.1, enter your email address and confirm the SMTP server.
  • Question 3.2 choose the default option [y]
  • Question 3.3 choose the default option [y]
  • Question 3.4 choose the default option [y] for both questions
  • Question 3.4 Part 3 choose the default option [n]
  • Question 3.5 choose the default option [y]

After answering all the questions, press ENTER to run the installation and your final result should state “Configuration finished properly.”


Press ENTER and the bash script will start OSSEC. A result of “Completed.” should be shown


Next you will want to add an agent to get some logs flowing into OSSEC. Press A to add an agent and then fill out the Name of the new agent, the IP, and the agent id. Confirm adding the new agent by entering Y.

NOTE: The bash script automatically opens the agent manager but to add more agents in the future run /var/ossec/bin/manage_agents


OSSEC Agent Installation

Open the OSSEC Agent Manager console if it is not open already

sudo /var/ossec/bin/manage_agents

Enter “E” stating you want to extract an agent key and then enter the agent ID that you want to extract. Highlight and copy the key to be used after the agent has been installed.


Copy Scripts folder to the agent server using a secure copy command

scp -r {{PATH_TO_TEMP_FOLDER}} {{ubuntu_user}}@{{Server_IP}}:/home/{{ubuntu_user}}/

On the Agent Server, change into the OSSEC_ELK_TEMP folder and then run the OSSEC_Agent_Install_Step2.sh bash script to install the OSSEC Agent

sudo bash OSSEC_Agent_Install_Step2.sh

A configuration window will appear and enter the IP Address of your OSSEC Server


In the Agent Manager, enter “I” stating you want to add an agent key, and then paste the key into the agent manager. Press enter, and confirm the entry by entering “y”.


ELK Stack Architecture

Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana can be configured in a multitude of ways. This guide will be using the single host configuration where all components of the ELK Stack including OSSEC is installed on the same virtual machine. The ELK Stack can be distributed across multiple hosts and this configuration can be explained more in detail here in the Wazuh project documentation.

ELK Stack Prerequisites

Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana require the Java 8 JRE to be installed. To install this, on the OSSEC Server machine go to the scripts folder that you copied over earlier and run the ELK_Stack_Prereqs_step3.sh bash script to install Java 8 JRE.

sudo bash ELK_Stack_Prerecs_step3.sh

Logstash Installation

To install Logstash, on the OSSEC Server machine go to the scripts folder that you copied earlier and run the ELK_Stack_Logstash_Install_step4.sh bash script.

sudo bash ELK_Stack_Logstash_Install_step4.sh

Install Elasticsearch

To install Elasticsearch, on the OSSEC Server machine go to the scripts folder that you copied earlier and run the ELK_Stack_Elasticsearch_Install_step5.sh bash script.

sudo bash ELK_Stack_Elasticsearch_Install_step5.sh

The script will automatically open up the elasticsearch.yml file, in the file set the cluster.name equal to “ossec”, and the node.name equal to “ossec_node1”


At the end of the elasticsearch.yml file, add the following lines shown in the image below to the end of the file. Then save the file and exit out of it.


Next, the script will open the limits.conf file. Add the following lines shown in the image below to the end of the file. Then save the file and exit out of it.


Next, the script will open the default/elasticsearch file. In this file set the ES_HEAP_SIZE equal to half the amount of RAM on the system.


In the same file, uncomment the following lines shown in the image below. Then save the file and exit out of it.


Kibana Installation

To install Kibana, on the OSSEC Server machine go to the scripts folder that you copied earlier and run the ELK_Stack_Kibana_Install_step6.sh bash script.

sudo bash ELK_Stack_Kibana_Install_step6.sh

Once the script has completed, in your web browser on your local machine navigate to http://{{OSSEC/ELK Host IP}}:5601. This should open up the Kibana web interface.

Next you will need to import the OSSEC index pattern by typing “ossec-*” into the textbox and then click create.


In the navigation select “Discover”. This shows all of the recent OSSEC alerts. 


Wazuh Custom Dashboards

By default, the custom Wazuh dashboards are not imported into Kibana. To import them, navigate to this link and download the JSON file to your local machine.

In Kibana, go to settings, objects, and then click on import and select the JSON file you just downloaded.


3 dashboard should appear in the list. Click on the eye icon next to the OSSEC Alerts Dashboard to open the OSSEC Alerts Dashboard.


Wazuh Custom Rules

To import Wazuh’s custom OSSEC rules, on the OSSEC/ELK server, navigate to the scripts folder that you copied earlier and run the Wazuh_Rulesets.sh bash script.

sudo bash Wazuh_Rulesets.sh

When crontab opens, add this line to the bottom of your crontab file to update the Wazuh rules on a weekly basis, then save and exit the crontab file. 

