Article | February 12, 2020
During 2019, new privacy laws were introduced, and many current laws evolved in the United States and across the global landscape. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in full effect, we saw expensive fines levied upon companies that fell victim to data privacy breaches. As we move into a new year, probably the biggest takeaway from 2019 is that being proactive and having a data privacy strategy in place is important to help mitigate the risk of a data privacy breach. The regulatory landscape continues to evolve as states and countries actively pass new expanded requirements for privacy and cybersecurity regulations. While laws in the U.S., like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), are getting significant attention, many other states and countries are actively amending their breach notification laws to include tighter restrictions.
Article | December 15, 2020
Just about every single day, somewhere in the world, a company falls victim to cyber attackers, even with millions spent on cybersecurity.
Every company is a target because they have data and there are too many doors, windows and entryways for cyber attackers to get in, whether on-premise or in the cloud. It is not a question of if, but when, the attackers will get in.
Prevention efforts are of course important, but since attackers will get in, equal attention must be on detection going forward. And the focus must be on early detection, otherwise, it will be too late.
My book, Next Level Cybersecurity, is based on intensive reviews of the world’s largest hacks and uncovers the signals of the attackers that companies are either missing or don’t know how to detect early, apart from all of the noise. So, the attackers are slipping by the cybersecurity, staying undetected and stealing data or committing other harm.
In the book I explain the Cyber Attack Chain. It is a simplified model that shows the steps that cyber attackers tend to follow in just about every single hack. There are five steps:
command and control; and
At each step, there will be signals of the attackers’ behavior and activity. But the signals in the intrusion, lateral movement and command and control steps provide the greatest value because they are timely.
The external reconnaissance step is very early and the signals may not materialize into an attack, while detecting signals in the execution step is too late because by this time the data theft or harm will have already occurred.
My research uncovered 15 major signals in the intrusion, lateral movement and command and control steps that should be the focus of detection.
My research of the world’s largest hacks reveals that if the company had detected signals of the attackers early, in the intrusion, lateral movement or command and control steps, they would have been able to stop the hack and prevent the loss or damage.
My book shows how to detect the signals in time, using a seven-step early detection method. One of the key steps in this method is to map relevant signals to the Crown Jewels (crucial data, IP or other assets). It is a great use case for machine learning and AI. There is a lot of noise, so machine learning and AI can help eliminate false positives and expose the attackers’ signals early to stop the hack.
There are two blind spots that just about every single company world-wide faces that cyber attackers will exploit, beginning in 2019, that companies must get on top of.
One blind spot is the cloud. There is a false sense of comfort and lack of attention to detection, thinking the cloud is safer because of the cloud provider’s cybersecurity or because the cloud provider has an out-of-the-box monitoring system. However, if the company fails to identify all Crown Jewels and map all relevant cyber attacker signals for the monitoring, the attackers will get in, remain undetected and steal data or commit other harm in the cloud.
The other blind spot is Internet of Things (IoT). IoT devices (e.g. smart TVs, webcams, routers, sensors, etc.), with 5G on the way, will be ubiquitous in companies world-wide. While IoT devices provide many benefits, they are a weak link in the chain due to poor built-in security and lack of monitoring. Cyber attackers will focus on IoT devices to make the intrusion, then pivot to get to the Crown Jewels. Detecting early signals of cyber attackers trying to exploit IoT devices will be critical.
Companies world-wide need to make cybersecurity a priority, starting in the board room and with the CEO. It all starts at the top. My intensive reviews of the world’s largest hacks reveal in each case a common theme: inadequate or missing CEO and board cybersecurity oversight.
Here are five key questions from my book that the CEO must take the lead on and together with the board ask of the management team to make sure the company will not become the next victim of cyber attackers and suffer significant financial and reputational harm:
Have we identified all of our Crown Jewels and are not missing any?
Do we know where all of the Crown Jewels are located?
Have we identified all of the ways cyber attackers could get to the Crown Jewels?
Have we mapped high probability signals of cyber attackers trying to get to the Crown Jewels with each Crown Jewel?
Are we sifting through all of the noise to detect signals early and reporting to the CEO and the board in a dashboard report for timely oversight?
If your answer is No to any of the questions or you are unsure, you have a gap or blind spot and are at risk, and you must follow up to get to a high confidence Yes answer.
In my book, Next Level Cybersecurity, I provide other key questions to ask and a practical seven-step method to take cybersecurity to the next level to stay one step ahead of the attackers. It is written in plain language for boards, executives and management, so everyone can get on the same page and together mitigate one of the most significant and disruptive risks faced today, cybersecurity.
Article | March 19, 2020
Measures to mitigate the outbreak of COVID-19 have led to an unprecedented increase in remote working across the board. Our guest author Philip Blake, European Regional Director at EC-Council and cybersecurity expert, outlines key challenges and tips for staying secure while away from the office. As governments and businesses work on mitigating the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, social distancing measures are leading to an increase in remote working across all sectors. The reasoning behind the measures is best left to health authorities, and are discussed at length elsewhere. The purpose of this article is to shed light on some of the key cybersecurity challenges around the sudden spike in remote work arrangements, and propose potential measures to keep networks as secure as possible during these times.
Article | November 25, 2020
On their road to recovery from the pandemic, businesses face unique dilemmas. This includes substantial and entirely necessary investments in digital transformation, however tight budgets are making such endeavors difficult if not impossible. Businesses continue to struggle with pivots like adopting new digital platforms, shifting their corporate model to resolve supply chain disruption and enabling a remote workforce.
