Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Cyber Security Roundup for October 2017

State-orchestrated cyber attacks have dominated the media headlines in October, with rogue state North Korea and its alleged 6,800 strong cyber force blamed for several cyber attacks. International intelligence scholars believe the North Korean leadership are using cyber warfare to up the political ante with their ongoing dispute with the United States. The North Koreans, as well as terrible security practices, were directly blamed by the UK National Audit Office for the recent NHS WannaCry attack (despite North Korea denying it). North Korea was also reported to be implicated in the stealing US War Plans from South Korea, and for a spear phishing campaign against the US Power Grid. The possible Russian manipulation of the US election with cyber attacks and rogue social media campaigns is still a story not going away, while the Chinese are alleged to be behind the data theft of Australian F-35 fighter jet, in what is described as an 'extensive' Cyberattack. The finger was pointed at Iran for the recent Parliamentary Emails cyber attacks in the UK, meanwhile, EU governments venting their cyber concern, warning that Cyber Attacks can be an Act of War.

Stephen Hawking caused controversy in both the science and tech industry last year when he said Artificial Intelligence could be a serious threat to human existence, could the plot of The Terminator really come to fruition? Perhaps so, as it was reported that AI had already defeated the Captcha Security Check system. Personally, I believe both AI and Quantum Computing will pose significant new threats to cybersecurity space in the next decade.

A far higher number of personal records were compromised in the Equifax data breach than was previously thought, with millions of UK citizens confirmed to be impacted by the US-based credit checking agency hack. Equifax’s now ex-CEO provided an interesting blow-by-blow account of the cyber-attack at a US government hearing, even though Equifax technical staff were specifically warned about a critical Apache Struts (web server) patch, it was ignored and not applied, which in turn allowed hackers to take full advantage of vulnerability to steal the Equifax data on mass. To make matters even worse, the Equifax consumer breach help website was found to be infecting visitors with spyware.

Yahoo revealed all 3 Billion of its user accounts had in fact been breached, in what is truly an astonishing mammoth sized hack, biggest in all history, so far. Elsewhere on the commercial hacking front, Pizza Hut's website was reported to be hacked with customer financial information taken, and Disqus said a 2012 breach it discovered in October exposed the information of 17.5 million its users from as far back as 2007.

It was a super busy month for security vulnerability notifications and patch releases, with Microsoft, Netgear, Oracle, Google, and Apple all releasing rafts of critical level patches. A serious weakness in the wireless networking WPA2 protocol was made public to great fanfare after researchers suggested all Wifi devices using WPA2 on the planet were vulnerable to an attack called Krack, which exploited the WPA2 weakness. Krack is a man-in-the-middle attack which allows an attacker to eavesdrop or redirect users to fake websites over Wifi networks secured using the WPA2 protocol. At the time of writing most wireless access point vendors and operating system providers had released patches to close the WPA2 vulnerability, and there have been no known exploits of the vulnerability reported in the wild.

BadRabbit is a new strain of ransomware which is emerging and is reported to be infecting systems and networks in Russia and the Ukraine at the moment. BadRabbit is the latest network self-propagating malware, like NotPeyta and WannaCry, to use the NSA EternalRomance hacking tool. A massive new IoT botnet was discovered, its continued growth is fuelled by malware said to be more sophisticated than previous IoT botnet king, Mirai. Russian based threat actor group APT28 is said to be targeting the exploitation of a recently patched Adobe vulnerability (CVE-2017-11292), in using malicious Microsoft Word attachment, so ensure you keep on top of your system patching and always be careful when opening email attachments. 

Finally, the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) released its first annual report, as it seeks to improve cybersecurity across the UK. Among NCSC achievements cited in the report are:
  • The launch of Active Cyber Defence, credited with reducing average time a phishing site is online from 27 hours to 1 hour
  • Led UK response to WannaCry
  • Advice website with up to 100,000 visitors per month
  • Three-day Cyber UK Conference in Liverpool
  • 43% increase in visits to the Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership (CiSP)
  • Produced 200,000 physical items for 190 customer departments via UK Key Production authority to secure and protect communications of Armed Forces and national security
  • 1,000 youngsters on CyberFirst courses and 8,000 young women on CyberFirst Girls competition.
  • Worked with 50 countries, including signing Nato's MoU
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Friday, 20 October 2017

How to start a Career in Cyber Security

I received an infographic by cybersecurityjobs.net on the top ten tips on landing a cyber security job, I  thought it provided excellent advice for budding cyber security professionals looking to gain a foothold. 

