Like all security audits, an IT security audit serves to analyze an organization’s IT infrastructure in a detailed manner. It allows an organization to identify security loopholes and vulnerabilities present in their IT system. It also helps organizations to meet certain national and international compliance requirements.
Ideally, an IT security audit is conducted periodically for an overall assessment of the organization’s on-premise or cloud-based infrastructure. The infrastructure can be a whole IT network, and the integrations including network devices such as firewalls, routers, etc.
Why security audits are recommended periodically?
IT security audit involves verifying general security barricades and vulnerabilities that may be present in the hardware, software, networks, data centers, or servers. Simply put, IT security audits help organizations answer some important questions about the security of their current IT framework. Performing it periodic basis, answer the following questions:
- What are the current security risks and vulnerabilities that your system faces?
- Are your existing measures strong enough to protect the system from all kinds of cyberattacks? Are you able to quickly recover your business operations in case you face a data breach or service unavailability?
- Does your security system contain any steps or tools that don’t contribute to the process in a useful manner?
- What are the steps taken to address the issues found during the security audit? And what are the implications of such steps in terms of conducting the business?
- Are you in compliance with the necessary cybersecurity standards such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, ISO, etc.? Have you met all the security audit and penetration testing requirements as part of gaining their certification?
- Is your IT framework compliant with the set standards that follow the collection of sensitive data, it’s processing and retention?
Note: Certified security auditors usually conduct a compliance audit to gain certification from a regulatory agency or a reputed third-party vendor. There are always provisions for the company team in charge of the system’s security to conduct internal audits and gain a picture of the company’s security standards and compliance levels.
What are the steps to perform an IT security audit?
Whoever is in charge of the IT security audit can still confirm the process is done successfully and meets the required objectives by verifying if the following steps are taken, and the required information is derived:
1. Stating the company’s objective from the security audit
This is an important step, as it states what the organization wishes to gain from the security audit. It involves desired goals, business logic, the implication of short-term goals on the company’s larger mission, and so on.
It is important to keep few things in mind when setting up an objective for the IT security audit. Things such as the scope of the audit, assets included in the scope of testing, the timeline, compliance requirements, and ultimately an easy-to-understand final test report.
2. Planning the required steps and testing protocol
Going into the testing process and winging it may not always work out. Doing a pre-planning always makes the process smooth. You can decide the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders and testing personnel, the steps within the testing process itself, chosen tools for testing, evaluation of acquired data, possible logistics issues, etc.
It’s always best to document these decisions, which should then be shared with the participants and decision-makers of the organization.
3. Auditing the work done
Steps for the auditing process should be decided in the planning step, including the checklist, methodologies, and standards required.
Mandatory steps could involve scanning various IT resources, file-sharing services, databases, any SaaS applications being used, and even physical inspection of the data center to test its safety during a disaster.
Employees outside the testing team should also be interviewed to judge their understanding of the security standards and adherence to company policy so that these potential entry points could be covered as well.
4. Finalizing results
Compile all the information into a document accessible by the company stakeholders and the IT team for future reference. Make sure that the document is easy to understand to anyone reading it regardless of their technical knowledge. This will allow internal development or security teams to fix similar issues in the future if they occur.
Documenting the obtained test results as a report will also allow stakeholders to take important business decisions regarding the security of their customers’ information.
5. Remediation measures for discovered issues
This step involves following through with the solutions for issues mentioned in the final report document. Also, any recommended security fixes for the issues. Remediation measures include,
- Resolving issues found during the IT security testing process.
- Taking up better methods to handle sensitive data & avoid malware and phishing attacks by recognizing them immediately.
- Train employees in optimal practices to ensure overall security and other compliance measures.
- Addition of new technology to increase security and for regular supervision of any suspicious activity.
Remember, it is important that you know the difference between conducting an IT security audit as mentioned above and performing a risk assessment for your internal & external assets. An IT security audit immediately follows a risk assessment of the potential vulnerability and security risks that may be exploited, to be ideally conducted by the trained security experts or professionals to improve the overall cybersecurity posture of an organization’s internet-facing assets.
