New Critical Security Controls Guidelines for SSL/TLS Management

STEPHEN NORTHCUTT | April 26, 2016

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The need for authentication and assurance is great and options are few; therefore, we have come to rely on encrypted SSL/TLS certificates for almost every new application, appliance, device and cloud service.

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For more than 12 years Ikaria has been a Leader in the IT Security Industry and one of Poland’s fastest growing IT companies. What we do: ANTI VIRUS & MALWARE DEFENSE Are you looking for the best security products for your company? We are #1 provider of Security Software in Poland. We offer products from both global leaders and niche market solutions.

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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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As Ransomware Surge Continues, Where Next for Government?

Article | August 30, 2021

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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Zero Trust – Demystified

Article | July 29, 2020

1. Zero Trust – Demystified Everyone seems to be talking about Zero Trust in the security world at the moment. Unfortunately there seems to be multiple definitions of this depending on which vendor you ask. To help others understand what Zero Trust is, this white paper covers the key aspects of a Zero Trust model. 1.1. What is Zero Trust Zero Trust is a philosophy and a related architecture to implement this way of thinking founded by John Kindervag in 2010. What it isn’t, is a particular technology! There are three key components to a Zero Trust model: 1. User / Application authentication – we must authenticate the user or the application (in cases where applications are requesting automated access) irrefutably to ensure that the entity requesting access is indeed that entity 2. Device authentication – just authenticating the user / application is not enough. We must authenticate the device requesting access as well 3. Trust – access is then granted once the user / application and device is irrefutably authenticated. Essentially, the framework dictates that we cannot trust anything inside or outside your perimeters. The zero trust model operates on the principle of 'never trust, always verify’. It effectively assumes that the perimeter is dead and we can no longer operate on the idea of establishing a perimeter and expecting a lower level of security inside the perimeter as everything inside is trusted. This has unfortunately proven true in multiple attacks as attackers simply enter the perimeter through trusted connections via tactics such as phishing attacks. 1.2. Enforcing the control plane In order to adequately implement Zero Trust, one must enforce and leverage distributed policy enforcement as far toward the network edge as possible. This basically means that granular authentication and authorisation controls are enforced as far away from the data as possible which in most cases tends to be the device the user is using to access the data. So in essence, the user and device are both untrusted until both are authenticated after which very granular role based access controls are enforced. In order to achieve the above, a control plane must be implemented that can coordinate and configure access to data. This control plane is technology agnostic. It simply needs to perform the function described above. Requests for access to protected resources are first made through the control plane, where both the device and user must be authenticated and authorised. Fine-grained policy can be applied at this layer, perhaps based on role in the organization, time of day, or type of device. Access to more secure resources can additionally mandate stronger authentication. Once the control plane has decided that the request will be allowed, it dynamically configures the data plane to accept traffic from that client (and that client only). In addition, it can coordinate the details of an encrypted tunnel between the requestor and the resource to prevent traffic from being ‘sniffed on the wire’. 1.3. Components of Zero Trust and the Control Plane Enforcing a Zero Trust model and the associated control plan that instructs the data plane to accept traffic from that client upon authentication requires some key components for the model to operate. The first and most fundamental is micro-segmentation and granular perimeter enforcement based on: Users Their locations Their devices and its security posture Their Behaviour Their Context and other data The above aspects are used to determine whether to trust a user, machine or application seeking access to a particular part of the enterprise. In this case, the micro-segmentation technology essentially becomes the control plane. Per the above section, encryption on the wire is a key component of Zero Trust. For any micro-segmentation technology to be an effective control plane, it must: Enforce traffic encryption between endpoints Authenticate the user and machine based on their identity and not the network segment they are coming from. 1.4. Zero Trust Technologies As stated earlier, Zero Trust is an architecture. Other than micro-segmentation, the following key technologies and processes are required to implement Zero Trust: Multifactor authentication – to enforce strong authentication Identity and Access Management – to irrefutably authenticate the user / application and the device User and network behaviour analytics – to understand the relative behaviours of the user and the network they are coming from and highlight any unusual behaviour compared to a pre-established baseline which may indicate a compromised identity Endpoint security – to ensure that the endpoint itself is clean and will not act as a conduit for an attacker to gain unauthorised access to data Encryption – to prevent ‘sniffing of traffic on the wire’ Scoring – establishing a ‘score’ based on the perimeters above that will then determine whether access can be granted or not Apart from the above key components, the following are needed as well: File system permissions – needed in order to implement role based access controls Auditing and logging – to provide monitoring capabilities in case unauthorised access is achieved Granular role based access controls – to ensure access is on a ‘need to know basis only’ Supporting processes – all of the above needs to be supported by adequate operational procedures, processes and a conducive security framework so that the model operates as intended Mindset and organisational change management – since Zero Trust is a shift in security thinking, a mindset change managed by robust change management is required to ensure the successful implementation of Zero Trust in an organisation. 1.5. Challenges with Zero Trust So Zero Trust sounds pretty awesome, right? So why haven’t organisations adopted it fully? As with any new technology or philosophy, there are always adoption challenges. Zero Trust is no different. At a high level, the key challenges in my experience are: Change resistance – Zero Trust is a fundamental shift in the way security is implemented. As a result, there is resistance from many who are simply used to the traditional perimeter based security model Technology focus as opposed to strategy focus – since Zero Trust is a model that will impact the entire enterprise, it requires careful planning and a strategy to implement this. Many are still approaching security from the angle that if we throw enough technology at it, it will be fine. Unfortunately, this thinking is what will destroy the key principles of Zero Trust Legacy systems and environments – legacy systems and environments that we still need for a variety of reasons were built around the traditional perimeter based security model. Changing them may not be easy and in some cases may stop these systems from operating Time and cost – Zero Trust is an enterprise wide initiative. As such, it requires time and investment, both of which may be scarce in an organisation. 1.6. Suggested Approach to Zero Trust Having discussed some challenges to adopting a Zero Trust model above, let’s focus on an approach that may allow an organisation to implement a Zero Trust model successfully: 1. Take a multi-year and multi-phased approach – Zero Trust takes time to implement. Take your time and phase the project out to spread the investment over a few financial years 2. Determine an overall strategy and start from there – since Zero Trust impacts the entire enterprise, a well-crafted strategy is critical to ensure success. A suggested, phased approach is: a. Cloud environments, new systems and digital transformation are good places to start – these tend to be greenfield and should be more conducive to a new security model b. Ensure zero trust is built into new systems, and upgrades or changes – build Zero Trust by design, not by retrofit. As legacy systems are changed or retired, a Zero Trust model should be part of the new deployment strategy c. Engage a robust change management program – mindset adjustment through good change management 3. Take a risk and business focus – this will allow you to focus on protecting critical information assets and justify the investments based on ROI and risk mitigation 4. Ensure maintenance and management of the new environment – as with everything, ensure your new Zero Trust deployment is well maintained and managed and does not degrade over time. To summarise, Zero Trust is a security philosophy and architecture that will change the way traditional perimeter based security is deployed. A key component of it is the control plane that instructs the data plane to provide access to data. Zero Trust dictates that access can only be granted once the user / application and device are irrefutably authenticated and even then this access is provided on a ‘need to know’ basis only. Micro-segmentation is a key technology component of Zero Trust implementation and this paper has stated other key technology components and processes that are needed to implement Zero Trust adequately. This paper has discussed some of the challenges with implementing Zero Trust which include change resistance as well as legacy systems. The paper then provided an approach to implementing Zero Trust which included taking a phased approach based on a sound strategy underpinned by a risk and business focused approach.

