Esports Cyber Threats and Mitigations

Esports Cyber Threats and Mitigations:

On 06/10/21 major Esports software company, Electronic Arts (EA) was hacked. They are one of the biggest esports companies in the world. They count many major hit games including Battlefield, The Sims, Titanfall, and Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, in addition to many online league sports games; and they develop and/or publish many others. An EA spokesperson described game code and related tools as stolen in the hack and that they are still investigating the privacy implications. Early reports however indicated that a whopping 780GB of data was stolen (Balaji N, GBHackers On Security, 06/12/21).

Fig 1. EA Sports Hacked Image. Balaji N, GBHackers On Security, 06/12/21.

Given this recent hack here is an updated overview of some of the esports cyber threats and mitigations.

Threats:

1. Aimbots and Wallhacks

As esports revenues and player prizes increase, more players will look for opportunities to exploit the game to gain an advantage over competitors. Many underground hacker forums reveal hundreds of aimbots and wallhacks. Prices for such tools start as low as $5.00 but go as high as $2,000. These are essentially cheat tools for sale but they are technically prohibited in official competitions (Trend Micro, 2019).

Aimbots are a type of software used in multiplayer first-person shooter games to provide varying levels of automated targeting that gives the user an advantage over other players. Wallhacks allow the player to change the properties of in-game walls by making them transparent or nonsolid, making it easier to find or attack enemies.

Fig 2. Wallhack Cheat For WarZone (May 6th 2020, Tom Warren).

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Fig 2. Wallhack Cheat For WarZone (May 6th 2020, Tom Warren).

2. Hidden Hardware Hacks

Some of the hardware used in competitions can be manipulated by hackers with ease. For each tournament, a gaming board sets the rules on what equipment they allow tournament participants to use. A lot of professional tournaments allow players to bring their own mouse and keyboard, which have been known to house hacks.

Case in point, in 2018 a Dota 2 team was disqualified from a $15 million tournament after judges caught one of its members using a programmable mouse – the Synapse 3 configuration tool. The mouse allowed the player to perform movements that would be impossible without macros, a shortcut of preset key sequences not possible with standard nonprogrammable hardware (Trend Micro, 2019).

3. Stolen Accounts and Credentials

Threat actors have been increasingly targeting the esports industry. They do this by harvesting and selling user ID and password data of both internal and external systems for esports companies. A study by threat intelligence company KELA indicated that more than half a million login credentials tied to the employees of 25 leading game publishers have been found for sale on dark web bazaars (Amer Owaida, Welivewellsecurity, 01/05/2021).

4. Ransomware and DDoS (Distributed Denial of Services) Attacks

Ransomware can come via phishing, smishing, spam, or via free compromised plug-ins. When installed on the gaming platform they lock everything up and force the host to pay ransom in the form of difficult-to-trace digital currency like Bitcoin. Interestingly, researcher Danny Palmer of ZDnet cited Trend Micro’s research when he described the marriage of ransomware and DDoS attacks as follows:

“Researchers also warn that attackers could blackmail esports tournament organizers, demanding a ransom payment in exchange for not launching a DDoS attack – something which organizers might consider given how events are broadcast live and the reputational damage that will occur to the host organizer if the event gets taken offline” (Danny Palmer, ZDnet, 10/29/2019).

Mitigations:

1. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

VPN establishes an encrypted tunnel between you and a remote server ran by the VPN provider. All your internet traffic is run through this tunnel, so your data is secure from eavesdropping. Your real IP address and location is masked preventing IPS tracking as your traffic is exiting the VPN server. You can also more confidently use public WIFI with a VPN.

2. Use A Password Management Tool and Strong Passwords

Another way to stay safe is by setting passwords that are longer, complex, and thus hard to guess. Additionally, they can be stored and encrypted for safekeeping using a well-regarded password vault and management tool. This tool can also help you to set strong passwords and can auto-fill them with each login — if you select that option. Yet using just the password vaulting tool is all that is recommended. Doing these two things makes it difficult for hackers to steal passwords or access your gaming accounts.

3. Use Only Whitelisted Gaming Sites Not Blacklisted Ones or Ones Found Via the Dark Web

Use only approved whitelisted gaming platforms and sites that do not expose you to data leakages or intrusion on your privacy. Whitelisting is the practice of explicitly allowing some identified websites access to a particular privilege, service, or access. Blacklisting is blocking certain sites or privileges. If a site does not assure your privacy, do not even sign up let alone participate.

Seven Impactful Cyber-Tech Trends of 2020 and What it Means for 2021.

Every year I like to research and commentate on the most impactful security technology and business happenings from the prior year. This year is unique since the pandemic is partly the catalyst for most of these trends in conjunction with it being a presidential election year like no other. All these trends are likely to significantly impact small businesses, government, education, high tech, and large enterprise in big and small ways.

Fig 1. Stock Mashup, 2020.

1) Disinformation Efforts Accelerate Challenging Data and Culture:

Advancements in communications technologies, the growth of large social media networks, and the “appification” of everything increases the ease and capability of disinformation. Disinformation is defined as incorrect information intended to mislead or disrupt, especially propaganda issued by a government organization to a rival power or the media. For example, governments creating digital hate mobs to smear key activists or journalists, suppress dissent, undermine political opponents, spread lies, and control public opinion (Shelly Banjo, Bloomberg, 05/18/2019). Today’s disinformation war is largely digital via platforms like Facebook, Twitter, iTunes, WhatsApp, Yelp, and Instagram. Yet even state-sponsored and private news organizations are increasingly the weapon of choice creating a false sense of validity. Undeniably, the battlefield is wherever many followers reside. 

Bots and botnets are often behind the spread of disinformation, complicating efforts to trace it and to stop it. Further complicating this phenomenon is the number of app-to-app permissions. For example, the CNN and Twitter apps having permission to post to Facebook and then Facebook having permission to post to WordPress and then WordPress posting on Reddit, or any combination like this. Not only does this make it hard to identify the chain of custody and source, but it also weakens privacy and security due to the many authentication permissions. 

We all know that false news spreads faster than real news most of the time, largely because it is sensationalized. Since disinformation draws in viewers, which drives clicks and ad revenues – it is a money-making machine. If you can control what’s trending in the news and/or social media, it impacts how many people will believe it. This in turn impacts how many people will act on that belief, good or bad. This is exacerbated when combined with human bias or irrational emotion. For example, in late 2020 there were many cases of fake COVID-19 vaccines being offered in response to human fear (FDA, 12/22/2020). This negatively impacts culture by setting a misguided example of what is acceptable.

There were several widely reported cases of political disinformation in 2020 including misleading texts, e-mails, mailers, and robocalls designed to confuse American voters amid the already stressful pandemic. Like a narcissist’s triangulation trap these disinformation bursts riled political opponents on both sides in all states creating miscommunication, ad hominin attacks, and even derailed careers (PBS, The Hinkley Report, 11/24/20). Moreover, huge swaths of confused voters aligned more with speculation and emotion/hype than unbiased facts. This dirtied the data in terms of the election process and only begs the question of which parts of the election information process are broken. This normalizes petty policy fights, emotional reasoning, lack of unbiased intellectualism – negatively impacting western culture. All to the threat actor’s delight. Increased public to private partnerships, more educational rigor, and enhanced privacy protections for election and voter data are needed to combat this disinformation.

2) Stalkerware Grows and Evolves Reducing Mobile Privacy:

The increased use of mobile devices in conjunction with the pandemic induced work from home (WFH) growth has produced more stalkerware. According to one report, there was a 51% increase in Android spyware and stalkerware from March through June, vs the first two months of the year (Avast, Security Boulevard, 12/02/20); and this is likely to be above a 100% increase when all data is tabulated for the end of 2020. Inspired by covert law enforcement investigation tactics, this malware variant can be secretly installed on a victim’s phone hiding as a seemingly harmless app. It is not that different from employee monitoring software. However, unlike employee monitoring software, which can easily be confused with this malware; stalkerware is typically installed by fake friends, jealous spouses and partners, ex-partners, and even concerned relatives. If successfully installed, it relays private information back to the attacker including the victim’s photos, location, texts, web browsing history, call records and more. This is where the privacy violation and abuse and/or fraud can start yet it is hard to identify in the blur of too many mobile apps.

