5 ways agencies can clean up their cyber hygiene

| June 24, 2019

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Since the concept of cyber hygiene was described by Vinton Cerf in an address to Congress in 2000, government agencies have been cognizant of maintaining a holistic view of their security posture. In fact, in recent years there have been numerous efforts made to improve how agencies maintain their cyber hygiene. In 2017, the Promoting Good Cyber Hygiene Act was introduced to help establish best practices for cyber hygiene by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. And in 2018, the Department of Homeland Security created the AWARE score to help agencies compare their cybersecurity methods against agencies across government. Despite all of the work being done to establish better situational awareness, agencies are still lacking certain basic elements required for effective cyber hygiene. And, as cyberattacks continue to increase in severity and occurrence, agencies must take the appropriate steps to manage and mitigate the risks associated with the fastest-growing crime of our time.

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Since 1978, CXtec has delivered value and support in current and legacy networking, voice and cable infrastructure. CXtec is an ISO 9001:2008-certified company maintaining an outstanding 4A1 Dun & Bradstreet rating and a perfect 80 Paydex score. We are committed to reducing the cost of customers’ networking infrastructures and technology equipment. We carry over 250,000 products stored in our 70,000 square foot facility – with most items available immediately. We put our equal2new® certified pre-owned equipment through the industry’s toughest refurbishing process to ensure its quality, yet we price it up to 90% off list to make it right for your budget. All our hardware offerings are backed by RapidCare®, our next business day advance hardware replacement program that provides maximum uptime. Our product end-of-life management services offer cash, credit or trade for your used technology. Then we complete every hardware offering with CABLExpress® brand high-performance connectivity pro

