Apple encryption case marks opportunity for cybersecurity coordination

JACK KARSTEN | April 26, 2016

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Apple CEO Tim Cook stated that his company would not willingly override the security features of an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino mass shooters, defying a court order obtained by the FBI. This case has become the highest profile contest in the wider debate over the ability of law enforcement agencies to access data on encrypted smartphones in the course of their investigations. At issue is the practice of end-to-end encryption, where not even the device manufacturer retains the key to decrypt communications for law enforcement. However, pitting investigators against technology companies will not effectively balance cybersecurity with public safety. Device manufacturers, law enforcement, and policymakers must work together to determine the end goals of encryption and how to best accomplish those goals.

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NATO Adds Cyber Commitments, Potential Ransomware Response

Article | August 30, 2021

As President Biden prepared to meet with Russian President Putin this past week in a high-profile summit in Geneva, Switzerland, cyber-attacks originating from criminals within Russia were near the top of a list of contentious issues on the agenda. However, there were important events that received minimal media attention that strengthened the U.S. President’s position. President Biden walked into those meetings with something new and bold: the strong backing of NATO countries on a series of new cyber commitments. In a NATO Summit held in Brussels on June 14, 2021, the heads of state and government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council reaffirmed their unity and commitments on a long list of mutual defense topics. And there was also a major new commitment discussed in the press release — cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure within any NATO member country were now on the table. That is, online (Internet-based) attacks could result in the same response as physical attacks (with guns and bombs.) Yes, this is a very significant global development which highlights another way that the physical world and online world are merging fast, with ramifications in both directions. HOW DID WE GET TO THIS MOMENT? The ransomware attacks that recently struck critical infrastructure companies such as Colonial Pipeline and JBS resulted in more than just long lines for gas and meat price hikes. It raised alarm bells in countries all over the globe regarding the susceptibility of the majority of countries to ransomware and other forms of malware. These ransomware incidents led to NATO’s new Comprehensive Cyber Defense Policy. The big news: Cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure might (on a case-by-case basis) now trigger the famous Article 5 clause. “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area. …” Here are two sections I’d like to highlight from last week’s communiqué (take special notice of section in bold): “In addition to its military activities, Russia has also intensified its hybrid actions against NATO Allies and partners, including through proxies. This includes attempted interference in Allied elections and democratic processes; political and economic pressure and intimidation; widespread disinformation campaigns; malicious cyber activities; and turning a blind eye to cyber criminals operating from its territory, including those who target and disrupt critical infrastructure in NATO countries. It also includes illegal and destructive activities by Russian Intelligence Services on Allied territory, some of which have claimed lives of citizens and caused widespread material damage. We stand in full solidarity with the Czech Republic and other Allies that have been affected in this way. “Cyber threats to the security of the Alliance are complex, destructive, coercive and becoming ever more frequent. This has been recently illustrated by ransomware incidents and other malicious cyber activity targeting our critical infrastructure and democratic institutions, which might have systemic effects and cause significant harm. To face this evolving challenge, we have today endorsed NATO’s Comprehensive Cyber Defence Policy, which will support NATO’s three core tasks and overall deterrence and defence posture, and further enhance our resilience. Reaffirming NATO’s defensive mandate, the Alliance is determined to employ the full range of capabilities at all times to actively deter, defend against and counter the full spectrum of cyber threats, including those conducted as part of hybrid campaigns, in accordance with international law. We reaffirm that a decision as to when a cyber-attack would lead to the invocation of Article 5 would be taken by the North Atlantic Council on a case-by-case basis. Allies recognize that the impact of significant malicious cumulative cyber activities might, in certain circumstances, be considered as amounting to an armed attack. We remain committed to act in accordance with international law, including the UN Charter, international humanitarian law and international human rights law as applicable. We will promote a free, open, peaceful and secure cyberspace, and further pursue efforts to enhance stability and reduce the risk of conflict by supporting international law and voluntary norms of responsible state behavior in cyberspace.” MEDIA COVERAGE OF NATO ANNOUNCEMENTS Global media coverage leading up to this NATO Summit was rather limited, especially when compared to the U.S.-Russia Summit and many of President Biden’s other European meetings – such as the G7 Summit and the his meeting with Queen Elizabeth II. Nevertheless, Meritalk offered this article: “Cybersecurity, Ransomware Climb Policy Ladder at NATO, G-7 Meetings,” which said, “cybersecurity in general, and ransomware in specific, climbed high onto the ladder of major policy issues at both the weekend meeting of G-7 nations this weekend, and the NATO Summit that concluded on June 14. “The increasing importance of cybersecurity on the national stage tracks with U.S. policy in recent months, including federal government responses to major software supply chain cyber assaults and ransomware attacks against U.S. critical infrastructure sector companies that are believed to have originated from organizations based in Russia. President Biden has promised to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin with cybersecurity and ransomware issues when the two leaders meet on June 16. …” Also, Info security Magazine ran an excellent piece entitled: “NATO Warns it Will Consider a Military Response to Cyber-Attacks,” which said, “NATO has warned it is prepared to treat cyber-attacks in the same way as an armed attack against any of its allies and issue a military response against the perpetrators. “In a communique issued by governments attending the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels yesterday, the military alliance revealed it had endorsed a Comprehensive Cyber Defence Policy, in which a decision will be taken to invoke Article 5 “on a case-by-case basis” following a cyber-attack. Under Article 5 of the NATO treaty, first signed in 1949, when any NATO ally is the victim of an armed attack, it will be considered an attack on all alliance members, who will theoretically take any actions necessary to defend that ally….” When I posted this NATO cyber topic on LinkedIn, the responses were all over the map. You can join that discussion here. Here are a few comments worth noting: Michael Kaiser, president and CEO at Defending Digital Campaigns: “Attribution better be 110 percent.” Paul Gillingwater, management consultant, Chaucer Group: “A cyber counter-attack *is* a military response. It's now one battlefield, from sea, land, air, space to cyberspace. Next: your AI will be trying to persuade my AI that it was actually a pacifist.” Kaushik (Manian) Venkatasubramaniyan, project manager, Global Business Research (GBR): “These kind of cyber-attacks targeting hospitals etc. are acts of war anyway.” FINAL THOUGHTS ON IMPORTANCE OF NATO ANNOUNCEMENT For many years, cyber pros have been talking about a “Cyber 9/11” or “Cyber Pearl Harbor.” Many experts still believe that those major cyber incidents are inevitable. Still, “smaller” cyber-attacks are now happening all the time all over the world — with very serious consequences. Bad actors are asking for larger ransoms and causing more harm. Ransomware is evolving, and future cyber-attacks may not be ended by paying a ransom to the cyber criminals. With many cyber-attacks against governments, hospitals and now critical infrastructure like gas pipeline companies and food processing plants taking place, new government actions were a must. These ransomware attacks via different types of malware are becoming more frequent and serious, and are a growing global challenge for public- and private-sector leaders. Many questions must be answered quickly, such as: Where are the “red lines” that cannot be crossed? Once the lines are identified, what happens if they are crossed? When does a cyber-attack become an act of war? Make no mistake, NATO’s new policy on cyber-attacks against critical infrastructures is a big deal. Expect more ransomware attacks to occur and those global commitments for action to be tested in the years ahead. Article Orginal Source: https://www.govtech.com/blogs/lohrmann-on-cybersecurity/nato-adds-cyber-commitments-potential-ransomware-response