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Here’s What Universities Need to Know About Cyber-Attacks

Article | June 1, 2021

Over the last year, the education delivery model has changed rapidly. Universities have learnt to operate entirely remotely and now that learning may resume in person, a hybrid education model will likely continue. The transition from physical to online models happened so quickly that it left many IT networks exposed to serious harm from outside forces. With a hybrid model, there is likely a widening attack surface area. A recent spate of attacks suggests that cyber-criminals are taking notice of the seemingly infinite weaknesses in learning centers defenses. But why? One of the primary reasons is that universities operate large corporate-sized networks, but without the budgets to match. Add to that, teachers and students aren’t given training to use and connect their technology in a safe way. To avoid falling victim to devastating cyber-attacks which often have dire consequences, we share three lessons universities need to quickly take on board. Your Research is Valuable to Cyber-Criminals There is a hefty price tag on some of the research conducted by universities, which makes it particularly attractive to cyber-criminals. The University of Oxford’s Division of Structural Biology was targeted in February by hackers snooping around, potentially in search of information about the vaccine the university has worked on with AstraZeneca. It’s not just gangs of cyber-criminals targeting research facilities, last year Russian state backed hackers were accused by official sources in the US, UK and Canada of trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine and treatment research. With world-leading research hidden in the networks of universities, its unsurprising that last year over half (54%) of universities surveyed said that they had reported a breach to the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office). The research conducted by many UK universities makes them an attractive target for financially motivated cyber-criminals and state-sponsored hackers in search of valuable intellectual property. To add insult to injury, ransomware attackers are doubling their opportunity for pay off by selling off the stolen information to the highest bidder, causing a serious headache for the victims while potentially increasing the value of their pay-out. Personal Information of Students and Staff Can Easily Fall into the Wrong Hands Based on tests of UK university defenses, hackers were able to obtain ‘high-value’ data within two hours in every case. In many cases, successful cyber-attacks are followed by not only a ransom note demanding payment for the recovery of frozen or stolen data, but also the added threat of sharing any sensitive stolen information with the public.

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Spotlight

Ikaria – IT Security Experts

For more than 12 years Ikaria has been a Leader in the IT Security Industry and one of Poland’s fastest growing IT companies. What we do: ANTI VIRUS & MALWARE DEFENSE Are you looking for the best security products for your company? We are #1 provider of Security Software in Poland. We offer products from both global leaders and niche market solutions.

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