As you probably recall, our 2016 Private Equity CTO Survey – which we released at the end of November – highlights key IT priorities and investment areas driving private equity firms in 2017. And while we shared some high-level findings at the outset, we’d like to take the opportunity to dig a little deeper into some of the survey results over the next two weeks. Since the survey itself covered four primary areas, our next four Hedge IT articles will examine each of these areas independently and highlight some of the most interesting and thought-provoking findings.
To kick us off, let’s start by taking a look at some critical business priorities for private equity firms in 2017.
Drivers for Private Equity IT Investments
We all know and appreciate how technology can impact our day-to-day operations. For private equity firms, advances in technology have enabled their businesses to become more efficient and drive growth across the entire organization.
When asked to identify the top drivers impacting IT spend in the next 12 months, survey respondents highlighted the need for increased protection against growing cybersecurity threats, a desire to improve the investor/client experience, and the goal of improving efficiencies by refreshing outdated or legacy technology.
2017 is already shaping up to be an interesting year. With a new presidential administration taking office and the hedge fund industry coming off the heels of a challenging year, there’s a lot to keep an eye on. We recently hosted a panel with law firm Morgan Lewis to discuss these and many other topics as part of our “2017 Outlook for Hedge Funds: Risk, Regulation and Technology” event.
Read on for some of our panel’s key takeaways.
2017 Regulatory Outlook
While little is known about how a Trump presidency will operate, there could be potential tax savings for managers depending on how the administration chooses to regulate Wall Street.
Firms should expect to see reforms with the Dodd-Frank Act and the Volcker Rule, which could add more competition into the marketplace if limits on bank investments are adjusted.
SEC Focus Areas
Top six areas of focus for the Securities & Exchange Commission will likely be: (1) expenses and fees, (2) trade allocation, (3) material non-public personal information, (4) valuation processes, (5) operating partners and due diligence, and (6) security, privacy, insider trading and business continuity.
Cybersecurity is not necessarily part of every SEC examination, however, the bar will continue to be raised in terms of preparations firms will need to employ.
In 2016, the SEC provided additional guidance on business continuity and transition plan requirements, highlighting the need for hedge fund and financial firms to maintain their fiduciary responsibility to their clients and investors.
Categorized under: Security Cloud Computing Disaster Recovery Hedge Fund Due Diligence Hedge Fund Operations Hedge Fund Regulation Outsourcing Infrastructure Business Continuity Planning Trends We're Seeing
Due to changes in the cyber security landscape, traditional firewalls on the port level are no longer effective at managing traffic. Malicious traffic has the capacity to enter any open port, which provides great risk to firm security. Next-generation firewalls work further than port-based firewalls by adding application inspection and intrusion prevention. Next generation firewalls have the ability to scan traffic as it enters and leaves the network, therefore stopping potential threats.
Eze Castle Integration is increasingly implementing Palo Alto next-gen firewalls for our hedge fund and alternative investment firm clients. Palo Alto is not only a next generation firewall but it is also the market leader based upon ratings, support, pricing and overall performance. A Palo Alto firewall has the ability to detect what traffic is doing and immediately stop threats from spreading by distributing protection.
Unknown traffic is analyzed by Palo Alto Wildfire, where new threats are identified and protections are simultaneously developed. Upon the discovery of an unknown threat, the threat is not only blocked but updates are sent to all global subscribers within five minutes to be able to stop them from spreading. Due to this feature each threat and its variants are blocked without having to go through the analysis process again. Through Wildfire information is also fed through a filter which allows for automatic blocking of any correlated threats.
Older port-based models do not detect what traffic is doing, therefore allowing threats to port hop until they find an open port in which they can enter. Viruses are not port specific and can therefore utilize any port. Without analyzing what traffic is doing threats can easily bypass a port-based model.
The current threat landscape is such that security threats are more likely to arise from within your network as opposed to external sources. Internal users opening malicious emails or becoming victims of phishing schemes are now preferred methods for attackers. The next generation capabilities of the Palo Alto firewalls allow for deep application level inspection to detect and thwart these threats from opening backdoors to your network.
Additional Advantages of Next Generation Firewalls
All-in-one functionality: Next-generation firewalls bundle traditional firewall functionality with intrusion prevention, antivirus and protocol filtering.
With October being cybersecurity awareness month it is an important time to ensure your firm and employees are aware of and using best practices, and security policies and procedures. Risk mitigation is needed to protect both the firm and its employees from savvy hackers and attacks. Data breaches continue to wreak havoc on businesses, and the cost is continuously rising. According to the Ponemon Institute, the total average cost of a data breach is now $4 million, up from $3.8 million in 2015. Hackers have everything to gain while your firm bears reputational and operational harm.
