Work with your Security and Governance teams to thwart cyber attacks

A Petya ransomware attack suspected to be a modified EternalBlue exploit is currently spreading around the world as we go to press, with UK and European organisations already affected and shipping company Maersk and ad agency WPP announcing problems with systems down.

With only a few days since the attack on the UK Government on Friday 23rd June, security experts are describing such high profile attacks as the ‘new normal’.  Weak passwords on email accounts were to blame for around 90 parliamentarians being attacked.  An official spokesperson commented that users had failed to adhere to official guidance from the Parliamentary Digital Service.  Immediate remediation of disabling remote access was put in place as a precaution whilst further investigation were made.

This follows hot on the heels of last week’s report by Which, revealing that communications giant Virgin’s consumer Super Hub 2.0 router was found to be vulnerable to hacking for those who had not changed the default wifi password setting, felt by experts to be too short and not sufficiently complex.  Virgin are not alone amongst Internet Service Providers for issuing relatively simplistic wifi keys according to penetration testing experts.  Future success in thwarting attack will require 1) a change of culture from consumers to proactively change the default password on any wireless device and 2) for retailers to ensure that directions for changing the password are immediate to access the service, easy to read and quick to do.

And all of this just one month since the WannaCry cyber attack on NHS England which was amongst around 70 organisations hit worldwide.  Brian Lord, former Deputy Director for Intelligence and Cyber Operations at GCHQ commented in May that this was due to a change from low level theft and use of ransomware in the past few years to now internationally organised crime.  Todays criminal networks could generate sustained and co-ordinated attacks into the backs of ageing IT systems, delivering a simple tool at mass scale to vulnerable areas – in this case, systems where Microsoft security patches hadn’t been updated.

The clear messages from these tales of woe are:

•    Ensure effective security and governance procedures are in place for businesses and institutions – and that these are shared, understood and abided to by all staff without exception through regular training and education awareness.
•    Consider two factor authentication and more intelligent solutions around identity management and password tools to keep the door closed to wrongful access.
•    Protect older, more vulnerable Operating Systems through regular security assessments and vulnerability detection programmes to scan your networks and find holes in perimeter security to help target your patching priorities.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but organisations that do not have strong and effective preventative measures can easily fall in one day.  Keep security at the forefront of your thinking and actions.  Read our full article on Ransomware here

Countering ransomware – it’s time to patch the human

Ransomware relies on human fallibility crypto-ransomware, malware that extorts money from victims by encrypting their files and systems until they pay a ransom, has been much in the news since WannaCry hobbled IT systems around the world last month. While much was made of the fact that WannaCry spread through networks by exploiting SMBv1 vulnerabilities in unsupported Windows systems (such as Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003), it is unusual for ransomware to self-replicate in the way WannaCry did.

Often, ransomware, in common with most other forms of malware, is spread by drive-by downloads or phishing campaigns, both of which exploit human error. So, even if you use robust anti-virus and anti-malware solutions, conduct regular penetration tests and ensure you keep your systems up to date and install the latest patches, your system could still be compromised thanks to a careless employee.

According to a 2016 report by SentinelOne:

  • 39% of organisations in the UK were hit by ransomware in the previous year
    • 72% of those infections were attributable to phishing
    • 38% were attributable to drive-by downloads from compromised websites

People are frequently acknowledged as the weakest link in any security system. But with better levels of staff knowledge, companies are more secure as you can, in effect, ‘patch’ your employees. Therefore, a best-practice approach to information security such as an ISO 27001 compliant ISMS (Information Security Management System), follows a holistic approach that addresses people as well as processes and technology.

Amicus ITS takes security seriously.  “We say security is part of our DNA here” advises  JP Norman, Director of Technology, Security & Governance, “and I consistently refer to the importance of “the squishy bits” (ie. the people) in IT management.  You can deploy the best systems and infrastructure money can buy –  but you have to ensure your people are trained too.”

WannaCry ransomware attack goes global

 

News on Friday 12th May that NHS England had suffered a major ransomware cyber attack has since been extended to a wider victim base. We now know that the attack has affected around 150 countries, with major hits on the UK and Russia. It is estimated to have affected over 200,000 users to date.  In the UK 48 NHS trusts have reported problems at hospitals, GP surgeries and pharmacies, along with 13 NHS bodies in Scotland – and no doubt the early part of this week will result in more problems as staff come into work and switch their PCs back on.