New Domain Extensions Are The Future for Startups – ReadWrite
Domain names — the focal point of the internet. There is no doubt the existence of a big-three-domains consisting of the .com, .org and .net. These three reign supreme. For over 30 years, these domain extensions have been used to house some of the internet’s most recognized websites. But with each passing year, these three popular domains come closer and closer to their digital transience. This is thanks to the ever-increasing unavailability of these domains as well as the rise of more creative, contemporary and vastly flexible alternatives.
In the early days of the Internet, like the 90s and 2000s, you could only choose from these three “dot” domain extensions. This small selection pool made the choices highly sought-after by default and tolerably iconic in their own right. But like every icon of the 90s and 2000s, their relevance fades with each passing year. Yet despite this fact, these domains – the .com in particular – are still a go-to for many entrepreneurs who are on the cusp of launching their next venture. And you can’t blame them. When we picture successful websites, they almost all seem to use one of these three domains as their home on the web – think Amazon.com, Wikipedia.org and SpeedTest.net.
“Sorry… that domain is not available.”
Most entrepreneurs have spent hours, days, or weeks brainstorming new business names. Then they enter their ideas into GoDaddy only to be met with a message saying, “Sorry… that domain is not available.” The immense popularity of the big-three domain extensions has resulted in fewer and fewer web addresses, with those extensions being available. As a result, these domain extensions can no longer do what they once did so effortlessly: establish a memorable address on the web.
It’s a lot like real estate; the folks who are early to the game get the best picking. With the domain registrar VeriSign reporting over 360 million domain registrations by the end of the first quarter of last year alone, there is no question that the internet real estate market is saturated. Having an entire market saturated presents an inimitable challenge. However, business is a field overflowing with challenges that are met with triumphs by way of solutions. Herein comes new domain extensions.
New Domain Extensions vs. Traditional Domain Extensions
During the last few years, we have ushered in a new era of internet real estate. The failing availability of the .coms, .orgs and .nets has given birth to some catchy new domain extensions, including everything from .earth to .agency. The list truly is endless.
New domains now bequeath creative power to young companies and extend their branding possibilities. For example, a new fictitious accounting group called Billiton Accountants would likely opt for the domain names, billiton.com or billitonaccountants.com, but both are, of course, taken. In that case, a solid substitute would be billiton.accountants. It’s short, memorable, and most importantly — it’s still available (at least as of this writing).
The sales pitch encouraging the choosing of new domain extensions as opposed to a traditional extension is centered around these points:
These new domain extensions are still just that, new. Thanks to this novelty, a vast majority of unique and distinctive name combinations remain untouched. This creates a coveted opportunity for more businesses to get a domain name they actually want.
Uniqueness is at times tantamount to memorability. Nothing makes something more memorable than being unique. Owners of new domain extensions will tell you how intrigued clients and prospects have been when presented with a business card festooned with a new domain extension — especially if an awesome wordplay is involved. For example: thebillionairesclub.com could just be thebillionaires.club.
New domain extensions are the future, and large corporations like Google know that. So for case, rather than go the traditional route, Google opted for the domain abc.xyz for its holding company Alphabet. This allowed Google to secure a piece of coveted internet real estate and create a level of protection surrounding their sister brand. And many other top corporations are grabbing these names in an effort to protect their brand.
A Prime Time to Protect Your Brand
In building on the point of protecting ones’ brand, another new wave of domain extensions known as Brand TLDs (top-level domains) are just around the corner. A Brand TLD allows a company to use its brand as its domain. Over 600 companies have applied for brand TLDs, and some companies are already using them. For instance, Google already has domains like ai.google, and British broadcaster Sky has already set up a redirect for the q.sky domain.
