We make holistic enterprise security possible.
Tailored Solutions & Consulting, Inc. (TSC Advantage) is a cyber risk consultancy specializing in the protection of trade secrets, intellectual assets, and other sensitive information. TSC Advantage was founded in 2006 as a response to the limitations of traditional approaches to cyber security that fail to incorporate holistic and proactive solutions in combating threats to enterprises. Our patent-pending and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) SAFETY Act-designated methodology holistically optimizes clients’ security posture to suit their unique organizational, procedural and market environments.
Headquartered in the Washington, DC metro area of downtown Silver Spring, MD, the TSC Advantage global team brings together over 300 years of combined experience in intelligence operations and analysis, traditional business acumen, and agile technology solutions. We provide expertise to a wide array of industries and organizations, ranging from the Fortune 500, healthcare, and leading global insurance underwriting markets, to the public sector and operators of U.S. critical infrastructure. Our proven delivery of panoramic cyber risk assessment and credentialed expertise makes us uniquely trusted and qualified in remediating clients’ most complex enterprise challenges.
— Trusted By —
In a complex world growing with sophisticated cyber attacks and threats from insiders, all organizations must be proactive in the defense of their sensitive information. From corporate intellectual property and trade secrets to protected health information, we have innovated an approach to enterprise security risk assessment that can help secure organizations across all industries.
Our unique approach examines holistic vulnerability across six critical domains of an organization as well as modules designed for ICS, PCI, and HIPAA with the intent of reducing risk and preventing cyber attacks, data breaches, and acts of terrorism from occurring in the first place. Using unparalleled expertise and over 300 years of combined specialized experience exploiting technical, physical, and human vulnerabilities of organizations, TSC Advantage better safeguards client value, innovation, and reputation in an age of sophisticated cyber attacks and data breaches.
Threat Vector Manager™
Our patent-pending Threat Vector Manager ™ (TVM) is an award winning and U.S. DHS SAFETY-Act designated knowledge management process that identifies trends, patterns, and areas of elevated risk across an enterprise in order to prevent and reduce cyber attacks, data breaches, or physical acts of terrorism.
Mapped to meet and exceed numerous national and international industry standards including NIST, ISO, and fused with proprietary security expertise, TVM™ provides an objective and posture-based perspective of enterprise maturity and security resiliency for a comprehensive understanding of emerging cyber threats and latest in competitive intelligence tradecraft. This methodology identifies best business practices, improves performance and decision-making, and informs resource allocation based upon risk sensitivity and exposure.
TVM™ helps maximize clients’ return on security investments by delivering objective intelligence and practical solutions to FIND, FIX, and PROTECT the most critical problem areas.
Measurement designed to effectively baseline wide range of policies, procedures, behaviors, and technical controls impacting a firm's overall security posture with our U.S. DHS SAFETY Act-designated Enterprise Security Assessment and External Relationship Mapping solution
Comprehensive assessment of client-specific risk that objectively measures cyber security culture and maturity across administrative, technical, and physical categories in conjunction with critical business needs
Outcome-driven instrument, designed to reduce the cost of effective security through emphasis on prevention and awareness across traditional cyber security domains and overlooked threat vectors such as external business relationships and from the insider threat lurking within
Creation of targeted security initiative and implementation of improvements for top vulnerabilities, prioritized by domain maturity, proprietary risk-ranking score and source-needs calculation, level-of-effort and comparison across aggregated industry data
Subscription via highly secure, encrypted cloud portal or local host for periodic reevaluations and illustration of impact of additional security initiatives
Secure intelligence delivery via a customizable executive portal and dashboard tailored to client environment, including sources such as DLP, MDM, and SIEM data, as well as social media and RSS feeds
Ongoing assessments of evolving threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences for critical assets along with tailored recommendations for continuous improvements along with visualizations denoting security risk profile score and domain maturity compared against aggregated industry data
Integration with any vendor's security sensors already owned by the client, to leverage existing investments and positioning for optimization
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TSC Advantage Named 2016 Most Innovative Enterprise Security Solution by Cyber Defense Magazine
Silver Spring, MD – TSC Advantage announced today that Cyber Defense Magazine, the industry’s leading electronic information security magazine and media partner of the RSA® Conference 2016, has named TSC Advantage winner of the Most Innovative Enterprise Security Solution of 2016.
After many months of review and judged by leading independent information security experts, Cyber Defense Magazine is pleased to have selected TSC Advantage as a winner for its Threat Vector Manager™ (TVM).
“We’re thrilled to recognize next-generation innovation in the information security marketplace and that’s why TSC Advantage has earned this award from Cyber Defense Magazine. Some of the best INFOSEC defenses come from these kinds of forward thinking players who think outside of the box,” said Pierluigi Paganini, Editor-in-Chief, Cyber Defense Magazine.
Threat Vector Manager™ is a patent-pending cyber risk assessment methodology that identifies trends, patterns, and areas of elevated risk across an enterprise environment. TVM is unique in the domain of cybersecurity risk assessment due to its U.S. DHS Safety Act designation, which extends liability indemnity to customers for third party claims arising from a covered act of terrorism. It also stands out from traditional IT-centric solutions by producing a risk profile score and domain maturity level within six enterprise domains: insider threat, physical security, mobility, data security, internal business operations and external business operations. Moreover, global underwriters trust and rely on TVM’s integrated approach to help determine the insurability of potential insureds operating in the U.S. critical infrastructure segment.
“CDM’s recognition of Threat Vector Manager™ further validates our company as an innovator,” said Sean Doherty, President and founder of TSC Advantage. “We know that to truly reach cyber resiliency and to make strategic cyber investments, organizations must look beyond automated solutions to understand enterprise-wide risk. This industry honor is an endorsement that Threat Vector Manager™ is a leading-edge approach, and when combined with TSC’s mix of intelligence experience and business acumen, it puts organizations in a proactive versus reactive posture to counter dynamic threats.”
