Cyber-security threat characterisation

NEIL ROBINSON, LUKE GRIBBON, VERONIKA HORVATH, KAT | April 26, 2016

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The Swedish National Defence College and its Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies (CATS) asked RAND Europe to undertake a rapid comparison of developed states’ characterisation of cyber-security threats. This involved investigating three axes of analysis related to the integration of cyber-security within these states’ broader national security and defence frameworks. The aim of this descriptive study was to act as an additional perspective and challenge to the activity underway to develop a cyber-security strategy in Sweden.

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G2 Ops is a Woman-Owned Small Business and a preferred provider of analytical and innovative solutions in the following areas: Model-Based Systems Engineering. Cybersecurity Requirements, Analysis, and Threat Assessment. Energy Facility Security Planning & Threat Evaluation. Shipboard Network Communications and Security Systems Design & Installation. Energy Sector Security Solutions. Education Consulting. Strategic vision: G2 Ops helps companies stay ahead of cyber crime and IT threats by identifying and measuring weaknesses before incidents occur, then providing remediation priorities based on individual business and financial risk thresholds.

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What Is Mac Malware, How It Penetrates Your Device, and How to Get Rid of It

Article | November 25, 2020

I would like to share my experience with you and talk about viruses created for Mac devices and how to deal with them. You may say that there are no Mac viruses as Apple does not allow it. However, I may say that there are plenty of nasty malware types like adware that open new tabs in your browser, redirect you to irrelevant pages and show numerous popups. Yes, these are not real viruses. Adware like Search Marquis cannot clone itself and infect other connected devices. It cannot encrypt your files or cause any other harm. Its activity is related only to web redirects and excessive advertising. At the same time, who knows which rogue websites adware may land you on next time. It may happen that you end up on a phishing website where cyber crooks harvest personal information that leads to identity theft. Fake antiviruses I strongly recommend removing all adware that penetrated your device. But there is a problem here. If you want to get rid of Mac adware, you cannot quickly find a solution. If you go to google and search there how to get rid of Mac malware, you will see that all top results offer you to buy and install some shady software. In reality, these Mac antiviruses do nothing, as we know that the Apple ecosystem does not allow apps to access other apps' data. No antivirus can really scan and check your files. How to remove Mac malware Solution 1: If your system is infected with adware and you do not know how to get rid of it, you may try to call Apple and ask what to do. You can find their phone number here: support.apple.com/en-gb/HT201232#us-ca. Solution 2: Another option is to try your luck on Apple communities. Thousands of tech enthusiasts help uses with their problems there. Here is a sample thread: discussions.apple.com/thread/8226644. Solution 3: There are other options too. Apple operating systems are not very difficult to use, and any person can remove adware manually by going through step-by-step guides posted on numerous malware removal websites. Here is a guide by BitAdvisors.com on how to remove Search Marquis malware. Most rogue software works by exploiting bugs and vulnerabilities in your computer's operating system. And macOS has its own bugs too. To fix these vulnerabilities, Apple periodically releases operating system updates. To date, macOS has not proved attractive enough for cybercriminals and evil developers to flood it with malware. Protection tips To stays away from any surprises, it is recommended to update your OS as well as all apps installed regularly. You should never install apps from unofficial app stores not controlled by Apple. One of the ways for adware to penetrate your Mac computer is through bundled installs. You download and install a very useful app that is often free, but in reality, you get several apps. People never read user agreements written in small print. There it can be noted that you agree to install additional tools and provide some rights to them. Whenever you install something, be careful and read user agreements, and do not miss additional unnecessary software. Do not install any software without urgent necessity. Any additional software widens the attack surface. To be able to do bad things, current Mac malware requires users to perform some actions – grant rights. So, be careful with allowing any app to access your data, change settings, etc. One more wise move is to make backups. iCloud or ordinary flash drives will help you not lose your data in case of a system glitch or malware attack. Final advice - do use VPNs. Your connection will be encrypted, and attackers will not be able to find where you are actually located or what data your traffic consists of.

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We Need to Improve Cybersecurity Standards in Space

Article | February 27, 2020

Last month, SpaceX became the operator of the world’s largest active satellite constellation. As of the end of January, the company had 242 satellites orbiting the planet with plans to launch 42,000 over the next decade. This is part of its ambitious project to provide internet access across the globe. The race to put satellites in space is on, with Amazon, UK-based OneWeb and other companies chomping at the bit to place thousands of satellites in orbit in the coming months. These new satellites have the potential to revolutionise many aspects of everyday life – from bringing internet access to remote corners of the globe to monitoring the environment and improving global navigation systems. Amid all the fanfare, a critical danger has flown under the radar: the lack of cybersecurity standards and regulations for commercial satellites, in the US and internationally. As a scholar who studies cyber conflict, I’m keenly aware that this, coupled with satellites’ complex supply chains and layers of stakeholders, leaves them highly vulnerable to cyberattacks.

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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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New Cyber Threat Index Shows Industries Are Under Attack in Uncertain Times

Article | April 16, 2020

It has been more than a month since businesses around the world started to implement contingencies in response to the Coronavirus. The Cyber Threat Index Report by Imperva Research Labs tracks changes in traffic and attack trends across multiple industries and countries. This month’s edition looks at how COVID-19 is affecting all industries across the globe. Our researchers have found that while some sectors are experiencing a dip in the number of attacks, on the whole they remain consistent. As the chart below shows, certain sectors have experienced a significant increase in attacks over the past few months: attacks on gaming are up seven percent, food & beverages are up six percent, and financial services are up 3 percent.

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Spotlight

G2OPS

G2 Ops is a Woman-Owned Small Business and a preferred provider of analytical and innovative solutions in the following areas: Model-Based Systems Engineering. Cybersecurity Requirements, Analysis, and Threat Assessment. Energy Facility Security Planning & Threat Evaluation. Shipboard Network Communications and Security Systems Design & Installation. Energy Sector Security Solutions. Education Consulting. Strategic vision: G2 Ops helps companies stay ahead of cyber crime and IT threats by identifying and measuring weaknesses before incidents occur, then providing remediation priorities based on individual business and financial risk thresholds.

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