Despite their rise in popularity, many wonder if using a new domain extension rather than a traditional one could affect their website’s performance in search engines. The answer, according to Google themselves, is no. Using a new domain extension will not hurt your website search performance. Not utterly surprising given the companies own endorsement of these new domains.
Although the .com, .org, and .net domains will still be around for many more years, they will likely be used less and less with each passing year. Founders in the business naming phase can stop worrying about whether their .com is already taken (just accept that it most likely is) and start thinking of all the creative web addresses they can create using new domain extensions.
The internet is a vast space with an infinite amount of potential. And while the big-three domain extensions are still alive and well, they’re getting closer to their digital transience. As such, it might be time for you to consider more creative alternatives that can help your website reach its full potential in this era of change.
This is indeed a prime time to make a solid impression and bid farewell to the .com, .net and .org domain extensions. What interesting domain names will you create?
Image Credit: maxderoin; pexels; thank you!
Paying Employees With Crypto: Can Your Business Do It? – ReadWrite
Cryptocurrency has made some remarkable progress in the past few years. Bitcoin hit a peak of more than $60,000 this year, a jump of more than $50,000 since the year prior. Services like PayPal are also expanding crypto support as the once-niche resource breaks into the mainstream.
Not long ago, businesses were hesitant to dip their toes into the world of cryptocurrency. It seemed like a fad, was too volatile, or lacked the legitimacy to be a worthwhile business investment. Now, with major banks and other companies embracing crypto, more start to believe its benefits finally outweigh its risks.
Many businesses now accept cryptocurrency payments for their products and services. Some have gone a step further, though. For example, there’s a blossoming trend of companies paying their employees with Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.
If you’ve heard of this trend, you likely have a few questions. Is it legal to pay employees with crypto? Is it practical? How could a company do that? Here’s a closer look.
Benefits of Paying With Crypto
Why a business would want to establish a cryptocurrency payroll may not be immediately clear. Crypto compensation is a complicated process, but it can have several benefits, too. One of the most significant is its security and efficiency, especially for international payments.
With fiat currency, cross-border payments have to go through conversions and intermediaries, which can incur fees and slow things down. Since cryptocurrencies run on decentralized blockchains, they can reduce costs associated with these payments. For example, employers can send money to international employees instantly without any intermediaries.
The distributed and transparent nature of blockchains also gives crypto payments some security benefits. Anyone can see blockchain transactions, but no one can change them. This transparency and security help establish more trust for payments, which is particularly helpful for independent contractors and freelancers.
Employees may want crypto payments because they can help them make more money without extra work. For example, instead of immediately converting their crypto, workers could wait for its value to rise, then sell it and make a profit. This easy extra money could help workers like nurses, teachers, chefs, and truck drivers who face more challenges and risks than most professions in America.
Companies in some competitive fields like the tech industry could enable crypto payments to attract top talent. By offering this type of compensation, businesses show they’re forward-thinking early tech adopters, attracting similarly minded employees.
The best and brightest, interested in new and exciting tech, would bring their talents where they believe they’re most welcome.
Challenges With Crypto Compensation
For all of its benefits, crypto compensation still has some considerable obstacles in its way. Most notably, its legal status is hazy at best. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay in cash or its equivalent. One could argue cryptocurrency is a legitimate substitute for cash, but without much legal precedent, the Department of Labor may not see it that way.
There are also state laws to consider. For example, some states require employers to pay wages in U.S. currency, which would disqualify decentralized alternatives like Bitcoin. Many of these have exceptions but would still need some potentially complicated legal loopholes to pay workers in crypto.
Crypto compensation may also be a headache when it comes time to file taxes. Regulations are still unclear about cryptocurrency’s taxable status, and they could change as crypto grows more popular. Companies may have the resources to understand and handle these strange tax situations, but individual employees may not.
Cryptocurrency’s volatility can benefit employees by giving them “free” money, but it can also have the opposite effect. For example, imagine if a company pays a worker in Bitcoin, but Bitcoin’s value drops before the payment hits the worker’s bank account. Quick value changes like this can end up with employees not getting their full compensation.
