Article | February 16, 2020
When Joe refers to analogue devices, he is generally referring to ISA99 / IEC 62443 Level 0 devices, i.e. the sensors and actuators required in any cyber physical system. The vulnerability of these devices is often ignored as the security measures required to protect them are not purely technical but also involve physical and personnel security aspects along with process security (both of the metrology and processing by the device, as well as configuration management and control issues over the lifecycle of analogue devices). The security situation is not helped by the simplistic application of the triad of security goals (confidentiality, integrity and availability) to cyber physical systems.
Article | December 15, 2020
There are three significant and disruptive cybersecurity threats that are catching organizations of all types and sizes by surprise:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Article | March 11, 2020
Microsoft is warning on a wormable, unpatched remote code-execution vulnerability in the Microsoft Server Message Block protocol – the same protocol that was targeted by the infamous WannaCry ransomware in 2017.The critical bug (CVE-2020-0796) affects Windows 10 and Windows Server 2019, and was not included in Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday release this week. The bug can be found in version 3.1.1 of Microsoft’s SMB file-sharing system. SMB allows multiple clients to access shared folders and can provide a rich playground for malware when it comes to lateral movement and client-to-client infection. This was played out in version 1 of SMB back in 2017, when the WannaCry ransomware used the NSA-developed EternalBlue SMB exploit to self-propagate rapidly around the world.