About Cyber Defense Magazine
Cyber Defense Magazine is the premier source of IT Security information. Its mission is to share cutting edge knowledge, real world stories and awards on the best ideas, products and services in the information technology industry. Learn more at http://www.cyberdefensemagazine.com
About TSC Advantage
TSC Advantage is a cyber risk consultancy specializing in the protection of sensitive information using a patent-pending and U.S. DHS SAFETY Act-designated methodology to perform cyber risk assessments for organizations across all verticals. The TSC Advantage team brings over 300 years of combined experience serving in premier U.S. national security organizations. The company stands apart with an integrated approach to cybersecurity that examines traditional cyber risk but also five other domains of enterprise vulnerability, including the role of business dependencies and the insider threat lurking within. TSC Advantage counts Fortune 500 businesses, global insurance underwriting markets, U.S. critical infrastructure, healthcare, and innovate start-ups as clientele.
TSC Advantage Hosts Third Annual threatLAB Conference
Silver Spring, MD, Feb. 2, 2016 — TSC Advantage, an enterprise cyber risk consultancy specializing in the proactive defense of intellectual assets, trade secrets and other sensitive information, today kicked off ThreatLAB® 2016, an exclusive cybersecurity thought leadership event. The third annual threatLAB conference will educate senior private and public sector security professionals about the multitude of complex threats facing U.S. enterprises. The interactive theme Cyber Risk 360°embodies a philosophy of taking an enterprise-wide view of cybersecurity and risk.
ThreatLAB® 2016 features a keynote address from John Lenkart, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, National Security/Cyber Investigation, Richmond Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Throughout his career as a special agent, Lenkart has led and managed countless counterintelligence and economic espionage investigations aimed at defeating foreign-sponsored adversaries operating in the United States.
Additional speakers include: George Bamford, Director, DHS National Infrastructure Coordination Center; Joseph Ladd, Insider Threat Manager, Southern Company Services; Andrew Lamm, Director, Information Asset Protection, Cummins, Inc.; and Jeffrey Torosian, Partner, DLA Piper.
They will discuss the growing threat to corporations from state sponsors, hackers, and insider threats, what companies should do to protect themselves in an age of sophisticated cyberattacks, and the role of public-private partnerships.
“Knowing that even the best fortifications and preventative measures can fail, the role of achieving cyber resiliency becomes critical,” said Sean Doherty, president of TSC Advantage. “Resilient organizations combine multiple enterprise-wide functions to prevent, detect and recover from disruptions. At threatLAB, our attendees can learn from experts in the field and discuss their challenges and successes.”
ThreatLAB® 2016 is the continuation of efforts to educate organizations across all verticals on how to take a harmonized and panoramic approach to the cyber threat landscape. Hosted by TSC Advantage and Liberty Advisor Group, the 2016 conference is located at the Streamsong Resort in central Florida. Additional support is provided by sponsors McGriff, Seibels & Williams, Miller Insurance, and Sectra Communications.
About TSC Advantage
TSC Advantage is a cyber risk consultancy specializing in the protection of trade secrets, intellectual assets, and other sensitive information using a patent-pending and U.S. DHS SAFETY Act-designated methodology to perform cyber risk assessments for organizations across all verticals. The TSC Advantage team brings over 300 years of combined experience serving in premier U.S. national security organizations. Unlike other solutions, the company stands apart with its holistic approach to cybersecurity, which examines traditional cyber risk plus five other domains of enterprise vulnerability, including the role of business dependencies and the insider threat lurking within. TSC Advantage counts Fortune 500 businesses, global insurance underwriting markets, U.S. critical infrastructure, healthcare, and innovative start-ups as clientele.
TSC Advantage Named Finalist in 2016 Global Excellence Awards by Info Security Products Guide
Silver Spring, MD – January 13, 2016 – TSC Advantage announced today that its Threat Vector Manager™ (TVM) risk assessment solution has been named a finalist for the 2016 IFPG Global Excellence Awards in the category of Best Security Products and Solutions for Insurance. Info Security Products Guide is the industry’s leading information security research and advisory guide. These prestigious global awards recognize security and IT vendors with advanced, ground-breaking products and solutions that help set the bar in all areas of security and technologies. Winners will be announced in San Francisco on February 29, 2016.
Threat Vector Manager™ is a proprietary, patent-pending cyber risk assessment methodology that holistically identifies trends, patterns, and areas of elevated risk across an enterprise environment in order to prevent and reduce cyber attacks, data breaches, or physical acts of terrorism. TVM is unique in the domain of cybersecurity risk assessment due to its U.S. DHS Safety Act designation, which extends liability indemnity to customers for third party claims arising from a covered act of terrorism, as well as the output of the assessment itself, which produces a risk profile score and domain maturity level within six enterprise domains and has been adopted by global underwriters to help determine the insurability of potential insureds operating in the U.S. critical infrastructure segment.
“TSC Advantage is pioneering a vastly improved approach to cyber insurance underwriting, which rewards mature cyber security postures and allows customers to receive insurance with the broadest coverage, fewest exclusions, and tailored to their individual threat profiles,” said Sean Doherty, President of TSC Advantage. “We’re proud that Threat Vector Manager’s™ customer-focused methodology has been recognized as a finalist by Info Security Products Guide.”
About Info Security Products Guide Awards
SVUS Awards organized by Silicon Valley Communications are conferred in 10 annual award programs, including the Info Security Guide’s Global Excellence Awards. These premier awards honor organizations from all over the world, including the people, products, performance, PR and marketing. To learn more, visit www.svusawards.com
About TSC Advantage
TSC Advantage is a cyber risk consultancy specializing in the protection of trade secrets, intellectual assets, and other sensitive information using a patent-pending and U.S. DHS SAFETY Act-designated methodology to perform cyber risk assessments for organizations across all verticals. The TSC Advantage team brings over 300 years of combined experience serving in premier U.S. national security organizations. Unlike other solutions, the company stands apart with its holistic approach to cybersecurity, which examines traditional cyber risk plus five other domains of enterprise vulnerability, including the role of business dependencies and the insider threat lurking within. TSC Advantage counts Fortune 500 businesses, global insurance underwriting markets, U.S. critical infrastructure, healthcare, and innovative start-ups as clientele.