3) Identity & Access Management (IAM) Scrutiny Drives Zero Trust:

The pandemic has pushed most organizations to amass WFH posture. Generally, this improves productivity making it likely to become the new norm, albeit with new rules and controls. To support this, 51% of business leaders are speeding up the deployment of Zero Trust capabilities (Andrew Conway, Microsoft, 08/19/20). Zero trust moves organizations to a need to know only access mindset with inherent deny rules, all the while assuming you are compromised. This infers single sign-on at the personal device level and improved multifactor authentication. It also infers better role-based access controls (RBAC), improved need to know policies, group membership reviews, and state of the art PAM tools for the next year.

4) Security Perimeter is Now More Defined by Data Analytics than Physical/Digital Boundaries:

This increased WFH posture blurs the security perimeter both physically and digitally. New IP addresses, internet volume, routing, geolocation, and virtual machines (VMs) exacerbate this blur. This raises the criticality of good data analytics and dashboarding to define the digital boundaries in real-time. Therefore, prior audits, security controls, and policies may be ineffective. For instance, empty corporate offices are the physical byproduct of mass WFH, requiring organizations to set default disable for badge access. Extra security in or near server rooms is also required. The pandemic has also made vendor interactions more digital, so digital vendor connection points should be reduced and monitored in real-time, and the related exception policies should be revaluated.

5) Data Governance Gets Sloppy Amid Agility:

Mass WFH has increased agility and driven sloppy data governance. For example, one week after the CARES Act was passed banks were asked to accept Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applications. Many banks were unprepared to deal with the flood of data from digital applications, financial histories, and related docs, and were not able to process them in an efficient way. Moreover, the easing of regulatory red tape at hospitals/clinics, although well-intentioned to make emergency response faster. It created sloppy data governance, as well. The irony of this is that regulators are unlikely to give either of these industries a break, nor will civil attorneys hungry for any hangnail claim.

6) The Divide Between Good and Bad Cloud Security Grows:

The pandemic has reminded us that there are two camps with cloud security. Those who have a planned option for bigger cloud-scale and those that are burning their feet in a hasty rush to get there. In the first option, the infrastructure is preconfigured and hardened, rates are locked, and there is less complexity, all of which improves compliance and gives tech risk leaders more peace of mind. In the latter, the infrastructure is less clear, rates are not predetermined, compliance and integration are confusing at best, and costs run high – all of which could set such poorly configured cloud infrastructures up for future disasters.

7) Phishing Attacks Grow Exponentially and Get Craftier:

The pandemic has caused a hurricane of phishing emails that have been hard to keep up with. According to KnowBe4 and Security Magazine, there has been a 6,000% increase in phishing e-mails since the start of the pandemic (Stu Sjouwerman, KnowBe4, 07/13/20 & Security Magazine, 07/22/20). Many of these e-mails have improved their approach and design, appearing more professional and appealing to our emotions by using tags concerning COVID relief, data, and vaccines. Ransomware increased 72% year over year (Security Magazine, 07/22/20). With many new complexities in the mobile ecosystem and exponential app growth, it is not surprising that mobile vulnerabilities also increased by 50% (Security Magazine, 07/22/20).

Take-Aways:

COVID-19 is the catalyst for digital transformation in tech automation, IAM, big data, collaboration tools, and AI. We no longer have the same office and thus less badge access is needed. Single sign-on (SSO) will expand to personal devices and smartphones/watches. Geolocation based authentication is here to stay with double biometrics likely. The security perimeter is now more defined by data analytics than physical/digital boundaries, and we should to dashboard this with machine learning and AI tools.

Education and awareness around the review and removal of non-essential mobile apps is a top priority. Especially for mobile devices used separately or jointly for work purposes. This requires a better understanding of geolocation, QR code scanning, couponing, digital signage, in-text ads, micropayments, Bluetooth, geofencing, e-readers, HTML5, etc. A bring your own device (BYOD) policy needs to be written, followed and updated often – embracing need to know and role-based access (RBAC) principles. Organizations should consider forming a mobile ecosystem security committee to make sure this unique risk is not overlooked or overly merged with traditional web/IT risk. Mapping the mobile ecosystem components in detail is a must.

Cloud infra will continue to grow fast creating perimeter and compliance complexity/fog. Organizations should preconfigure cloud scale options and spend more on cloud trained staff. They should also make sure that they are selecting more than two or three cloud providers, all separate from one another. This helps staff get cross-trained on different cloud platforms and add-ons. It also mitigates risk and makes vendors bid more competitively.  IT and security professionals need to realize that alleviating disinformation is about security before politics. We should not be afraid to talk about it because if we are then our organizations will stay weak and insecure and we will be plied by the same political bias that we fear confronting. As security professionals, we are patriots and defenders of wherever we live and work. We need to know what our social media baseline is across platforms. More social media training is needed as many security professionals still think it is mostly an external marketing thing. Public-to-private partnerships need to improve and app to app permissions need to be scrutinized. Enhanced privacy protections for election and voter data are needed. Everyone does not need to be a journalist, but everyone can have the common sense to identify malware inspired fake news. We must report undue bias in big tech from an IT, compliance, media, and a security perspective.

About the Author:

Jeremy Swenson is a disruptive thinking security entrepreneur and senior management tech risk consultant. Over 15 years he has held progressive roles at many banks, insurance companies, retailers, healthcare orgs, and even governments. Organizations relish in his ability to bridge gaps and flesh out hidden risk management solutions while at the same time improving processes. He is also a frequent speaker, published writer, and even does some pro bono consulting in these areas. He holds an MBA from St Mary’s University of MN and MSST (Master of Science in Security Technologies) degree from the University of Minnesota.

Abstract Forward Podcast #10: CISO Risk Management and Threat Modeling Best Practices with Donald Malloy and Nathaniel Engelsen!

Fig. 1. Joe the IT Guy, 10/17/2018

Featuring the esteemed technology and risk thought leaders Donald Malloy and Nathaniel Engelsen — this episode covers threat modeling methodologies STRIDE, Attack Tree, VAST, and PASTA. Specifically, how to apply them with limited budgets. It also discusses the complex intersection of how to derive ROI on threat modeling with compliance and insurance considerations. We then cover IAM best practices including group and role level policy and control best practices. Lastly, we hear a few great examples of key CISO risk management must-dos at the big and small company levels.

Fig. 2. Pasta Threat Modeling Steps (Nataliya Shevchenko, CMU, 12/03/2018).

Donald Malloy has more than 25 years of experience in the security and payment industry and is currently a security technology consultant advising many companies. Malloy was responsible for developing the online authentication product line while at NagraID Security (Oberthur) and prior to that he was Business Development and Marketing Manager for Secure Smart Card ICs for both Philips Semiconductors (NXP) and Infineon Technologies. Malloy originally comes from Boston where he was educated and has M.S. level degrees in Organic Chemistry and an M.B.A. in Marketing. Presently he is the Chairman of The Initiative for Open Authentication (OATH) and is a solution provider with DualAuth. OATH is an industry alliance that has changed the authentication market from proprietary systems to an open-source standard-based architecture promoting ubiquitous strong authentication used by most companies today. DualAuth is a global leader in trusted security with two-factor authentication include auto passwords. He resides in southern California and in his spare time he enjoys hiking, kayaking, and traveling around this beautiful world.

Nathaniel Engelsen is a technology executive, agilest, writer, and speaker on topics including DevOps, agile team transformation, and cloud infrastructure & security. Over the past 20 years he has worked for startups, small and mid-size organizations, and $1B+ enterprises in industries as varied as consulting, gaming, healthcare, retail, transportation logistics, and digital marketing. Nathaniel’s current security venture is Callback Security, providing dynamic access control mechanisms that allow companies to turn off well-known or static remote and database access routes. Nathaniel has a bachelor’s in Management Information Systems from Rowan University and an MBA from the University of Minnesota, where he was a Carlson Scholar. He also holds a CISSP.

The podcast can be heard here.

More information on Abstract Forward Consulting can be found here.

Disclaimer: This podcast does not represent the views of former or current employers and/or clients. This podcast will make every reasonable effort to verify facts and inferences therefrom. However, this podcast is intended to entertain and significantly inform its audience based on subjective reason-based opinions. Non-public information will not be disclosed. Information obtained in this podcast may be materially out of date at or after the time of the podcast. This podcast is not legal, accounting, audit, health, technical, or financial advice. © Abstract Forward Consulting, LLC.

8 Effective Third-Party Risk Management Tactics

In this increasingly complex security landscape with threat actors and vendors changing their tools rapidly, managing third-party risk is very difficult, ambiguous, and it’s even more difficult to know how to prioritize mitigation spend.

Fig 1. Risk, Stock Image, 2019.

