Category Archives: cyber attacks

Do You Know When The First Cyber Attack Took Place? Read On

WannaCry, a malicious computer virus that encrypts data and demands ransom, hit thousands of computers across the world, causing several organization to close down. Not a day goes by without a large company admits that its data has been breached. Cyber attacks are more known to be a thing of modern life, but their story goes farther than expected.

Do you know when the first cyber attack occurred? Many attribute this to Robert Morris, a 20-year-old Cornell undergraduate student, in 1988. He was also the first person to be charged under the Fraud and Cyber Abuse Act. Nevertheless, this was not the first cyber attack. The first cyber attack happened when optical telegraphy known as semaphore was used, long before our Internet and computers came into existence. This happened in the year 1834.

The semaphore system included a chain of towers with each tower having a mobile wooden arm in its upper part. Different configurations of these arms have been used to denote different symbols, letters, and numbers. The operators of each tower would use a telescope to verify the configuration of the adjacent tower and then reproduce them in their own tower. This made it possible to deliver messages much faster. The semaphore network was reserved exclusively for government use; however, in 1834, two brothers, François and Joseph Blanc came up with means of hacking into the system for their personal benefit.

François and Joseph Blanc were dealing with government bonds on the Bordeaux stock exchange that kept a close watch on the Paris stock exchange. The Paris stock exchange was the primary market, and the secondary markets always lagged due to the time it took for the information to travel through the post. So if traders could get to know the information in advance, they could make a lot of money by anticipating the market move.

The Blanc brothers’ bribed a telegraph operator who provided information on the stock market, and he had an accomplice in Paris who will help him get the details. The operator would then send the news of Tours to Bordeaux using the semaphore system. However, he breached the message by adding errors such as; codes to government messages that were later deciphered by another operator who was Blanc’s person stationed close to the Bordeaux line.

This lasted for approximately two years until one day the Tours operator became ill. So he shared this misdoing with one of his friends with a hope that he will continue the practice. The friend took a back seat and reported the operator to the authorities. The Blanc brothers were arrested for their cyber attack but were released due to the lack of an adequate law.

“The Blanc brothers’ story is also a reminder that with any new invention, people will always find a way to use it maliciously.” This is a timeless aspect of human nature, and it’s not something technology can or should be designed to solve, “said Tom Standage of The Economist writes. This is still so relevant.

Related Resources:

How to Protect Yourself from Online Cyber Attacks at Work

How A Website Security Scanner Helps Lessen Future Cyber Attacks

The 3 Sectors Most Prone to Cyber Attacks

Businesses Should Be Aware of Growing Cyber Attacks

Artificial Intelligence as the Next Host of Cyber Attacks

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Our Long Collective Struggle To Secure Enterprise Email

Email is the oldest service on the Internet, launched in the 1970’s, it is older than the WWW or the World Wide Web itself for more than three decades. However, the fundamentals of sending and receiving email have not fundamentally changed, in fact, all the weaknesses of the email systems of the 70s are still hounding us today. In 1978, we witnessed the first spam email sent to thousands of corporate email users. The other threats such as malware and phishing through email followed soon after.

These threats take advantage of the basic foundation of email, which is accessibility and open-ended approach to transferring information. Security is never the foundation of email when it was first conceptualized by the fathers of the Internet. It is a direct product of the TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol), where scientists are able to communicate with one another the results of their experiments and research.

When email and the rest of the Internet became a “public sphere” as opposed to the initial “for military use only”, opportunity seekers look at it and found a new home when it comes to exploiting the weaknesses at the expense of unsuspecting users. The number of cyber attacks targeting countries and companies is increasing, and information security measures are now a matter of life and death for companies. At the same time, however, the combination of business and IT has progressed, and while numerous IT investments are required, the amount of investment in security is a reality. Similarly, many IT personnel are busy with various tasks, making it difficult to specialize in security measures.

Under such circumstances, effective use of security solutions is essential to obtain a safe and secure environment including business partners and customers. Above all, the most important point is how to secure the security of “mail” which is said to occupy 80 to 90% of the attack path. It goes without saying that even among the damage caused by cyber attacks, it is information leakage that brings fatal damage to companies. Targeted attack emails and emails such as phishing emails often use messages that spoof legitimate senders, such as business partners, financial institutions, and public organizations. And the reason why the damage globally has been increasing in the last two decades is that the methods for infecting the sentences and malware described in such malicious emails have been refined.

Is there a permanent solution?
As an attack method by email, attachment files of malware such as ransomware and URL spoofing (redirection) are often used. In the latter case, if you click on the URL link in the mail, you will be diverted to a falsified website, etc. and you will be forced to download malware, etc. And please be aware that in such email-based attacks, the pattern of spam emails, which was previously thought to cause no direct harm to the system, is rapidly increasing.

Spam email is an advertising email sent indiscriminately to an unspecified number of people, often referred to as “spam”. In the past, the damage caused by spam emails was such that sending many unnecessary emails interfered with business operations, and the effort for deletion would be unrelentingly costly. However, recently, in addition to these, as mentioned above, it has become a trigger for malware infection or is being used for phishing scams. Also, there are more cases where Botnet, which sends large-scale spam emails, is the source of ransomware.

There is no other defense but for users to develop a sense of doubt when receiving emails. A reasonable level of suspicion does not hurt, in fact, it is even safer to actually call the sender of the email to verify if that person actually sent an email. There is no system that can 100% prevent email risks, but there will always be a human standing in the way. The point of getting a network infected or a company falling for spear phishing is the human user of the system representing the company. All employees are the frontliners in all corporate IT security arrangement.

Also, Read:

Avoid These Mistakes, Ensure Better Enterprise Security

Is It Possible To Have Email Security Without OpenPGP/S-MIME?