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NETWORK THREAT DETECTION

Top Three Cybersecurity Threats You Should Mitigate Before It Is Too Late

Article | December 15, 2020

There are three significant and disruptive cybersecurity threats that are catching organizations of all types and sizes by surprise: Ransomware; Cloud misconfigurations; and Supply chain backdoors. Let me explain with recent examples and guide you on what you can do to avoid making other’s mistakes and falling victim to the threats. Let’s start with ransomware. It is one of the most disruptive risks facing your organization today. Why? Because it can literally bring your operations, no matter who you are, to a standstill and inflict significant cost, pain and suffering. Just look at the recent example of one organization. It was infected with ransomware, and IT systems were shut down for several weeks, bringing operations to a standstill. It had to gradually re-start systems over several more weeks. It estimates it will cost around $95 million from lost sales, recovery and remediation, impacting profitability. Also, it announced it will not be able to attain its growth plans for the year. Take another recent example. A three-hospital system was infected and IT systems were shut down and it could not accept any incoming patients for several days. It had to operate using paper, until gradually the IT systems were re-started over several days. Fortunately, in this case, the incoming patients turned away did not suffer any loss of life and were able to be diverted to other hospitals timely, but it could have been tragic. No organization is immune to ransomware and it can rear its ugly head anytime and inflict severe pain. There are many variants and each can be tweaked easily by the attackers to evade the defense. The Ryuk ransomware is an example of one that has already inflicted significant pain to hundreds of organizations this year in the U.S. and across the globe. Previously, the SamSam ransomware attacked a variety of organizations in the U.S. and Canada, and provided over $6 million in ransom payments and inflicted over $30 million in losses. Prior to that, NotPetya ransomware rapidly inflicted hundreds of organizations in various parts of the world, and caused over $10 billion in damages. The attackers are seeing that with ransomware it is quicker and easier to make the intrusion, and encrypt some of the data than try to exfiltrate all of it. They are asking themselves, why take all the time and trouble to look for all of the data and try to steal it, when only some critical systems and data can be locked up, until a ransom is paid? They are seeing that with ransomware there will be immediate adverse impact since the victim will not be able to access critical data and systems, and will not be able to operate. So, there is high probability the ransom will be paid to stop the pain and suffering, especially if the victim has cyber insurance in place. The organization is likely to use the insurance policy to pay the ransom, rather than continue to have its operations disrupted or shut down. They are also seeing that while most organizations have put in place various controls to prevent and detect data theft, they have not placed an equal weight to preventing and detecting ransomware. Most organizations have a lot of data and given all of the data thefts that have occurred and continue to occur and reported in the press, the bias has been to focus on data theft. But ransomware risk cannot be ignored or approached less seriously. Imagine that you are infected with ransomware and your people cannot access documents, files or systems, and operate. All critical files and systems are locked out from the ransomware encryption, and a ransom payment is demanded by the hacker for the keys to unlock the encryption. What if, it will take you days, weeks or months to recover? What impact would it have on your organization? You may think that you will be able to recover quickly from back up files and systems, but are you sure? The new ransomware variants are devised to hunt down and delete or encrypt backup files and systems also, and in some cases, first, before encrypting rest of the files and systems. The organization that was recently infected that estimates $95 million in financial impact from the ransomware thought it had the risk under control, until it was hit with the ransomware and realized it was not prepared to manage the risk. Now, let’s move to the threat from cloud misconfigurations. You are most probably in the cloud completely or partially. Whether you have completely outsourced your infrastructure and services to a cloud provider or are utilizing one partially, remember, ultimately, you own the cybersecurity and that you are responsible for security in the cloud, while the cloud provider is responsible for security of the cloud. While the cloud provider will provide perimeter security, you are responsible for security of your data, IP and other assets in the cloud, and are equally susceptible to attackers in the cloud as you are on the premises. Even if any of the “big six” cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure or others, provide the cybersecurity, attackers can exploit weak links in the chain, break in and steal data or cause other harm. A common weak link in the chain are misconfigurations of the various systems that the cloud provider makes available as part of its service. You are responsible for all of the configurations, not the cloud provider. So, if your team does not take the time to fully understand all of the configurations that are necessary and complete them timely, security holes will arise and remain open for the attackers to exploit. Just look at the recent example of an organization that fell victim where the data of over 100 million customers was stolen. This organization was using one of the “big six” cloud providers, but missed making all of the necessary configurations. A former employee of the cloud provider, who was familiar with the systems and configurations, discovered a misconfiguration in a web application firewall and exploited it to break in. The attacker then was able to query a metadata service to obtain keys and tokens, which allowed the attacker to query and copy storage object data and eventually exfiltrate it. This was a case where configuration errors in a web application firewall coupled with unrestricted metadata service access and other errors handed the attacker the keys to the kingdom for the theft of 100 million customers data. Other common cloud misconfigurations that create opportunities for attackers to exploit include: Unrestricted in bound access on uncommon ports Unrestricted outbound access Unrestricted access to non-http/https ports Unrestricted metadata service requests Inactivate monitoring of keys and tokens You may think that you do not have any misconfigurations in your cloud environment, but how do you know? The organization that recently lost 100 million customers data thought it had strong security in its cloud infrastructure, until it was hit with the data theft and realized it was not prepared to manage the risk. Now, let’s move to the threat from supply chain backdoors. No matter what type of organization you are or your size, you most probably have a supply chain, comprised of independent contractors, vendors or partners. Each of these could be the weakest link in the chain. In other words, the attackers may find that one of your suppliers may be easier to break into first because of weaker cybersecurity and may have privileged access to your organization, given their role and responsibilities. So why not first attack the weaker supplier, steal their privileged user credentials and use it to break into your organization and eventually attain the ultimate objective, steal data or commit other harm? Or they may find that one of your suppliers has part of your data in order to provide the outsourced service, so they can steal the data simply by breaking into the supplier with the weaker cybersecurity, so no need to attack you directly. There are many examples of supply chain risk, such as with a government agency, where the credentials of a background check vendor were first stolen to access the agency’s systems, then to move laterally and find other unprotected privileged users credentials to access databases and steal data of 21.5 million individuals, including fingerprints data of 5.6 million individuals. But just look at the recent example of an organization that had outsourced billing and collections to a supplier. This is a case where the attackers did not have to attack directly. In this case, attackers broke into the supplier and injected malicious code into the payments webpages managed by the supplier and stole credit card, banking, medical and other personal information, such as social security numbers, of 11.9 million consumers. The attackers had access to the supplier’s system for eight months, during which it skimmed the data being input by consumers on the payments webpages. So, while your cybersecurity may be in good shape, the weakest link in the chain may be one of your suppliers, who may unwittingly provide the attackers the backdoor into your organization or to your data or IP. So, ransomware, cloud misconfigurations and supply chain backdoors are three significant and disruptive threats facing your organization today that you should mitigate. What c