If companies use crypto compensation to attract tech-savvy workers, they could encounter interoperability issues. Different blockchains lack interoperability, so much so that users can’t transact Bitcoin for Ether without a centralized crypto exchange. So if companies pay in a different cryptocurrency than an employee uses, it would quickly lose its luster.
Is it Worth it to Pay Employees With Crypto?
It seems that for every benefit of crypto compensation, there’s a challenge to match it. Still, it’s difficult to say whether or not something is worth it based entirely on hypothetical situations. Looking at real-life examples of companies that have instituted some level of crypto payments can offer more guidance.
An employee for an unnamed U.S. company described their experience with crypto payments to MarketWatch. After paying this person for contract work, the company’s CEO asked that they return the crypto after its value rose 700%. Of course, the CEO can’t enforce this, as it would be a breach of contract, but the situation does highlight some of the troubles of crypto compensation.
Crypto’s rising or falling value can make employers feel they’ve overcompensated workers or workers feel employers have underpaid them. While these transactions may be perfectly legal, provided the employee elected to receive payment this way, they can create tension. So even if you have the legality, taxes, and logistics figured out, crypto payroll can still be a risk.
Of course, this one story may not represent how crypto compensation would play out for other companies. Nevertheless, other organizations are taking an interest in it and could serve as helpful examples.
As more prominent organizations embrace crypto payroll, the practice will gain legitimacy. In addition, standards for doing so will develop, and legal regulations could change to accommodate these payments. So, while crypto compensation may be a risky venture now, it may not be in the future.
How Crypto Payroll Could Work
Instituting a crypto payroll system today could take a considerable amount of preparation. It’s still a risky endeavor, so companies should plan thoroughly to mitigate the associated challenges. First, there’s the issue of legality. There are a few prerequisites for these payments to be legal.
Since many states require employers to pay workers in U.S. currency, they could use a conversion service. In this system, employers would send a payment in dollars, which then rapidly converts into crypto at that moment’s exchange rate. Alternatively, crypto payments could work as bonuses or overtime payments, while U.S. currency accounts for most workers’ paychecks.
Since regulations around independent contractors are less stringent, these workers are ideal for crypto compensation. No matter what type of worker receives crypto payments, though, it must be voluntary. In addition, employees have to elect to receive payments in cryptocurrency. Otherwise, employers could run into legal trouble.
Both employers and employees may need to create a crypto wallet to facilitate payment. Thankfully, this process is becoming easier all the time. Companies can even use peer-to-peer payment apps like PayPal to send crypto payments, which may be the easiest option. These third-party services come with built-in crypto wallets, but businesses must ensure they’re secure first.
Companies should also make sure everyone involved understands the risks too. All parties should know the potential complicated tax implications and accept crypto’s volatility. Everyone should also record conversion rates at the time of payment to help with their taxes later.
Cryptocurrency Is Becoming More Legitimate
Crypto compensation is still a new concept, so it will take some time before it’s a reliable, safe business practice. As more companies look into it, though, the process, as well as cryptocurrency itself, will gain legitimacy. As that happens, regulations will clear up, and new services will appear to facilitate these payments. Thus, in the future, crypto compensation may not carry many risks at all.
At this point, it’s clear that cryptocurrency is more than a trend. It’s a well-established, growing resource that businesses may not want to ignore for much longer. Before long, it could be a central part of how companies operate.
Image Credit: rodnae productions; pexels; thank you!
How to Create a Non-Fungible Token – An ultimate Guide
The world of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) offers a golden opportunity for entrepreneurs to maximize the traction of their business. They have a soaring market capitalization of $22.25 billion and a daily trading volume of $2.68 billion, according to CoinMarketCap.com. Hence, trading in crypto collectibles is a profitable investment. We cannot wait to unveil the same! So, stay glued to know more about Non-Fungible Token Development.
