THE NIST CYBERSECURITY FRAMEWORK: A FOUNDATION FOR IMPROVED ATTACK DEFENSE

SUMNER BLOUNT | April 26, 2016

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Media outlets are filled with news about the latest attacks on some enterprise’s critical systems, especially health care and retail. As bad as these often are, a successful attack on the underpinnings of the nation’s critical infrastructure would have far more catastrophic impacts.Countering the Continuing Threat to Infrastructure Systems The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)’s Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity (the framework), finalized in February 2014, is intended to help establish guidelines and best practices for ensuring that critical systems are adequately protected. Although voluntary, it is expected that it will be adopted by multiple companies across several verticals simply because it provides an excellent framework for security systems to be evaluated and improved.

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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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Guide to Cloud Security Certification: Which Ones Are the Best of the Best?

Article | April 27, 2021

As your organization looks to move to cloud computing, security certification will become more critical. Cloud solutions have unique security considerations that are different from an on-premise solution. IT professionals that are managing these solutions should be well-versed in multi-layered protection, encryption, monitoring, and more. Not only is certification important for your own IT staff, but it should also be part of your recruiting strategy. Experience combined with certifications can be invaluable foclr protecting your cloud environment. You want to ensure that the data you store in the cloud is protected from security threats.

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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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Covid-19 cyber security threat to impact businesses

Article | April 1, 2020

With millions of employees having to work from home, companies are having to look at how to keep as many business-critical functions running as possible while at the same time maintaining adequate security. “In the last week alone, we have seen phishing emails go from 25,000 a day to 125,000 – a 500 per cent increase – which means the risk is real," explains Andrew Jackson, CEO of Intercity Technology. "Whilst firewalls included within domestic broadband routers are considered sufficient for personal use and occasional homeworking, they’re not necessarily capable of withstanding prolonged periods of remote working from a large proportion of the workforce, which is why we are seeing more businesses and their employees become the targets of malicious hackers. "Just because employees are now home based doesn’t mean that security and privacy regulations such as GDPR are null and void and therefore, working closely with a trusted IT security partner is vital to help mitigate against any potential risks.

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At Santex we create on-demand software engineering services to help people and businesses throughout the world transform their vision into reality. We provide tailored enterprise software development to meet our client specific requirements through our 9 Hubs: Digital Commerce, Mobility, Web App Development, Security, CRMs, Enterprise, DevOps, Artificial Intelligence and Quality Engineering.

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