Inc. Names TSC Advantage as Fastest Growing Firm in 2015
Silver Spring, MD – TSC Advantage, an enterprise risk consultancy specializing in the proactive and holistic defense of trade secrets, intellectual assets, and other sensitive information, is pleased to announce that it has been ranked as 3294 on the 2015 Inc. 500|5000, an exclusive ranking of 5,000 of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. The list represents the most comprehensive look at the most important segment of the economy—America’s independent entrepreneurs. Companies such as Yelp, Pandora, Timberland, Dell, Domino’s Pizza, LinkedIn, Zillow, and many other well-known names gained early exposure as members of the Inc. 500|5000.
“We are honored to be included in the prestigious Inc. 500|5000 list among the other innovative and rapidly growing firms across the U.S.,” said TSC Advantage President Sean Doherty. “Over the past few years, we have experienced substantial growth which couldn’t have been possible without our valued customers and talented employees,” he said. “This honor not only recognizes the need enterprises have for expert and holistic cyber risk assessment, but validates the unique approach and confidence value offered by our methodology.”
The 2015 Inc. 5000, unveiled online at Inc.com, is one of the most competitive group in the list’s history. The companies on this year’s Inc. 5000 list have achieved a median growth rate of 1,772 percent and have collectively created 57,822 jobs. To view TSC Advantage’s complete profile on the 2015 Inc. 5000 list, visit: www.inc.com/profile/tsc-advantage
Inc. 500|5000 Methodology
The 2015 Inc. 5000 list measures revenue growth from 2011 to 2014. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2011. Additionally, they had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for profit, and independent–not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies–as of December 31, 2014. The minimum required 2011 revenue is $100,000; the minimum for 2014 is $2 million. Revenue listed in the company profiles is for calendar year 2014. Employee counts are current. Employees receiving benefits are included in the employee counts. Inc. reserves the right to reject applicants for subjective reasons. The companies of the Inc. 500 represent the top tier of the Inc. 5000.
Founded in 1979 and acquired in 2005 by Mansueto Ventures, Inc. is the only major brand dedicated exclusively to owners and managers of growing private companies, with the aim to deliver real solutions for today’s innovative company builders. Total monthly audience reach for the brand has grown significantly from 2,000,000 in 2010 to over 6,000,000 today. For more information, visit www.inc.com.
TSC Advantage Announces Relocation of Corporate Headquarters
Fast-growing Cybersecurity Consultancy Relocates to New Office Space in Maryland
Washington – June 2, 2015 – TSC Advantage, an enterprise risk consultancy specializing in the proactive and holistic defense of trade secrets, intellectual assets and other sensitive information, today announced its plan to move to a larger and newly renovated office space in downtown Silver Spring, Md., to accommodate its growth. TSC Advantage plans to be in its new 6,000 square foot facility on Wayne Avenue for at least the next five years.
The new headquarters will further support the projected expansion of TSC Advantage’s business, including its support to global insurance underwriting markets and its traditional consulting business, while retaining proximity to the U.S. capital region, convenient transportation hubs, deep talent pool and now direct placement within Maryland’s cybersecurity epicenter.
“We evaluated numerous locations within the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area in our search for a new corporate headquarters and ultimately Silver Spring and Montgomery County were too attractive to resist,” said Sean Doherty, president of TSC Advantage. “As a growing business, the various incentives and exciting partnership opportunities with initiatives, such as Cyber Maryland, will be beneficial to our continued success and reaffirms the commitment of state and local leaders in Maryland in attracting firms such as ours.”
In the past four years, TSC Advantage has added an average of six to eight new employees per year and has expanded its range of products and services. In late 2014, TSC Advantage received the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s SAFETY Act Developmental Testing and Evaluation designation for its Threat Vector Manager™ cyberrisk assessment solution. In early 2015, the company launched Secure Halo™, software used to collect and calculate risk scoring and domain maturity as well as a portal by which customers and insurance underwriters alike can access their security assessments in a secure and personalized platform.
TSC Advantage is experiencing rapid growth, due in part to the company’s 2013 partnership with more than 15 Lloyd’s of London insurance underwriters and brokers to conduct holistic cyberrisk assessments for insurance products sold to operators of U.S. critical infrastructure and other markets, including private equity, healthcare, retail and maritime. With results obtained from TSC Advantage’s holistic cyberrisk assessment, insurance markets are able to underwrite cyber risk and calculate annual premiums for cyberinsurance policies covering liability expenses in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The move is expected to be completed by July 2015.
TSC Advantage Hosts 2nd Annual ThreatLAB Conference
Anatomy of Resilience™ Theme Will Feature Expertise on Cyber Threats from FBI Counterintelligence Executive
WASHINGTON, May 12, 2015 — TSC Advantage, an enterprise cyberrisk consultancy specializing in the proactive and holistic defense of intellectual assets, trade secrets and other sensitive information, today announced ThreatLAB® 2015, an exclusive thought leadership event taking place May 20-21 in Las Vegas that will educate senior private and public sector security professionals about the multitude of complex threats facing U.S. enterprises. The interactive theme Anatomy of Resilience™ encompasses ways to defend intellectual assets and trade secrets in an age of panoramic cyber threats. Attendees will have the opportunity to dissect recent cyberattacks and data breaches through panels, speaker sessions and interactive labs, as well as the opportunity to participate in collaborative scenarios addressing cybersecurity challenges from a holistic perspective.