Mimecast Quarterly Report: 25% Of Spam and Malicious Emails Bypass Security Systems

How Enterprises Can Combat Cybersecurity Challenges On The Cloud

Can Artificial Intelligence Boost Future Email Security?

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The Sad State of New Zealand’s Cyber Attack Readiness

The New Zealand Financial Innovation & Technology Association (FinTechNZ), a financial-technology organization has exposed the alarming situation of companies based on New Zealand, only around 6% have a reasonable level of cybersecurity defense infrastructure and readiness in place. Such level is very low considering the number of multinational companies having a local branch office in New Zealand and the eagerness of the government to comply with its internal IT security arrangements for both itself and businesses operating within the country’s territory.

“We need to increase protection against attacks, especially bearing in mind that more than 90 percent of New Zealand companies are small businesses. New Zealand is not exempt from major cyber-attacks which could impinge on the economy and livelihood as a nation. We need to understand the multi-dimensional nature of cyber threats and key issues that government and private sector face,” explained James Brown, FintechNZ’s General Manager.

New Zealand’s NCSC has observed at least 347 cases of cybersecurity breaches and cyber attacks from their latest record dated July 2017 to June 2018, with a majority of which were not perpetrated by professional private hacking groups, but rather hacking groups allegedly funded by rogue states.

“Cyber risks are a borderless challenge and we can always improve on national preparedness in our cyber-attack strategy. We want to ensure the cybersecurity of our national infrastructures, our businesses and people. Cyber-crime is rising and is increasingly being identified as a top threat to New Zealand, as criminals, rogue nations and others in the darknet seek to strike and disrupt at any moment. The tech sector epitomises Kiwi ingenuity and entrepreneurial flair. With exports amounting to nearly $7 billion and total revenue predicted exceeding $10 billion in 2017, the industry is an integral part of the New Zealand economy,” concluded Brown.

Unlike the nuclear arms race during the early cold war to the late ’90s, cyberwarfare is raging for quite a while now between states without the knowledge of an ordinary person. Also known as cyber espionage and digital hijacking, various countries involved with cyber warfare have their own goals in mind, hence very difficult to read why they are doing it against other nations.

Also, Read:

Cyber Attacks Stopped By An Israeli Bomb

How to Protect Yourself from Online Cyber Attacks at Work

Yet Again! Cyber Attack on Toyota Car Maker

Australia’s Election Proposal To Combat Cyber Attack

1 Million Swiss Devices Victim Of Cyber Attack

 

 

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Cyber Attacks Stopped By An Israeli Bomb

Justice, Israel style, the final judgment of Israeli Defense Force (IDF) against cyber attackers was decisive and literally with the “bang”. The highly contested Gaza strip between Israel and Palestinian Hamas has been going on for many decades, but according to the Israeli military intelligence, the later also house an elite hacker unit along with the areas it controls in the strip. An official video of the airstrike against a building that Palestinian hackers occupied was released by IDF on Twitter.

It shows the target building from a top viewing camera, and it suddenly became just a pile of rubble after the airstrike done by Israeli Defence Force. Though it is not yet know how many bodies were dead inside the building, the IDF is very confident that it housed a considerable number of elite hacker team maintained by Palestinian Jihadist.

“At the end of last week, a joint operation by the General Security Service and the IDF thwarted Hamas’ attempt to use the cyber dimension to hit Israeli targets. Following the technical counterterrorism activities, IDF fighter jets attacked a building from which Hamas’s cyber network operated. We thwarted an attempted Hamas cyber offensive against Israeli targets. Following our successful cyber defensive operation, we targeted a building where the Hamas cyber operatives work. HamasCyberHQ.exe has been removed,” explained IDF in Twitter (through Google Translate).

IDF has not revealed details who were the leaders of the elite hacker group, and what particular cybercrime they have committed against Israel to justify the military bombing. A leader of IDF who wishes not to be named has underscored the importance of getting ahead compared to their enemies. He is happy with the Israeli forces were able to stop cyber attacks through the use of physical attacks against the structure occupied by the hacker group.

“Hamas no longer has cyber capabilities after our strike. After dealing with the cyber dimension, the Air Force dealt with it in the physical dimension,” emphasized Brig. Gen. Ronen Manlis.

Aside from the hacker group, IDF’s other target is Hamed Ahmed Abed Khudri, allegedly the person behind the funding behind the illegal transfer of funds from Iran to IDF’s enemies in the Gaza strip. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad was linked to numerous money-laundering activities, as the structure of its organization is cellular, anyone tasked to pin down identities has a hard time due to the structure.

“Transferring Iranian money to Hamas and the PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] doesn’t make you a businessman. It makes you a terrorist,” added IDF.

“Immediately assessing the level of conflict in such a dynamic situation is impossible. However, military activity working along laws of armed conflict should consider principles of proportionality when using force. The scarce official announcement suggests that the potential cyberattack has been thwarted using technical means. That will make analysts wonder what was the point, and justification grounds for using kinetic force. That said, the view that people involved in cyber activity linked to a conflict need to be aware of such risks to them has been more and more crystallizing over the last years,” said Dr. Lukasz Olejnik, Research Associate for Center for Technology and Global Affairs of Oxford University.

Source: https://thehackernews.com/2019/05/israel-hamas-hacker-airstrikes.html

Related Resources:

Israeli Fintech Firms Targeted by Cardinal RAT Malware

Massive Ransomware Attack On Israeli Websites Foiled

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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.

Most malicious software is created to target missing patches, especially Microsoft patches. We know that WannaCry and Petya, two devastating attacks, targeted systems that were missing Microsoft MS17-010. Eliminating the “low-hanging-fruit” from the attack strategy, by patching known and current vulnerabilities or flaws, significantly reduces the attack-plane for the risk owner.

  1. 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.
  2. 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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