What is a Non-Fungible Token (NFT)?
It is a unique kind of crypto collectible with characteristics like immutability and non-interchangeability. NFTs are created on blockchain networks like Binance Smart Chain, Cardano, Cosmos, Ethereum, EOS, Flow, Polkadot and TRON.
What has contributed to the increasing popularity of Non-Fungible Token Development?
Millions of dollars are being earned by artists, content creators, fashion designers, game developers, filmmakers, meme creators, photographers, and sportspersons by selling their work for a high value in numerous NFT marketplaces. The crypto-collectibles are getting aggressive bidding from interested investors leading to a spike in their selling price.
Some big players like Binance, BuyuCoin, Collectible, eBay, Fox, Light Media, NewAuction (NAU), NFTmall, Rowket Market, Ticketmaster, VANCAT, and xSigma have also announced the launch of their own NFT selling platforms in the future. This will lead to heavy competition in the crypto industry.
Additionally, the NFTs have also eliminated the cumbersome role of middlemen/intermediaries in the system. Content creators can set their own price for the work without paying a brokerage or commission to anyone.
The step-by-step process to create a Non-Fungible Token (NFT)
- Ideally, the artists and designers should develop their NFTs – on the robust Ethereum blockchain network. It has a sturdy framework and supports different Dapps and DeFi projects.
- The content creators have to follow the guidelines – and rules of the ERC-721 and ERC-1155 Non-Fungible Token standards.
- ERC-721 implements an API – for all the tokens held in the secure smart contracts. It contains details like the token ID and the unique token pair address.
- ERC-1155 is a multi-token standard – where each NFT has its own metadata and supply. It consists of different rules of token transfer (single and batch).
- They have to set up a crypto-compatible digital wallet – like Coinbase wallet, MetaMask, MyEtherWallet, and Trust wallet.
- The artists who possess fiat currency can convert them – into Ether (ETH) cryptocurrency by registering on Binance and Coinbase.
- The content creators will undergo KYC/AML verification – while registering on the NFT marketplace.
- They need to link their digital wallets – on the NFT marketplace by entering details like the Etherum wallet number and total funds kept in it.
- Some of the popular Ethereum-supported – crypto collectible selling platforms are Mintable.app, OpenSea, and Rarible.
- They need to upload their unique work – in the form of images (JPEG) and videos (Mp3 and Mp4) on the NFT marketplace.
- The online platform will automatically mint – the valuable NFT.
- The creator can add details like – accepted payment methods, banner image, description, and price for their digital collectible.
- The NFT is listed – on the online marketplace for sale.
- Once the crypto collectible has been sold – to an investor, the content creators have to pay off different expenses like auction fees, a commission on the sale, minting charges, and transaction processing fees to the NFT marketplace.
What are some popular examples of NFTs?
Unquestionably, it has the largest market cap of $8.46 billion and a total supply of 1 billion. THETA is a 100% decentralized video streaming network launched in 2018. The content creators will earn more revenue from the THETA native crypto token through peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions. Apart from this, the viewers of videos will get rewards from Theta Fuel (TFUEL) tokens.
Priced at only $0.36, the Chiliz NFT has the second-largest market capitalization ($2.14 billion) in the industry. CHZ acts as a digital currency for the entertainment and sports industries.
The fans can purchase the Chiliz crypto collectible and get benefits like decision-making powers and voting rights. Finally, the users can buy them from exchanges like Binance, Bitpanda, HBTC and Mercado.
The MANA NFT costs only $0.97. It has a daily trading volume of $254.14 million with a total supply of 1.58 billion. The Decentraland (MANA) NFT is created on the Ethereum-based smart contract.
Investors can use NFTs to play interactive games, purchase virtual property, and also experience 3D and Virtual Reality (VR). The buyers can also purchase the LAND tokens with MANA. The Decentraland gameworld acts as an enormous Metaverse that increases revenue for content creators.