ThreatLAB® 2015 will feature a keynote address from John Lenkart, chief of staff and special assistant to the assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. Throughout his career as a special agent and supervisory special agent, Lenkart has led and managed countless counterintelligence and economic espionage investigations aimed at defeating foreign-sponsored adversaries operating in the United States, including state-sponsored efforts to acquire, steal or transfer a broad range of trade secrets in which the United States maintains a definitive innovation advantage. As the keynote speaker, Lenkart will present his expertise on the growing threat to corporations from state sponsors, insider threats and what companies should be doing to protect themselves in an age of sophisticated cyberattacks.
“It is no longer a secret that data breaches and successful cyberattacks of U.S. companies are being perpetuated through a combination of technical and non-technical precursors,” said Sean Doherty, president of TSC Advantage. “Despite a myriad of ways in which cyber threats enter organizations, the market continues to emphasize technology deployments as a panacea for effective enterprise risk management. That is a dangerous and incomplete strategy,” he said.
ThreatLAB® 2015 is the continuation of efforts to educate organizations across all verticals to discuss the Anatomy of Resilience™ and how it must start with recognizing their panoramic threat landscape. In addition to traditional IT security approaches, effective strategies must also include an understanding of behavioral indicators exhibited by insiders as well as threats posed by external business relationships, adopting mature security practices, and recovering quickly through sound business continuity plans if an attack or breach does occur.
TSC Advantage Earns Homeland Security SAFETY Act Designation
Credential provides additional validation of TSC Advantage’s holistic approach to cyber risk assessment
Washington, D.C. – TSC Advantage, an enterprise risk consultancy specializing in the proactive and holistic defense of trade secrets, intellectual assets and other sensitive information, today announced it has earned the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s SAFETY Act Developmental Testing and Evaluation (DT&E) designation for its patented Threat Vector Manager™ (TVM) cyber risk assessment process.
The SAFETY Act is a federal law passed by the U.S. Congress to facilitate and promote the development and deployment of anti-terrorism technologies that can deter, defend against, identify, respond or mitigate an act of terrorism and save lives. The SAFETY Act designation qualifies Threat Vector Manager™ as an anti-terrorism technology and provides liability protection for both TSC Advantage and its customers in the event of a covered act of terrorism. To earn this designation, TSC Advantage underwent a rigorous due diligence and selection process, which included the Department of Homeland Security interviewing the company’s current and former customers.
“One of the biggest concerns any business can encounter in the marketplace is the exposure potential to excessive liability,” said Sean Doherty, president of TSC Advantage. “With this designation, we are pleased to be able to extend the benefits of liability indemnity from covered acts of terrorism to customers who undergo our unique cyber security assessment.”
TSC Advantage’s Threat Vector Manager and its associated Enterprise Security Assessment enhance cyber risk assessment and improve holistic security maturity in commercial organizations, including the Fortune 1000, U.S. critical infrastructure and the public sector. Tied to international and national standards and fused with subject matter expertise, TVM™ assesses six top-level domains that include the roles of insider threat, external business dependencies and physical security in order to identify trends, patterns and areas of enterprise risk across technical, human and procedural categories.
In 2014, TSC Advantage partnered with more than a dozen insurance underwriters operating on the Lloyd’s of London exchange and worldwide insurance brokers to conduct cyber security assessments for cyberinsurance policies sold to public utility and critical infrastructure sectors. Using TVM’s Enterprise Security Assessment, global underwriters are provided an in-depth and posture-based assessment of a pre-insured’s holistic risk profile that is used by underwriters to determine insurability and calculate insurance premium levels.
“SAFETY Act designation is a critical differentiator for pre-binding cyber risk assessment because it demonstrates the extent to which the methodology and process has been validated,” said Tom Quy, a leading cyber insurance broker with Miller Insurance LLP of London. “Using TSC Advantage’s vetted approach, customers may not only receive holistic cyber risk assessment and insurance tailored to their threat profiles, but through SAFETY Act designation, an additional layer of protection for customers from third-party claims should a covered act of terrorism occur,” he said.
TSC Advantage Enhances Holistic Cyber Assessment to Improve Enterprise Security
Posture-based methodology transforms risk assessment for cyberinsurance, commercial enterprises and public sector
Washington, D.C. – TSC Advantage, an enterprise risk consultancy specializing in the proactive and holistic defense of intellectual assets, trade secrets and other sensitive information, today announced that its patented Threat Vector Manager™ (TVM) technology is enhancing cyberrisk assessment and improving holistic security maturity for commercial organizations, critical infrastructure and the public sector. In addition, through its partnership with leading global insurance underwriters and brokers, TSC Advantage is transforming pre-binding risk assessment, which supports cyberinsurance policies for the critical infrastructure market and for those focusing on cyberterrorism.
Improving enterprise security posture through holistic assessment
As all organizations struggle to defend against cyberattacks, TSC Advantage is informing an intelligence-based process that aligns resources against an entity’s highest priority threats. TVM,™ through its associated Enterprise Security Assessment (ESA) component, identifies trends, patterns and areas of elevated risk within enterprise environments and offers customers a comprehensive and holistic measurement of security controls across the following six top-level domains:
Insider threat – Examines technical and non-technical precursors of risk from high-risk actors, events and behaviors from human beings throughout an enterprise ecosystem
Physical security – Focuses on the potential for physical intrusion and unauthorized access to priority locations where sensitive information is stored and accessed
Mobility – Explores vulnerability of data during foreign travel and from mobile devices
Data security – Examines risks stemming from the use and defense of enterprise IT resources
Internal business operations – Measures the effectiveness of initiatives that manage internal administrative vulnerabilities and critical assets resulting from personnel, organizational or business processes
External business operations – Examines an organization’s security strategy, policies and procedures, and threat universe resulting from external engagements
“With an increasing number of sophisticated cyberattacks arising from external dependencies, such as from third party vendors and trusted insiders, an effective security assessment cannot ignore human behavior in defense of cybersecurity, nor the financial or business constraints affecting security investments,” said Sean Doherty, president of TSC Advantage. “The holistic approach in our ESA provides evidence-based and objective assessments of internal and external forces affecting a client’s security posture, and is not limited in scope by only focusing on a singular area, such as traditional endpoint concepts and other IT-centric solutions,” Doherty said.
