Category Archives: cyber

Some top security tips that ALL employees can use

When it comes to security, one thing is clear, people occasionally do daft things with computers and devices, and they frequently do these daft things at work. They occasionally do malicious things too but it’s mostly just daft. So we can train our employees (including managers and directors) in our procedures and policies and enforce them. In fact, spending as much time thinking about the best way to train different teams is never time wasted because it gives you the chance to use their language and create something nuanced that will make a genuine difference, which is, after all, the whole point of doing it.

Looking at some of the data that came out of Vormetric’s Insider Threat report, in actual fact, those privileged users are still posing a security headache to many of the respondents. They may be System Admins or senior colleagues who are simply not restricted or monitored in the way other employees are…these are the ones who can access very sensitive or valuable information and so need to be even more hyper-vigilant in their behaviour. But let’s face it, one phishing email clicked and payload of malware downloaded is all it takes and that could be done by an MD or a temp.

I asked the team here at Advent IM to come up with some practical tips that all employees can use, regardless of their role,  to help protect their organisations and enhance their understanding of the vital role they play in securing assets.

  • That email telling you there’s a juicy tax rebate waiting for you but it needs to be claimed immediately, hasn’t come from the Government. It’s  a phishing email. Clicking that link will allow malware to be installed and all your personal information to be stolen. Do not click on links in emails you are not expecting and if in any doubt refer to your security manager.
  • Never set your smartphone to allow download and installation of apps from sources other than an approved store. Changing this setting can allow malware to be installed without your knowledge and could result in you being a ransom ware victim.
  • Always report security breaches immediately to your line manager to facilitate any counter compromise action to be undertaken as deemed necessary. If the organisation isn’t aware of it, the event could worsen or spread. Containment and control is vital as quickly as possible.
  • Archive old emails and clear your deleted & sent folders regularly as a clean and tidy mailbox is a healthy mailbox.
  • Never discuss work topics on social media as your comments may come back and bite you!! You could also be compromising your employers and colleagues security and increasing the likelihood or the ease of an attack.
  • Don’t worry about challenging people you do not know who are not wearing ID or visitor badges. It may seem impolite but Social Engineers use inherent politeness to their advantage and can then move round a site, potentially unchallenged.
  • Don’t allow colleagues to use your login credentials, this goes double for temps and contractors. Think of it like lending your fingerprints or DNA to someone, would you do that so easily? Any activity on your login will be attributed to you…
  • Do you really need to take your work device to the pub with you? More than a quarter of people admit to having lost (or had stolen) up to 3 work devices and more than half of them were lost in a pub!
  • Don’t send sensitive documents to your personal email address. If there is a security measure in place, it is there for a reason..
  • Don’t pop any old USB into your PC. Nearly one in five people who found a random USB stick in a public setting proceeded to use the drive in ways that posed cybersecurity risks to their personal devices and information and potentially, that of their employer. It could have anything on it! exercise caution.

Some of the findings on Insider Threat from the Vormetric 2015 survey…

2015 Vormetric data Insider Trheat v0.4

The cyber-buck stops in the boardroom…

Advent IM Security Consultant, Del Brazil gives us his view of some of the comments and take-outs that ALL boards need to be aware of, following Dido Harding’s appearance before a parliamentary committee on the TalkTalk Breach.

The TalkTalk security breach continues to roll on with the TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding telling a parliamentary committee on 23.12.15 that she was responsible for security when the telecoms firm was hacked in October. Although there was indeed a dedicated security team in place within TalkTalk it is unrealistic to place the blame solely at the feet of the security team as security is a responsibility of the whole organisation.  It is fair to assume that in the event of an security related issue, as in this case, one person must take overall responsibility and be held to account for the potential lack of technical, procedural measure that may have prevented the breach occurring.

It is a fair assumption to make that in the event that the security breach can be attributed to a single individual then that is an internal disciplinary matter for TalkTalk to resolve unless there is a clear criminal intent associated with the individual concerned.

It is worth noting that although every effort maybe taken to implement the latest security techniques or measures that there is always the possibility that a hacker, like minded criminal organisation or even a disgruntled member of staff may find a way through or around them.

As long as an organisation can demonstrate that they have taken a positive approach to security and considered a number of possible attacks and taken steps to mitigate any potential attack, this may satisfy the ICO that the one of the key principles of the DPA has been considered.

