Article | June 2, 2021
Cyber Security has quickly evolved from being just an IT problem to a business problem. Recent attacks like those on Travelex and the SolarWinds hack have proved that cyber-attacks can affect the most solid of businesses and create PR nightmares for brands built painstakingly over the years. Investing in cyber security training, cyber security advisory services and the right kind of IT support products, has therefore, become imperative in 2021.
Investing in cyber security infrastructure, cyber security certification for employees and IT solutions safeguards businesses from a whole spectrum of security risks, ransomware, spyware, and adware.
Ransomware refers to malicious software that bars users from accessing their computer system, whereas adware is a computer virus that is one of the most common methods of infecting a computer system with a virus. Spyware spies on you and your business activities while extracting useful information. Add social engineering, security breaches and compromises to your network security into the mix, and you have a lethal cocktail.
Article | August 30, 2021
While eating dinner at a Fourth of July cookout last weekend, my nephew described why he had so many career options as a pilot:
There’s a shortage of pilots, and many existing pilots will be retiring soon.
Other current pilots need to be retrained, because they fell behind in various ways during the pandemic.
New people want to get into the field, but there are many hard requirements that can’t be faked, like flying hours, or unique experience on specific aircraft.
There are many job openings and everyone is hiring.
My response? Sounds a lot like our current cybersecurity career field. Professionals in cyber are seeing almost the exact same things.
And yes, there are many, perhaps thousands, of articles on this topic saying different things. Everyone is focused on the shortages of cyber pros and the talent issues we currently face. But how hard is it to get into a cyber career for the long term? How can someone move into a fulfilling career that will last well beyond their current role?
One reason I like the pilot training comparison is that becoming an excellent cyber pro takes time and commitment. If there are any “quick wins” (with minimal preparation or training) in cybersecurity careers, they probably won’t last very long — in the same way that flying large airplanes takes years of experience.
After I got home that night, I saw this article from TechRepublic proclaiming “you don’t have to be a tech expert to become a cybersecurity pro.” Here’s an excerpt:
“Ning Wang: I think that we’re in a pretty bad state. No matter which source you look at, there are a lot more job openings for cybersecurity than there are qualified people to fill it. And I have worked at other security companies before Offensive Security, and I know firsthand, it is really hard to hire those people. …
“You may think that you have to have so much technology background to go into security. And again, I know firsthand that is not the case. What does it take to be a great cybersecurity professional? And I think from my observation and working with people and interacting with people, they need a creative mind, a curious mind, you have to be curious about things. …
“And then even if you have all of that, there’s no shortcuts. If you look at all the great people in cybersecurity, just like all the other fields, that 10,000-hour rule applies here as well.”
I certainly agree that advanced degrees and formal certifications are not required (although they help). Still, the 10,000-hour rule and determination are must-haves to last in the long term. Here’s what I wrote for CSO Magazine a decade ago on the topic of “Are you a security professional?”:
“Many experts and organizations define a security professional based upon whether or not they have a CISSP, CISM, Master’s Degree in Information Assurance or other credentials. Or, are you in an organization or business unit with 'security' in the title? While these characteristics certainly help, my definition is much broader than that.
"Why? I have seen people come and go in the security area. For example: Adam Shostack started his career as a UNIX sysadmin. Likewise, you probably know people who started in security and left, or who still have a different job title but read blogs like this one because their job includes something less than 50% information security. (That is, they wear multiple hats). Others are assigned to a security function against their will or leave a security office despite their love for the field (when a too-tempting opportunity arises). Some come back, others never will.”
WHY BECOME A CYBER PRO?
This CompTIA article outlines some of the top jobs in cybersecurity, with average salaries:
1. Cybersecurity Analyst $95,000
2. Cybersecurity Consultant $91,000
3. Cyber Security Manager/Administrator $105,000
4. Software Developer/Engineer $110,140*
5. Systems Engineer $90,920
6. Network Engineer/Architect $83,510*
7. Vulnerability Analyst/Penetration Tester $103,000
8. Cyber Security Specialist/Technician $92,000
9. Incident Analyst/Responder $89,000
* Salaries marked with an asterisk (*) came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The article also walks through many of the steps regarding education, certifications and skills.
Of course, there are many other great reasons to get into a cyber career beyond pay and benefits, including helping society, the fascinating changes that grow with new technology deployment, a huge need, the ability to work remotely (often), and the potential for a wide variety of relationships and global travel if desired.
Becoming a CISO (or CSO) is another important role, with CISO salaries all over the map but averaging $173,740 according to Glassdoor.
