Establishing IT and Cybersecurity Baselines To Protect Your Data

by | Jan 3, 2018

Written by Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a cannabis writer and B2B content marketer living in British Columbia, Canada. Her focus on cannabis tech, scientific breakthroughs, and extraction has led to bylines with Cannabis & Tech Today, Terpenes and Testing, Analytical Cannabis, and Grow Mag among others. She is the owner and lead-writer of Sea to Sky Content, which provides content and strategy to the industry’s biggest brands.

Eric Schlissel, the president, and CEO of GeekTek discovered this severe knowledge gap between traditional industry and the cannabis industry at the Cannabis Business Summit and Expo in Oakland. From his discussion with people at the CBSE, most had little idea what cybersecurity entailed, and fewer still knew the importance.

Since its initial foray into the world of marijuana only six months ago, GeekTek has shifted its attention to focus on security solutions for the growing world of cannabis. While some businesses might still consider professionally managed IT services unnecessary, a quick review of the recent news should quickly dispel those assumptions.  In a recent CannabisTech interview with Eric Schlissel, we learned just how devastating a cybersecurity breach could be. 


|Why IT Management is the Next Logical Step for the Cannabis Industry|

As we head into 2018, all businesses, including those working with marijuana, are susceptible to cyber attacks. The budding cannabis industry is a perfect target, due to a lack of consumer knowledge and little professional protections. According to Schlissel, most people he’s spoken to assume their data simply is safe in the cloud, but that's far from the truth.

One only has to look at the two data breaches suffered by MJ Freeway in the last year alone. The first was a serious cybersecurity attack, disrupting services for over 1,000 of its clients. The second attack labeled a robbery, posted valuable sections of the companies source code online, for the world to see. Many companies don’t realize what is on the line, even if just one employee clicks one disreputable link.

From Schlissel’s own experiences, once your network is breached and the ransomware has taken over, there is nothing to do but rebuild. The entire network needs proper security protocols and protections in place before the attack hits. Without it, the data, the money, and the security of the system are long gone.

Although cannabis businesses are quickly scaling, many have ignored their security needs. Physical security is often a requirement of existing regulations, so if anything, organizations understand the requirements of the operation's physical security need. But data security continues to fall under the radar.

|GeekTek Fills the Gap in the Marketplace|

GeekTek is one of the first IT businesses to focus specifically on the needs of the cannabis industry. They partner with physical security firms to connect those tools, like cameras and security systems, to all other parts of the network, including point of sale, grow room monitoring equipment, and client data. With everything connected remotely these days, its all inherently at risk.

Their approach is holistic, aiming to protect intellectual property, operations systems, financial information and more. It's an approach that covers all the bases from start to finish and monitors the system as a whole 24/7.

GeekTek has recognized that not every company is a perfect fit for their hyper security model. The idea of cannabis cybersecurity just hasn’t saturated the industry mindset yet. However, for those companies of a certain size, GeekTek has strived to provide a number of packages to suit different needs and verticals. As Schlissel puts it, their various security options, “Start at secure and end at tinfoil hats.”

Schlissel and his team work to harden the existing network, making it a weak target for the 99.9 percent of hackers. They simply take complete control, develop a system that is properly encrypted, with each element segmented, and monitor the data all day, every day. Plus, for those companies experiencing rapid growth, GeekTek provides the IT expertise needed to manage data and cloud footprint properly.

|Improved Cybersecurity in Six Simple Steps|

Although not every company is ready to make the leap towards an externally managed IT security service, Schlissel identifies some easy steps to take in the meantime. For many, it’s just putting the most basic principles of cybersecurity into practice, but unfortunately, the steps are often overlooked.

  • Invest in a business grade firewall.
  • Install the most up to date anti-virus program.
  • Stay on top of newly released patches, for all programs.
  • Put active state filtering and intrusion protection into place.
  • Take the time to secure absolutely every item in the network, and encrypt all the information.
  • Schedule timely backups.

One of the main reasons why cybersecurity firms like GeekTek are needed in the industry is because small operations have quickly expanded into largescale ones. The speed is unprecedented, leaving many companies scrambling to manage the day-to-day. Most operations just don’t have the time and in-house expertise to explore their network security.

Nowadays, even traditional business models look externally for IT solutions, and the cannabis industry should take note. IT security firms like GeekTek might require an initial financial investment, but provide long-term, a stress-free piece of mind.