Cybersecurity in the Federal Government

| April 26, 2016

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A key finding was that federal IT pros identified careless and untrained insiders as their greatest source of cybersecurity threats - over malicious external sources such as hackers and terrorists - yet disparately reported that malicious external threat sources maintained priority for threat prevention investment. SolarWinds explored cybersecurity policies, processes and threat prevention tools to address this lack of internal threat visibility.

Spotlight

Prevailion

One Compromised Partner is All It Takes. Your Third Party Ecosystem may be your weakest link, compromised due to poor security practices or sophisticated malware. That lack of visibility is rampant among all organizations today. Prevailion has built the world’s first nation-state level solution for empirical proof of active, confirmed compromises. Leveraging our proprietary global passive sensor network we specifically target and infiltrate adversary Command-and-Control (C2) infrastructure, collecting tens of millions of pieces of evidence every day with a zero signal-to-noise ratio. That evidence is then organized, attributed, and made available to our customers via a dashboard and/or API subscription.

OTHER ARTICLES

COVID-19 and Amygdala Hijacking in Cyber Security Scams

Article | April 9, 2020

What races through your mind when you see “Coronavirus” or “COVID-19”? Fear, anxiety, curiosity… these internal reactions can prompt actions that we may not normally take. Recent attacks have been sending out mandatory meeting invites that ask you to log in to accounts. Others have been receiving emails to put themselves on a waiting list for a vaccine or treatment. The heightened emotions we experience when we see emails, or messages like this, may prompt us to give personal information out more willingly than we usually would. Security awareness takes a back seat as emotion takes over. It’s known as amygdala hijacking. Why does this happen to us? The amygdala is a small part of the brain that is largely responsible for generating emotional responses. An amygdala hijack is when something generates an overwhelming and immediate emotional response.Many common cyber security scams use amygdala hijacking to their benefit. We see this used often in phishing, vishing, SMShing, and impersonation attacks. Chris Hadnagy of Social-Engineer, LLC did a case study on amygdala hijacking in social engineering.

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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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Protecting against Cybersecurity Threats when Working from Home

Article | March 11, 2020

With the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many organizations are requiring or permitting employees to work remotely. This post is intended to remind employers and employees that in the haste to implement widespread work-from-home strategies, data security concerns cannot be forgotten.Employers and employees alike should remain vigilant of increased cybersecurity threats, some of which specifically target remote access strategies. Unfortunately, as noted in a prior blog post, cybercriminals will not be curtailing their efforts to access valuable data during the outbreak, and in fact, will likely take advantage of some of the confusion and communication issues that might arise under the circumstances to perpetrate their schemes. Employees working from home may be accessing or transmitting company trade secrets as well as personal information of individuals. Inappropriate exposure of either type of data can lead to significant adverse consequences for a company.

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Creating and rolling out an effective cyber security strategy

Article | April 16, 2021

What’s more, organisations should also keep in mind that prevention alone is not enough; according to IBM, the average breach detection and containment times currently sits in the region of 280 days. In this time, it’s easy for cyber attackers to gain a foothold in an environment and quickly cause damage. “When developing a cyber security strategy, traditionally enterprises have focused on the threat prevention with little attention given to detection and often none to response,” said Martin Riley, director of managed security services at Bridewell Consulting.

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Spotlight

Prevailion

One Compromised Partner is All It Takes. Your Third Party Ecosystem may be your weakest link, compromised due to poor security practices or sophisticated malware. That lack of visibility is rampant among all organizations today. Prevailion has built the world’s first nation-state level solution for empirical proof of active, confirmed compromises. Leveraging our proprietary global passive sensor network we specifically target and infiltrate adversary Command-and-Control (C2) infrastructure, collecting tens of millions of pieces of evidence every day with a zero signal-to-noise ratio. That evidence is then organized, attributed, and made available to our customers via a dashboard and/or API subscription.

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