March 24, 2018 – In this day and age, we mostly understand the requirement to protect information whether it is personal, or business related. Positions related to information security can be found around the country typically in organizations larger than a small enterprise. This included government organizations at all levels; federal, state, county, & municipal.
These organizations not only have the responsibility of protecting personally identifiable information of their citizens, but may also have additional standards/requirements they need to follow such as
If the organization is solely seeking to just meet the requirements, then they may be missing additional areas that need to be protected. The Information Security Officer needs to transition to being a Security Officer responsible for securing all things digital, especially if they are critical for normal daily life.
Elements of critical infrastructure, such as the water supply and waste water have been in the news. Some of the other services some municipalities provide and should be concerned with protecting are the transmission of electricity, Cable TV, and Internet services if they are services that they are responsible for providing.
As government agencies increasingly depend on devices that offer some advantage to remotely managing or gathering information from, more are being placed on the Internet. One such device is the traffic controller. These devices are found at individual intersections and can be linked together to improve traffic flow.
Traffic control systems are a form of an industrial control system. They don’t operate at the speeds found in manufacturing systems, but they do operate in a similar manner. They take inputs from road and optical sensors, adjust as programmed, and trigger events such as changing the lights from red to green.
So, what would happen if those control systems are left open to the world? Well it could lead to scenes found in such movies as Live Free, Die Hard, or The Italian Job. Recent research into traffic control systems led to the discovery of over 250 traffic control systems on the Internet in the United States and Canada. Of those discovered, I was able to locate 25 in Canada and 24 in the United States that were open where the username and password were disabled.
Devices were found that controlled major intersections on a main thoroughfare where a highway intersected the road in two large cities. Eleven out of 15 traffic control systems were found on a single major road through a city in California. Several were discovered that belonged to a city in Texas.
What was concerning about the city in Texas, was that the city would not have known if those handful of devices were not open to the Internet. Based on the IP address, there are assumptions that can be made about other IP addresses in the same address range that are protected by a login prompt. This may represent all the traffic control systems in the city.
The traffic controls discovered are modular in nature. Seeing that most of the Texas devices are protected with a username and password, it would seem those that are open to the Internet are that way probably due to maintenance where a module was replaced.
These findings were reported to the U.S. municipalities where these traffic control systems are located. This was to allow them the opportunity to secure the system. Hence the lack of specific details in this article.
Protecting traffic control systems from outside access is just as important as protecting all the information that the government organizations are responsible for protecting due to standards and regulation. Traffic control systems are just as critical as water, sewage, and electricity and should be protected just the same.
Suggestions for organizations that manage traffic control systems:
After all, who likes sitting in in traffic now? Imaging what would happen if someone wanted to make it worse by remotely controlling the traffic control system from elsewhere in the world?
February 27, 2018 – Last week, the city of Allentown was hit with Emotet, malware that started as a banking trojan. Reports indicate that the initial entry into their municipal business environment occurred via phishing. Once the malware was downloaded and installed, it began to replicate itself across the city government’s network infecting devices and stealing login credentials. This has resulted in the city’s financial system being offline, the city’s camera surveillance being taken offline, and the city’s police department being disconnected from the Pennsylvania law enforcement network.
It is estimated that the cost to remediate this attack will be close to $1 million. This same malware has infected other government and public-school facilities. In fact, this past January, the same malware cost the Rockingham, North Carolina school district $314,000 to recover from the infection.
What is Emotet? Emotet is malware that started out as a banking trojan three years ago. It was originally designed to sniff network traffic for user login credentials. Over the last three years, the malware has morphed to allow for custom modules to be added. Last year, the malware started to use the EternalBlue exploit developed by the NSA and later leaked to the public. This exploit allows the malware to spread across Windows networks on devices that have not been patched. The malware is not easily blocked as it can be delivered via .js, .pdf, and .doc/.docx files.
What can be done? Ensure that you are auditing your patching to verify that patches are being applied as they should. Not saying that this malware spread via the EternalBlue exploit, however as a method that it does spread by, are you ready to prevent it from spreading.
Why perform a patch audit? Sometimes patches may be pushed in an automated fashion, but for whatever reason just don’t make it on to a system and may require a more hands on approach.
October 24, 2017 – A piece of malware called “Bad Rabbit” is reportedly making its rounds around Eastern Europe and Russia. However, the United States Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT) has reported they have “received multiple reports of Bad Rabbit ransomware infections in many countries around the world.”
The ransomware infection is being distributed via a pop-up in the user’s browser that says the version of Adobe Flash Player installed is out of date. Once the fake update is downloaded, it will move from computer to computer encrypting the files and stealing info in memory.