@weekly root cd /var/ossec/update/ruleset && ./ossec_ruleset.py -s


In the root directory of your user’s home folder on the OSSEC/ELK server, run the following commands to remove the temporary files.

sudo rm -rf ossec_tmp/
sudo rm -rf OSSEC_ELK_TEMP/


Completing this guide and getting OSSEC and the ELK Stack running is just the start of what can be accomplished. Custom Kibana dashboards can be created that allows you to monitor the alerts that are most important to your company. OSSEC can also be customized allowing you to create custom rules and rulesets that could be integrated into your custom dashboards. As more agents are added to the OSSEC server and more user start accessing Kibana, using the distributed architecture would become more important allowing the system to grow and expand.

We would like to thank the Wazuh project for all the hard work and dedication they have put in making the integration of OSSEC and the ELK Stack quick and simple. If you would like more information about the Wazuh Project, the ELK Stack, or OSSEC, view the links below.

Wazuh Project

ELK Stack


Host Based Intrusion Detection Systems

Host based intrusion detection systems (HIDS) is a intrusion detection system that is placed on a single host system. This involves an agent being installed on the host system that monitors and reports the system configuration and application activity. Some common abilities include log analysis, integrity checking, policy enforcement and, rootkit detection. Most HIDS can be customized for specific use-cases allowing you to build custom rules right out of the box.

In the market today, there are many HIDS available to be implemented into your infrastructure. In this post will be focusing on solutions that could be used by both startups and enterprise level businesses. The three HIDS that we will be discussing are Threat Stack, Tripwire, and OSSEC. We decided to focus on these solutions due to the market share that they hold, and if they included an open-source solution.

Threat Stack

Threat Stack is a SaaS offering that strives to provide “continuous security monitoring for public, private, and hybrid cloud infrastructures…”. This includes protecting servers and data protection. Treat Stack features workload insights, infrastructure monitoring, compliance reporting, threat intelligence, and vulnerability management. It works by creating a Threat Stack account and then installing the agent on one of the supported Linux Operating Systems (Windows not supported). All logs and alerts are sent back to the Threat Stack server and then can be viewed using the Threat Stack web interface.


Tripwire is a “software security and data integrity tool useful for monitoring and alerting on specific file change(s)..”. Unlink Threat Stack, Tripwire does work on Windows Operating Systems, but requires the paid enterprise version. Tripwire creates a baseline of all files in an encrypted file and then monitors the files for changes. It works by installing the Tripwire server application on a Linux server for the open-source version, and Windows/Linux for the enterprise version. Agents are installed on the servers and configured to know what files should be monitored.

Tripwire is available in an enterprise and open-source version. The open-source version is very limited and does not generate real-time alerts. The enterprise version is a full-version of the software and can be setup to send out real time alerts upon intrusion detection. Tripwire Enterprise starts are $699 plus a node licensing fee on top of that.


OSSEC is a “scalable, multi-platform, open-source Host-based Intrusion Detection System…”. OSSEC has a powerful correlation and analysis engine that integrates log analysis, file integrity checking, Windows registry monitoring, and much more. OSSEC has a real-time alerting engine that can send notifications a variety of ways including Email, Slack, and PagerDuty. It works by installing the OSSEC server application on a Linux based host, and then installing the agents of a variety of host Operating Systems. The agent can be installed on Windows, Linux, and macOS. The agents and server communicate by sending encrypted messages using the Blowfish algorithm and compressing using zlib.

OSSEC is completely open-source and has a very active community. OSSEC can also be integrated with the ELK Stack giving you a powerful search and web ui. Alternatively, OSSEC has created its own web ui that can be downloaded and configured from the OSSEC Github account.


Platform Pros Cons
Threat Stack – Workload Insights
– Infrastructure Monitoring
– Deployment using Chef/Puppet/Ansible/Salt
– Compliance Reporting (Advanced/Pro Version)
– Vulerability Management
– Only Supports Linux
– No open-source version
Tripwire – Monitors files and reports unauthorized chanegs
– Creates baseline of all the files and then monitors for changes
– Open-source version is Linux only
– Open-source version does not generate real-time alerts upon intrusion dection
– All aleart for the open-source version are saved in log files
– Open-source version cannot detect any intrusinos already on the system prior to installation.
OSSEC – Agent runs on Windows, Linux, and macOS
– Server and agent communicates via encrypted messages
– Advance log analysis engine
– Can be integrated with Slack and PagerDuty
– Can be integrated with the ELK Stack
– Upgrading to newer versions can be difficult
– When upgrading, previous defined rules are overwritten by default values


Depending on the specific use-cases and the level of service that you are needing will guide you to which solution would be best for your company. If you are looking for a very good all around solution that has community support but no enterprise level support then OSSEC would be the best option. If you are needing the peace-of-mind of having a support team available to you at anytime then Threat Stack would probably be the next best option. Either way, adding a host-based intrusion detection system would not only help in your compliance efforts, it would also add an extra layer of monitoring and security giving you a deeper insight into your infrastructure.