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Webroot: Widespread Lack of Cybersecurity Best Practices

Article | April 7, 2020

A new list of most and least cyber secure U.S. states shows a disturbing lack of cybersecurity best practices. According to Webroot‘s fourth annual ranking, New York, California, Texas, Alabama and Arkansas are the least cyber secure states in the country, while Nebraska, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Oregon and New Jersey are the most cyber secure. Tyler Moffitt, Webroot security analyst, tells us none of the states had an average score greater than 67%. Also, there is very little difference between the most secure and least secure states, he said. No state scored a “C” grade or higher. That underlines a lack of cybersecurity education and hygiene nationally. However, the most cyber secure state (Nebraska at 67%) did score substantially better than the least (New York at 52%). This score was calculated through a variety of action- and knowledge-based variables, including residents’ use of antivirus software, use of personal devices for work, use of default security settings, use of encrypted data backups, password sharing and reuse, social media account privacy, and understanding of key cybersecurity concepts like malware and phishing,” Moffitt said.

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SASE: A NEXT-GENERATION CLOUD-SECURITY FRAMEWORK

Article | November 3, 2020

The ongoing pandemic has forced organizations across the globe to install work-from-home policies. A majority of the workforce in various industries, especially IT, have already adapting to working remotely. With a sudden rise in remote users and growing need and demand for cloud services, a huge volume of data is being transmitted between datacenters and cloud services. This has also given rise to the increased need for network security and a safer means of data transmission. The existing network security approaches and techniques are no longer dependable for the required levels of security and access control. To secure these surging digital needs, Gartner debuted an emerging cybersecurity framework in the form of what it calls SASE.

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New Ransomware hitting Industrial Control Systems like a nuclear bomb

Article | February 10, 2020

Researchers at security firms including Sentinel One and Drago’s have been mystified by a piece of code named Ekans or Snake, over the last month. Drago’s publically released its full report on Ekans Ransomware that has recently inflicted Industrial Control Systems and these are some of the most high-value systems that bridge the gap between digital and physical systems. In the history of hacking, only a few times a piece of malicious code has been marked attempting to intrude Industrial Control Systems. Ekans is supposed to be the first Ransomware with real primitive capability against the Industrial Control Systems, software, and hardware used in everything from oil refineries to power grids. Researchers say this ransomware holds the capability to attack ICS by Honeywell and GE as well.

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Spotlight

Broadweb

BroadWeb is a market leader in network content security technology dedicated to creating products that enables the protection on application-layer level, including intrusion detection and prevention, malware protection, and information security enforcement. BroadWeb also focuses on the development of application-centric classification in order to increase visibility into user behaviors and control impacts of bandwidth-consuming applications. To enable policy management at the application behavior level, BroadWeb provides a complete solution based on sophisticated deep packet inspection, traffic classification, and bandwidth management technologies.

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