This malware preys on a weakness in Windows operating systems using a method discovered and used by the National Security Agency. This weakness (aka vulnerability) became public when it was stolen and then leaked to the world as “EternalBlue”.
The vulnerability utilizes a communication method that is used between Windows based computers called Server Message Block version 1. As this method of communication is the oldest version in use, there were a significant amount of computers that were easily attacked in April/May of 2017. This is evidenced by the WannaCry and the Petya/notPetya malware that took control of over 230,000 computers in 150 different countries. If it was not for an alert cyber security researcher that found a method of killing the malware, this number would have been much higher. Organizations that were affected include FedEx, British hospital system, and French auto manufacturer Renault, to name a few.
A fix for the vulnerability was sent out in March by Microsoft. The computers that did not apply the fix were left vulnerable. As of this date, there are still computers vulnerable as they have not received the fix.
What can you do? Ensure your computers are up to date on patches. This can be done by using Windows Update on your computers or by using a patch management system.
If there are any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
October 15, 2017 – Cybersecurity is not ONLY about responding to a ransomware or hacker but being prepared to prevent it from happening. When you are prepared to prevent an attacker for entering your computers or network, you make it difficult for them to be successful. For an attacker that means they will have to spend more time trying to get what they want. If it is simply to hold your computer and information for ransom, then they will likely move on. If it is your information that they want, they will expend the extra time to get it. But who said you had to make it easy?
So, what can you do? Well, a lot. But don’t despair. It may not cost you a lot to implement. Let’s follow the National Institute for Standards & Technology (NIST) Cyber Security Framework. In the framework there are two areas that are easily addressed. Identify and Protect.
Asset Management – Get a list of EVERYTHING that processes information electronically. It could be a security camera connected to your network, your computers & servers, a printer, all you network devices, etc. Record what it is, what operating system (Windows, Linux, macOS, etc) and what software is installed on it (Office 2016, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, and the other programs you use). If it is a device like a printer or a security camera, record the brand and determine the firmware version.
Maintenance – Update your software and firmware when new version are available as they may address security flaws in the software. For Windows and other applications, updates are provided monthly. Others, not so often. Check with the developer and see if they have an email list you can join to be notified when there are updates.
The longer a security flaw remains in your software or firmware the easier you make it for an attacker to be successful in taking or ransoming your information. But by doing these two things, you have done a lot to protect your information and taken a proactive stance in preventing an attack from being successful.
If you need assistance, let us know. We’ll be glad to help you become proactive!
August 23, 2017 – BLUF: We highly recommend that you contact an information security professional regarding this legislation. If not us, find someone who can help you determine if you are doing what needs to be done to stay within the guidelines of this legislation.
On 17 August, 2017, Governor Carney signed legislation that improved cybersecurity protections for the citizens of Delaware and goes into effect in April. It improved on the original cybersecurity legislation written nearly a decade ago. House Substitute 1 for House Bill 180 (http://legis.delaware.gov/BillDetail?legislationId=26009) provides for additional protection requirements where personal information may be compromised as the result of a breach. In the event of a breach of personal information, the legislation requires notifications and free credit monitoring services whose social security information was potentially disclosed via the breach.
The updated legislation now includes a definition that is used to determine if a breach of security has occurred. A breach has occurred when “a person who owns, licenses, or maintains computerized data has sufficient evidence to conclude that a breach of security of such computerized data has taken place.” Reporting of a breach is left to the holder of the data to have the integrity to come forward and announce that they have had a breach. The key word in the legislation is determination. It has to be determined that breach occurred before any reporting is required. Who determines? Who makes the call? At any rate, the organization has 60 days to make notifications (as long as it does not ruin a police investigation) from the date of determination.
The legislation also introduces encryption to the lexicon. It states that it is required but it don’t provide minimum-level of encryption. The only statement is that it is “rendered unusable, unreadable, indecipherable through a security technology or methodology generally accepted in the field of information security. This is a problem, depending on the source that you query for, the organization could end up with an encryption standard that is reversible. Some developers, roll their own crypto algorithms that are found to contain faults.
The legislation states that organizations must protect by encryption personal information, which is defined as a Delaware resident’s first name or first initial and last name in combination with any 1 or more of the following data elements that relate to that individual
“Personal information” does not include publicly available information that is lawfully made available to the general public from federal, state, or local government records or widely distributed media.
March 4, 2017 – It is a simple question that is asked when someone needs proof that some piece of knowledge needs to be validated in some way and typically leads to follow-on questions.
So, when it comes to information risk let me ask you… “How do you know?”