While companywide policies should reflect long-range expectations and corporate best practices, they should also include tactical recommendations that employees can follow to ensure they are complying with the company’s overall risk strategy. To get started here are just a few pieces of advice we offer our investment firm clients and remember to not only inform employees on what to do, but also what not to do.
Private equity firms have been slow to embrace outsourcing, but managing data and technology is more complex than ever. With increasing regulatory requirements and a growing urge to focus on core competencies, PE firms are shifting their views of the back office. In case you missed our recent webinar on 'The Transformation of Private Equity Operations', speakers from Citco Fund Services and Eze Castle Integration examined the changing tide for private equity operations and how CFOs, CTOs and fund managers alike can control operating costs, maximize efficiency and better perfect operational workflows.
Drivers for change.
The number one reason for managers to make the switch to an outsourced solution is the desire for managers to get back to their roots. The idea of back office transformation is really founded in that managers have found themselves spending much more time doing everything but raising money and investing money.
Beneath this layer, back office transformation is also driven by regulation, investor transparency, the lifecycle of a private equity firm, and global reach. Slow adoption, fast results. The private equity sector has been slow on the uptake when it comes to outsourcing, and we contribute this lag due to lack of education on the process and benefits of outsourcing. In the past three to five years, adoption in the PE space has increased because it is cost effective, secure and feature rich. Private equity firms that have made the switch wonder why others are not doing the same. The idea of leveraging an experienced managed service provider is one that private equity firms have really embraced because there is no burden for firms to hire and attract talent, which can be challenging and expensive.
The new Apple iOS version 10, that was released today, delivers some cool new features but before jumping in we recommend you review the following upgrade steps.
Here’s why. As with any major update, there can be risks associated with early adoption until issues are uncovered and Apple has the time to debug and fix them. Eze Castle Integration has learned of some significant potential issues including risk of data loss due to incompatibilities with mobile device management (MDM) applications.
So here’s a critical to-do list before starting the iOS 10 upgrade.
FIRST - BACKUP
Backup your device. Always take a backup before updating your device.
1. The best way to do this is via WiFi at night when the device is also plugged into a power source (computer or electrical outlet). iCloud will back up your device on its own if configured correctly and provided you have enough storage. To ensure this is occurring, launch the Settings App -> iCloud -> Backup and see what it says next to “Last Backup:”. If it only states a time, then it means it backed up today and no further action is needed. If it says a date, you can back up the device by clicking “Back Up Now”. (Note: WiFi is required to back up this way). If this fails, you can back up to iTunes (see next bullet) or clients can call ECI’s Help Desk for assistance.
2. Alternatively, you can backup using iTunes. Plug the device into a computer, launch iTunes, right-click on your device and click “Back Up.”
Manually backup passwords. Ensure you know your iCloud passwords, iTunes Store password, email passwords and any other critical passwords. Write them down and test them. Then safely and securely discard that information. As a best practice, there are secure password storage applications available through the App Store.
Copy anything you can’t live without. Backup anything (i.e. photos) that you cannot live without. Do so in a way that you can verify the backup easily. One option is enabling iCloud Photo Library so you can access copies of your photos on all your other iOS devices.
As we work with clients on completing due diligence questionnaires (DDQs), one increasingly common question is, “does your firm block access to data sharing sites such as DropBox or Google Drive?”
Generally the answer to this question should be ‘Yes,’ but that isn’t always the case because public file sharing services such as these are very convenient, and firms may overlook the security risk they pose. Additionally, employees accustomed to using Dropbox for personal use may be tempted to go for convenience over security when they need to share a large file or data set.
However, with security threats multiplying exponentially, hedge funds and alternative investment firms need to be proactive in protecting data and personally identifiable information (PII) from accidental and malicious insider risks. That’s why for secure file sharing Eze Castle Integration includes Varonis' DatAnywhere product as a standard feature within our Eze Managed Suite. Varonis' DatAnywhere offers users seamless and secure collaboration and file sharing across devices.
Beyond security, Varonis' DatAnywhere is easy to use. Users receive the same drag-n-drop experience as shared network drives or a cloud sync folder, which means no need for training on complex user interfaces and collaboration workflows. Additionally, data is automatically backed up and version controlled.