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DATA SECURITY

Noxious Zero-Click Attack: What Is It And How To Avoid It

Article | December 15, 2020

For years, we have been told that cyber-attacks happen due to human-errors. Almost every person has stressed about training to prevent cyber-attacks from taking place. We have always been on the alert to dodge errant clicks or online downloads that might infect devices with security threats. However, not all attacks need a user’s oversight to open the door. Although avoiding clicking on phishing emails is still significant but there is a cyber threat that does not need any human error and has been in the recent news. It is known as Zero-Click attack where some vulnerabilities can be misused by hackers to launch attacks even without interaction from the victim. Rather than depending on the hardware or software flaws to get access to the victim’s device, zero-click attacks eliminate the human error equation. There is nothing a victim can do once coming into the limelight of the hacker. Also, with the flourishing use of smartphones around the world that entails all the personal information and data, this thread has expanded enormously. How Zero-Click Attacks Occur? The core condition for successfully pulling off a zero-click is creating a specially designed piece of data which is then sent to the targeted device over a wireless network connection including mobile internet or wifi. This then hit a scarcely documented vulnerability on the software or hardware level. The vulnerability majorly affects the messaging or emailing apps. The attacks that have begun from Apple’s mail app on iPhone or iPad, have now moved ahead on Whatsapp and Samsung devices. In iOS 13, the vulnerability allowed zero-click when the mail runs in the background. It enables attackers to read, edit, delete, or leak the email inside the app. Later these attacks moved to Samsung’s android devices having version 4.4.4 or above. The successful attacks provide similar access to the hackers as an owner, entailing contacts, SMS, and call logs. In 2019, a breach on Whatsapp used the voice call functionality of the app to ring the victim’s phone. Even if the victim didn’t pick the call and later deleted it, the attacks still installed malicious data packets. These grants access to the hacker to take complete control of call logs, locations, data, camera, and even microphone of the device. Another similar attack had happened due to the frangibility in the chipset of WI-FI that is used in streaming, gaming, smart home devices, and laptops. The zero-click attack blooms on the increase of mobile devices as the number of smartphones have reached above 3 billion. How To Avoid Zero-Click Attacks? Most of the attacks of zero-click target certain victims including corporate executives, government officials, and journalists. But anyone using a smartphone is a possible target. These attacks cannot be spotted due to the lack of vulnerabilities. So the users have to keep the operating system along with the third-party software updated. Also, it is a must to give minimal permissions to apps that are being installed on the device. Moreover, if you own a business and are afraid of the zero-click attacks on your company’s app, you can always seek IT consultations from top-notch companies orhire developersthat will help in developing applications with hard-to-creep-into programming languages where detecting an attack is efficient.

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As Ransomware Surge Continues, Where Next for Government?

