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Cyber Security Roundup for May 2019

May 2019 was the busiest month of the year for critical security vulnerabilities and patch announcements. The standout was a Microsoft critical security update for Windows, rated with a CVSS score of 9.8 of 10. This vulnerability fixes CVE-2019-0708 aka 'BlueKeep', which if exploited could allow the rapid propagation of malware (i.e. worm) across networked devices, similar to the devastating WannaCry ransomware attacks of 2017.  Such is the concern at Microsoft, they have released BlueKeep patches for their unsupported versions of Windows (i.e. XP, Visa, Server 2003), a very rare occurrence. Researchers at Errata Security said they have found almost one million internet-connected systems which are vulnerable to the BlueKeep bug.

A zero-day Microsoft vulnerability was also reported by an individual called 'SandboxEscaper', which I expect Microsoft will patch as part of their monthly patch cycle in June.  And a past Microsoft vulnerability, CVE-2019-0604, which has a security update available, has been reported as being actively exploited by hackers.

There were also critical security vulnerabilities and patch releases for Adobe, Drupal, Cisco devices, WhatsApp and Intel processorsThe WhatsApp vulnerability (CVE-2019-3568) grabbed the mains stream news headlines. Impacting both iPhone and Android versions of the encrypted mobile messaging app, an Israeli firm called NSO, coded and sold a toolkit which exploited the vulnerability to various government agencies. The NSO toolkit, called Pegasus, granted access a smartphone's call logs, text messages, and could covertly enable and record the camera and microphone. New and fixed versions of WhatsApp are available on AppStore, so update.

Political and UK media controversy surrounding the Huawei security risk went into overdrive in May after Google announced it would be placing restrictions on Chineses telecoms giant accessing its Android operating system. For the further details see my separate post about The UK Government Huawei Dilemma and the Brexit Factor and Huawei section towards the end of this post.

May was a 'fairly quiet' month for data breach disclosures. There were no media reports about UK pub chain 'Greene King', after they emailed customers of their gift card website, to tell them their website had been hacked and that their personal data had been compromised. I covered this breach in a blog post after being contacted by concerned Greene King voucher customers. It seems that TalkTalk did not inform at least 4,500 customers that their personal information was stolen as part of the 2015 TalkTalk data breachBBC consumer show Watchdog investigated and found the personal details of approximately 4,500 customers available online after a Google search. The Equifax data breach recovery has surpassed $1 billion in costs after it lost 148 million customer records in a 2017 security breach.

The UK army is to get a new UK Based Cyber Operations Centre, to help the army conduct offensive cyber operations against 'enemies', following a £22 million investment by the defence secretary Penny Mordaunt. She said "it is time to pay more than lip service to cyber. We know all about the dangers. Whether the attacks come from Russia, China or North Korea. Whether they come from hacktivists, criminals or extremists. Whether its malware or fake news. Cyber can bring down our national infrastructure and undermine our democracy."  The army's cyber operation centre will be up and running next year and should help to plug a 'grey area' between the British security intelligence services and the military.

Action Fraud and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said UK victims lost £27 million to cryptocurrency and foreign exchange investment scams last year, triple the number of the previous year.

The 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report was released, a key report in understanding what cyber threat actors have been up to and what they are likely to target next. 

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Cyber Security Roundup for February 2019

The perceived threat posed by Huawei to the UK national infrastructure continued to make the headlines throughout February, as politicians, UK government agencies and the Chinese telecoms giant continued to play out their rather public spat in the media. See my post Is Huawei a Threat to UK National Security? for further details. And also, why DDoS might be the greater threat to 5G than Huawei supplied network devices.

February was a rather quiet month for hacks and data breaches in the UK, Mumsnet reported a minor data breach following a botched upgrade, and that was about it. The month was a busy one for security updates, with Microsoft, Adobe and Cisco all releasing high numbers of patches to fix various security vulnerabilities, including several released outside of their scheduled monthly patch release cycles.

A survey by PCI Pal concluded the consequences of a data breach had a greater impact in the UK than the United States, in that UK customers were more likely to abandon a company when let down by a data breach. The business reputational impact should always be taken into consideration when risk assessing security.


Another survey of interest was conducted by Nominet, who polled 408 Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) at midsize and large organisations in the UK and the United States. A whopping 91% of the respondents admitted to experiencing high to moderate levels of stress, with 26% saying the stress had led to mental and physical health issues, and 17% said they had turned to alcohol. The contributing factors for this stress were job security, inadequate budget and resources, and a lack of support from the board and senior management. A CISO role can certainly can be a poisoned-chalice, so its really no surprise most CISOs don't stay put for long.

A Netscout Threat Landscape Report declared in the second half of 2018, cyber attacks against IoT devices and DDoS attacks had both rose dramatically. Fuelled by the compromise of high numbers of IoT devices, the number of DDoS attacks in the 100GBps to 200GBps range increased 169%, while those in the 200GBps to 300GBps range exploded 2,500%. The report concluded cybercriminals had built and used cheaper, easier-to-deploy and more persistent malware, and cyber gangs had implemented this higher level of efficiency by adopting the same principles used by legitimate businesses. These improvements has helped malicious actors greatly increase the number of medium-size DDoS attacks while infiltrating IoT devices even quicker.

In a rare speech, Jeremy Fleming, the head of GCHQ warned the internet could deteriorate into "an even less governed space" if the international community doesn't come together to establish a common set of principles. He said "China, Iran, Russia and North Korea" had broken international law through cyber attacks, and made the case for when "offensive cyber activities" were good, saying "their use must always meet the three tests of legality, necessity and proportionality. Their use, in particular to cause disruption or damage - must be in extremis".  Clearly international law wasn't developed with cyber space in mind, so it looks like GCGQ are attempting to raise awareness to remedy that.

I will be speaking at the e-crime Cyber Security Congress in London on 6th March 2019, on cloud security, new business metrics, future risks and priorities for 2019 and beyond.

Finally, completely out of the blue, I was informed by 4D that this blog had been picked by a team of their technical engineers and Directors as one of the best Cyber Security Blogs in the UK. The 6 Best Cyber Security Blogs - A Data Centre's Perspective Truly humbled and in great company to be on that list.

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