The key to any vendor risk management program or framework is measurement, repeatability, and learning or improving from what was repeated as the business and risks change. These are the nine best practices you can follow to help assess your vendors’ security processes and their willingness to understand your risks and collectively mitigate both of them.

1) Identify All Your Vendors / Business Associates:

Many companies miss this easy step. Use RBAC (role-based access controls) when applicable – windows groups or the like. Creating a repeatable, written, compliance process for identifying them and making updates to the list as vendors move in and out of the company is worthwhile.

2) Ensure Your Vendors Perform Regular Security Assessments:

Risk assessments should be conducted on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis and reviewed and updated in response to changes in technology and the operating environment.

At a minimum, security risk assessments should include:

a) Evaluate the likelihood and potential impact of risks to in-scope assets.

b) Institute measures to protect against those risks.

c) Documentation of the security measures taken.

Vendors must also regularly review the findings of risk assessments to determine the likelihood and impact of the risk that they identify, as well as remediate any deficiencies.|

Fig. 2. Stock Image, Third-Party Risk Mgmt Inputs, 2019.

3) Make Sure Vendors Have Written Information Security Policies / Procedures:

a) Written security policies and procedures should clearly outline the steps and tasks needed to ensure compliance delivers the expected outcomes.

b) Without a reference point, policies and procedures can become open to individual interpretation, leading to misalignment and mistakes. Verify not only that companies have these written policies, but that they align with your organization’s standards. Ask other peers in your industry for a benchmark.

 4) Prioritize Vendors Based on Risk – Use Evidence and Input from Others – NOT Speculation:

a) Critical Risk: Vendors who are critical to your operation, and whose failure or inability to deliver contracted services could result in your organization’s failure.

b) High Risk: Vendors (1) who have access to customer data and have a high risk of information loss; and / or (2) upon whom your organization is highly dependent operationally.

c) Medium Risk: Vendors (1) whose access to customer information is limited; and / or whose loss of services would be disruptive to your organization.

d) Low Risk: Vendors who do not have access to customer data and whose loss of services would not be disruptive to your organization.

5) Verify That Vendors Encrypt Data in All Applicable Places – At Rest, In Transit, etc:

a) Encryption, a process that protects data by making it unreadable without the use of a key or password, is one of the easiest methods of protecting data against theft.

b) When a vendor tells you their data is encrypted, trust but verify. Delve deeper and ask for details about different in-transit scenarios, such as encryption of backup and what type of backup. Ask them about what type of encryption it is and get an infographic. Most people get lost when you ask this question.

c) It’s also imperative that the keys used to encrypt the data are very well-protected. Understanding how encryption keys are protected is as vital as encryption itself. Are they stored on the same server? Is multi-factor authentication needed to get access to them? Is there a time limit on how long they can have access to the key?

6) Ensure Vendors Have A Disaster Recovery Program:

In order to be compliant with the HIPAA Security Rule and related rules, vendors must have a detailed disaster recovery program that includes analysis on how a natural disaster—fire, flood or even a rodent chewing through cables—could affect systems containing ePHI. The plan should also include policies and procedures for operating after a disaster, delineating employees’ roles and responsibilities. Finally, the plan should clearly outline the plan for restoring the data.

7) Ensure Access Is Based on Legitimate Business Needs:

Fig 3. Stock Image, RBAC Flow, 2019.

It’s best to follow the principle of least privilege (POLP), which is the practice of limiting access rights for users to the bare minimum permissions they need to perform their work. Under POLP, users are granted permission to read, write, or execute only the files or resources they need to do their jobs. In other words, the least amount of privilege necessary. RBAC is worth mentioning here again.

8) Vet All New Vendors with Due Diligence:

a) Getting references.

b) Using a standard checklist.

c) Performing a risk analysis and determining if the vendor will be ranked Critical, High, Medium or Low.

d) Document and report to senior management.

Contact us here to learn more.

Watch Out for Coronavirus (COVID-19) Scams and Malware

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is being used in a variety of malicious/hacking campaigns including email spam, ransomware, BEC (business e-mail compromise), malware, drive-by downloads, and even fraudulent domains. The mention of current events in malicious cyber-attacks is nothing new as threat actors often use current events and popular personalities in their social engineering strategies.

Fig. 1. Nate Benson (WGRZ), 03/16/20.

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As the number of those infected continues to increase, campaigns that use the disease as a lure are likely to also increase because people tend to get excited about trending information and they click without double-checking, especially when their defenses are down in this emotional and media-hyped context. Let facts and science rule the day, not speculation and sensationalized news media. As we seek recovery and healing, the last thing we need is the double whammy of being hacked, scammed, or the victim of ransomware. Don’t let that be you, always double-check.

Here are some detailed internet hygiene and scam avoidance tips (compiled from the FTC, Trend Micro, and Symantec):

  1. Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
  2. Trend Micro identified the following exploits as of 03/16/20 and more are likely coming. Five of which were .exe or executable files – very high risk.

Fig. 1. Trend Micro Identified Cyber Exploit Files (Trend Micro, 03/16/20).

COVID 19 Exploit Files 03_17_20
  1. Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying that they have information about the virus.
  2. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  3. Symantec Identified the following Fake example:

Fig 2. Fake CDC Alert Phishing Example (Steve Symanovich, Symantec, 03/17/2020).

CDC Phishing Scam E-mail Example From Symantec 03_17_20
  1. Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) — online or in stores.
  2. Report any suspected product scams to the FTC here – scroll to the bottom for reporting link.
  3. Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
  4. Beware of online requests for personal information. A coronavirus-themed email that seeks personal information like your Social Security number or login information is a phishing scam. Legitimate government agencies won’t ask for that information.
  5. Never respond to email by giving your personal data.
  6. Check the email address or link. You can inspect a link by hovering your mouse button over the URL to see where it leads. But keep in mind phishers can create links that closely resemble legitimate addresses. Never go to HTTP only sites but look for the HTTPS. Use the trend micro URL checker here but know it won’t catch all bad sites but is a good start.
  7. Watch for spelling and grammatical mistakes. If an email includes spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors, it’s likely a sign you’ve received a phishing email.
  8. Look for generic greetings. Phishing emails are unlikely to use your name. Greetings like “Dear sir or madam” signal an email is not legitimate.
  9. When in doubt, don’t open, block, and delete.

Lastly, with so many people working from home amid the pandemic, our next podcast will deal with IAM / vendor risk mgmt., and the related work from home network security considerations — coming around April/May 2020! Follow our podcast here.

Wishing you, your family, and the greater community — strength, healing, innovation, and fast recovery. Together we can get through this.

Charles Schwab, Chase, Wells Fargo, and others Use New Voice IAM Biometrics Technology

Over the last few two years, many financial firms have introduced a new voice identity and access (IAM) management service which uses voice biometrics technology to identify you by your unique voice. This starts each customer interaction with effortless biometric authentication improving customer experience.

mobile_computing-mobile biometrics

Fig. 1. Voice Biometric Authentication Graphic, Source: Si-Gal/Getty Images, 2020.

Charles Schwab describes it this way (2020):

  • Whether you want to use our automated phone service or speak with one of our financial professionals, our voice ID service is one of the fastest and most convenient ways to securely identify yourself over the phone.
  • We know that you have a lot of passwords and pins to remember. Voice ID helps reduce the hassle of answering security questions when we can verify you by the sound of your voice.
  • When you call us, you will simply be prompted to say the passphrase “At Schwab, my voice is my password” to be securely verified. No more personal questions. No more PINs.

According to leading voice technology vendor Nuance (2020):

  • Biometric authentication delivers simpler, stronger customer authentication.
  • It reduces the average handling time (AHT) by 37 seconds.
  • Just like your fingerprint, your voiceprint is uniquely yours.

To make this work, the technology stores a digital representation of your voice using a proprietary algorithm. This unique voiceprint is created from more than 100 different physical and behavioral characteristics such as pitch, accent, shape of your mouth and vocal tract as you speak with a customer service representative. Your voice ID only works with the system you provide your voice to, etc.

Using this service requires the collation of data to know that you are you. Melissa Looker of Fast Company describes how Chase does this as follows (2019):

  • But Chase isn’t just amassing data on its customers. It’s also collecting intel on known fraudsters for so-called “voice biometric blacklists,” which keep tabs on identity thieves and credit card scammers and prevent them from accessing bank information or requesting new credit cards.
  • Of course, it’s not just JPMorgan Chase & Co. using the technology. According to the Associated Press, Wells Fargo, Barclays, and U.S. Bank all use some form of Voice ID (IAM). In 2017, Pindrop, a company that offers sound-based fraud detection tools to call centers, told Fast Company it worked with eight of the top 10 U.S. banks and two of the top 5 insurers to detect phone scams.