On Thursday, August 25, Apple released iOS 9.3.5, the latest version of its iOS and one that should not be ignored. This update addresses multiple security vulnerabilities – namely three iOS flaws that cybercriminals or governments can use to steal confidential messages and eavesdrop using your device’s camera and microphone. It is recommended that all iOS devices be updated immediately.
The Story Behind Uncovering the iOS Exploit
The story behind the discovery of these iOS exploits provides a glimpse into the lucrative world of cyberwar and cybercriminals.
It all started when an internationally recognized human rights defender, Ahmed Mansoor, received two suspicious SMS text messages with hyperlinks. Mansoor identified the messages as questionable and forwarded them to researchers at Citizens Lab and Lookout Security for investigation.
Citizens Lab and Lookout, according to their report, “determined that the links led to a chain of zero-day exploits (“zero-days”) that would have remotely jailbroken Mansoor’s stock iPhone 6 and installed sophisticated spyware.” This spyware, known as a government-exclusive “lawful intercept” product, would have made Mansoor’s phone “a digital spy in his pocket” able to use the iPhone’s camera and microphone to monitor activity near the device. It also would have allowed for recording of his WhatsApp and Viber calls, logging of messages sent in mobile chat apps, and tracking of his movements. Scary stuff.
Phishing at Its ‘Finest’
According to a Lookout Security blog post, "the attack sequence, boiled down, is a classic phishing scheme: Send text message, open web browser, load page, exploit vulnerabilities, install persistent software to gather information. This, however, happens invisibly and silently, such that victims do not know they've been compromised."
If you haven’t already, now might be a good time to check out the Eze Managed Phishing and Training Service (after you update your iPhone of course).
What did Citizens Lab and Lookout Security Do?
The SEC and other financial regulatory bodies have increased transparency demands with regard to cybersecurity in recent years, and as such, registered investment advisers face a long list of requirements to meet on the technology and operational front. In each of its cybersecurity guidance updates, the SEC has called out the need for hedge funds and private equity firms to "indicate whether they conduct periodic risk assessments to identify cybersecurity threats, vulnerabilities and potential business consequences", and if so, who conducts them and how often.
Risk and vulnerability assessments have not only become must-haves for financial firms due to these regulatory initiatives, but also as a result of growing investor calls for transparency. Side note: If you missed the news, Eze Castle Integration has expanded its cybersecurity consulting services to deliver comprehensive vulnerability assessments (as well as penetration testing and third party due diligence audits) across both internal and external networks. Click here to read more about Eze Vulnerability Assessments.
We field a lot of questions about what exactly a security vulnerability assessment is, so we thought it best to review what such a test entails.
Here’s a quick overview.
The type of risk assessment typically associated with information technology/security is an external vulnerability assessment. Essentially, this is the process of identifying and categorizing vulnerabilities related to a system or infrastructure. Typical steps associated with a vulnerability scan or assessment include:
Identifying all appropriate systems, networks and infrastructures;
Scanning networks to assess susceptibility to external hacks and threats;
Classifying vulnerabilities based on severity; and
Making tactical recommendations around how to eliminate or remediate threats at all levels.
The following article was written by Dean Hill, Executive Director, Eze Castle Integration and first appeared on Hedgeweek as part of their special report: A Guide to Setting up an Alternative Investment Fund in Europe.
There is no shortage of threats to financial services firms, and the list of requirements from investors and regulators alike is growing at a rapid pace. As a startup, it's important to demonstrate to investors that you take your business seriously, hence, investments in operational excellence are required. On the cybersecurity front, that means leveraging technology infrastructure with robust, security-rich features including intrusion detection and ongoing traffic monitoring, regular vulnerability assessments and next-generation software, firewalls and patches to keep hackers out and firm assets secure.
But beyond technology safeguards, today's successful financial firms require the wherewithal to implement comprehensive cybersecurity programmes – whether you're a seasoned firm or embarking on your first investment venture. The most effective cyber programmes will focus on four critical administrative areas: (1) developing comprehensive security policies and plans to prevent external cyber-attacks or internal breaches, (2) training firm employees on said policies and current cyber threats, (3) cultivating a culture of security awareness from Management down, and (4) managing an effective risk programme via external vendor oversight.
Plan: True cybersecurity defence starts with proper planning. To start, funds need to develop written information security plans – comprehensive documentation of the firm's corporate security initiatives. This should include technical and administrative safeguards being employed to secure confidential data. In the development stage, firms will need to identify systems and plans currently being used, technical procedures and systems in effect, employee access controls relative to confidential data as well as user responsibilities for both prior to and in the event of a data breach.