Investors earn high returns by monetizing their LAND tokens through advertising, leasing, and offering paid experiences to other users on the platform.
Different use-cases of NFTs
Digital collectibles are sold through artwork, domain names, fashion accessories, games, metaverses, memes, music, photos, software licenses, sports goods, trading cards, tweets, videos, and virtual property in the market.
Crypto collectibles are also heavily influencing different industries like e-commerce, entertainment, gaming, social media, and sports.
Why is it the perfect time to enter the NFT market now?
According to Non-Fungible.com, NFT sales have reached a humongous value of $30.53 million with 10311 primary and 7930 secondary sales in the market. There are a whopping 705,691 different crypto-collectibles, according to data given by CoinRanking.com.
More auction houses, art galleries, B2B ventures, celebrities, crypto exchanges, e-commerce platforms, entertainment firms, gaming companies, and sports teams are also launching their brand new NFT marketplaces. Above all, it indicates a high level of interest and the opportunity to make a huge profit.
Venture capitalists (VCs) are also supporting the business ideas of innovative entrepreneurs due to the favorable market conditions for the trading of NFTs on online platforms.
How to earn a large amount of revenue from Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)?
The buyers of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) can make a hefty profit by selling them in different secondary markets. Also, the sellers of crypto-collectibles get income from numerous sources like sales (primary, secondary, and private) and royalty for every resale.
Entrepreneurs who own the NFT marketplaces earn their income from bidding fees, initial setup charges, listing fees, minting charges, selling multiple digital collectibles simultaneously, and transaction processing charges.
How do NFTs impact the environment?
Non-Fungible Tokens generate a lot of carbon emissions when they are minted on numerous blockchain networks. Nonetheless, NFT marketplaces are attempting to use renewable energy for supplying electricity to the miners.
Hence, entrepreneurs must reduce the energy consumption during bidding, canceling, sales, and transfer of ownership of NFTs.
Nifty Gateway, a premier NFT marketplace, has announced plans to become carbon negative by upgrading its technology. Artists and investors can know their carbon emissions from their Ethereum wallets by using a tool made by Offsetra.
What is the solution for NFT marketplaces to decrease energy consumption?
Furthermore, the usage of computational energy will reduce by a significant 99% once Ethereum makes a full switch from the Proof of Work (PoW) to the Proof of Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism on its new Ethereum 2.0 version. Subsequently, other alternatives like side chains (Palm) and Layer 2 transactions can also reduce the overall impact on the environment.
Know the different marketplaces for buying and selling NFTs
The top NFT marketplaces by sales are CryptoKitties, Sorare, Ethereum Name Service (ENS), Decentraland, and MegaCryptoPolis. Without a doubt, the popular NFT marketplaces in terms of trading volume are Decentraland, Sorare, CryptoPunks, Meebits, and SuperRare. Entrepreneurs can create a new NFT Marketplace platform like the top NFT marketplaces.
The most expensive NFTs sold in the market were CryptoPunks collection of Portraits ($16.9 million), Death Dip ($1.79 million on SuperRare), Metarift ($905,236 on MakersPlace), Reflection ($869,487 on SuperRare), Noriko Soramoto ($618,575 on Rarible), and GOAT ($597,142 on MakersPlace).
Undoubtedly, 2021 will see new NFT projects and new records in the crypto industry. A new revenue-sharing agreement has come out in the market due to NFTs. Additionally, the future of crypto-collectibles will depend on copyright infringement, duplication, and taxation laws related to trading and transactions.
In contrast to building crypto-collectibles from scratch, entrepreneurs can reach out to a highly skilled Non-Fungible Token development company and make it big in the thriving market.
They can get services like the creation of ERC-721 and ERC-1155 based-NFTs white-label clone solutions of NFT marketplaces, onboarding of prospective investors, integration of digital wallets, and NFT marketing. Hence, progressive entrepreneurs can move forward in the industry by initiating Non-Fungible Token development.