Although voice IAM is a good start, I think more research needs to be done to validate the long-term viability of this authentication. What if a fraudster has a recording of your voice, or can mimic your voice pattern with a computer? Also, a lot of people’s voices sound the same. According to a 2017 BBC report voice, biometric authentication was easily passed by a twin brother when they tested it, and the technology has improved little since then (Dan Simmons).

3 Key Points From “Unsecurity” By Evan Francen

UNSECURITY-1200x628-adNational author, speaker, consultant, and entrepreneur Evan Francen got into information security long before it was cool and buzzing in the media, and long before every so-called IT consultancy started chasing the money. In fact, he and I both dislike the money chasers. He and his growing consultancy, FRSecure are for-profit, but they don’t do it for the money.

Like a patriot who delays college to join the army amid dire national conflict, Francen offers a fact-based call to arms to fix the broken cybersecurity industry in his 2019 book “Unsecurity”. Having known him and his company for a few years, and having read the book and many on this subject, this content is worth sharing because too few people write or talk about how to actually make this industry better. Here are my three unbiased key points from his book.

1)    We’re Not Speaking the Same Language:

614hGPZRmJL._SY600_Francen opens his book with a lengthy chapter on how poor communication between cybersecurity stakeholders exacerbates trouble and risk. You can’t see or measure what isn’t communicated well. It starts because there are five main stakeholder groups who don’t share the same vocabulary amid conflicting priorities.

  1. IT: Speaks in data tables and code jargon.
  2. Cyber: Speaks in risk metrics and security controls.
  3. Business: Speaks in voice of the customer and profits.
  4. Compliance:Speaks in evidence collection and legal regulatory frameworks.
  5. Vendor: Speaks in sales and marketing terms.

Ideally, all these stakeholders need to work together but are only as strong as the weakest link. To attain better communication and collaboration between these stakeholders, all must agree on the same general security framework best for the company and industry, maybe NIST CSF with its inferred definitions or maybe ISACA Cobit. However, once you pick the framework you need to start training, communicating, and measuring against it and only it –going with its inferred definitions.

Changing frameworks in the middle of the process is like changing keys in the middle of a classical song at a concert – don’t do it. That’s not to say that once communication and risk management gets better, that you can’t have some hybrid framework variation – like at a jazz concert. You can but you need proof of the basic items first.

Later, in the chapter Francen describes the communication issue of too many translations. That’s too many people passing the communication onto other people and giving it their spin. Thus, what was merely a minor IT problem ticket turns into a full-blown data breach? Or people get tied up arguing over NIST, ISSA, ISACA, and OWASP jargon – all the while nothing gets fixed and people just get mad at each other yet fail to understand one another. Knowing one or two buzz words from an ISACA conference or paper yet failing to understand how they apply to NIST or the like does not help. You should be having a framework mapping sheet for this.

The bigger solution is more training and vetting who is authorized to communicate on key projects. The issue of good communication and project management is separate from cybersecurity though it’s a critical dependency. Organizations should pre-draft communication plans with roles and scope listed out, and then they should do tabletops to solidify them. Having an on-site Toastmasters group is also a good idea. I don’t care if you’re a cyber or IT genius; if you can’t communicate well that’s a problem that needs to be fixed. I will take the person with much better communication skills because likely they can learn what they don’t know better than the other.

2)    Overengineered Foundations:

In chapter two, Francen addresses “Bad Foundations”. He gives many analogies including building a house without a blueprint. However, I’m most interested in what he says on page 76:

  • “Problem #4 Overengineered Foundation – too much control is as bad as too little control, and in some cases, it’s even worse than no control at all.”

What he is saying here is that an organization can get so busy in non-real world spreadsheet assessments and redundant evidence gathering that their heads are in the sand for so long that they don’t see to connect the dots that other things are going array and thus they get compromised. Keep in mind IT and security staff are already overworked, they already have many conflicting dials and charts to read – amid false alarms. To bog them down in needless busywork must be weighed against other real-world security tasks, like patch management, change management, and updating IAM protocols to two-factor.

If you or your organization have an issue figuring this out, as Francen outlines, you need to simplify your risk management to a real-world foundational goal that even the company secretary can understand. It may be as simple as requiring long complex (multicharacter) passwords, badge entry time logs for everyone, encrypting data that is not public, or other basics. You must do these things and document that they have been done one at a time, engraining a culture of preventative security vs. reactive security.

3)    Cultivate Transparency and Incentives:

In chapter five, “The Blame Game” Francen describes how IT and business stakeholders often fail to take responsibility for security failings. This is heavily influenced by undue bias, lack of diversity, and lack of fact-based intellectualism within the IT and business silos at many mid-sized and large organizations. I know this is a hard pill to swallow but its so true. The IT and business leaders approving the bills for the vendors doing the security assessments, tool implementations, and consulting should not be under pressure to give a favorable finding in an unrealistic timeframe. They should only be obligated to give timely truthful risk prudent advice. Yet that same advice if not couched with kid gloves can get a vendor booted from the client – fabricating a negative vendor event. Kinda reminds me of accounting fraud pre-Sarbanes Oxley.

The reason why is because risk assessors are creating evidence of security violations that the client does not agree with or like, and thus you are creating legal risk for them – albeit well justified and by their own doing. From Francen’s viewpoint, this comprehensive honest assessment also gives the client a way to defend and limit liability by disclosing and remediating the vulnerabilities in a timely manner and under the advisement of a neutral third party. Moreover, you’re going to have instructions on how to avoid them in the future thus saving you money and brand reputation.

Overall, transparency can save you. Customers, regulators, and risk assessors view you more positively because of it. That’s not to say there are not things that will remain private because there are many, trade secrets, confidential data, and the like. My take on Francen’s mention of the trade off’s between transparency and incentives in a chapter called “The Blame Game” is that it’s no longer acceptable to delay or cover up a real security event – not that it ever was. Even weak arguments deliberately miscategorizing security events as smaller than they are will catch up with you and kick your butt or get you sued. Now is the time to be proactive. Build your incident response team ahead of time. It should include competent risk business consultants, cyber consultants, IT consultants, a communication lead, and a privacy attorney.

Lastly, if we as an industry are going to get better we’re going to have to pick up books, computers, pens, and megaphones. And this book is a must-read! You can’t be passive and maintain your expert status – it expires the second you do nothing and get poisoned by your own bias and ego. Keep learning and sharing!

The Six Most Impactful Cyber and Business Tech Trends of 2019 and What it Means for 2020.

By Mamady Konneh, MSST, and Jeremy Swenson, MBA, MSST.

Minneapolis, MN — Every year we like to review and commentate on the most impactful security technology and business happenings from the prior year. Those likely to significantly impact the coming year in unique ways. Although incomplete, these are six trends worth addressing in order of importance.

Fig 1. (Cyber Trend Mashup Overlay, + Stock Image, 2019).
76a23722-c088-4067-92b7-1b2e7f357148

1) The Media Disinformation War Continues Embracing Artificial Intelligence:

With the advancement of communications technologies, the growth of large social media networks, and with the “appification” of everything — users have morphed beyond merely consuming information to being distributors and sometimes contributors. This ripens the ease and capability of disinformation.

Disinformation is defined as incorrect information intended to mislead or disrupt, especially propaganda issued by a government organization to a rival power or the media. For example, governments creating digital hate mobs to smear key activists or journalists, suppress dissent, undermine political opponents, spread lies and control public opinion (Shelly Banjo, Bloomberg, 05/23/2019). Today’s disinformation war is largely digital via platforms like Facebook, Twitter, iTunes, WhatsApp, Yelp, and Instagram (Fig. 2). Yet even state-sponsored and private news organizations are increasingly the weapon of choice — creating a false sense of validity. Undeniably, the battlefield is wherever a large number of followers are.

We all know that false news spreads faster than real news most of the time, largely because its sensationalized. Since disinformation draws in viewers, which drives clicks and ad revenues, it’s a money-making machine. If you can control what’s trending in the news and/or social media, it impacts how many people will believe it, which in turn impacts how many people will act on that belief, good or bad. This is exacerbated when combined with human bias or irrational emotion.

Bots and botnets are often behind the spread of disinformation, complicating efforts to trace its source and to stop it. Further complicating this phenomenon is the amount of app (application) to app permissions. For example, the CNN and Twitter app having permission to post to Facebook and then Facebook having permission to post to WordPress and then WordPress posting on Reddit, or any combination like this. Not only does this make it hard to identify the chain of custody and source, but it also weakens privacy and security due to the many authentication permissions.