HELP: I have my first security questionnaire – now what?

Don’t panic. We’re here to help!

In this post you’ll get the quick rundown on the first steps to take on how to respond to a security questionnaire when bidding for IT work from a large company and also insight into the process. While the security questionnaire may look intimidating, we’re here to break it down in easy to digest pieces.

But wait – why are these questionnaires even necessary and what is the company really hoping for? While best practices recommend tech founders to consider information security and compliance when writing their business plan – we know it’s not always possible. Large companies know that security is at the heart of trust and good business. Security matters to the customers, but also to the investors, employees, and partners.

What do security questionnaires ask?
The length of security questionnaires will differ – but some can be up to 300 pages long. They will ask for an in-depth description of your security controls, business continuity, change management and security policies.

Here are some sample questions:

  • Is there an enterprise level system in place to detect and remove malware, and what is the regular schedule of operating system and application patching on all equivalent systems?
  • There is a report structure in place that can be generated that can cross-reference authorized staff and physical access permissions so that Company can be assured that only properly authorized persons have direct contact with data, systems or other information.
  • Vendor provides a multi-level backup process that provides Company with redundant systems for business continuity and disaster recovery. These are included in the incident discovery and response plan that measures the mean time to recovery (MTTR).
  • Security awareness training is applied to all Vendor personnel working for, with, or on behalf of Vendor on a regular basis (at least yearly and upon hire).

To top it off, it’s not enough to just answer these questions – a lot of them will require you to take action and fix the gaps in your security protocols. Yet, you’re working on getting your startup off the ground and start selling product.

At Practical Assurance we know that it’s not always possible to have a dedicated security person on staff who is knowledgeable and can navigate through the security process. It’s not enough to just identify and fix the security gaps – you need someone who can preempt future ones.

9 Best Internal Control Examples

When developing a compliance plan for your company one of the first tasks is identifying how your information security management system operates. Below we have provided several internal controls examples to demonstrate the types of polices, procedures, and technical configurations a company may establish to build a strong control environment. Ideally, a pre-cursor to establishing internal controls is a risk analysis.

Controls are a means to mitigate risk. Adding a control could be seen as slowing down business, so it’s necessary to ensure that only the right controls are prioritized and implemented. You may be asking, what are internal controls? It can be anything from a policy that directs what should be done, a procedure which describes how something should be done to reduce risk, a technical configuration to prevent information exposure, or monitoring to detect malicious activity. Controls are generally categorized as preventive or detective.

Below are 9 examples of common internal controls:

Information Security Policy – a foundational document that defines the administrative, technical, and physical security requirements of an organization. It is a document that defines how information confidentiality, integrity, and availability is protected.

Annual Security Policy Review – a procedure to ensure that the information security policy remains up to date. Over time company goals change, there are personnel changes, and new threats emerge. Reviewing your information security policy annually will keep your company current.

Confidentiality Agreement – a legal document that employees typically sign that requires them to keep all company and customer data confidential. The purpose of this is to prevent information leakage.

Encryption Policy – a document that describes how and when a company uses encryption. An example encryption policy may state that all customer data in transit or at rest must be encrypted. Policies typically also specify encryption algorithms and key lengths.

Change Management – a process that enables the secure and structured approach to management changes to system configurations or application code. Change management is a category that often includes controls as testing and QA, source code versioning, peer review, and segregation of duties between developers and production engineers.

Backup and Recovery – a process that ensures that data remains available when needed. Companies often focus a lot on backup but fall short when developing recovery plans. Backups should be tested on a regular basis.

Security Awareness Training – people are often the weakest link in any information security program. Regular security training, reminders, and documentation to prove it occurred goes a long way in keeping auditors happy.

Semi-Annual Review – just as policies and procedures go stale, this control ensures that accounts and configurations on systems remain up to date. New employees are hired, job responsibilities change, and terminations happen. This ensures that system access control remains consistent with the workforce.

Vendor Patching – keeping software such as applications and operating systems up to date is one of the best ways to prevent getting hacked. Software patching should occur on a regular basis for normal updates and immediately for critical updates.