Transforming pre-binding risk assessment
TSC Advantage has partnered with more than a dozen insurance underwriters operating on the Lloyd’s of London exchange and worldwide insurance brokers to offer a new cyberinsurance product designed to address cyberliability exposures that arise within the utility and critical infrastructure sectors. Using TSC Advantage’s ESA risk assessment tool, insurance underwriters are afforded in-depth understanding of a pre-insured company’s holistic risk profile that considers the evolving sophistication of cyber threats and complexity of potential attack vectors.
“With the financial impact of cyber risk increasing every day, the cost of inaction leaves all organizations exposed to huge liabilities,” said Tom Quy, a leading cyberinsurance broker with Miller Insurance Services LLP of London. “By working with TSC Advantage, we are pioneering a vastly improved methodology for cyberinsurance underwriting, which rewards mature cyber security postures and allows our customers the ability to receive insurance with the broadest coverage, fewest exclusions, and tailored to their individual threat profiles.”
TSC Advantage Hosts ThreatLAB 2014 to Promote Better Understanding of the Complex Threats Facing U.S. Innovation
Private and public sector security professionals will learn how to better defend intellectual assets and trade secrets in age of diversified threats
Washington, D.C. – TSC Advantage, an enterprise risk consultancy specializing in the proactive and holistic defense of intellectual assets, trade secrets and other sensitive information, today announced ThreatLAB™ 2014, an exclusive thought leadership event, taking place May 14-15 in Las Vegas, that is designed to educate private and public sector security professionals about the multitude of complex threats facing U.S. intellectual assets. Through interactive learning modules derived from case studies involving sophisticated threats to corporate secrets, attendees with will learn the skills to identify enterprise risk using holistic intelligence and analysis techniques.
ThreatLAB 2014 will feature a keynote address from John Powell, former vice president and general counsel for American Superconductor Corporation (AMSC). Powell will present a case study about an insider threat AMSC faced in 2011 that resulted in extraordinary value degradation for AMSC and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Through lessons learned from the incident, the keynote will reinforce TSC Advantage’s message that corporate investments in security solutions should not be limited to specific technical controls focusing on data security. Rather, effective protection must also incorporate the understanding that corporate threats are diverse and that an integrated approach is the only way to successfully identify trends, patterns and areas of elevated risk across multiple enterprise domains, particularly from trusted insiders and external business dependencies.
“It has been estimated that intellectual asset theft costs American businesses between $300 and $500 billion a year, yet we continue to see the standard corporate response be limited to advanced malware detection programs or legacy endpoint protection,” said Sean Doherty, president of TSC Advantage. “While those are important, they offer limited defense and are just a piece of an overall puzzle. The purpose of ThreatLAB 2014 is to educate the market that threats are as diversified as they are complex – and they require a holistic approach in order to truly understand and remediate them.”
To learn more about ThreatLAB 2014 or to request an invitation, please visit http://threatlab2014.com/.
TSC Advantage Announces Key Partnership with Global Insurance Market Led by Lloyd’s of London
Lloyd’s of London Insurance Product to Integrate TSC Advantage’s Holistic Risk Assessment Methodology with New Cyber Security Policy for U.S. Energy Industry
Washington, D.C. – based Tailored Solutions & Consulting Inc. (TSC Advantage), an innovator in enterprise security intelligence specializing in intellectual asset and trade secret protection, today announced the integration of its patented Threat Vector Manager™ (TVM) platform with a new cyber insurance policy for U.S. critical assets led by Lloyd’s of London.
“As discussed in Executive Order 13636, the cyber threat to U.S. critical infrastructure represents a growing and persistent challenge to the national and economic security of the United States,” said Sean Doherty, President of TSC Advantage. “As a first of its kind, we are excited to pioneer incentives for private industry’s partnership with public sector cyber security initiatives. Our platform provides insurance underwriters a means to reliably and accurately determine the cyber risk class of U.S. critical assets using our objective, standards-based methodology for assessing holistic enterprise security.”
TSC Advantage’s platform will assist London and international underwriters to optimize their pre-binding process through incorporation of TVM’s™ Enterprise Security Assessment component. TSC Advantage’s methodology is trusted to deliver objective, baseline measurement of holistic vulnerabilities across six domains while examining threat vectors both internal and external. With TVM™, underwriters will be afforded contextual awareness of the potential insured’s security posture — not a mere audit — as well as a clear understanding of strengths, weaknesses, and associated risks of loss.
“In an age of growing and sophisticated cyber attacks as well as threats emanating from insiders, it is essential all organizations ensure a proactive and holistic approach to their security,” Doherty said. “Rather than spending money on theory, companies will be receiving objective, real-world risk assessment that will enable them to obtain appropriate insurance for their particular risks, and thereby reducing the cost of implementing Executive Order 13636 and PPD-21,” he said.
TSC Advantage Addresses trade secret theft at Intellectual Property Owners Association annual meeting
TSC Advantage Director of Security Intelligence Reminds Audience of the Dangers Posed by Insider Threats
Washington, D.C. – Tailored Solutions & Consulting (TSC Advantage), an innovator in enterprise security intelligence specializing in intellectual asset and trade secret protection, has announced that TSC Advantage’s Director of Security Intelligence addressed an audience of legal experts, business leaders, and other stakeholders at the Intellectual Property Owners Association annual meeting in downtown Boston, MA on 17 September 2013.