Fig 2. News, Social Media, and Puppet Master of Disinformation (Right, Chandrajit Banerjee, Left Marc Creighton, 2019).
Purported Russian Disinformation Flow

Disinformation campaigns attempted to influence U.S. elections in 2016 — presidential, and 2018 — congressional (Fig. 2). The effects are not fully known to this day yet there is some undeniable impact, with debates on both sides. This taken in conjunction with outdated electoral policies and poor public-to-private partnerships support the conclusion that disinformation capabilities are on the rise leading up to the U.S. presidential election in 2020. In fact, according to one report, the number of countries engaged in disinformation increased from 48 to 70 or 150% from 2018 to 2019 (Samantha Bradshaw and Philip N. Howard, Oxford Internet Institute, 09/04/19). This is not about politics, this is about truth, appropriate technology, security improvements, and better public-private partnerships.

Fig. 3. Purported Russian Disinformation Flow (Samuel Morales, 11/08/19).

Purported Russian Disinformation Flow

Moving on, large technology companies are increasingly under scrutiny to secure their platforms from disinformation campaigns. One recent example is as follows, “Twitter announced that it had removed more than 88,000 accounts that it said were engaged in “platform manipulation” originating in Saudi Arabia” (Aaron Holmes, Business Insider, 12/20/19). Since platforms like this have so much activity to monitor, many campaigns like this go on unaltered. Yet, let us not forget about the free speech rights of users and the many claims that certain tech companies are overreaching in their screening content to the level of undue bias. Resolving these two extremes is indeed a work in progress.

Another example which used AI (Artificial Intelligence) enabled disinformation is as follows: ‘“On December 20, 2019, Facebook took action against a network of over 900 pages, groups, and accounts on its own platform and on Instagram that were associated with “The Beauty of Life” (TheBL), reportedly an offshoot of the Epoch Media Group (EMG). These assets were removed for engaging in large-scale coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB)”’ (Ben Nimmo, C. Shawn Eib, L. Tamora, et al; Graphika & the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab, 12/2019). Many of these profiles were created with AI generated fake profile photos. The group amassed about 55 million followers, so their disinformation efforts largely worked.

Considering these disinformation events this past year, we think small and mid-size companies are likely the next target of disinformation campaigns. Such campaigns may aim to steal their customers, tarnish their reputation, or otherwise combine disinformation with advanced malware or other cyber fraud. They may be a direct target or a pass through medium. Small businesses are not immune from these risks even if never targeted before. While a large company could sustain several disinformation attacks, a small company could be easily run out of business by just one.

Imagine fraudulent Yelp reviews from a dental competitor who hires a non-U.S. based hacking group to have a bot army create 1,000 negative dental reviews on Yelp. Now the victim of this attack has a mess to clean up. Being a dental office, they are not tech experts, so they have to hire a tech consultancy. Yet even when hired, the full damage can never be undone. The stress and cost could drive them to shut down. Then there is the question of who pays for it? This begs the question of cyber insurance, do you have the correct coverage, is there any way your claims can be denied?

Overall, disinformation is a double-edged sword because if one country is using disinformation against another country, then that country is very tempted to use disinformation against them in response. Then when the public sees this state originated disinformation, they and their NGO (non-governmental organization) groups respond whether they believe the disinformation or not —of course with different responses. The same scenario could apply in a company to company context.

Disinformation is indeed a vicious cycle that encourages lies, ignorance, all the while damaging the value of what journalism means. In 2020 we as journalists, thought leaders, consultants and citizens must not be afraid to confront these fallacies and hidden distortions for future generations — a quality based truthful pen is a powerful sword!

2) Ransomware Doubles Attacking More Government Entities:

Ransomware heavily hit hospitals, businesses, and universities in 2019, but local governments were the top target. It attacked at least 103 local U.S. government agencies, mostly at the city and county levels (Emsisoft Malware Lab, 12/12/19). Further validating this conclusion is Barracuda Networks who found more broadly that two-thirds of all known 2019 ransomware attacks in the U.S. targeted U.S.governments (Alfred Ng, C-NET, 12/05/19). Specifically, these ransomware attacks originate mostly from phishing emails. Then the attackers implant malicious code in the targeted entities’ network, after which they encrypt their files making them inaccessible. These are for the most part not federal offices like the FBI, NSA, DOD, or the FAA — these offices have bigger budgets and better defenses.

In August 2019 twenty-three Texas cities were struck by a large coordinated ransomware attack. This overwhelmed them SO they were forced to seek advanced state assistance (Kate Fazzini, CNBC, 08/20/19). Also in 2019, seven Florida cities were struck in a similar attack: River City, Riviera Beach, Lake City, Key Biscayne, Stuart, Naples, and recently Pensacola (Rachael L Thomas, Naples Daily News, 08/20/19 & CISOMAG, 12/27/19). Moreover, the city of Baltimore, Maryland sustained two ransomware attacks in 14 months (Kate Fazzini, CNBC, 08/20/19). Fig. 4. shows the defaced City of New Orleans website which left citizens out of some services and information.

Fig. 4. City of New Orleans Website Down (NOLA.gov, City of New Orleans, 12/23/19).

City Of New Orleans Hack

Foolish as it may sound local governments are more frequently opting to pay the ransomware rather than rebuild their systems. After seeing Atlanta spend $2.6 million in 2018 to restore its systems rather than pay the $52,000 ransom (Lily Hay Newman, Wired, 04/23/18) — many officials have decided that it’s cheaper to pay the hackers. One researcher confirmed this as follows; ‘“These government organizations are not always well-equipped on cybersecurity concerns, which makes them easy targets,” said Kevin Latimore, enterprise malware removal specialist for security software provider Malwarebytes. “Not only do they have the potential to pay, but they are a soft target”’ (Alfred Ng, C-NET, 12/05/19). More examples of this include Lake City, Florida who paid $426,000 to hackers via Bitcoin, and Riviera Beach Florida who paid hackers $600,000 via Bitcoin in 2019. Much of this will be covered by their cyber insurance but it complicates future payouts making denials and premium increases more likely (Scottie Andrew and Saeed Ahmed, CNN, 06/27/19).

For the coming year, this means that local governments need to harden their networks, better train their staff and hire private-sector talent. If they have paid ransom ware once they should expect and prepare for another attack soon, yet this does not rush onboarding of new vendor tools as vendors need to be risk assessed. Moreover, they outsource key IT tasks when they cannot meet the required service or security. Lastly, paying ransomware is not a long-term solution and it increases the likelihood of another attack, plus there is no guarantee they have not copied your data.

3) Insurance Companies Paying Ransoms Are Likely Encouraging More Attacks for Profits:

When organizations have cyber insurance, they are more likely to pay ransom demands. This results in ransomware being more profitable than it would otherwise be and thus incentivizes more well-funded attacks (Emsisoft Malware Lab, 12/12/19). Yet if insurance companies did better due diligence reviewing prospect customer cyber risk processes, tools, SOC reports and the like — there would likely be less grounds for claims denials and fewer simple claims like ransomware, etc. In some cases, the customer is incented to prove their cyber due diligence to justify a favorable risk rating and lower insurance premiums. However, the rigor of this due diligence is inconsistently applied in favor of sizeable companies where more dollars and complex risk exists. Yet can you imagine being a large insurance company asking a government entity for any documentation like this… it might be difficult. Even small county governments often have many unhelpful bureaucrats who are overconfident thus choking the needed risk management process. Private companies have the same issue, but they have less bureaucratic insulation. Overall, better public-private partnerships are needed.

This year we confirmed that cyber liability insurance risk assessment is still a contradictory mess. The carriers are profit-driven while they often confuse customers on what a policy means, especially small and medium-sized businesses that are not tech-focused. The risk assessment standards are immature, not organization specific, and they are outdated with current technology. If ransomware incentivizes cyber insurance, then what about the likely situation where an organization gets hit with ransomware, then the carrier pays it less the deductible, but then the ransomware demands a second payment. Carriers, adjusters, risk assessors, and even companies have not thought this through well enough. Most likely the carrier will deny the second payment demand and often in tandem with costly litigation.

