Are cybersecurity attacks on the rise?

ISSA-secure-iowa-2016- Dave Nelson, CISSP, is president and CEO at Integrity.

Information security professionals and business leaders from around the state will converge on Ankeny on Oct. 4 for the fifth annual Secure Iowa Conference. There will be sessions on digital forensics, developing information security programs, and everything in between. (Attendance is free and you can register at www.secureiowaconference.com.)

A theme in many of the presentations will be the rise of specific attacks. Presenters will discuss the nature of current threats against companies and technology platforms. Attendees will hear from the FBI about the types of cybersecurity attacks they are seeing, specifically in Iowa.

What I wish we had, though, were better statistics. We’ve got data, statistics, analysis of big data and so on to prove any narrative we want to espouse. The problem is, we can’t believe all of it.

The reason isn’t that the data is faulty or inaccurate. The problem is that the data is incomplete. We are missing huge, and I mean huge, chunks of data about breaches.

The Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report has been published for a decade now. In the last report they even noted that some statistics may be skewed because a firm that participated in previous reports did not participate this year. That firm specializes in a certain type of breach, and therefore a lot of that data is missing from this year’s report.

Because of these large chunks of missing data, we don’t truly know how many unpatched servers were compromised or how many incidents actually resulted in a breach. The vast majority of incidents are never reported.

Think of it this way: Are you going to call the police every time you have a virus outbreak that takes a system offline or encrypts your files? Probably not, but it was a reportable security incident that would affect breach statistics. Are you going to call the FBI when someone sneaks a peek at personnel records to see what salary everyone on the team makes? Doubtful, but that’s still a security incident.

Millions of these events go unreported each year because they either don’t result in much if any monetary damage or you simply handled the issue in-house or you didn’t want the potential media exposure.

Don’t get me wrong, cybersecurity is absolutely a huge problem and we are under attack every minute of every day. The evidence we have suggests things are getting worse. I just hate to say for sure how much worse or in what ways when we don’t have all the data.

So I’m going to ask for your help. When you have a security incident, file a report with the FBI at www.ic3.gov. Most of these cases will never be investigated. However, the information you provide will help us have better statistics about the types and source of attacks we are facing today. This will only help in determining the best way to overcome our adversaries.

Email: dave.nelson@integritysrc.com Dave-Nelson-2015-resized

Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO

Website: https://integritysrc.com

Embracing the challenges of a website

- Alex Karei, marketing director for Webspec Design, blogs about web strategy.

“Maintaining your website” can be such an ugly phrase. It really seems to have a negative connotation to most people I talk to. Website maintenance is the chore that they have to do after they get done with their brand-new, shiny website, and the maintenance part isn't nearly as fun. 

People ask me a lot what my job title means, and what I do on a daily basis. To me, updating our website might actually be one of the most enjoyable things that are part of my job description. I don’t see it as a pain or a nuisance, but rather a fun challenge. You might say I’m biased, working for a web firm, but I’ve enjoyed working on websites since I was young(er).

I don’t know that I ever realized how much I like working on websites until I observed how much others may not enjoy them. I’ve never found working on a website to be a pain or an annoyance, but rather a challenge to be taken on. A website is something that I can improve every day in order to stay ahead of our competitors. There’s always something new to learn, and some new idea to be discovered.

Why I love working on websites

I have a legitimate reason to love working on websites — and it may not be what you'd expect. The thing I've observed with most people's website complaints is that there’s almost always a silver lining of benefits underneath their supposed website chores. Next time you throw your website a snarky look, just remember …

“It’s so much work!”

This thing that is so much work is one of the most robust marketing tools you have the potential to get your hands on. You can have so much powerful information packed into one website, and that information can be targeted to different users. Think about how big a brochure would be if it had to include the same information your website does. Someone could be reading for hours!

“The website’s never done!”

Something I wish others would understand is that just because a website isn’t done doesn’t mean that it’s not acceptable to be on the internet. Sometimes having a “phase 1” and a “phase 2” means that you’re able to push your marketing out the door quicker, or with more robust features later. Not done is not the same as "bad," or "incorrect." The website just hasn't quite reached its full potential. But with a little extra work post-launch, don’t worry. You can get there!

Websiteneverdone

“It’s hard to figure out how to update those images!”