OTHER HELPFUL ARTICLES ON BECOMING A CYBER PRO
Yes, I have written on this topic of cybersecurity careers many times over the past decade-plus. Here are a few of those articles:
• “The case for taking a government cyber job: 7 recommendations to consider”
• “Why Are Some Cybersecurity Professionals Not Finding Jobs?”
• “Why You Should Consider a Career in Government Cyber Security”
• “Play a Game - Get a Job: GCHQ’s New Tool to Recruit Cyber Talent”
Many people are now considering career changes as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cybersecurity is one of the hottest fields that has staying power for decades. At the same time, Bloomberg is reporting that U.S. job openings are at record levels.
Also, Business Insider is offering a template to revamp your resume and get a remote job anywhere in the world.
So even if the obstacles look daunting, a career in cybersecurity may be just the long-term change you are looking for.
Article Orginal Source:
Article | March 13, 2020
While the U.S. military is the most effective fighting force in the modern era, it struggles with the cybersecurity of its most advanced weapons systems. In times of crisis and conflict, it is critical that the United States preserve its ability to defend and surge when adversaries employ cyber capabilities to attack weapons systems and functions. Today, the very thing that makes these weapons so lethal is what makes them vulnerable to cyberattacks: an interconnected system of software and networks. Continued automation and connectivity are the backbone of the Department of Defense’s warfighting capabilities, with almost every weapons system connected in some capacity. Today, these interdependent networks are directly linked to the U.S. military’s ability to carry out missions successfully, allowing it to gain informational advantage, exercise global command and control, and conduct long-range strikes. An example of such a networked system is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. David Goldfein, once called “a computer that happens to fly.” Underpinning this platform’s unrivaled capability is more than 8 million lines of software code.
Article | January 21, 2021
There is a saying, ‘you can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time.’ Given the fact that there is no such thing as 100% security and human nature being trusting, this has been the backbone of many cyber security scams over the past 20 years. Cyber-criminals know that they will always fool some of the people, so have been modifying and reusing tried and tested methods to get us to open malware ridden email attachments and click malicious web links, despite years of security awareness training.
If you search for historic security advice from pretty much any year since the internet became mainstream, you will find that most of it can be applied today. Use strong passwords, do not open attachments or click links from unknown sources. All really familiar advice. So, why are people still falling for modified versions of the same tricks and scams that have been running for over a decade or more? Then again, from the cyber-criminal’s perspective, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it? Instead, they evolve, automate, collaborate and refine what works. Sound advice for any business!
It is possible though to be in a position where you can no longer fool people, even some of the time, because it is no longer their decision to make anymore. This can be achieved by letting technology decide whether or not to trust something, sitting in between the user and the internet. Trust becomes key, and many security improvements can be achieved by limiting what is trusted, or more importantly, defining what not to trust or the criteria of what is deemed untrustworthy.
This is nothing new, as we have been doing this for years as many systems will not trust anything that is classed as a program or executable, blocking access to exe or bat files. The list of files types that can act as a program in the Microsoft Windows operating system is quite extensive, if you don’t believe me try to memorize this list: app, arj, bas, bat, cgi, chm, cmd, com, cpl, dll, exe, hta, inf, ini, ins, iqy, jar, js, jse, lnk, mht, mhtm, mhtml, msh, msh1, msh2, msh1xml, msh2xml, msi, ocx, pcd, pif, pl, ps1, ps1xml, ps2, ps2xml, psc1, psc2, py, reg, scf, scr, sct, sh, shb, shs, url, vb, vbe, vbs, vbx, ws, wsc, wsf, and wsh. As you can see, it is beyond most people to remember, but easily blocked by technology.
We can filter and authenticate email based on domain settings, reputation scores, blacklists, DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance) or the components of DMARC, the SPF and DKIM protocols. Email can also be filtered at the content level based on keywords in the subject and body text, the presence of tracking pixels, links, attachments, and inappropriate images that are ‘Not Safe For Work’ (NSFW) such as sexually explicit, offensive and extremist content. More advanced systems add attachment virtual sandboxing, or look at the file integrity of attachments, removing additional content that is not part of the core of the document. Others like ‘Linkscan’ technology look at the documents at the end of a link, which may be hiding behind shortened links or multiple hops, following any links in those documents to the ultimate destination of the link and scan for malware.