During the keynote panel presentation with in-house counsel and experienced practitioners from Ford Global Technologies LLC and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, TSC Advantage’s director offered the audience practical advice for preventing and addressing trade secret theft in an age of growing and targeted threats to corporate value.
“The decision of whether to protect innovation via patent, trade secret or otherwise is almost entirely separate from that of effective security. An adversary doesn’t care about what legal category their desired target information falls under, only if they can get access to it,” said Mark Lopes, TSC Advantage’s Director of Security Intelligence.
“Paranoia is part of good business practice as long as it does not impede efficiency or disrupt innovative culture,” he continued. “You should always assume somebody wants your company’s most sensitive information simply because of the current or potential future economic value it represents. To assume everyone will respect ownership rights is not only naïve, it could also mean corporate suicide.”
Distinguishing between TSC Advantage and other security firms who only apply cyber-centric or software solutions to enterprise security challenges, Lopes reminded the audience that most threats actually originate from human beings within organizations and not from external and distant hackers.
“We continue to see a vast amount of security resources being poured into purely IT and cyber solutions while the vast majority of data shows that most intellectual property and trade secrets are compromised via insider threats,” he said. “While investment in IT and cyber is important and can help prevent the remote theft of corporate secrets, it does very little to deter, detect and prevent the more prevalent source of theft: someone within your own corporate ecosystem. This is what we focus on at TSC Advantage.”
Statement by TSC Advantage on FBI’s iguardian platform for cyber threat reporting
TSC Advantage Expert: Platform Complementary to Executive Order 13636; Highlights U.S. Government’s Commitment to Value-based Cyber Programs for Private Sector
Washington, D.C. – While U.S. Executive Order 13636 represents a new policy emphasis on public and private sector coordination on cyber threats, the FBI’s recent launch of iGuardian is a complementary initiative dedicated to the mutual benefit of government and industry. It is a mechanism designed to expedite and augment the cyber security dialogue between private industry and the FBI. It also extends to private industry actors that are not officially designated as critical infrastructure, which is the primary scope of E.O. 13636. More importantly, however, it demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to establishing cyber programs that create value for participating US businesses.
While not a replacement for corporate security investments, iGuardian is intended to transform cyber partnerships into enabling proactive and preventative postures. For example, it is intended to facilitate assessments of sophisticated cyber adversaries within and across sectors, aimed at exposing shared as well as unique cyber threats and vulnerabilities. Rather than evaluating cyber threat data from an exclusively enterprise-centric view, this portal will assist FBI’s generation of crosscutting examinations that result in improved cyber awareness and ultimately the dissemination of actionable information to private industry. In short, it enables industry to benefit from the skills and expertise of US Government cyber technologists, while still maintaining and tailoring enterprise cyber investments.
Collaboration between the public and private sectors is requisite to the defense of US economic ingenuity. Neither sector in isolation has at its disposal the depth and breadth of skills, resources and information required to stem the tide of cyber attacks. In the cyber realm, national security concerns and economic interests are interleaved, as is public-private sectors’ interest in defense of American cyber posture.
“Participation in programs such as iGuardian will enable industry trailblazers to shape the scope and outcome of this nascent mechanism for dialogue with the US government – assuring it meets the bottom line needs of the US commercial sector and the Executive Branch,” says Natalie Lehr, TSC Advantage’s co-founder and Director of Analytics. “It is a critical step in exposing the barriers and tackling the uncertainties surrounding cyber risk and federal dialogue with private industry,” she said.
TSC Advantage continues thought leadership on intellectual asset protection
TSC Advantage Director of Security Intelligence Speaks to Business Leaders in Boston on Corporate Espionage and BYOD
Washington, D.C. – Tailored Solutions & Consulting (TSC Advantage), an innovator in enterprise security intelligence specializing in intellectual asset and trade secret protection, has announced that TSC Advantage’s Director of Security Intelligence addressed an audience of business leaders and security experts at the Licensing Executive Society Conference in Boston, MA on June 18th.
During a panel presentation on the topic of protecting sensitive data such as intellectual assets and trade secrets, TSC Advantage’s director offered a suggestion as to how U.S. companies should understand the growing phenomenon of corporate espionage directed against them.
“Instead of looking at this issue from a moral standpoint, it is better to understand why this issue is occurring from an economic perspective,” said Mark Lopes, TSC Advantage’s Director of Security Intelligence. “Why would a competitor choose the longer, harder, and more expensive path to value creation when they could simply steal it from you with the click of a mouse or through a well-placed insider?”
In response to a proposed question concerning effective BYOD policy development, Lopes highlighted the growing challenges companies face while trying to maintain the right balance between information security and employee productivity as wrought by the ubiquity of mobile devices. “At TSC Advantage, we tell our clients that access control is the key to preserving intellectual property as it pertains to BYOD,” he said. “From this standpoint, we believe that access to information on devices such as personal tablets and phones must be limited to information that a company would feel comfortable losing in the event of a security incident.”
“I’m Jon Snow” How to Strengthen Passwords to Better Guard the Door
Passwords – they are a bane of our online existence, a necessary evil of connectivity to keep the bad guys out and allow us access to our most treasured (literally and figuratively) possessions. That’s one reason why many people assume once they’ve used a password to protect something that it’s safe and secure. But is it? Passwords are a weaker defense than you might believe—but there are ways to strengthen them.
The use of passwords to protect items of value has a long history. During the time of Ancient Rome, sentries of the watch would challenge people entering a restricted area and require them to provide a “watchword” before they could gain access to the area. In a similar fashion, our online assets are protected by requiring a user to identify him or herself with a username and password to enter a restricted website.
In honor of World Password Day on May 5, let’s look at a scenario that depicts the steps involved in gaining access to a protected space. Let’s imagine that one person is on the outside of a party at a very exclusive Game of Thrones-themed cigar bar and the other is on the inside. The cigar bar is protected by a locked door that the person on the inside will open only for people on an approved list. Here’s how the conversation might go:
Outside Person: Knock knock!