I get it. Not truly knowing how to properly update your website can be a harder issue to deal with. However, I will still go back to a word I used earlier: challenge. Yes, it’s hard to figure out how to tackle a website issue when your main webmaster is on vacation and the handbook is, well, nowhere. But I would encourage you to not think of these issues as a nuisance, but rather as a challenge that you will overcome. Just try it! Even if the change is just a new head shot for your CEO, it can feel amazing to have conquered that assignment and have solved that problem. After all, the more challenges you take on, the better you’ll get at solving them (it’s inevitable).

How do you feel about updating your website?

 

Alex-Karei_YPFinalist2016Alex is the marketing & communications director for Webspec Design, a website design and development and digital marketing agency in Urbandale. Connect with her via:

Email: alex@webspecdesign.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/alex_karei

Instagram: www.instagram.com/alex_karei

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alexandriakarei

Why you (still) want international stocks

- Kent Kramer, CFP, AIF, is chief investment officer/lead adviser at Foster Group. He writes about investing for IowaBiz.com

Suppose I offered you a choice between two broadly diversified, similarly volatile, well-known investments. Investment A had increased in value 23.8 percent over the past 10 years, while Investment B had grown 78.62 percent during the same time period. If that was all the information you had available, wouldn’t you be thinking Investment B sounds like the better deal?

This is the classic “past performance is no guarantee of future results” dilemma. We’ve read this kind of scenario so many times that we are just waiting to hear that the actual results over the next five years were just the reverse, and in this case they were. Investment A grew by 77.64 percent, while Investment B increased by only 7.78 percent. 

So what were (and are) the investment options? Investment A is a broad index of most U.S. stocks. Investment B is a very broad index of most non-U.S. stocks. The time periods? The first, 10-year, window was from 2001 through 2010. The second, five-year, time period was from 2011 through 2015.

What’s an investor in 2016 to do?

There are at least three good reasons for an investor to strongly consider including international stocks in their portfolio today: global opportunity, the relative lower prices of international stocks versus their U.S. counterparts, and broader diversification of risk.

Global Opportunity

As of the end of July, the value of all publicly traded companies worldwide totaled a little over $40.5 trillion, spread over 12,588 companies. Companies headquartered in the United States represented slightly over 53 percent of that total value.* For stock market investors, this means that approximately 47 percent of the opportunity for investment in publicly traded companies is located outside the United States, in places as diverse as the United Kingdom, China, Brazil, Nigeria and Turkey, just to name a few. History indicates while not all will, there is a high likelihood some of these companies, and their country’s broad equity market, will succeed, potentially with higher returns than their U.S. counterparts.     

Stocks on Sale?

In today’s global financial environment, investment capital moves very freely across borders and between exchanges as technology links the entire world in a virtual real-time exchange of information and capital flows. This results in (among other things) stock prices that reflect the most current pooled information and expectations regarding risk and return for virtually every company in the world today. Professional investors from the most sophisticated institutions trade these stocks with each other every day in an attempt to add value to their portfolios. There must be an agreement on price that is deemed to be fair to both the buyer and the seller before any transaction is completed.

For companies (and countries) where the perceived risks are higher, buyers demand lower prices. These lower prices represent a demand for higher potential return on investment as compensation for taking on this risk of ownership.

One interesting measure used to gauge how expensive (or how cheap) a company’s stock price may be is the price-to-book (P/B) ratio. This ratio illustrates how much investors are willing to pay (price) for the underlying value (book) of a company. As of July 30, 2016, aggregate price-to-book ratios for non-U.S. stocks averaged 1.48, while price-to-book ratios for U.S. companies came in at 2.31.* This indicates global investors were demanding an approximate 36 percent discount in price to entice them to own the book value of non-U.S. companies. Investors sense many non-U.S. companies are operating in riskier financial and political environments and are, therefore, only willing to buy the shares of these companies at relative discounts (i.e., “on sale”). International investors are basically buying more book value per dollar than they can with U.S. stocks.

Diversification of Risk

Dimensional Fund Advisors LP prepares a Global Markets Overview at the end of each month. At the end of July, 2016, their overview identified 12,588 publicly traded companies with shares available to private investors. Just over 3,500 U.S. companies offered shares, while over 9,000 foreign companies offered shares. For investors wanting to spread their risk among a wide variety of competitively priced investments in economic and politically diverse markets, these numbers represent opportunity for risk management.

While there is never any guarantee regarding which investments will do well and when that may happen, there are reasonable steps investors can take, based on readily available information, to put themselves in a diversified, opportunistic position. Precisely what percentage of an investor’s portfolio should be devoted to international stocks (or U.S. stocks, for that matter) will vary and should be considered in view of an investor’s overall risk, return and liquidity preferences.

*Data from Dimensional Fund Advisors LP.

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