Browsing articles tagged with " cybersecurity"

Cybersecurity and the Cloud Multiplier Effect

Jul 11, 2014   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

RFG Perspective: While corporate boards grapple with cybersecurity issues and attempt to shore up their defenses, the inclusion of cloud computing models into the equation are increasing the risk exposure levels. Business and IT executives should work together to aggressively establish processes, procedures, and technology that will minimize the risk exposures to levels deemed acceptable. Additionally, senior executives and Boards of Directors need to play a more active roll in the accountability and governance of cybersecurity by discussing and addressing challenges, issues and status at least quarterly.

An article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on June 30, 2014 discussed corporate boards racing to shore up cybersecurity. It alluded to a number of corporate boards waking up to cyber threats and worrying that hackers would steal company know-how and intellectual property (IP). In the first half of 2014 1,517 NYSE- or NASDAQ-traded companies listed in their securities filings references to some form of cyber attack or data breach – almost a 20 percent increase from the previous year. In all of 2013 1,288 such filing comments were made whereas in 2012 only 879 companies reported cyber statements. This is good and bad news – good that cybersecurity is getting CEO and Board attention and bad news in that executives are belatedly waking up to an endemic problem.

Fiduciary Responsibility

The Board and CEO have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders to protect the company’s assets from undue risks. It is not something that can be assigned and then ignored. Yet that is what has happened at many companies over the years. They must be involved in cybersecurity governance and decision-making on an ongoing basis and not shunt it off to Chief Risk Officers (CROs), Chief Security Officers (CSOs or CISOs) and/or IT executives. CEOs and other senior executives should also ensure privacy and security programs are aligned with each business unit’s requirements and that the risk probability and exposures are reasonably known and reduced to an acceptable level. It is important that all parties understand that zero security risks are not possible anymore (nor would the expense be worth it if attainable); what is important is to agree upon what level of risk exposure is acceptable, budget for it, and implement initiatives to make it happen.

At the Board level there should be a risk committee that is responsible for all risk management, including cyber risk. Moreover, best practices suggest Boards should, as a minimum, address the following five areas:

  • regularly reviews and approves top-level policies on privacy and IT security risks
  • regularly reviews and approves roles and responsibilities of lead personnel responsible for privacy and IT security
  • regularly reviews and approves annual budgets for privacy and IT security programs separate from IT budgets
  • regularly reviews and approves cyber insurance coverage
  • regularly receives and acts upon reports from senior management regarding privacy and IT security risk exposures.

These efforts can be done by the full Board or by a risk committee that reports to the Board. Some Boards may have assigned this role to the audit committee but, while it is good that it is addressed, it is not a perfect fit.

Cloud Multiplier Effect

In June the Ponemon Institute LLC published a report on the cloud multiplier effect. The firm surveyed 613 IT and IT security practitioners in the U.S. that are familiar with their companies’ usage of cloud services. The news is not good. Because most respondents believe cloud security is an oxymoron and certain cloud services can result in greater exposures and more costly breaches, the use of cloud services multiplies the breach costs by a factor between 1.38 and 2.25. The top two impacts are from cloud breaches involving high value IP and the backup and storage of sensitive or confidential information, respectively. Most respondents believe corporate IT organizations are not properly vetting cloud platforms for security, are not proactively assessing information to ensure sensitive or confidential information is not in the cloud, and are not vigilant on cloud audits or assessments.

Moreover, disturbingly, almost 75 percent of respondents believe their cloud services providers would not notify them immediately if they had a data breach involving the loss or theft of IP or business confidential information. Almost two-thirds of those surveyed expressed concern that their cloud service providers are not in full compliance with privacy and data protection laws – and this is in the U.S. where the rules are less strict than the EU. Furthermore, respondents feel there is a lack of visibility into the cloud as it relates to applications, data, devices, and usage.

 

Summary

 

Boards, CEOs and senior non-IT management need to become more aware of their cybersecurity exposures and actively participate in minimizing the risks. IT executives, on the other hand, need to present the challenges, status and trends in a more business, less technical manner, including recommendations, so that the other executives can appreciate the issues and authorize the appropriate actions. As the Ponemon study shows, the challenges go beyond the corporate four walls into clouds they have no control over. IT executives need to become involved in the selection and vetting of cloud services providers. Furthermore, business and IT executives must work together and build strong governance practices to minimize cybersecurity risks.

RFG POV: Cybersecurity risk exposures are increasing and collectively executives are falling short in their fiduciary responsibilities to protect company assets. Boards, CEOs and other senior executives must take their accountability seriously and play a more aggressive role in ensuring the risk exposures to corporate assets are known and within acceptable levels. For most organizations this will be a major cultural change and challenge and will require IT executives to proactively step forward to make it happen. IT executives should collaborate with board members, senior executives, and outside compliance services providers to establish a program that will enable executives to establish a governance methodology that monitors and reports on the risks and provides cost/benefit analyses of alternative corrective actions. Moreover, at a minimum, corporate executives must review the governance materials quarterly, and after critical risk events occur, and take appropriate actions.