Article | December 15, 2020

Global leaders want to carve out specific areas of critical infrastructure to be protected under international agreements from cyber-attacks. But where does that leave others? There are ‘four or five steps you could take that could significantly mitigate this risk,’ Falk said. These are patching, multifactor authentication and all the stuff in the Australian Signals Directorate's Essential Eight baseline mitigation strategies. …” Back in April of this year, a BBC News headline read, "The ransomware surge ruining lives." And that was before the cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure sectors like Colonial Pipeline, meat-processing giant JBS, the Irish Health Service and so many others. And when President Biden met with Russian President Putin last month in Geneva, he declared that certain critical infrastructure should be “off-limits” to cyber-attacks. “We agreed to task experts in both our countries to work on specific understandings about what is off-limits,” Biden said. “We’ll find out whether we have a cybersecurity arrangement that begins to bring some order.” As an initial positive step forward, this cyber defense policy makes sense. In fact, most global experts applaud these moves and efforts to better protect and clarify international crimes in cyberspace. Previous administrations going back to George W. Bush have taken aggressive steps to ensure critical infrastructure is protected in the U.S. and around the world through actions involving people, process and technology, both offline and online. The 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified by DHS/CISA can be found here. Still, many questions remain regarding this new policy: Will all global governments actually agree on the wording? More importantly, even if they do agree, how will the agreements be enforced? Also, what happens if some countries continue to allow criminals to attack these critical infrastructure sectors from their soil? And my main question goes further: Even if all of these agreements and actions are 100 percent agreed upon and enforced, which most people don’t believe will happen, does this imply that every organization not covered under these 16 critical infrastructure sectors can be openly attacked without a response? Is this giving into cyber criminals for everyone else? For example, would K-12 schools or small businesses be “fair game” and not off limits? Could this actually increase attacks for any organization not considered on the CISA list? No doubt, some will say that schools are a part of government, and yet there are private schools. In addition, if we do cover all others somehow, perhaps as a supplier of these 16 sectors, doesn’t that make the “off-limits” list essentially meaningless? Essentially, where is the line? Who is included, and what happens when some nation or criminal group crosses the line? These questions became more than an intellectual thought exercise recently when the Kaseya ransomware attack impacted more than 1,500 businesses, without, in their words, impacting critical infrastructure. CBS News reports, “Still, Kaseya says the cyber-attack it experienced over the July 4th weekend was never a threat and had no impact on critical infrastructure. The Russian-linked gang behind the ransomware had demanded $70 million to end the attack, but CNBC reported that the hackers reduced their demands to $50 million in private conversations. "The Miami-based company said Tuesday that it was alerted on July 2 to a potential attack by internal and external sources. It immediately shut down access to the software in question. The incident impacted about 50 Kaseya customers.” OTHER RECENT RANSOMWARE NEWS Meanwhile, in a bit of a surprise, ransomware group REvil disappeared from the Internet this past week, when its website became inaccessible. As Engadget reported, “According to CNBC, Reuters and The Washington Post, the websites operated by the group REvil went down in the early hours of Tuesday. Dmitri Alperovitch, former chief technology officer of the cyber firm CrowdStrike, told The Post that the group's blog in the dark web is still reachable. However, its critical sites victims use to negotiate with the group and to receive decryption tools if they pay up are no longer available. Visitors to those websites now see a message that says ‘A server with the specified host name could not be found.’" CNBC reported: “There are 3 main possibilities for the criminal gang’s disappearance — each of which carries good and bad news for U.S. efforts to combat the ransomware scourge emanating from Russia. The Kremlin bent under U.S. pressure and forced REvil to close up shop. U.S. officials tired of waiting for Kremlin cooperation and launched a cyber operation that took REvil offline. REvil’s operators were feeling the heat and decided to lay low for a while. "This situation may send a message to some of the players that they need to find a less-aggressive business model, which could mean avoiding critical infrastructure, or it could mean avoiding U.S. targets.” Also, the Biden administration announced several other measures to combat ransomware: “The Biden administration will offer rewards up to $10 million for information leading to the identification of foreign state-sanctioned malicious cyber activity against critical U.S. infrastructure — including ransomware attacks — and the White House has launched a task force to coordinate efforts to stem the ransomware scourge. "It is also launching the website stopransomware.gov to offer the public resources for countering the threat and building more resilience into networks, a senior administration official told reporters.” And yet, many experts are still predicting that ransomware will continue to grow in the near future. For example, TechHQ wrote that “identifying the culprits often isn't as big an obstacle as apprehending them.” To show recent growth of ransomware attacks, Fox Business offered details on a Check Point report this past week that “ransomware attacks surge, growing 93 percent each week.” Also: “'The ransomware business is booming. We’re seeing global surges in ransomware across every major geography, especially in the last two months,' said Lotem Finkelstein, head of threat intelligence at Check Point Software. 'We believe the trend is driven by scores of new entrants into the ransomware business.'" For more background on this hot topic, a few weeks back I appeared on MiTech News to discuss the ransomware crisis. FINAL THOUGHTS I’d like to close with this article which offers a slightly different perspective on ransomware from ZDNet Australia: “The threat of ransomware dominates the cyber news right now, and rightly so. But this week Rachael Falk, chief executive officer of Australia's Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre, made a very good point. Ransomware is ‘Totally foreseeable and preventable because it's a known problem," Falk told a panel discussion at the Australian Strategy Policy Institute (ASPI) on Tuesday. ‘"It's known that ransomware is out there. And it's known that, invariably, the cyber criminals get into organisations through stealing credentials that they get on the dark web [or a user] clicking on a link and a vulnerability," she said. ‘We're not talking about some sort of nation-state really funky sort of zero day that's happening. This is going on the world over, so it's entirely foreseeable.’" Article Orginal Source: https://www.govtech.com/blogs/lohrmann-on-cybersecurity/as-ransomware-surge-continues-where-next-for-government

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Coronavirus malware roundup: watch out for these scams

Article | December 15, 2020

With so many of us hunting out the latest Covid-19 info, it hasn’t taken long for hackers to take advantage. So first off, a basic hygiene reminder: Don’t download anything or click on any links from unfamiliar sources. This includes coronavirus-related maps, guides and apps. Here’s a closer look at some of the specific threats that have emerged over the last week or so. The DomainTools security research team has uncovered at least one example of a coronavirus-related fake app .The Android app in question was discovered on a newly created domain, (coronavirusapp[.]site). The site prompts users to download an Android App to get access to a coronavirus app tracker, statistical information and heatmap visuals. The app actually contains a previously unseen ransomware application, dubbed CovidLock. On download, the device screen is locked, and the user is hit with a demand for $100 in bitcoin to avoid content erasure.

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Spotlight

CXtec

Since 1978, CXtec has delivered value and support in current and legacy networking, voice and cable infrastructure. CXtec is an ISO 9001:2008-certified company maintaining an outstanding 4A1 Dun & Bradstreet rating and a perfect 80 Paydex score. We are committed to reducing the cost of customers’ networking infrastructures and technology equipment. We carry over 250,000 products stored in our 70,000 square foot facility – with most items available immediately. We put our equal2new® certified pre-owned equipment through the industry’s toughest refurbishing process to ensure its quality, yet we price it up to 90% off list to make it right for your budget. All our hardware offerings are backed by RapidCare®, our next business day advance hardware replacement program that provides maximum uptime. Our product end-of-life management services offer cash, credit or trade for your used technology. Then we complete every hardware offering with CABLExpress® brand high-performance connectivity pro

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