Whatever the size or your organization, you should undergo strict security reviews in the insurance underwriting process. If the carrier does not ask anything or much about your technology or security, you might as well not pay for the coverage because it’s weak at best. Whatever risk diligence completed in underwriting the coverage, you should not publicly disclose that you have such coverage because cyber extortionists could then view you as a target. Cyber insurance should not be considered as an alternative to adequately funded and resourced security programs, rather it’s a failsafe. Our related article from this summer clarifies some of these complexities 10 Things IT Executives Must Know About Cyber Insurance!

Fig. 5. Cyber Security Spending Greatly Outpaces Cyber Insurance Spending, (Gartner, Munich Re, Microsoft, Marsh, 2019)

Cyber Security Spending Greatly Outpaces Cyber Insurance Spending 2019

Lastly, we observed that cyber insurance spending is not growing as fast as cybersecurity spending from 2018 to 2019 (Fig 5). While for 2019 to 2020 there is a $116 billion dollar estimated difference (Fig 5.). This trend is generally good because you cannot insure away what you have not built securely in the first place. In physical security terms, that would be like a bank having wide open doors and windows often yet wanting to get robbery insurance when they are incenting robbery. Of course, this is far more complicated in cyberspace and insurance companies and risk assessors are moderately speculative at best. We anticipate more partnerships with tech-savvy insurance brokers in 2020, more cyber insurance training, and perhaps new FinTech insurance startups can reduce risk and drive efficiencies while the legislators and large companies catch up.

4) Mobile Ecosystem Security Considerations Multiply:

Since the release of the first iPhone in 2007, the appification of everything is the new norm. Since computing power and memory on smartphones nearly doubles about every two years (Gordon Moore’s Law, 1958); the information security risk on these devices gets more complicated and multiplies with each new app installed.

Here are some recent top metrics from one independent blog study (Ian Blair, BuildFire, 2019):

  1. There are 2.8 million apps available for download on the Google Play Store — More apps equals more risk exposure.
  1. The Apple App Store has 2.2 million apps available for download.
  2. Mobile apps are expected to generate $189 billion in revenue by 2020.
  3. 49% of people open an app 11+ times each day.
  4. 21% of Millennials open an app 50+ times per day.
  5. 57% of all digital media usage comes from mobile apps.
  6. The average smartphone owner uses 30 apps each month — Touching many or all of the mobile ecosystem components in Fig. 6. — Thereby increasing complexity.

Fig 6. Mobile Ecosystem Components (Rohit Kumar, 2019).
Mobile Ecosystem 2019

The Apple App Store has a closed API (application programming interface) and thus less apps, unlike the Google Play App Store which has an open API and more apps. Thus, in prior years Apple’s App Store was regularly perceived as more secure than Google’s Play Store. However, in the fall of 2019, a reported 18 malicious apps were able to bypass Apple’s vetting system. Wired described it as follows, “it started small. Wandera’s security software flagged some unusual activity on a client’s iPhone. A lone speedometer app had made unexpected contact with a so-called command and control server, which had previously been identified as issuing orders to ad fraud malware in a separate Android campaign. In other words, the app had gone rogue” (Brian Barrett, Wired, 10/25/19).

Although the new iPhone 11 has no CPU power increase from the prior version, the new Samsung Galaxy S 11 includes a CPU that raises the bar in some ways for both phones. The new CPU is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 and will come with the new Galaxy S 11 in 2020. This CPU is 5G enabled while older chips are not. It also supports up to 8K HD video which has an ultra-high resolution that translates into very large files (Jessica Dolcourt, C-Net, 12/19/19). This enables better video chat, HD gaming, and professional level photo capabilities.

Additionally, the Snapdragon 865’s two-finger biometric unlocking feature has been improved for the Galaxy S 11 thereby challenging the new iPhone 11. The CPU’s 3D Sonic Max fingerprint reader is large enough to register two fingers as one commentator detailed: “This means it’s faster to unlock, and more secure when matching up more unique data points in the form of the ridges, valleys, and pores unique to your fingers. On phones, you might get the option to set up one or two-finger unlocking, or perhaps choose to use dual-finger authentication for mobile payments only, or select apps like your banking app” (Jessica Dolcourt, C-Net, 12/19/19).

Faster CPUs in the mobile ecosystem means that there is more room for malvertising, rootkits, viruses and other exploits to hide. Combine that with the increasing number of apps users download, the permissions they give them, etc. The complexity of this increases privacy and security risk. There is a very fine line between a hacked system and consented to app permissions, yet most users have few details on what this means or how many apps they have on their mobile devices.

For 2020, we see education and awareness around the review and removal of non-essential mobile apps as a top priority. Especially for mobile devices used separately or jointly for work purposes. This begs the questions: 1) what is the best BYOD (bring your own device) policy 2) and good containerization to separate company vs. personal use apps? This requires better understanding around geolocation, QR code scanning, in text ads, micropayments, Bluetooth, geofencing, readers, and HTML5. It thus goes without saying that we feel more holes will be exposed with BYOD tools and policy as they gain more adoption 2020.

5)  Cloud Adoption Raises Privacy and Compliance Concerns:

Cloud computing grew in 2019 and is expected to grow in the coming years. Many industries are opting for cloud computing because it is less costly than on-premises and the service quality is generally better. This especially applies to small and medium businesses that often don’t have the technology resources to build their own infrastructures. According to one study, “83% of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud by 2020” (LogicMonitor, 2019). As a result, many industries are increasing their investment in cloud computing and the costs are likely to go down as cloud providers improve — the services are being democratized via niche cloud service tool startups. At present, “50% of enterprises spend on average of $1.2 million dollars on cloud services annually” (LogicMonitor, 2019).

Although cloud computing might seem cheaper than on-premises solutions, it has its downsides when it comes to security and privacy. Moving to the cloud is accepting the risk of having your data in someone else’s warehouse. Of course, the service level agreement and vendor risk assessment compliance documents will address most of this, but it’s not comprehensive. This is because cloud vendors are selective about what they disclose to customers in their annual or quarterly vendor risk review. This is because they are protecting their own privacy and the privacy of their many other clients where shared infrastructure is relevant. If you want complete privacy and control, build your own cloud but accept the higher cost.

Fig. 7. Public Cloud Challenges Influencers Survey (LogicMonitor, 2019).

Public Cloud Challenges Influencers Survey LogMonitor 2019The above survey by a vendor Logic Monitor confirmed that security, governance and compliance, and privacy were top challenges in 2019. We think these challenges will hold steady in 2020, while costs will likely decrease for basic use cases. If organizations continue to struggle with cloud trained employees, it will negatively impact vendor lock-in. This can be bad from a failover perspective. We think organizations should spend more on cloud trained staff. They should also make sure that they are selecting more than two or three cloud providers, all separate from one another. This helps staff get cross-trained on different cloud platforms and add ons, but it also mitigates risk and makes vendors bid more competitively.

6) Supply Chain Cyber Security Threats Increase:

All organizations depend on other entities for goods and services. Everything from manufacturers, distributors, marketers, attorneys, drivers, resellers, software providers, accountants, and more. The flow of this from start to finish is called the supply chain, and vendor management is the biggest part of it. As a result, it becomes challenging for organizations to identify and assess the security of every vendor they do business with. In fact “at least 59% of organizations have suffered from cyberattacks through third-party companies” (Olivia Scott, Supply Chain Brain, 10/09/19). Depending on the vendor and the connection point there may be more or less steps. More steps increases complexity and often decreases transparency, which in turn often increases risk.

Every aspect of supply chain has an internet-connected component from UPS Package scanners, to invoice creation, inventory management, quality control, and more. Vendors who say or suggest they are not internet-connected are usually wrong because they forgot one thing like utility applications, HVAC applications, coffee machine apps, navigation apps, payment processing apps, and their own 3rd parties that have access to customer data via the vendor, etc.

People often need clarification on what is a 4th party vendor. They are the vendors that your 3rd party vendor contracts with to meet your needs. With a 4th party vendor, you will have less insight into their infrastructure and process, if at all. Most likely any risk documentation you get from them with come via your 3rd party vendor. A lot of misinformation and hidden risk is here. Vendors managers need good communication skills and business tact to deal with this.

In the context of cybersecurity, supply chain is posing a growing threat because most of the parts of our computers and smartphones are made in other parts of the world, including the software used to run these machines. For example, iPhone chips are made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) who works with other vendors for even the smallest of components in a highly complex supply chain, acting as a manufacturer and assembler. If there is a security hole in one of the iPhone components, the customer Apple may not be the first to know because TSMC or their 3rd and 4th party vendors may not know about it or may not disclose it. This negatively impacts Apple and iPhone users.