Where we are let down though is in the area of compromised email accounts from people that we have a trust relationship and work with, like our suppliers. These emails easily pass through most email security and spam filters as they originate from a genuine legitimate email account (albeit one now also controlled by a cyber-criminal) and unless there is anything suspicious within the email in the form of a strange attachment or link, they go completely undetected as they are often on an allow list. This explains why Business Email Compromised (BEC) attacks are so incredibly successful, asking for payments for expected invoices to be made into a ‘new’ bank account, or urgent but plausible invoices that need to be paid ASAP. If the cyber-criminals do their homework and copy previous genuine invoice requests, and maybe add in context chat based on previous emails, there is nothing for most systems or people to pick up on. Only internal processes that flag up BACS payments, change of bank of details or alerts to verify or authenticate can help. Just remember to double-check the telephone number in the email signature before you call, in case you are just calling the criminal. Also, follow the process completely, even if the person you were just about to call has just conveniently sent you an SMS text message to confirm, as SMS can be spoofed.
Not all compromised email attacks are asking for money though, many are after user credentials, and contain phishing links or links to legitimate online file sharing services, containing files that then link to malicious websites or phishing links to grant permission to open the file. To give you an idea of the lengths cyber-criminals go to, I’ve received emails from a compromised account, containing a legitimate OneDrive link, containing a PDF with a link to an Azure hosted website, that then reached out to a phishing site. In fact, many compromised attacks are not even on email, as social media is increasingly targeted as well as messaging services or even the humble SMS text message via SIM swap fraud or spoofed mobile numbers. As a high percentage of these are received on mobile devices, many of the standard security defences are not in place, compared to desktop computers and laptops. What is available though are password managers as well as two-factor authentication (2FA) and multi-factor authentication (MFA) solutions which will help protect against phishing links, regardless of the device you use, so long as you train everyone in what to look out for and how they can be abused.
One area I believe makes even greater strides in protecting users from phishing and malicious links is to implement technology that defines what not to trust based on the age of a web domain and whether it has been seen before and classified. It really does not matter how good a clone a phishing website is for Office 365 or PayPal if you are blocked from visiting it, because the domain is only hours old or has never been seen before. The choice is taken out of your hands, you still clicked on the link, but now you are taken to a holding page that explains why you are not allowed to access that particular web domain. The system I use called Censornet, does not allow my users to visit any links where the domain is less than 24 hours old, but also blocks access to any domains or subdomains that have not been classified because no one within the global ecosystem has attempted to visit them yet. False positives are automatically classified within 24 hours, or can be released by internal IT admins, so the number of incidents rapidly drops over a short period of time.
Many phishing or malicious links are created within hours of the emails being sent, so having an effective way of easily blocking them makes sense. There is also the trend for cyber-criminals to take over the website domain hosting cPanels of small businesses, often through phishing, adding new subdomains for phishing and exploit kits, rather than using spoofed domains. I’ve seen many phishing links over the years pointing to an established brand within the subdomain text of a small hotel. Either way, as these links and subdomains are by their very nature unclassified, the protection automatically covers this scenario too.
Other technological solutions at the Domain Name System (DNS) level can also help block IP addresses and domains based on global threat intelligence. Some of these are even free for business use, like Quad9.net and because they are at the DNS level, can be applied to routers and other systems that cannot accept third party security solutions. On mobile devices both Quad9 and Cloudflare offer free apps which involve adding a Virtual Private Network (VPN) profile to your device. Users of public Wi-Fi can be made secure via a VPN, though it’s preferable to have a premium VPN solution on all your user’s mobile devices, as these can be centrally managed and can offer DNS protection as well.
Further down the chain of events are solutions like privileged admin rights management and application allow lists. Here, malware is stopped once again because it is not on a trusted list, or allowed to have admin rights. There is also the added benefit that users do not need to know any admin account passwords, so as a result cannot be phished for something they do not know the answer to. Ideally, no users are working with full administrator rights in their everyday activities, as this introduces unnecessary security risks, but can often be overlooked due to work pressures and workarounds.
Let’s not forget patch management is also key, because it doesn’t matter how good your security solutions are if they can be bypassed because of a gaping hole via an exploit or vulnerability in another piece of software, whether at the operating system or firmware level, or via an individual application. Sure, no system is perfect and remember there is no such thing as 100% security, which is where the Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions come into play. These can help minimize the damage through rapid discovery and remediation, hopefully before the cyber-criminals fully achieve their goals.
By harnessing the power of technology to protect us, layering solutions to cover the myriad of ways cyber-criminals constantly attempt to deceive us, we can be confident that emotional and psychological techniques and hooks will not affect technological decisions, as it is a binary choice, either yes or no. The more that we can filter out, makes it less likely that the cyber-criminals will still be able to fool some of the people all the time. This allows security awareness training to focus on threats that technology isn’t as good at stopping, like social engineering tricks and scams. The trick is to spend your budget wisely to cover all the bases and not leave any gaps, which is no easy feat in today’s rapidly changing world.