Organisations should always consider reviewing their security measures and practices on a regular basis to ensure that they are best suited to the ever changing threat.  It is appreciated that no one organisation will ever be safe or un-hackable but as long as they conduct annual threat assessments and consider these threats in a clear documented risk assessment they can sleep at night knowing that they have taken all necessary steps to defeat, deter and/or detect any potential attack.

advent IM data protection blog

The TalkTalk security breach has highlighted a number of failings, in the opinion of the author and although they are deemed to be of a serious nature praise should go to the TalkTalk team for being open, honest and up front from the onset.  This has resulted in quite a lot of bad press from which TalkTalk are still feeling the effects from; although some people say that ‘all publicity is good publicity.’  It is clear that TalkTalk are taking the security breach very seriously and are fully engaged with the relevant investigation bodies whilst making every effort to bolster their current security posture.

It is very easy for board members to assume to the role of Director of Security without fully understanding the role or having any degree of training or background knowledge.  Any organisation should ensure that it employs or appoints staff with the correct level of knowledge and experience to specific posts thus facilitating the ‘best person for the best role’ approach.  Currently security, but more specifically IT Security, is seen as a secondary role that can be managed by a senior person from any area within an organisation; however it is finally becoming more apparent to organisations that the IT Security role warrants its own position within the organisational structure of the organisation. Pin Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the author’s opinion it is the organisations that have yet to report security breaches that are more of a concern as no one knows what level of security is in place within these organisations.  It’s not that the author is skeptical that there is an insufficient amount of security in place within these organisations but the fact that they do not report or publicise any cyber security related incidents that is of concern.  No one organisation is that secure that a breach of cyber security or at least a cyber related security incident doesn’t occur.  It’s far better for organisations to highlight or publish any attempted or successful attacks to not only assist other organisations in defeating or detecting attacks but it also shows a degree of transparency to their customers.

Round-up: Top posts of 2015

2015 is almost over and we have been pleased and delighted to welcome many new followers and contributors to the Advent IM Holistic Security blog. It’s hard to wade through all the content but we thought it would be nice to present you with a list of some of our most popular posts this year, by month. (This is based upon what people read and not necessarily when they were published.)

jAN 2015In January, we warned you to watch out for phishing emails if you had nice shiny new devices for Christmas. We were recognised as Cyber Security Solution Suppliers to Her Majesty’s Government and we enjoyed a visit from The Right Honourable Francis Maude to talk all things CyberSec.

 

In FFEB 2015ebruary, we had a visit from James Morrison MP to talk about how cyber attacks affect local and national businesses, we launched Whitepaper on CCTV in schools and discussed the key ‘watch-outs’ in off-shoring data in relation to Data Protection

 

MAR 2015In March, we were exhibiting and speaking at the Security & Policing Event at Farnborough (we will be at the next one too, watch this space for details!) Mike Gillespie’s quote in The Sunday Times, talking about SMEs and Cyber Security back in 2014 suddenly shot back up the blog statistics, as people explored some of our older posts.

 

april 2015In April, law firms were in the sights of the ICO and we blogged about it and people looking for Senior Information Risk Owner Training found their way to the blog. Of course, if you do want to book training you need to go via the website

mAY 2015

In May, Ransomware was on everyone’s radar, including ours.  A lot of readers also sought out an old post on mapping the control changes in ISO 27001 2005 vs. 2013 and we were glad they found our tool to help them with this. We think that more businesses will want to think about this standard in 2016 as security awareness continues to grow and the common sense reveals the huge commercial benefits.

JUN 2015In June, the changes to EU Data Protection regulations had a lot of people talking. Dale Penn gave a no nonsense post, explaining what it meant and it was very well received. We had a Risk Assessment methodology post from Del Brazil, talking, Attack Trees. A post that was also very well read came from Julia McCarron who discussed the risk in continuing to run Windows XP

JUL 2015In July, Social Engineering was a key topic and one of our blog posts was very well visited, The Best Attack Exploit by Dale Penn is still receiving visits. Dale also wrote about hacking Planes, Trains and Automobiles, with clarity, as well as the coverage this kind of hacking was receiving.

AUG 2015In August, we heard about Hacking Team being hacked and it revealed some very risky security behaviour. Dale Penn wrote about this event and other security specialists being targeted. In August, a very old blog post started to get some traffic again as people wanted to read about secure destruction of hard drives and a guest post from Malcolm Charnock got hoisted back into the charts.

SEP 2015In September, TOR was in the press sometimes as a hero, but usually as a villain…well perhaps not a villain but certainly suspicious. We tried to throw some light on what TOR is for the uninitiated and explain why and how it is deployed by a variety of users. It came courtesy of Del Brazil. Another very old post on USBs also got raised from the archive – The Ubiquitous Security Breach.