 

Cyber Security Targets

Mar 24, 2014   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

RFG Perspective: While the total cost of the cybersecurity breach at Target will not be know for quite a while, a reasonable estimate is that it could easily cost the company more than $500 million. The price tag includes bills associated with fines from credit card companies, other fines and lawsuits for non-compliance, services such as free credit card report monitoring for its impacted 70 -110 million customers, and discounts required to keep customers coming in the door. These costs far exceed the IT costs associated with better cybersecurity prevention. Target is not alone; it is just the latest in a long line of breaches that have taken major tolls on the attacked organization. Business and IT executives need to recognize that attackers and hackers will constantly change their multi-pronged sophisticated attack strategies as they attempt to stay ahead of the protections installed in the enterprises. IT executives need to be constantly aware of the risk exposures and how they are changing, and continue to invest in measured, integrated cybersecurity solutions to close the gaps.

The Target cyber breach represents a new twist to the long-standing cybersecurity challenge. Unlike most other attacks that came through direct probes into the corporate network or through employee social-engineered emails, spear phishing, or multi-vectored malware aimed at IT software, the Target incident was an Operations Technology (OT) play. One reason for this may be that the vendor patch rate has improved and successes of zero-day exploits are dropping. Of course, it could also be that the misguided actors were clever enough to try a new attack vector.

IT vs OT

Most IT executives and staff give little thought to OT software, usually referred to as SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) software. These are industrial control systems that monitor and control things such as air conditioning, civil defense systems, heating, manufacturing lines, power generation, power usage, transmission lines, and water treatment. IT (outside of the utilities industry) tends to treat these systems and the associated software as outside of their purview. This is no longer true. Cyber attackers are constantly upping the ante and now they have begun going after OT software in addition to traditional attack vectors. IT executives and security personnel need to become actively engaged in ensuring the organization is protected against these types of threats.

Incident Attack Types

In 2013 according to the IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Quarterly 1Q2014, the top three disclosed attack types are distributed denial of service (DDoS), SQL injections, and malware. These three vectors account for 43 percent of 8,330 vulnerability disclosures while another 46 percent of attack types remain undisclosed. (See below chart from the IBM report.) The report also points out that Java vulnerabilities continue to rise year-over-year with them tripling in the last year alone. Fully half of the exploited application vulnerabilities were Java based, with Adobe Reader and Internet browsers accounting for 22 and 13 percent respectively. Interestingly, mobile devices excluding laptops have yet to be a major threat attack point.

most common attack types

Currency

Another common pressure point on IT organizations is keeping current with all the security patches authorized by software providers. The good news is that vendors and IT organizations are doing a better job applying patches. The overall unpatched publicly-disclosed vulnerability rate dropped from 41 percent in 2102 to 26 percent in 2013. This is great progress but still much remains to be done, especially by enterprise IT. The amount of patches to be applied on an ongoing basis can be overwhelming and many IT organizations cannot keep up, especially with quick fixes. Thus, zero-day exploits still remain major threats that IT needs to mitigate.

Playing Defense

The challenge for IT CISOs and security staff increases every year as the number and types of actors attempting to gain access to IT systems continues to grow as do the types of attacks. Therefore, enterprises must reduce their risk exposure by using monitoring and blocking software that can rapidly detect problems almost as they occur and shut off attacks immediately before the exposure becomes too large. Additionally, staff must fine-tune access controls and patch known vulnerabilities quickly so as to (virtually) eliminate the ability for criminals to exploit holes in infrastructures. Security executives and staff should work collaboratively with others in their field and share information about attacks, defenses, meaningful metrics, and trends. IT executives should ensure security personnel are continually trained and aware of the latest trends and are implementing the appropriate defenses as rapidly as possible. As people are one of the weakest links in the security chain, IT executives should also ensure all employees are aware of company privacy and security policies and procedures and are judiciously following them.

RFG POV: IT executives and cyber security staff remain behind the curve in protecting, exfiltrating, discovering, and containing cyber security attacks and data breaches. There are some low-hanging initiatives IT can execute to close some of the major vulnerabilities such as blocking troublesome IP addresses at the perimeter outside the firewall and employing enhanced software monitoring tools that can spot and alert security of suspect software. Additionally, staff can improve password requirements, password change frequency, two-factor authentication, inclusion of OT software, and rapid deactivation of access (cyber and physical) to terminated employees. Encryption of data at rest and in transit should also be evaluated. However, IT are not the only ones on the line for corporate security – the board of directors and corporate executives share the fiduciary burden for protecting company assets. IT executives should get boards and corporate executives to understand the challenges, establish the acceptable risk parameters, and play an ongoing role in security governance. IT security executives should work with appropriate parties to collect, analyze, and share incident data so that defenses and detection can be enhanced. IT executives should also recognize that cyber security is not just about technology – the weakest links are the people and processes. These gaps should be aggressively pursued and the problems regularly communicated across the organization. The investment in these corrective actions will be far less than the cost of fixing the problem once the damage is done.