Observing this paradox, security pioneer Bruce Schneier stated, “the computers and smartphones you use are not built in the United States. Their chips aren’t made in the United States. The engineers who design and program them come from over a hundred countries. Thousands of people have the opportunity, acting alone, to slip a backdoor into the final product” (Bruce Schneier, New York Times, 09/25/19). Thus the supply chain path needs to be scrutinized for security compliance regularly, especially in the context of large-scale hardware manufacturing for data-centric products like smartphones, cars, computers, and medical devices — few devices are not data-centric these days.

In sum, supply chain is here to stay because organizations will need to collaborate with one another in order to conduct their business efficiently. According to the Ponemon Institute, 3rd party misuse was the second-biggest security threat in 2019 (Olivia Scott, Supply Chain Brian, 10/09/19). Yet we need a reminder that supply chain is no longer merely transportation and inventory management, even if we are a goods and services company like a small construction company with no website. We need to rethink of supply chain as more digital and more data-centric than we did in prior years. It is a part of core business operations.

Thus, supply chain security should be a top priority for organizations in 2020 with a focus on 3rd party risk ranking and 4th party identification. Lastly, for big entities like government and corporate conglomerates who have many different internal organizations they interact with. They would be well advised to think of their own internal procurement process as “external supply chain” in an effort to better training and internal defenses — they are often their own worst enemy.

About the Authors:
Mamady Konneh and Jeremy Swenson 2020
Mamady Konneh (left) is a senior information security professional, speaker and mentor with 10+ years of relevant experience in security, risk management, and project management in the healthcare, finance, and retail industries. He is a dynamic team player who leads by taking initiatives in developing efficient risk mitigation and situational awareness tactics. He is proficient at assessing the needs of the business and providing the tools to resolve challenges by enhancing the business process. He holds an MSST (Master of Science in Security Technologies) degree from the U of MN where he researched global I.D. card best practices for the country of Guinea.

Jeremy Swenson (right) is a senior IT consultant, writer, and speaker in business analysis, project management, cyber-security, process improvement, leadership, music, and abstract thinking. He has been employed by or consulted at many banks, insurance companies, retailers, healthcare orgs, governments, and so on over 14 years. He has an MBA from St Mary’s Univesity of MN and MSST (Master of Science in Security Technologies) degree from the U of MN.

Cybersecurity Firm Imperva Discloses Data Breach

Imperva, formally Incapsula, disclosed on 08/27/19 a data breach impacting its many customers. The company focuses on cyber-security and DDoS mitigation and consulting, heavily via its cloud web application firewall (WAF).

Fig. 1. Imperva, 2019.incapcloud

The breach was discovered 08/20/19 via a third-party. Unfortunately, the exposure goes back to 09/15/17 which means they were compromised at least in part for more than two full years! Clearly, this is evidence of poor internal controls. The exposed data includes customer email addresses, hashed and salted passwords; and API keys and customer-provided SSL certificates — for a partial portion of the exposed data.

Don’t count on cyber security and software firms to be more secure than any other type of company. This breach is likely to negatively impact sales, product design, and will trigger a few investigations, and at least one lawsuit. Additionally, the insurance claim question is a loaded one — and is dependant on how much due diligence the company did before the breach.

To learn more about how to stop data breaches like these at your organization consider attending the Cyber Security Summit this fall.

  • The Ninth Annual Cyber Security Summit, “Pushing the Cyber Security Envelope,” takes place Oct. 28-30, 2019, at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, Minn.
  • The Summit has given awards to top leaders in industry, government and academia since 2015. However, for 2019 the awards program was expanded to include a wider array of visionaries.
  • New this year, women in Cyber, PLUS 16 Tech Sessions, along with Healthcare & Med Device Cyber Security.  Check out this Star Tribune piece from Summit co-chair Catharine Trebnick and colleague Kyle Bauser on this very important topic.
  • To stay up to date on the Summit and top cyber security issues, follow the Cyber Security Summit on social media: TwitterFacebookLinkedInYouTube. Follow the hashtag #cybersummitMN for the latest conversations on this top matter.

As Summit co-founder Eileen Manning stresses in a well-circulated cover story for Upsize Magazine, cyber security is fundamental for small businesses that work with larger companies, which require it – not to mention for pure survival.

Data breaches like the one at Impervia are likely to increase so interested parties should come together to learn, debate, and flesh out solutions for a more secure future!

10 Things IT Executives Must Know About Cyber Insurance!

cyber-liability-coverage-1Most organizations view IT as a cost center that generates business data which is increasingly used to make business decisions. As a result, these assets need to be vigorously protected from both internal and external threats. Cyber liability insurance is an undeniable but imperfect way to protect these assets. 

  1. Cyber Liability Insurance Defined:
    • Cyber liability or data breach liability insurance is designed to reduce the risk of civil litigation and other penalties after a hack or data breach occurs. It helps cover the costs of public relations, identity protection solutions, forensic investigation, legal work, and more depending on the coverage you select.
      • Business interruption is the most common type of loss from a cyber indecent.
    • You want data breach coverage in place because fast action is required to help restore the public’s confidence if your business is victimized by a hack or data breach.
      • Note: each carrier and industry will define it uniquely.

  2. Executives and Managers Have a Heightened Duty to Protect Systems and Data – No Exceptions:
    • Boardrooms are concerned with comprehensive information security, data protection, brand reputation, broad management liability and compliance.
    • Senior executives realize that the decisions they make impact shareholders and stakeholders; and that they can be held responsible for a hack or breach.
    • It is essential that IT teams provide the board with real-time compliance and information security status, so they can assess the current cyber risk profile (changes often) to make well-reasoned fact-based decisions.
    • One of the risk transfer decisions is how much cyber insurance to have, then selecting the correct endorsements and exclusions based on the industry, other insurance coverages, prior events, and the like.
    • Observing this complexity, IT and business executives need to understand cyber insurance and what role they play in defining cyber coverage. IT involvement is a critical aspect of the organization’s overall cyber risk management strategy for digital and even physical assets.

  3. Your Assets, Risks, and Needed Coverages Must be Detailed and Ongoing:
    • What are your company’s greatest assets – including in hidden areas?
      • Have you had any bad events, business or technology related?
        • Were they documented and reported?
        • They could impact current coverage and future coverage.
      • What concerns keep you up at night, or consume more than their share of your attention in the day?
    • What are your key processes? 
      • Do you have any procedures that are not tied to computers?
      • What is the 15% of your business that is not central to the operation, but is crucial because it distinguishes your company from others and opens the door for more clients to new markets? 
    • Are your backup systems in place and ready to be activated at a moment’s notice?
    • Do your insurance coverages, business or technology related, match your risks and cover your assets?

  4. General Liability Coverage Won’t Cover Data Breaches and Hacks:
    • Cyber insurance is almost always excluded from general liability policies unless you pay extra for and specifically define your cyber coverage needs.
    • Keep in mind most general business liability insurance policies and terms were drafted before hacking was invented so they are by default behind the technology. Most often general liability business insurance covers bodily injuries and property damage resulting from your products, services or operations.
      • Many business owners overstate the risk of a workplace slip and fall injury and fail to adequately quantify cyber risk at all because it is a newer digital risk and you can’t see or touch it.

  5. Cyber Liability Insurance Typically Covers Both First-Party and Third-Party Losses:
    • First-party losses include the breach response costs a company would incur to notify and communicate with the people impacted by a breach, conducting forensic analysis, hiring legal counsel and a crisis management team.
    • First-party cyber coverage may also pay for the loss or restoration of digital or network assets, trade secrets, intellectual property and business interruption expenses.
    • First-party coverages are often subject to a deductible.
      Fig. 1. Hartford Cyber Liability Coverages, Terms, and Exclusions Generally.hartford-cyber-liablity-209
    • Cyber extortion (Ransomware) is another first-party coverage that pays the costs to terminate incidents in which criminals hold (or threaten to hold) a company’s network hostage in exchange for a ransom.
    • Many policies cover income you lose and extra expenses you incur to avoid or minimize a shutdown of your business after your computer system fails due a covered peril. The perils covered may be the same as those covered under Damage to Electronic Data. The loss of income and extra expense coverages afforded under a cyber liability policy differ from those provided under your commercial property policy.
    • Network security liability insurance covers lawsuits against you due to a data breach or to the inability of others to access data on your computer system. Coverage may apply if the data breach or inability to access your system is due to a denial of service attack, a virus, malware or unauthorized access and use of your system by a hacker or rogue employee. Policies may cover lawsuits alleging that you failed to adequately protect data belonging to customers, clients, employees or other parties.
    • Network privacy liability insurance covers lawsuits based on allegations that you failed to properly protect sensitive data stored on your computer system. The data may belong to customers, clients and other parties. Some policies cover liability arising from the release of private data (such as social security numbers) belonging to your employees.
    • Electronic media liability insurance covers lawsuits against you for acts like libel, slander, defamation, copyright infringement, invasion of privacy or domain name infringement.