The inability for businesses to quickly adopt technologies that support digital transformation processes, including identity-based segmentation, virtual desktop interfaces and full-stack cloud, is hindering their ability to adequately address new threats and even to test new security systems and protocols.
“Now more than ever, it’s imperative to remediate risk exposure and vulnerabilities within an organization’s existing systems—optimally from the get-go,” urges cybersecurity expert Nishant Srivastava, Cyber Security Architect and field expert at Cognizant—an IT Solutions and Services firm for which he's focused on designing and implementing Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions. “Biggest threats should get highest priority, of course, but the magnitude or even likelihood of a threat should not be the sole consideration. Organizations should also look at other forms of value that new technologies can bring.”
Below Srivastava, a senior-level IAM, governance and cyber risk authority, offers key digital security vulnerabilities businesses need to be mindful of given increased digital dependency amid the pandemic. Heed these best practices to help keep your company—and customers—uncompromised.
Consumer-Facing App Gaps
For consumer-facing web applications, some of the biggest security threats include path traversal, cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injections and remote command execution. Of course, protecting customer data is an utmost security concern and breaches abound. One of the biggest challenges to address these kind of issues lies with lacking human resources. There is a lack of aptly trained and skilled security staff in even the most sophisticated of regions, which is cultivating a gap in cybersecurity skills across the globe. It goes without saying that employee training and investing in highly-qualified staff are among the best ways to establish, maintain and uphold security levels of consumer facing apps. Rifts, however small, can induce excessive damage and losses.
Online delivery businesses that are aware of security risks would be wise to introduce more secure logins, automatic logouts and random shopper ID verification and are preventing shoppers from swapping devices when ordering. Such measures will help thwart breaches that expose of customer names, credit card information, passwords, email addresses and other personal and sensitive information.
Companies selling goods or services online also should not launch without a secure socket layer (SSL) connection. It will encrypt all data transfer between the company’s back end server and the user's browser. This way, a hacker won’t be able to steal and decode data even if he or she manages to intercept web traffic.
Another useful strategy is to enforce password limitations. Passwords should be as complicated as possible with a combination of symbols, numbers and letters. Investing in a tokenization system is worthwhile because any hacker who accesses the back end system can read and steal sensitive information, which is held in the database as plain text. Some payment providers tokenize cardholder information, which means a token replaces the raw data so the database then holds a token rather than the real data. If someone steals it, they can’t do anything with it because it’s just a token.
Ransomware threats are escalating, which is why those doing business digitally should enforce a multi-layer security strategy that incorporates data loss prevention software, file encryption, personal firewall and anti-malware. This will protect both a company’s infrastructure and its endpoint.
Data backups are key because there’s still a mild chance of a breach even with all of the aforementioned security solutions in place. The easiest and most effective way to minimize cyberattack damage is to copy files to a separate device. This very reliable form of backup makes it possible for people to recommence work as usual with little to no downtime, and all their computer files intact, should an attack occur.
Gmail blocks over 100 million COVID-related phishing emails every day, but more than 240 million are sent. That means less than half sent via Gmail alone are blocked. Experts cite imposing limits on remote desktop protocol (RDP) access, multifactor authentication for VPN access, in-depth remote network connection analysis and IP address whitelisting as some of the best strategies to maintain security. In addition, businesses should secure externally facing apps like supplier portals that use risk-based and multifactor authentication—particularly for apps that would let a cybercriminal divert payments or alter user bank account details.
The shift to remote work after the pandemic hit has given cybercriminals more and more opportunities, directing their focus on the tools people use for work. It’s important that people recognize their vulnerabilities, particularly while they work from home. Among these are hacked videoconference passwords and unprotected videoconference links, which criminals can use to access an organization’s network without authorization. Many people who work from home do not use secured networks, unknowingly and unintentionally. Many are just not aware of the risks.
To avoid online teleconference security issues, meetings should always be encrypted. This means a message can only be read by the recipient intended and that the host must be present before the meeting begins. There should also be waiting rooms for participants. Screen share watermarks, locking a meeting, and use of audio signatures are additional recommendations.
When asked what his best advice would be to tweak security for a workforce that’s predominately working remotely, Nishant says that companies should start by analyzing the basics (like those specified above) against the backdrop of a wide range of ever-escalating and evolving threats. “Employees should use dual-factor authentication and make sure apps, mobile phones and laptops are updated and that available patches and updates are always installed,” he says. “They should certainly be wary of all information requests and verify the source. These even include unexpected calls or emails seemingly from colleagues.”
Srivastava also pointed out that insiders at the CIO Symposium in July 2020 agreed that the pandemic packed years of digital transformation into just a few weeks. The use of third parties emerged as a major security concern to take into account. For instance, some employees abroad were unable to move their computers to their homes, so employers rushed to supply them with new equipment. In the process, some of it was not set up correctly thus compromising security. Companies should have done more to determine out whether individuals were using technology properly, such as if employees were sharing work devices or using their own personal equipment.
On the plus side, the shift toward working from home sped up multi-factor authentication adoption. This is a great opportunity that today’s digitally-driven businesses should take advantage of.
In short, Srivastava advocates taking a zero-trust approach. “It might sound harsh, but this is the idea that you can’t trust devices, people and apps by default,” he says. “Everything needs to be authorized and authenticated. Users should always verify and never trust, and businesses should act as if there has already been a breach and work to shore up weak links in the security chain. Finally, businesses should give access to information and data to as few people as possible—and wholly ensure those who do have access are appropriately trained to recognize when a red flag presents.
By employing all or even some of the advice above, businesses can continue to thrive as the digital transformation age unfolds—and do so more confidently and contently all around.