Inside Person: “Who’s there?”
Outside Person: “Jon Snow. I’m on the list.”
Inside Person: (sees Jon Snow’s name on list) “Come in, Jon Snow.” Opens door
Simple enough. The person on the inside will only open the door if the person on the outside identifies as Jon Snow. Great, right?
Nope. Say, for example, a passerby heard Jon Snow talking about this exclusive party and said only certain people were allowed in. It wouldn’t take much work to talk with Jon, learn his name, and if you were clever, the location and time of the fancy cigar party to use that information to impersonate him. With this knowledge, you have assumed Jon Snow’s identity and can access the party.
Real World Scenario: the very common and very bad practice of leaving passwords on sticky notes around your computer screen, on your computer’s desktop, or other location that is not protected. Anyone with access to these credentials IS you, as most times the other side (your bank, your email account, your wifi) can’t tell the difference between you and an imposter entering credentials.
Takeaway: don’t leave passwords in unprotected spaces. Remember them, or better yet, use separate ones for separate services (more on making this easier later on).
Now imagine another scenario at the same club, but with someone guarding the door who’s more paranoid about letting the wrong person in. The same conversation would occur, but with an added caveat: the guard would ask for a phrase only Jon Snow would know before he would be let in, which would authenticate John’s identity. See below:
“Jon Snow. I’m on the list.”
Inside Person sees Jon Snow’s name on list. But does he know the entry phrase? “What’s the secret phrase?”
“Winter is coming.”
This is a small step forward in ensuring Jon gets to enjoy a cigar at his favorite spot. It is, however, not a strong and secure solution, as someone with interest in gaining entry to this club could chat Jon up, discover that he loves Game of Thrones (and cigar bars associated with it), and could guess that his secret phrase would be one of the most widely-known ones associated with the series. That famous phrase is the single factor of authentication needed to bypass the door.
Real World Scenario: this can be seen in social engineering attacks targeting less-savvy users of technology, who may associate a password (or the service it protects) with something they enjoy. For example, a fantasy football fan’s password might be “DaBears!” In addition, the dislike of long or hard-to-remember passwords may prompt people to use the same password for multiple services, further weakening its ability to secure other information (once an attacker knows credentials for one service, they’d know them for all your services).
Takeaway: don’t multi-purpose your passwords, and try to use passwords that are not related to the service you’re using.
One final scenario for the cigar bar. The newest guard is so paranoid of the wrong people gaining entry that in addition to needing their name on the list plus a password phrase, the guard sends a text to the member’s phone after they’ve given the guard the password. If a member replies to the text properly, they’re allowed entry.
“Jon Snow. I’m on the list.”
“What’s the secret phrase?”
“Winter is coming.”
Inside Person pushes button that sends a text to Jon Snow’s phone, saying, “Jon, reply to this text with the code JOFFREY to gain access. This code expires in one minute.”
Snow replies to the text with the correct code.
Inside Person opens door
Real World: Now we’re on the right path! What’s being described is multi-factor authentication, where multiple means are used to verify that the person attempting to gain access is who they say they are, both through something they have (in the example, Jon Snow’s phone with the text), and something they know (the famous phrase). Real-world examples of this can be found in secure building entry systems where both a badge and PIN are needed to open a door, corporate environments with more mature cybersecurity policies that require employees to take a second action after providing a password in order to access critical information, as well as more and more websites such as Gmail/Facebook, etc. (but you may have to opt-in for these). Systems like these are harder for adversaries to break into, because if they’re missing one of the authentication factors (name, password, or code), they can’t get in.
Takeaway: multi-factor authentication is the most secure way to protect your confidential information and critical assets. Companies should consider employing multi-factor authentication controls around privileged access and remote access to sensitive data and critical systems. Individuals should take advantage of multi-factor authentication wherever it’s offered. For many popular sites, it just needs to be turned on.
Takeaway: If you have trouble remembering passwords, you can use password managers. These programs (LastPass, KeePass, SecretServer, and others) manage your credentials for multiple website logins by storing them on your computer or smartphone in an encrypted database so they’re not in the open. A master password is required to use these programs. You can generate random, long, and hard-to-guess credentials with these programs and use different ones for different websites. With a password manager, you can take those stickies down from your monitor and rest assured the passwords are available when you need them.
The moral of the Jon Snow story? We live in interesting times. Our data is at once more accessible than ever, AND increasingly at risk to access by groups who wish to use it to ends unknown. Protect what you possess and don’t rely on the weak protections of simple passwords alone to guard what you hold dear.
Two Ways to Improve Healthcare Cybersecurity Today
The rash of high-profile ransomware attacks in 2016 has moved cybersecurity up the list of top risk considerations for healthcare organizations. However, two areas often present stumbling blocks: lack of budget and the fact that an organization’s weakest IT security link is often its people.
As Will Durkee of TSC Advantage discussed at the Maryland HIMSS Spring Educational Event: “Rapid Evolution of Cybersecurity in Health Care,” cybersecurity should be approached as an enterprise-wide issue. While it can’t be solved overnight, there are a couple of ways to begin to climb over the stumbling blocks.
Communicate that Cyber Risk is an Enterprise Risk: It cannot be reiterated enough – cybersecurity is not just an IT problem – and that’s why budget needs to be allocated not only for traditional tools and sensors, but for an enterprise-wide approach to security. The bottom line is that more than ever, organizations are connected digitally to their customers, suppliers, vendors and the public. That puts intellectual property, sensitive business information, operational dependencies, company reputation, and in the case of healthcare, customer/patient information at risk. Why? Because all of that data has a value to enterprising cyber criminals. The Ponemon Institute’s 2015 Cost of Data Breach study revealed that the healthcare industry has the highest cost per stolen record – at $363 – more than double that of other industry averages.
