Monthly Archives: October 2018

Happy Birthday, Bill Gates!

Dear Bill,

Here's wishing you Sir, likely the most successful and influential person of not just our time, but of all time, a very Happy B'day!

Photo source and attirbution: https://mobile.twitter.com/BillGates/photo

Most of the world knows you as the Founder of Microsoft, a great philanthropist, and the world's wealthiest* person.


Based on my personal experience, I however know you to be someone who truly exemplifies the very words I strive to live by, and ideally, that we should all strive to live by, because in the grand scheme of things, we are all here for relatively little time.


Deep Gratitude for Mr. Gates

If I may, I'd like to share from my personal experience, a very small example of Mr. Gates thoughtfulness, humility and kindness.

One day back in 2004, when I was a Microsoft employee, I got a call from the Reception of Building 33, the Executive Building at Microsoft, and I was asked to come and pick something up - when I reached there, the kind lady at the reception gave me a package and said that "Bill left this for you, as he's unfortunately out of town today," and in it was a note written by Bill himself - "To Sanjay, Happy Birthday, Bill Gates" ( here.) (BTW, this is not customary at all at Microsoft; in fact, it was an absolute rarity.)

I couldn't believe it. Bill Gates, our CEO, and the world's most successful and wealthiest person, made and took the time to wish me Happy B'day, and since he was going to be out of town, he was thoughtful enough to have it be given to me on my b'day!

Since that day, for the last fourteen years I've been working tirelessly to be able to express my profound respect and gratitude to Mr. Gates, and it is for the first time, that I feel I've done my bit to be able to thank him, not just in words, but in global IMPACT.


Mr. Gates, it is your greatness, kindness and humility that inspired me to conquer proverbial mountains as I persevered against all odds to ultimately build and deliver a paramount capability needed to secure and defend the very foundation of cyber security of and across Microsoft's global organizational customer base i.e. your one little act of kindness, led to and inspired THIS.



Birthday Wishes

Mr. Gates, today, you're wished profound joy and excellent health, but above all, you're wished that which is a rarity today, and that which sometimes even all the money in the world can't buy - True Peace of Mind and Happiness in the Simplest of Things!


BillG, I thank you for the incredible human being you are, and wish you a truly wonderful year ahead.

Namaste,
Sanjay.


PS: I occasionally come across monetarily wealthy people, you know, little multi-millionaires and billionaires, and some of them exude such arrogance, that I feel like telling them that there are people out there (e.g. you) who could buy all their wealth out a hundred times over, so how about a little humility?! :-) In stark contrast, I visited the Gates Foundation website today, and it was so incredibly refreshing to see it unequivocally communicate that All Lives Have Equal Value!  You Sir, command my respect.

What Lies at the Foundation of Organizational Cyber Security Worldwide?

Folks,

In days to come, I'm going to answer both, the most important, and the second most important question in all of Cyber Security

Today though, I just wanted to ask a simple (rhetorical) cyber security question, so that CEOs, CIOs, CISOs and IT Directors at organizations worldwide realize just what lies at the very foundation of the cyber security of their multi-billion $ organizations.

Microsoft Active Directory

Today, at the very foundation of organizational cyber security worldwide, lie their foundational Active Directory deployments.

Consequently, it logically follows that all organizations that operate on Microsoft Active Directory are only as secure as are their foundational Active Directory deployments. After all, no matter how tall, every skyscraper is only as strong as its foundation.

In days to come, I'll share with you just how secure foundational Active Directory deployments are worldwide today - right here.

Best wishes,
Sanjay

A Very Simple Trillion $ Cyber Security Multiple-Choice Question

Folks,

In days to come, I'll be helping organizations worldwide understand what constitutes a privileged user in Active Directory, how to correctly audit privileged access in Active Directory, and what the world's most important Active Directory security capability is.

Today though, I just wanted to ask a very simple and elemental cyber security multiple-choice question, so here it is -


Q. What are the minimum Active Directory Security Permissions that a perpetrator needs to be able to successfully run Mimikatz DCSync against an organization's foundational Active Directory deployment?

Is it -
A. The "Get Replication Changes" Extended Right 
B. The "Get Replication Changes All" Extended Right 
C. Both A and B above 
D. Something else

I already know the answer to this simple question. I'm only asking because I believe that today every Domain Admin and every CISO at every organization that operates on Active Directory MUST know the answer to this question, and here's why.

You may be surprised if I were to share with you just how many Domain Admins and CISOs (at so many of the world's most prominent organizations) don't know even seem to know what Mimikatz DCSync is, let alone knowing the answer!

If you know the answer to this question, and care to share, please feel free to share it by leaving a comment below.

Best wishes,
Sanjay.