How do you know what is the risk to your technology infrastructure or the information that you use? Have you identified the risk to your business? Identifying risk will help your organization (micro, small, medium, to mega sized) begin to prepare to address the risks that can present themselves to your business. In some industries, there are mandatory requirements to address risk via a risk assessment (HIPAA, PCI, etc).
The process of assessing risk is straightforward. To begin, identify what you have that could be at risk (databases, intellectual property, web site, servers, computers, users, network, etc.) Of those items, if something were to happen to them, what would be the impact? The loss of a laptop might not be considered, but what if that laptop had confidential or health care related information on it? Then the impact would be high.
In order for risk to be realized against those devices, there needs to be a vulnerability. A vulnerability is a weakness that would allow a threat to be successful in disrupting the organization. Vulnerabilities come in different forms. They could be a vulnerability in the computer’s operating system or software. They could be in a physical form, for example having a customer service window that would allow access to information or devices nearby.
Once you have identified what could be at risk and the associated vulnerabilities, think about what might disrupt your business operation or affect the business’ brand if those items have vulnerabilities that are subject to various types of threats. Identifying the threats can be the fun part. For example an attack by Godzilla or aliens from Mars. Yes those are unrealistic and the risk from those particular threats are extremely low if not zero. So they are discounted. However realistic threats to your business may come in the form of examples listed below. Don’t forget that the threat can be accidental or intentional, include both types of threat when identifying risk. There can be many more than that, it is up to you how far to go in identifying the threats.
This is just the first part in dealing with risk. Identifying the what, how, and why of risk to your business critical information is followed by addressing the risk and then making a determination on those items that can’t be addressed.
For the second year in the row, we are proud to sponsor Delaware’s Cyber Security Workshop.
The workshop will be held at the Dover Downs Casino in Dover, Delaware on 7 September.
The event is free, however does require advanced registration.
For more information on the event and to register please see…
The town manager and IT director knew they were in for an eye opening. But not as wide as I showed them the persistent attack their network was under.
As I mentioned in my last post, bringing your own device (BYOD) provides a benefit to businesses that need work done, but don’t have the money to purchase the equipment. But there was a caveat, that benefit must be weighed against the risk the business assumes by allowing BYOD.
Second to the businesses employees, the most valuable asset a company has is their information and the information they process. This information is what is at risk if there happens to be vulnerability that is exploited (intentionally or unintentionally) by an employee or other person that gets there hands on the device.
Some threats that pose dangers to your data is
1. Malware/Viruses/Spyware. Introduction of malware, viruses, and spyware into the company IT infrastructure could have a crippling effect on your business. The latest malware also known as ransomware encrypts the data on the users device and there by prevents the user from gaining access to the files needed. If a BYOD user gets hit with ransomware while connected to the business’ files, the business may be out of luck.
2. Lost/Stolen device. Perhaps the largest threat. The Veteran’s Administration is no stranger to lost portable electronic devices. In 2006 they lost a single laptop that contained a significant amount of information about U.S. veterans. It has not only happened to the Veteran’s Administration but also to car manufacturers, HR recruiting companies, etc. Once the device is lost, the data is potentially forever lost and possibly compromised.
3. Rooted devices. Device manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure some level of security on the devices they sell. But there are people that want more access to the inner workings of the device. The super power users inadvertently open their device to being an easier target for malware and misbehaving applications.
4. Outdated software. Numerous times each week, updates and patches to software applications are released to fix flaws within the application that not only affect how the application works, but also affect the security of the device and data.
5. Open WiFi. In this day and age, most are desiring the ability to be able to connect anywhere at anytime. Look at all the places that offer free or pay WiFi… airport, coffee shops, stores, restaurants, just about anywhere you go. When connecting to these WiFi sources, the connections are typically unprotected. Another person at the same coffee shop could snoop on the mobile device’s traffic and get all sorts of information. Maybe even get into the computer.
6. Unlocked devices. Locking the device provides a minimal measure of security. This prevents people from picking up the device and scrolling through documents, emails, or other files related to your business. It is a simple mechanism, but is often not implemented.
This just a summary of some of the larger threats associated with BYOD. In my next blog entry, we will look at what can be done to protect a business while still implementing BYOD.
Until then… Think twice and perform a cyber 360.
Microsoft has announced a new zero-day flaw that exists in Microsoft Internet Explorer versions 6-11. This flaw can be exploited to run programs on the computers of unsuspecting users. These programs are likely to be hidden malware that can take over your machine or steal your personal data.
Microsoft is working to resolve this flaw, however no timeline has been given on when this might occur.
So what do you do? Do yourself a favor and protect your data. Don’t use Internet Explorer. Use an alternative like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or even Apple Safari.