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!
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.
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.
To help businesses understand what is at stake in their business when it comes to information technology, it helps to show them the value of what they have as assets and then apply a level of risk to that asset
Rarely do you find a business any more that does not use a computer of any sort. Gone are the days of credit card carbon slips, paper ledgers, and hand drawn engineering diagrams. We are striving to do more with less to increase profit. In this effort, we reduce what is at stake in one way and see increases in others. For example, in my recent travels to Michigan, I stopped for gas at a gas station that did not have any card readers on their pumps. While I do not know why, it provides a good example of what is at stake by not adopting technology. For example, the reduced threat of credit card theft, but at the expense of having people drive off as it provides a different experience than at other gas stations.
To that end, to remain competitive, businesses of all sizes that are adapting to new technology, may not understand what is at stake by not addressing the risk of implementing it. Does your small business understand what is at risk by providing free and open Internet access to your customers? How about the risk of placing card readers on the gas pumps? Do the benefits out weight the risks? What information does your business have or use? What happens if that information could be used to embarrass your business? What can be done to reduce the effect on your business?
The effect can be reduced by identifying risk and that starts with identifying what you have at stake. Don’t think of what is at stake just physically, because what you have is more than the physical devices that you may have purchased. For example, the laptop that you bought may have only cost $300. The value of the laptop itself may decrease (likely), but what about what you have been doing on that laptop for your business. How much information do you have stored on it (think contracts, projections, plans, contacts, etc?) What is the value of that information? Do you now see that the laptop is worth a lot more than just the value of the physical device. Identifying what you have is designating what you have as assets.
Weaknesses in the laptop represent vulnerabilities. These weaknesses can come in the form of how susceptible it is to damage (physical or logical). For example the laptop is a portable device that contains various pieces of software installed on the computer and the information that is important to your business. Each of these items are vulnerabilities that has different weaknesses. But these weaknesses don’t necessarily mean your information will be lost.
Look at the weaknesses. What or who might take advantage of or exploit those weaknesses? The threat could come in the form of the user having an accident. For example, accidentally spilling Starbucks into the keyboard, loosing it at the airport or mall, and dropping it on the ground? Or the threat could be external: Your house or place of business catches on fire; a meteor smashes a hole through the computer; or someone steals it. How about cyber criminals infecting the laptop with malware when you visit innocently visit of interest? Threat can come in many different forms and it is necessary to identify threats, even the hypothetical and far-fetched ones.
Given the look at the weaknesses and threats, the question that begs to be answered is “What is the likelihood?” The chance that a meteor might smash a hole through the laptop is pretty slim. That someone would steal your laptop is higher. By identifying what risks exist, a small business can address the threats in a way that would reduce the risk.
For example with the laptop, what can be done to keep from loosing the information on it if it is stolen? For example, maybe you could encrypt the hard drive. Use cable locks to secure the laptop. Keep it with you and don’t leave it in a car. What about that meteor leaving a hole in it? Back up the information off of the device. These actions are called mitigating actions, in that the mitigate the risk by reducing the likelihood that the weaknesses we identified would be exploited.
Identifying what is at stake and determining what the risk is based on the weaknesses and the identified threats will help small businesses make informed decisions on the actions necessary to protect their information and ultimately their business, brand, and good name. If you need help identifying what is at risk for you, do not hesitate to reach out to us firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Here are some simple methods that won’t deplete your profits and apply to businesses of all sizes (1 person to 100,000 employees).
1. Encrypt your mobile devices. Laptops, tablets and cell phones are treasure chests full of goodies. We store everything on them. The days of the rolodex and the personal organizer/binder have given way to the electronic organizer. It used to be that if we misplaced or day planner we would feel lost and maybe even anxious as a lot of information was stored in that book.
All that information has migrated into the digital age and is now present on all sorts of mobile devices. Newer phones have enough processing power in them to encrypt the contents of the phone until the device’s owner enters a password to decrypt them. The encryption is part of Android and Apple IOS. It is also possible to encrypt the hard drive of your laptop in a similar manner. If you use Microsoft Windows, spend a little extra money and purchase the professional edition. It includes BitLocker, Microsoft’s utility for encrypting hard drives.
If you lose the mobile device, you are not likely to lose the encrypted information to unwanted eyes.
2. Use complex unique passwords for every account. I know, I know! I hear it all the time. I have this large number of accounts that I need to remember, how do I do it? There are number of articles out there for crafting complex passwords that are easily memorized. However, I offer that you only need to remember one or two. Use technology to help you create and remember the rest.
Use password managers such as Sticky Password, LastPass, KeePass, etc. Each offers certain capabilities that should fit with your business model. Check out http://lifehacker.com/5529133/five-best-password-managers for a review of some popular ones.
For the one or two passwords you need to remember, create passwords that really have nothing to do with you. One of the first things an attacker will do is profile their target. Anything on the Internet about you can be used against you to build a list of words. So when you choose a password, don’t use your favorite team, vacation place, family member names, etc. For example choose three or four letter character unique nouns that are some related, but not directly. Maybe you have three foods you don’t like, lasagna, buffalo wings, and prunes. These three items make an excellent password as it is something you are not likely to write to the world about. So let’s make a password out of it….
or plainly buffalo prune lasagna. (sounds nasty!) But it is a set of words that when in plane text don’t make sense and if you apply some character substitution to them it becomes a long (in this case 19 character) complex password. Come up with a consistent method in changing the letters. In this example I:
Choose a similar way to develop your own password and apply your own password style and use that password to control access to your password manager. Then let the password manager create complex random passwords for everything else.