OCT 2015In October, traffic to the blog doubled and we welcomed many more new readers. All of the posts mentioned here were read but far and away the winner was Crime of Our Generation from Chris Cope, talking about TalkTalk’s disastrous breach.  Marks and Spencers were discussed by Julia McCarron in light of their own security failure. Attack of the Drones discussed a variety of drone-related areas, uses and unintended consequences. A nuclear power plant worker was found researching bomb making on a laptop at work and the EU Safe Harbour agreement melted away. It was a very busy month…

NOV 2015In November, The Bank Of England expressed some firm opinion on cyber security requirements in the Financial sector. Morrisons staff took to the courts to sue over the data breach that exposed their personal information. Australia jailed a former junior bureaucrat who leaked defense material onto the notorious 4Chan website. The previous posts on TalkTalk, M&S, BoE, Safe Harbout and EU DP Regulations were also extensively read in November.

dEC 2015And finally, December…Well the Advent Advent Calendar has been a festive fixture for three years now so we had to make sure it was included and it has, as always,  been well trampled and shared. We also added a new festive bit of fun in the form of the 12 Days of a Phishy Christmas and some Security Predictions from the team for 2016. Why would anyone hack the weather? was a look at how attacks can be intended for other parts of a supply chain. Finally TalkTalk popped up in the news and a conversation again, as it emerged that Police had advised the firm not to discuss their breach.

Christmas card 2015

Security Predictions for 2016

As 2015 draws to a close, we asked the Advent IM Staff to ponder the challenges for next year. 2015 saw some huge data and security fumbles and millions of people had their personal information exposed as hack after hack revealed not only how much this activity is on the increase, but also how  the security posture of some businesses is clearly unfit for purpose.

Over to the team…

Image courtesy of Vlado at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Vlado at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Dale Penn – I predict that with the recent introduction of Apple Pay and Google’s Android Pay we will see a large upswing in mobile device targeted attacks trying to get at our bank accounts.

Del Brazil – Attacks will be pushing in from the Siberian peninsular coupled with additional attacks from the orient- this will bring a chill to the spines of organisations.  These attacks are likely to be followed by sweeping phishing scams from the African continent.  There is also the likelihood that attacks towards HMG assets from Middle Eastern warm fronts will further identify/expose weaknesses within organisations. Closer to home is the ever increasing cold chill developing within organisations as the realisation that the threat from insiders is on the rise. In summary it’s going to be a mixed bag of events for a number of wide ranging organisations. However on the whole, as long as organisations grab their security blanket they will be best placed to ward off the majority of attacks.

Chris Cope – If 2015 saw a significant number of high profile information security breaches, then expect 2016 to be more of the same.  Attackers are getting cleverer at exploiting weaknesses; most notably those presented by people.  I confidently predict that a significant number of incidents in 2016 will feature poor security decisions made by employees.  I also predict a significant challenge for many organisation which hold personal data.  The forthcoming EU regulation on data protection will provide significant challenges on the protection of personal information of EU citizens.  With a significant increase in financial sanctions highly likely, the importance of safeguarding personal data has increased dramatically for any organisation, even those who were not challenged by the penalties previously awarded by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).  Could this be the start of a wider regulatory drive to improve information security – probably not, at least not yet. Finally, with continuing uncertainty across key areas of the globe, particularly the Middle East, we will also see more examples of ‘cyber warfare’ as this nascent capability continues to be exploited.  This will lead to a flurry of reports on how cyber war is about to doom us all or is irrelevant (depending on one’s viewpoint); surely an opportunity to educate the wider populace, and key decision makers, on what information security, and its potential consequences, could actually mean?

Mark Jones – I predict…

  • Cloud security becomes even more important as more and more businesses move services there – more demand for ISO27017
  • Related to the above, more Data Centre Security certifications due to contractor (customer) requirements
  • More BYOD-related security incidents with more mobile malware found on all platforms with China the main source – mobile payments being a prime target
  • Cyber Essentials leads to more demand for ISO27001 certifications from SMEs
  • Privileged insider remains the main Threat Source & Actor
  • More incidents relating to online cyber-extortion / ransomware
  • With increasing demand for infosec specialists and/or DPOs organisations will find it more difficult to recruit than ever
  • More incidents relating to the Internet of Things – smart devices such as drones falling out of the sky causing harm; more car computers hacked resulting in more car theft

Ellie Hurst – Media, and Marcomms Manager – I predict the growth of ransomware  in business.  Ransomware, is mainly (though not exclusively) spread by phishing and given the success of phishing as an attack vector and that one in four UK employees don’t even know what it is (OnePoll for PhishMe), I think it will continue to be the most likely form of ransomware proliferation. Of course, it can also be spread by use of inappropriate websites and so businesses that do not have, or enforce a policy or exercise restrictions in this area, will also find themselves victims of this cynical exploit.