There is a considerable shortage of experienced cyber security professionals in the UK, but starting out in cyber security is a 'chicken and egg' scenario, in that it can be difficult to land a cyber security job without having the experience, but you can't get the necessary experience without being in a dedicated cyber security role. 

If you are struggling to get into the industry I recommend initially specialising in a specific area of security, undertake training and gain qualifications. Be patient, expand upon your areas of knowledge and experience, working your way up in different roles to your dream cyber security job. Dream big, but think small.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Krack WiFi Attack: Vulnerabilities in WPA2 Protocol

All Wi-Fi connections are potentially vulnerable to a newly discovered security attack called "Krack", which allows an attacker to listen in on internet traffic (a Man-in-the-Middle Attack) over a wireless network. 

In theory, a hacker could read your web and email communications, and even inject malware like ransomware onto your device. Krack takes advantage of unpatched Apple, Android, and Windows operation systems, while unpatched Wi-Fi access points can be manipulated to orchestrate the man-in-the-middle attack.

The sky is not falling in on WiFi, this is not like the WEP protocol situation of many years ago, WEP is a security protocol fundamentally flawed by design, WPA2 encryption is not broken, the software that uses it needs to be corrected to secure it. Wireless Access Points (APs) and operating systems that use WPA2 are (or soon will be) patchable, which protects them from this attack.

For a video demo of the attack see - https://www.krackattacks.com/#demo 
For the full technical details of the WPA2 flaw and attack method see - https://papers.mathyvanhoef.com/ccs2017.pdf

Wireless Usage Advice
  • Make sure your laptop operating system has the very latest security updates patched (always) i.e. Windows, Linux, Mac. Microsoft said they have already patched Windows systems, but at this time have not confirmed details about which patch it was. Several Linux distributions have released patches for the flaw.
  • Make sure your smartphone and tablet devices have the latest security updates patched, especially Android devices, and Apple, and Windows (if anyone still uses it)
  • As always, if you are going to use public WiFii networks, my first suggestion is to avoid using public WiFi, but if you are, use VPN software. Using a secure VPN will protect you against "Krack exploited" public WiFi access points, regardless of patching and whether AP is exploited. Failing that, if you like to take risks with your personal and confidential information, as a very last resort ensure you use "https://" websites only, and be extra vigilant the "https://" do not revert to "http://".  If it does, it is a clear sign of a compromised wireless network and of your connection to it.

Preventing Your Wireless Access Point from being Exploited
Wireless Access Points (AP) firmware versions are presently being updated and released to fix this WPA2 flaw, apply them with they are released - see https://www.kb.cert.org/vuls/id/228519/. AP firmware patches are often missed, as routers updates tend not to be applied automatically.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Cyber Security Roundup for September 2017

A massive data breach at Equifax dominated the UK media finance headlines this month, after 143 million customer records were compromised by a cyber-attack, 400,000 of which were UK customer accounts. Hackers took advantage of Equifax’s negligence in not applying security updates to servers. The data breach has already cost the CEO, CIO and CISO their jobs. In the UK Equifax faces investigations and the prospect of significant fines by both the Financial Conduct Authority and the Information Commissioner's Office over the loss of UK customer financial and personal data respectively.

Hackers stole a quarter of a million Deloitte client emails, follow the breach Deloitte was criticised by security professional for not adopting two-factor authentication to protect the email data which they hosted in Microsoft’s Azure cloud service.

September was an extremely busy month for security updates, with major patches releases by Microsoft, Adobe, Apache, Cisco and Apple to fix an array of serious security vulnerabilities including BlueBorne, a Bluetooth bug which exposes billions of devices to man-in-the-middle attacks.

UK government suppliers using Kaspersky to secure their servers and endpoints may well be feeling a bit nervous about the security software after Kaspersky was banned by US Government agencies. The US Senate accused the 20-year-old Russian based security company as being a pawn of the Kremlin and posing a national risk to security. Given the US and UK intelligence agency close ties, there are real fears it could lead to a similar ban in the UK as well. A UK ban could, in theory, be quickly extended to UK government suppliers through the Cyber Essentials scheme, given the Cyber Essentials accreditation is required at all UK government suppliers.