These are just two quick examples of KISS that improve information security and don’t require a lot of cash. I will write more examples in later posts.
Imagine this… You are in charge of a major bank’s cyber security operations center. It is 2:10AM and your cell phone is blowing up. The network has been compromised. The night time analyst has identified a worm and isolated it in………. a system that controls the air conditioning at one of the branches. A threat exists… Yes… But does not warrant taking down all of the banks networks. It does indicate that extra vigilance and investigation are required. The analyst performed all the steps as outlined in the incident response plan and mitigated the threat.
A well-defined and practiced incident response plan will provide the guidelines necessary to make a determination by the network administrator if the system/network should be shut down immediately or require remediation in place.
The response plan should take into consideration the criticality of the system, the value of the information, and the attack/threat characteristics. Depending on the system/network’s purpose questions about the operation of the system need to be answered. Questions such as:
• Is the system critical to life/death/dismemberment? Will physical damage result from an attack on the system? What would happen if the device or network was disconnected or immediately shut down?
• Does the device support critical infrastructure? Will fail safe’s kick in if the system/network access is removed?
• Is the device simply a database that contains personally identifiable information (PII) or electronic protected health information (ePHI)?
• Is the network/device a mail server or web site server?
With the network/devices and criticalities identified, make a determination on the threat and how pervasive is it.
• Is it a worm?
• Is it a botnet?
• Is information being ex-filtrated?
• Are devices being remotely controlled preventing use?
• What are the characteristics of the attack?
It is these types of questions that need to be answered and documented in an incident response plan.
A good example of an attack occurred late last year in Germany. A steel mill in Germany was attacked that caused actual physical damage. The attackers took control of a blast furnace and prevented an orderly shutdown of the furnace. Technicians Utilized immediate emergency shutdown procedures over riding the control system at the furnace and prevented further damage (Zetter, 2015). This example highlights that removing the system from the attack prevented subsequent damage.
However if the system is a critical system, like a power substation controller, and the attack vector appears to be a worm that is not immediately degrading the network or system, it may be beneficial leaving the system as is and attempting to mitigate the problem by migrating the responsibilities elsewhere.
A case can be made either way for shutting down the system/network immediately. Factors such as attack impact and system criticality must be weighed. A good response plan will take into account many such scenarios and will allow for improved decision making, coordination between internal and external entities, and a unified response which will ultimately result in the limitation of data.
Zetter, K. (2015, January 8). A cyber attack has caused confirmed physical damage for the second time ever. Retrieved 2015, March 26 from http://www.wired.com/2015/01/german-steel-mill-hack-destruction/
No question about it. There are a lot of risks in running a business. Cash flow, employees, suppliers, insurance, compliance, fire, flood, payroll, maintaining clients, gaining clients, and on and on and on. But what about Information Risk? I find that most businesses lump Information Risk into, “if it works why bother” or “I have IT handle it.” However few realize the importance of addressing information risk, and that by addressing it, you maybe helping address other areas of risk and potentially reducing the risk.
There are seven common areas associated with information risk that when evaluated will help provide you focus when addressing risk management.
Physical Damage – The container that contains your vital information is damaged. The container could be your server, desktop computer, filing cabinet, desk drawer, or the box of receipts in the closet.
Humans – Humans are notorious for making mistakes, some make more mistakes than others. 🙂 Joking aside, humans (aka employees or the boss) account for a good portion of data loss. The loss could be unintentional or as we have seen in the news very intentional.
Equipment Malfunction – Ever have that cringing feeling as you hear your computer make some very weird noises and beeps? Especially after you have been working on something major? What do you do? How do you recover that data?
Internal or External Attacks – We have seen the news about Target, Home Depot, Sony, Anthem, etc. They all represent external attacks. What about that disgruntled employee that can hack your server’s admin account?
Misuse of Data – Now that the employee has hacked your server or maybe it is someone that already has access to the data, they run down the street to your competitor after copying any proprietary data that belongs to your business after hacking you from inside. A good example of theft and how the data is being misused.
Loss of Data – This is where the crypto-locker ransom-malware comes into play. An employee unintentionally adds malware that encrypts the data preventing you from getting to it. Unless of course, you pay a ransom.
Application Error – This one almost got me a few years back. I had a tax-preparer do what they do. When they were done, they said I owed the state nearly $5000. There is no way that is correct I told them. They said that is how their system calculated it. Ok. Fine. I didn’t pay it. I sat down and reviewed the forms. It appears the application forgot to check mark a certain box and as a result I got $3000 back!
With the identified categories, we need to identify, bin, and evaluate the risks. Once complete, you can address the risks and apply controls to reduce, eliminate, transfer, or mitigate them by applying various controls. Once the risks have been identified, it may help you in addressing some of the risks of running a business. If not take a bit of the stress off.
We, ItsEmc², an help you identify, bin and evaluate your information risk. Contact us at email@example.com