The hack which targeted Windows machines was miraculously stopped in its tracks from spreading by a young security expert (under name @MalwareTechBlog) who accidentally hit the kill switch on the malware by registering the hard code as a domain name which had been seeded by its creator

SAFEGUARDS:

There are some urgent checks that all companies and organisations should be making in the next 24 hours:

  1. Ensure you are up to date on patching your environment– a lot of organisations were caught out because they didn’t (and Microsoft released a patch for the vulnerability exploited by WannaCry in March 2017).
  2. Check your Anti Virus is up to date (and preferably use a cloud based service ie Webroot)
  3. Ensure you back up all your essential data in line with your businesses Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO), so you can’t be held to ransom and fearful of operational losses.
  4. Communicate with your staff to alert them to avoid clicking on any suspicious emails and making sure that your operating system software is up to date (it was a rare move for Microsoft to release security updates for unsupported software such as XP as a direct result of this event)

Companies that want advice on data security, can contact Amicus ITS in confidence on 02380 429429.

 

Taking ownership of cyber – it involves us all

 

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New research by BAE Systems of 984 IT managers and 221 executives from Fortune 500 companies across the world, has found that there is still a damaging gulf in the perception of who should take charge to manage the aftermath of a cyber-attack in an organisation.

• The survey suggested that 50% of IT staff believed boardroom executives should take the lead when it comes to deciding how a company should respond and repair after it has been penetrated by hackers.
• In contrast, more than 30% of Chief Executives said that IT staff should be the ones cleaning up, fixing problems and hardening defences.

This, according to Dr Adrian Nish, head of the cyber-threat intelligence unit at BAE Systems, could lead to organisations not being prepared for oncoming attacks.

Cost of attack
There was also a mismatch when it came to the perceived cost of a breach:  technology bosses believed that, on average, a breach could cost a company about $19m (£15m).  This estimate included fines, legal fees, remediation expenses and compensation for customers.  By contrast, boardroom members put an average price tag of $11.6m (£9.2m) on breaches.

Prevention much better than cure
Ultimately, whatever the price of a cyber-attack, unless organisations have taken the necessary preventative steps, they remain highly vulnerable to not only the cost of breach, but the enormous impact of reputational damage and loss of trust.

Oliver Parry, head of corporate governance at the Institute of Directors commented:   “As with other principle risks to a business, responsibility of outlining this strategy should fall with the board.  Lasting cybersecurity only comes from embedding good practice throughout the culture of an organisation, starting from the top. No system or person alone can prevent indefinitely the threat of a cyber-attack.”

This ties in with one of the main recurring themes for Amicus ITS’ Director of Technology, Security & Governance, JP Norman, who has stated many times over recent years that good education and awareness by staff (the “squidgy bits”) around data security remains central to good defence efforts in thwarting a successful attack.  Commenting recently

“At Amicus ITS we carry out a 3 stage review on a monthly basis with data being collated via our support functions, reviewed at a formal Information Security Committee meeting and further reviewed at every Board Meeting. This enables us to ensure strategy, training and new developments flow in both directions across our company” JP NormanDirector of Technology, Security & Governance.

Disaster for Three Mobile as huge data hack is disclosed

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News has emerged today that one of Britain’s biggest mobile phone companies has suffered a huge breach of its systems, exposing an estimated six million user account details to  compromise.  This represents two thirds of the company’s customer base.

Believed to have been a hack through an authorised employee login, the hackers were able to access the customer upgrade database.

A spokesman for Three said, “Over the last four weeks Three has seen an increasing level of attempted handset fraud. This has been visible through higher levels of burglaries of retail stores and attempts to unlawfully intercept upgrade devices.  We’ve been working closely with the Police and relevant authorities. To date, we have confirmed approximately 400 high value handsets have been stolen through burglaries and eight devices have been illegally obtained through the upgrade activity”.

Three added that the data accessed included names, phone numbers, addresses and dates of birth, but added that it did not include financial information. Customers whose data has been affected have not yet been informed at this time. However the speed of intercept is indicated by the revelation by the National Crime Agency that they are investigating the breach and that three people have already been arrested, two for computer misuse and one for perverting the course of justice.

With the Chancellor, Philip Hammond’s speech at the beginning of November calling on companies to do more to protect their customers against cyber crime after the series of high-profile breaches in the last few years, the commercial imperative for businesses to create stronger security measures with GDPR on the horizon shows that the need for diligence in compliance is greater than ever.

As part of its ongoing efforts to keep its customers and regional businesses best informed, Amicus ITS has been conducting a series of cyber security roadshow events to help inform and educate businesses in the region.  The next one is on Thursday 24th November 2016 at its headquarters in Totton.  For details click here

UK healthcare: cyber attack focus

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More than 113 million patient records were stolen from hospitals and healthcare facilities around the globe as a result of security failures and cyber-attacks in 2015.