A word from our Directors…

Julia McCarron

Julia McCarron – Advent IM Operations Director – I predict a RIOT – Risks from Information Orientated Threats.

 

 

Mike Gillespie_headshot

 

Mike Gillespie – Advent IM Managing Director – I predict an escalation in the number and severity of data breach in the coming year. Recent failures, such as TalkTalk, VTech and Wetherspoons highlight that many businesses still do not appreciate the value of the information assets they hold and manage. Business needs to increase self-awareness and looking at the Wetherspoons breach, ask the difficult question, “Should we still be holding this data?”

I think the buzz phrase for 2016 will be Information Asset Owners and if you want to know more about that, then you will have to keep an eye on what Advent IM is doing in 2016!

Cyber Monday top tips

Cyber Monday is upon us again.. or should I say #cybermonday. Anyway, I asked our Security Consultants to come up with some top tips to help you shop a bit more securely for your Christmas gifts and decorations. Thanks to Chris Cope and Del Brazil for this.

  • HTTPS (other online vendors are available)   Always check for the padlock or green URL to confirm the ID of the website. If your security software is highlighting a problem then don’t ignore it;
  • Use secure passwords on websites you set up accounts with;
  • Pay on credit card if possible to gain on insurance;
  • Use reputable websites, sites that look too good to be, true usually are;
  • Be wary of being transferred to another webpage –Don’t follow links emailed to you, visit the website yourself;
  • Make sure no one is looking over your shoulder capturing your card details etc;
  • If there are any issues then remember to complain promptly. Consumer rights cover the internet but don’t leave it too long to complain if goods aren’t what you expected. 

Wishing you a secure Cyber Monday experience…

Aviva 2nd Data Breach

Advent IM Security Consultant Del Brazil, gives us his thoughts on the Aviva data breach.

iStock_000015672441MediumFor the second time in less than two years Aviva have reported a data breach in which customer data has been released to person(s) unknown.  It is unclear at this time as to whether it a procedural issue, a technical misconfiguration or an actual hacking attack.  Although Aviva has been quick to admit to the breach, they have yet to confirm its full extent and the number of affected customers. 

The previous breach in February 2014 was the result of two employees selling customer data to external agencies. These two employees have since been arrested and released on bail pending charges related to suspicion of fraud by abuse of position.

Is it possible to prevent this kind of incident occurring or re-occurring? In essence no, they is no way that you can completely prevent this type of insider threat; however you can put measures in place in an attempt to deter or detect dishonest/disgruntled staff from carrying out illegal activities.  Potential measures include but are not limited to protective monitoring, staff awareness and staff vetting.  Let’s look at each one of these possible measures:-

istock_000011991144medium.jpgProtective Monitoring – Briefly put, protective monitoring is where a company monitors its staff computer use and network activities.  It’s not a ‘Big Brother’ approach but has certain levels of monitoring to identify any suspicious activities such as large data transfers or inappropriate user activity, such as logging on at unusual times. If you would like to learn about the employer responsibilities around monitoring of staff and compliance with legislation such as the Data Protection Act, we have a presentation on this link, you will need sound.

Business Development Consultant - Cyber Security.

Staff Awareness – This involves educating staff in a number of things, for instance reporting out-of- character mood swings or habits or just inappropriate computer or device related activities. Staff can also be educated on other potential threats to increase their awareness and how to report any suspicious activity.  An example of this maybe when a normally bubbly person suddenly becomes a recluse which may indicate that they have some personal problem that they are struggling with.  It is appreciated that it maybe a personal problem but highlighting it to the management chain may firstly prompt extra or additional support made available to that person but secondly, dependent upon the personal problem, may warrant additional safeguard measures being introduced to highlight/detect inappropriate or suspicious activity.

