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.
In case you missed it, the SEC just announced this week that it levied a $1 million fine to a prominent financial services firm for failing to adopt written policies and procedures reasonably designed to protect customer data. The SEC also stated it expects “SEC registrants of all sizes to have policies and procedures that are reasonably designed to protect customer information.”
Eze Castle Integration and Sadis & Goldberg just published ‘A Fund Manager’s Cyber Security Action Plan’ that covers what the SEC expects from managers. You can download the paper at www.eci.com/cyberplan or read an excerpt below.
Cybersecurity has fast become an imminent and pervasive threat to the investment management industry. Investment advisers, including those managing private funds (“Fund Managers”) are required to disclose and report a higher quantum of more sensitive and meaningful information than ever before, via Form ADV, Form PF, CPO-PQR and (for some Fund Managers) Annex IV. Cyber-attacks can be manifested in a variety of ways from multiple sources and can lead to direct losses (e.g., theft of funds, data or other property), reputational harm, regulatory actions, third party litigation and other forms of liability.
While it’s reasonable to believe that a typical CFO would not respond to a “spear-phishing” email from a fictional Nigerian prince, consider the risks presented by a more realistic cyber-attack wherein a personal email is sent to the CFO, purporting to be from your prime broker, auditor or administrator (information discoverable from your Form ADV), mimicking the patterns and style of previous email communications (discoverable from your email server) and asking for confirmation of a recent wire or some other sinister request. Internal attacks such as this are discussed further throughout this paper, and each one has the potential to cripple a fund and/or damage thousands of investors.
The below information is an excerpt from Eze Castle Integration’s 2016 webinar: The Evolution of Investor IT Due Diligence.
Investors have long been asking questions about firm operations and even technology. But with the way IT has evolved over the last 5-10 years, it’s no wonder investor inquiries have changed in both size and scope. Of course, in addition to technology evolution, we’ve also seen influences on the regulatory side, as the SEC continues to examine and evaluate firms’ security practices, which ties heavily into technology.
In looking back, it’s not unfair to say that 10 years ago, technology was what we’d call a “check the box” category. An investor due diligence questionnaire may have been one or two pages and focus mostly on firm investment history, performance, etc. On the IT side, it may have said “are you using an outsourced IT provider” or even “do you have a disaster recovery system” but beyond that, there was very little inquiry into the types of technologies being used at hedge funds as well as the protections in place to mitigate risk.
Of course, times have changed and now we see investor DDQ documents upwards of 5-10-20 pages in length and asking great levels of detail about technology, cybersecurity and operations. So let’s talk a little bit more about the influences for this due diligence evolution.
Categorized under: Hedge Fund Due Diligence Cloud Computing Security Disaster Recovery Hedge Fund Operations Hedge Fund Regulation Infrastructure Communications Outsourcing Business Continuity Planning Trends We're Seeing
In today's Eze Castle Tech Tip: we're discussing myths about Voice over IP -- or hosted voice -- services.
It’s no secret that investment manangement firms (including hedge funds and private equity firms) have historically been divided over the use of public and private clouds. We’ve discussed it in depth here on the Hedge IT Blog, explaining the differences between the two and why most funds are choosing to go with a private cloud solution.
A case can be made, however, that there’s a time and a place for each cloud platform and both offer their own advantages for financial services firms. We’ve taken a look at some of the key areas firms will consider when looking at public and private clouds and identified which we think comes out on top.
Service & Support
Investment firms demand uptime to ensure operational efficiency and profitability. Public cloud providers, however, do not offer investment-specific IT support and rather have limited customer service representatives troubleshooting the most basic of email and desktop support issues.