IBM’s Cyber Security Intelligence Index naming the healthcare industry as the number one attacked industry in 2015, it is no surprise that 41% of all security breaches reported to the UK’s information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) year were from the health sector.

These attacks have not only damaged the reputation of healthcare organisations but also their bank balances. The ICO has issued 11 fines amounting to £1.4 million between April 2010 and November 2015, with one NHS trust fined £325,000 for the use of unencrypted devices.

Notable cyber-attacks and security breaches in the healthcare industry
October 2016 North Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust (NLAG) had its systems infected with a virus that resulted in cancelling at least 35 patient operations, and other patients had to be relocated whilst the threat was dealt with.

In 2015
56 Dean Street, an NHS HIV, clinic released email addresses of 781 patients while sending out its monthly newsletter.   730 of these addresses contained the full names of the recipients. The breach was an internal error that the ICO rewarded with a £180,000 fine.

NHS-approved online pharmacy company, Pharmacy2U, sold details of more than 20,000 of its customers to marketing companies without their knowledge or consent. This breach resulted in the ICO fining the pharmacy £130,000.

Why is the healthcare industry under attack?

Better technology and the move to paper-free healthcare allows health professionals to look up and share life-saving information wherever and whenever it is needed. This is vital in improving patient care but it has brought the industry into the sights of cyber criminals.

Personal confidential data is valuable to those with malicious intent, meaning that health and social care systems will increasingly be at risk from external threats and potential breaches as technology becomes more prevalent. This has been emphasised by Lynne Dunbrack, research vice president for the International Data Corporation (IDC): “Frankly, health care data is really valuable from a cyber-criminal standpoint. It could be 5, 10 or even 50 times more valuable than other forms of data.”

Reviewing data security for the health and care industry has found that internal breaches are often caused by people finding workarounds to burdensome processes and outdated technology – and that those people may be unaware of their responsibilities.

How to stop these attacks

Step 1: Cyber Essentials certification

Cyber Essentials is the UK-Government-backed security scheme that sets out five security controls that could prevent around 80% of basic cyber-attacks, improving cyber security and preserving the reputation of the healthcare industry.

Cyber Essentials certification also demonstrates to patients, suppliers and third parties that data security is being taken seriously.  Amicus ITS works with CREST approved, cyber security organisations to ensure that your status has been independently verified by a third-party vulnerability scan.

Step 2: ISO 27001

ISO 27001 is the international standard that describes best practice for an Information Security Management System (ISMS). It encompasses people, processes and technology, recognising that information security within the healthcare industry is not about technology alone.

Step 3: Protect your perimeter

With threats and threat actors continuously evolving there is a real need for intelligent perimeter protection as well as innovation with password and identity management. At Amicus ITS we are happy to provide advice to help ensure your data is as secure as possible.

Amicus ITS specialist information governance and security division, provides services to support NHS and public sector organisations. Our client base is substantial and includes corporations of all sizes. We believe our success in winning and retaining clients is due to Amicus ITS’ deep and ongoing understanding of N3 compliance requirements in the UK.

United Airlines hit in further power outage for airline industry

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The world’s third largest airline, United Airlines has been a dealt a serious blow today as a reported ‘systems issue’ has delayed flights worldwide this morning.

At 8.15am London time, United said: “As of 3 am ET [Eastern Time], the system issue has been resolved. Any delayed flights are resuming”.

As we reported in our blog of 6 September, the previous month, Delta, the world’s largest carrier experienced a worldwide ‘systems failure’ and in September, BA passengers suffered long delays after what was described as ‘a problem with our check-in system’.

So what was to blame?  Cyber security experts remain sceptical about the public attributions of the airlines to causes other than cyber attack, however with airlines heavily dependant on their computer systems for almost every aspect of their operations there still remain a number of possibilities .  Yes, cyber attack by a malicious actor could be one possibility, however it could also have been a patching issue; a lack of immediate failover to their back up system; or even a third party to blame in the chain.  Yet, Delta is huge – and an organisation of its size is going to have pretty substantial IT systems and robust security measures in place to protect its infrastructure and passenger safety.

Ultimately, we may have suspicions but will have to wait and see if any further details come to light about these incidents. In the end it is unlikely that the airlines themselves will choose to disclose the root cause for fear of giving anyone any insight into any potential system vulnerabilities.