  6. Providing Timely Notice of Claim Is Key:
    • Claims-made coverage responds when a “claim,” as defined in the policy, is first made against an insured, irrespective of when the underlying incident occurred. Discovery-triggered coverage responds when the insured develops a reasonable belief that a first-party loss potentially covered by the policy may have occurred, even if the nature and extent of the loss are unknown (Jeanne Deni and Andrew Moss, 2019).
    • Notice is generally required as soon as practicable after a claim is made or loss discovered, and policies may require that notice be received during the policy period. In addition to timely notice, some cyber policies may require a sworn proof of loss statement within 90 to 180 days after discovery of certain first-party losses.
      • It is thus critical that company personnel in a position to detect potentially covered claims or losses have a working understanding of the scope of coverage and how it is triggered so that information is promptly communicated to management responsible for notifying the company’s insurance carriers. Notice should also be given to any excess insurers at the same time as the primary. (Jeanne Deni and Andrew Moss, 2019).

  7. Pre-Select Breach/Hack Counsel and Vendors:
    • Normally cyber insurance policies require underwriter approval of the use of breach/hack vendors. (FSSCC, Cyber Insurance Buying Guide, 2016).
    • Pre-selection is critical because the last thing an organization should be worried about is whether their insurance provider will approve their selected breach counsel and forensics firm. It also helps you document your incident response plan (Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council, Cyber Insurance Buying Guide, 2016).

      Fig 2. You Should Be Scared If you Have Not Planned For This, Stock, 2019.
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  8. Prepare for Likely Coverage Exclusions/Sub-limits:
    • Portable Electronic Device Exclusion
      • If the device leading to a cyber breach is portable, many policies could exclude coverage completely for any resulting loss (Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council, Cyber Insurance Buying Guide, 2016).
    • Intentional Acts Exclusion
      • What is intentional and by whom is highly confusing, and what about mere negligence viewed as intentional – easy denial case for the carrier.
      • A crime or fidelity policy generally covers first-party loss to the Insured even where such loss is caused by the Insured, while liability policies generally provide for damages or losses the Insured causes to a third party (Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council, Cyber Insurance Buying Guide, 2016). Most cyber insurance policies do not adequately provide for both first-party and third-party loss. For example, liability policies typically exclude coverage for damages or losses intentionally caused by an Insured. Thus, if an employee accidentally caused a cyber breach, the resulting loss would be covered (either under a general liability or umbrella policy that does not exclude cyber perils or under a stand-alone cyber policy). However, if a different employee caused the exact same cyber breach intentionally, the resulting loss would be denied under a general liability policy if this exclusion is present (Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council, Cyber Insurance Buying Guide, 2016).
    • Nation/State, Terrorism, Cyber Terrorism Exclusions/Acts of God
      • Acts of God exclusions can result in coverage being precluded simply based on who or what caused the breach to occur. For example, if a terrorist attack resulted in an explosion at an organization’s facility or a tornado caused massive damage to an organization’s power source, the resulting losses may not be covered under a standard cyber policy. Fundamentally, companies expect cyber insurance to cover their losses whenever a cyber breach happens, regardless of who caused it or why
    • Negligent Computer Security Exclusion
      • Some policies exclude coverage if data is unencrypted or if the Insured has failed to appropriately install software updates or security patches.
    • Data on unencrypted devices or BYOD
      • Some policies do not cover devices that are unencrypted or non-company-owned devices.
    • Territorial limits
      • Some coverage is limited only to incidents that occur in the United States and an organization may need additional coverage depending on where data is stored.
    • Sub-limits
      • Many policies also have sub-limits that may apply for things like breach notification costs, forensic expenses, credit monitoring costs, business or Post-Breach Services. Some insurers are starting to partner with cybersecurity specialists to assist customers who experience a cyber breach with forensic investigations, proactive incident response strategies, and training as they realize the benefit both to the customer and themselves in responding as quickly and efficiently as possible to a cyber breach to keep resulting costs, claims, and damages as low as possible.

  9. Insurance Companies Tend to Deny Cyber Liability Issuance or Claims Coverage When One or More of These Items Are Present:
    • Inadequate cybersecurity testing procedures and audits.
      • It should be independent and auditable.
    • Inefficient processes to stay current on new releases and patches.
      • Patch management should be based on a qualitative and quantitative method.
    • Inadequate cyber incident response plans.
      • It must be detailed, written, up to date, and it must have been practiced.
    • Inadequate backup processes and recovery procedures.
      • This assumes you have a data classification scheme and network segmentation.
      • This requires that you have tested the speed of your back up.
    • Inadequate policies concerning the security of vendors and business partners.
      • How you measured their risk and criticality to your business
        • Then put mitigating controls in place or cut the vendor.
    • Poor-quality security software and employee training.
      • Training on phishing, social engineering, and acceptable use of company data and technology.
    • Lack of adherence to a published security standard.
      • Your policies and procedures should generally conform to the standard that most closely fits your industry and company.
        • Cobit 5, NIST CSF, ISO 27001, etc.

  10. Evaluating Cyber Liability Carriers:
    • The way to compare carriers is via their A.M. best rating, time in business, market share, S&P credit rating, industries excluded from coverage, premium cost, and amount of premium written.
    • You can also ask a broker for their assessment since they get feedback from many clients, etc.
    • Also, consider the country of legal jurisdiction.
    • Here are two carrier examples below.
    1. Chubb Insurance of Switzerland (Cynthia Harvey, eSecurity Planet.com, 11/09/18)
      • The world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company and the largest commercial insurance provider in the United States.
      • The company launched its first “cyber risk” product in 1998.
      • Direct premiums written: $316.3 million
      • Market share: 17.0 percent
      • S&P rating: AA
      • A.M. Best rating: A++ (Superior)
      • Most risk classes eligible for at least $10 million in limits; maximum capacity of $100 million available through Chubb’s Global Cyber Facility.
      • Cyber Insurance product descriptions
        • Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) product is for large organizations in a wide array of industries.
        • DigiTech ERM offers enhanced protection tailored to the needs of technology companies, consultants and systems integrators, data processors and software developers. Integrity+ offers separate policies for claims made by customers, vendors, suppliers and other third parties.
        • ForeFront Portfolio 3.0 is tailored for private companies and includes crime insurance, kidnap ransom and extortion insurance, workplace violence expense insurance, and several other kinds of insurance, in addition to cyber insurance.
    2. Beazley Insurance of London (Cynthia Harvey, eSecurity Planet.com, 11/09/18)
      • This insurance company offers marine, political, accident and contingency, property, reinsurance (insurance for insurers) and specialty products, which includes its cyber insurance business.
      • Founded in 1986, it is headquartered in London and does business in the U.S. Europe, Canada, Latin America and Asia. In 2018, it won multiple awards including Launch of the Year for Beazley Smart Tracker, Risk Carrier of the Year, Innovative Initiative for Weather Guard, Insurance CEO of the Year and Insurer of the Year.
      • Direct premiums written: $95.0 million
      • Market share: 5.1 percent
      • S&P rating: A+ (Strong)
      • A.M. Best rating: A (Excellent)
      • Limits: Up to $15 million with BBR, but additional coverage is available through BBR Boost.
      • Beazley has been providing cyber insurance since 2009.
      • Product description
        • Beazley calls its cyber insurance Beazley Breach Response (BBR). The company claims that it offers 360-degree protection against all cyber risks. That protection includes BBR Services, a business unit dedicated to helping organizations manage their response to incidents. It includes forensics experts, specialized lawyers and public relations professionals who can help organizations address breaches. Through a partnership with Lodestone Security, it also offers pre-breach services.

Lastly, we will be doing a cyber liability podcast to talk through these items in detail soon. See our podcast here.

By Greg CoonTim Olish, and Jeremy Swenson (Lead Writer & Editor).

© Abstract Forward Consulting, LLC. 2019. All rights reserved. Contact us here.

Disclaimer:  This article does not represent the views of former or current employers and / or clients. Non-public information will not be disclosed. Information obtained in this article may be materially out of date at or after the time of the publication. This article is not legal, accounting, audit, health, technical, or financial advice.