 Access DeniedStaff Vetting – Vetting or Security Checking staff does provide an element of assurance; however it is never 100% effective; just like a car’s MOT is really only valid on the day it’s issued. Vetting provides a snapshot of a member of staffs suitability to hold a position of responsibility and unless properly maintained loses its credibility.  Vetting can include a number of checks into an individual’s personal life and/or circumstances such as their finances, nationality, last employment and/or personal references.  The degree of vetting carried out is dependent upon the role of the individual within the organisation.  For example IT staff with enhanced privileges could have a more in-depth vetting check carried out to provide a degree of assurance that they are less likely to be susceptible to bribery, coercion etc.; although this is not mandatory it can be a risk management decision made by an organisation.

Possible next steps for Aviva

  1. Fully investigate the breach and establish as to how, why, where, who and what was taken.
  2. Inform all affected customers
  3. Look for trends and patterns related to previous incidents
  4. Identify appropriate additional controls that may assist in re-occurrence
  5. Ensure all breaches are reported to the ICO accordingly
  6. Remind all staff of their responsibility to report irregularities or suspicious activity
  7. Educate staff on the current threats

Is it actually possible to prevent this from happening again?  Insiders will always make great efforts to circumnavigate controls and safeguards and if your insider has privileged access (such as System Admins or senior management) then the problem can increase exponentially. The key is to try and make it so difficult for these kind of insiders to succeed or increase their perception of likelihood they will be revealed. We know we cannot make 100% of networks 100% secure 100% of the time but if we make it difficult enough then we can reduce the risk of it happening even if we can never guarantee it won’t happen again.

Attack of the Drones – guest post from Julia McCarron – Advent IM Director

So this week came the worrying news that mobile phones attached to drones can hack Wi-Fi devices and steal our data. That Star Wars script of yesteryear could be coming into its own! Oh hang on … that was Clones not Drones J But seriously, the use of drones in warfare is becoming more and more prevalent, so could their use in cyber hack-attacks become a common threat too?

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Drone usage in war and the fight against terrorism is a concept that’s been explored by TV and film script writers for a long time. (SPOILER ALERT: An insight into my television habits coming up). 5 years ago an episode of Spooks saw an American drone hacked by the enemy in Afghanistan. An episode of NCIS a couple of years ago saw a systems engineer steal a surveillance drone for the purposes of selling it to a terrorist group who then bombed a high profile event attended by the US military. An episode of Castle saw a government drone hacked and used to kill a government whistleblower. Far-fetched? Maybe. Possible? Definitely. Likely? Well we would hope not! But as we often see, TV dramas have a nasty habit of bringing reality to our screens and indeed drone usage has been part of our warfare arsenal since 1959, albeit they were unsophisticated unmanned aircraft essentially.

Drones have many other uses aside from warfare, cyber or otherwise. The US Navy for example uses tiny drones called Cicada containing sensor arrays that monitor weather and location. But they also have microphones that can eavesdrop on conversations within their vicinity. A useful tool for espionage?

Since 2013 the Police Service Northern Ireland have deployed drones as surveillance cameras to support policing operations during royal visits, political summits, the Belfast Marathon, searching for missing persons and the Giro d’Italia. Arguably a positive use of unmanned aerial vehicles as crime prevention and detection aids and possibly deterrents.

In July this year, a student Videographer shot footage of 4 young people running across a school

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

roof in Northern Ireland. He lived nearby and spotted them on the roof, so sent his drone out to inspect what was going on. The children got spooked and jumped down, running for cover.  Private use of this nature however does open up a wider privacy issue in the same way that CCTV coverage does.

So how can they be used to steal data? Researchers at the National University of Singapore announced on Monday that by attaching a mobile phone containing two different apps to a drone, they successfully accessed a Wi-Fi printer and intercepted documents being sent to it. The apps were designed so that one detected open Wi-Fi printers and identified those vulnerable to attack and the other actually detected and carried out the attack by establishing a fake access point, mimicking the end device and stealing the data intended for the real printer. These are techniques they claim that ultimately could be used by corporate spies for industrial espionage, or indeed by terrorists.

As drones are yet to become common place in our everyday lives, it is likely that we would spot the physical threat before the cyber attack occurs. Today. But what about tomorrow? In the last 30 years technology has taken over our lives. Who would have thought we’d all be carrying around a telephone in our back pockets, that’s also a computer and literally voices, “Don’t forget it’s your Mother’s birthday”!

At some point, in the not too distant future, seeing drones flying above our heads will become the ‘norm’. And that’s when our guard will be down and drone attacks won’t just be connected to air strikes but cyber hack-attacks too.

Its 1984 meets Star Wars but this time it will be ‘Attack of the Drones’. May the Force be with us all!