While on the subject of the Russia, the English FA has increased its cybersecurity posture ahead of next year's World Cup, likely due to concerns about the Russian Bears hacking group. The hacking group has already targeted a number of sports agencies in recent months, including hacking and releasing football player's world cup doping reports last month. 

In the last couple of weeks, I was Interviewed for Science of Security, and I updated my IBM Developer Works article on Combating IoT Cyber Threats.

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Friday, 22 September 2017

Science of CyberSecurity: Latest Cyber Security Threats

As part of a profile interview for Science of Cybersecurity I was asked five questions on cyber security last week, here's question 5 of 5.

Q. What keeps you up at night in the context of the cyber environment that the world finds itself in?
The growing dependence and integration of connected computers within our daily lives, means we are embarking on an era where cyber attacks will endanger our lives. Networked and complex IT systems are inherently insecure, meaning it is open season for nation-states, cyber terrorists and the curious to attack these life integrated emerging technologies, from driverless cars and countless new home IoT devices. I fear it will only be a matter time before a cyber attack causes human harm or even loss of life. The impact of the recent NHS ransomware attack serves as a warning, this cyber attack directly caused the closure of accidental and energy departments and the cancellation of operations. The future threats posed artificial intelligence and quantum computing are also growing concerns for cyber security, and well worth keeping an eye as these technologies continue to progress.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Science of CyberSecurity: What Cyber Security Blogs to Follow

As part of a profile interview for Science of Cybersecurity I was asked five questions on cyber security last week, here's question 4 of 5.


Q. Do you recommend a particular cyber security blog that our readers could follow?
Of course, my own IT Security Expert Blog, and my Twitter accounts @SecurityExpert and @SecurityToday are well worth following.  My two favourite blogs are Bruce Schneier’s blog, Bruce is a true rock star of the industry, and Krebs on Security blog is also an excellent read, Brian provides the behind the scenes details of the latest hacking techniques and data breaches, and pulls no punches with his opinions. Both these bloggers have books that are a must read for budding cyber security professionals as well.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Science of CyberSecurity: Where to get CyberSecurity Science

As part of a profile interview for Science of Cybersecurity I was asked five questions on cyber security last week, here's question 3 of 5.

Q. Where do you go to find your “science” of cybersecurity?
While cyber security controls appear simple to follow in policy statements and best practice guides, the reality is they are not always easy to implement across diverse organisations. When attempting to resolve complex security problems it can be easy for security professionals to lose sight of the goal of cyber security. To keep clarity, I think it helps to strips away the technology from the problem, and learn the security science and lessons from history.  So reading military strategy books like Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” can improve how you think about and assess the cyber adversaries facing the organisation. Delving into the science of psychology is invaluable when seeking to bring about effective and positive staff security awareness and behavioural changes in the workplace.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Science of CyberSecurity: Reasons Behind Most Security Breaches

As part of a profile interview for Science of Cybersecurity I was asked five questions on cyber security last week, here's question 2 of 5.

Q. What – in your estimation – are the reasons behind the many computer security breaches/failures that we see today?
Simply put insecure IT systems and people are behind every breach, insecure IT systems are arguably caused by people as well, whether it is poor system management, lack of security design, insecure coding techniques, and or inadequate support, it all boils down to someone not doing security right. For many years seasoned security experts have advocated that people are the weakest link in security, even hackers say ‘amateurs hack systems, professionals hack people’, yet many organisations still focus most of their resources and funds heavily on securing IT systems over providing staff with sustained security awareness. Maybe this is a result of an IT security sales industry over hyping the effectiveness of technical security solutions. I think most organisations can do more to address this balance, starting with better understanding the awareness level and risk posed by their employees. For instance, the security awareness of staff can be measured by using a fake phishing campaign to detect how many staff would click on a link within a suspicious email. While analysing the root causes of past cyber security incidents is a highly valuable barometer in understanding the risk posed by staff, all can be used as inputs into the cyber risk assessment process.

Monday, 18 September 2017

A developer's guide to complying with PCI DSS 3.2 Requirement 6 Article

My updated article on "A developer's guide to complying with PCI DSS 3.2 Requirement 6" was released on the IBM Developer Works website today.

This article provides guidance on
 PCI DSS requirement 6, which breaks down into 28 further individual requirements and sits squarely with software developers who are involved in the development of applications that process, store, and transmit cardholder data.