Businesses Beware: Top 5 Cyber Security Risks

Hackers are working hard to find new ways to get your data. It’s not surprising that cyber security risk is top of mind for every risk owner, in every industry. As the frequency and complexity of malicious attacks persistently grows, every company should recognize that they are susceptible to an attack at any time—whether it comes as an external focused attack, or a social engineering attack. Let’s take a look at the top 5 risks that every risk owner should be preparing for:

  1. Your Own Users. It is commonly known, in the security industry, that people are the weakest link in the security chain. Despite whatever protections you put in place from a technology or process/policy point of view, human error can cause an incident or a breach. Strong security awareness training is imperative, as well as very effective documented policies and procedures. Users should also be “audited” to ensure they understand and acknowledge their role in policy adherence. One area that is often overlooked is the creation of a safe environment, where a user can connect with a security expert on any issue they believe could be a problem, at any time. Your security team should encourage users to reach out. This creates an environment where users are encouraged to be part of your company’s detection and response. To quote the Homeland Security announcements you frequently hear in airports, “If you see something, say something!” The biggest threat to a user is social engineering—the act of coercing a user to do something that would expose sensitive information or a sensitive system.
  2. Phishing. Phishing ranks number three in both the 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report Top 20 action varieties in incidents and Top 20 action varieties in breaches. These statistics can be somewhat misleading. For example, the first item on the Top 20 action varieties in breaches list is the use of stolen credentials; number four is privilege abuse. What better way to execute both of those attacks than with a phishing scam. Phishing coerces a user through email to either click on a link, disguised as a legitimate business URL, or open an attachment that is disguised as a legitimate business document. When the user executes or opens either, bad things happen. Malware is downloaded on the system, or connectivity to a Command and Control server on the Internet is established. All of this is done using standard network communication and protocols, so the eco-system is none the wiser—unless sophisticated behavioral or AI capabilities are in place. What is the best form of defense here? 1.) Do not run your user systems with administrative rights. This allows any malicious code to execute at root level privilege, and 2.) Train, train, and re-train your users to recognize a phishing email, or more importantly, recognize an email that could be a phishing scam. Then ask the right security resources for help. The best mechanism for training is to run safe targeted phishing campaigns to verify user awareness either internally or with a third-party partner like Connection.
  3. Ignoring Security Patches. One of the most important functions any IT or IT Security Organization can perform is to establish a consistent and complete vulnerability management program. This includes the following key functions:
    • Select and manage a vulnerability scanning system to proactively test for flaws in IT systems and applications.
    • Create and manage a patch management program to guard against vulnerabilities.
    • Create a process to ensure patching is completed.
  4. Partners. Companies spend a lot of time and energy on Information Security Programs to address external and internal infrastructures, exposed Web services, applications and services, policies, controls, user awareness, and behavior. But they ignore a significant attack vector, which is through a partner channel—whether it be a data center support provider or a supply chain partner. We know that high-profile breaches have been executed through third partner channels, Target being the most prominent.The Target breach was a classic supply chain attack, where they were compromised through one of their HVAC vendors. Company policies and controls must extend to all third-party partners that have electronic or physical access to the environment. Ensure your Information Security Program includes all third partner partners or supply chain sources that connect or visit your enterprise. The NIST Cyber Security Framework has a great assessment strategy, where you can evaluate your susceptibility to this often-overlooked risk.
  5. Data Security. In this day and age, data is the new currency. Malicious actors are scouring the Internet and Internet-exposed corporations to look for data that will make them money. The table below from the 2018 Ponemon Institute 2018 Cost of a Data Breach Report shows the cost of a company for a single record data breach.
Cost for a Single Record Data Breach

The Bottom Line

You can see that healthcare continues to be the most lucrative target for data theft, with $408 per record lost. Finance is nearly half this cost. Of course, we know the reason why this is so. A healthcare record has a tremendous amount of personal information, enabling the sale of more sensitive data elements, and in many cases, can be used to build bullet-proof identities for identity theft. The cost of a breach in the US, regardless of industry, averages $7.9 million per event. The cost of a single lost record in the US is $258.

I Can’t Stress It Enough

Data security should be the #1 priority for businesses of all sizes. To build a data protection strategy, your business needs to:

  • Define and document data security requirements
  • Classify and document sensitive data
  • Analyze security of data at rest, in process, and in motion
  • Pay attention to sensitive data like PII, ePHI, EMR, financial accounts, proprietary assets, and more
  • Identify and document data security risks and gaps
  • Execute a remediation strategy

Because it’s a difficult issue, many corporations do not address data security. Unless your business designed classification and data controls from day one, you are already well behind the power curve. Users create and have access to huge amounts of data, and data can exist anywhere—on premises, user laptops, mobile devices, and in the cloud. Data is the common denominator for security. It is the key thing that malicious actors want access to. It’s essential to heed this warning: Do Not Ignore Data Security! You must absolutely create a data security protection program, and implement the proper policies and controls to protect your most important crown jewels.

Cyber criminals are endlessly creative in finding new ways to access sensitive data. It is critical for companies to approach security seriously, with a dynamic program that takes multiple access points into account. While it may seem to be an added expense, the cost of doing nothing could be exponentially higher. So whether it’s working with your internal IT team, utilizing external consultants, or a mix of both, take steps now to assess your current situation and protect your business against a cyber attack. Stay on top of quickly evolving cyber threats. Reach out to one of our security experts today to close your businesses cyber security exposure gap!

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