Such high stakes and determined adversaries demand an integrated approach involving business leaders from multiple departments. Yet in many organizations, corporate silos still exist. An IBM C-Suite survey reported that 60% of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) “feel the least engaged in cybersecurity threat management activities, yet are the stewards of data most coveted by cybercriminals.”
When TSC Advantage teams assess the cyber posture of companies, they look for evidence of cross-departmental collaboration. Ask these questions to gauge whether your organization considers cybersecurity an enterprise risk, and therefore is allocating appropriate budget to security:
- Is there a security governance program involving representatives from multiple departments?
- Have policies and processes been developed, enacted, communicated and measured – not just for the IT department, but for the whole organization’s approach to securing data?
- Does the organization have an incident response and crisis management plan to enact in the event of a breach? Are these plans periodically tested and reviewed?
Foster a Security Culture to Combat “People Problem:” The evidence shows that people continue to be a weak link in protecting the security of information. Adversaries use increasingly sophisticated methods to trick employees into clicking on malware-infested emails or to request fraudulent transfers of funds; and disgruntled or malicious insiders may knowingly steal or sabotage assets or systems.
TSC Advantage believes that the best defense is a proactive and holistic approach to cybersecurity that includes technology, processes, and people. While it’s impossible for every individual to stay on top of every threat, making cybersecurity awareness part of organizational culture can help reduce susceptibility to breaches. Here are three ways to get started immediately:
- Communicate the importance of cybersecurity from the top down. From the board of directors to the C-suite, to every level of the organization, each employee has a front line responsibility. Their diligence protects the organization, its mission, and ultimately the livelihood of each individual on the team.
- Conduct Effective Cybersecurity Training either through interactive computer-based delivery or in a classroom setting. Consider spreading the training out through the year to reinforce security culture and stay on top of evolving threats. Test employee knowledge to identify gaps.
- Empower the HR department to implement programs that mitigate employee dissatisfaction. This lowers the risk of malicious insider threat.
There are a multitude of security basics, such as technical controls, data segmentation, strong passwords, and multi-factor authentication that help keep organizations secure. The additional points described above can help start a conversation today about how to deepen cyber maturity and be more resilient tomorrow.
Flickr Photo: jfcherry
MedStar Attack Signals Growing Ransomware Threat to Healthcare
EMBOLDENED FRAUDSTERS HAVE LEAPFROGGED FROM SINGLE HOSPITALS TO EXTENSIVE SYSTEMS
MedStar Health Inc., the Maryland-based healthcare provider that operates 10 hospitals and employs approximately 30,000 people, suffered a crippling ransomware attack in late March that was so devastating it not only forced all of its hospitals to revert to paper documentation, but idled electronic record systems and prevented patients from booking appointments.
The MedStar Health attack comes on the heels of two other recent cases involving ransomware directed at similar but smaller healthcare providers. In these cases, both Methodist Hospital in Kentucky and Hollywood Presbyterian, a Los Angeles-based hospital owned by CHA Medical Center of South Korea, were each held hostage within the last two months by a particular form of malware called Locky. While Hollywood Presbyterian decided to pay its attackers a ransom and the Kentucky hospital did not, each case and others like it signal the troubling arrival of an effective brand of cyber extortion uniquely susceptible to healthcare.
Lucrative Returns Make Healthcare a Target
It should come as no surprise that privacy data such as protected health information is increasingly viewed as a new form of currency to enterprising cyber criminals bent on identity theft and other fraud. In recent years, cyber attacks against companies such as Anthem, Community Health Systems, and Premera Blue Cross, have served as a testament to this, while also highlighting the requirement for these companies to mature their cybersecurity beyond the standard if they are serious about escaping regulatory penalties and the accompanying havoc to their business operations.
But the industry is targeted for reasons that go beyond the inherently lucrative nature of patient privacy data on the black market. With the advent of Locky and other Cryptolocker-type malware targeting the industry, attackers understand the criticality with which medical providers require timely and uninterrupted access to essential systems and records. After all, if an attack locks up a physician’s ability to access critical data like a patient’s medical or drug history, the delivery of urgent care on their behalf may be impeded. And some hospital administrators, already weary of lawsuits by litigious patients, are opting to shell out as a result, further emboldening these criminals and all but inspiring others to get in on this bankable game as well.
The Pervasiveness of Ransomware
Ransomware can take various forms but the more prevalent variety are malware such as Locky, which is part of the Cryptolocker genus and designed to target the victim’s back-up folders while forcing them to pay a Bitcoin ransom before being provided a special decryption key to retrieve their files and systems. Having initially targeted individuals or small businesses, sophisticated variants such as Locky have graduated to encrypting and locking entire network servers, thereby preventing users at the enterprise level from accessing shared files and databases.
The FBI says ransomware attacks such as these have increased so sharply that companies have already paid more than eight times in ransomware payments so far in 2016 than they did in all of 2015.
Ways to Avoid Victimhood
Unfortunately, for those organizations victimized by such ransomware, the options to retrieve stolen data and regain access are very limited. As some cybersecurity professionals and the FBI recommend, companies must either pay their ransom – despite the ethical ramifications of doing so – or retrieve their data from back-ups. Short of those two options, there is very little left to do. While it might seem obvious, it is important to remember that the fundamental business model of ransomware is predicated on an organization’s willingness to pay. By routinely and securely backing up data, systems, and configurations, to include of course maintaining copies that are kept offline, proactive organizations take the power away from their extortionists and may avoid the pitfalls of such victimhood in the first place.
In addition to backing up systems, simple practices such as patching regularly, keeping preventative controls like antivirus and firewalls both up to data and properly configured, and blocking potentially dangerous ZIP files are crucial as well. TSC Advantage further encourages healthcare organizations and other companies to adopt additional (and basic) best practices to better prepare and prevent such threats in this new landscape:
Conduct Security Awareness Training. By now, corporate risk managers and other enterprise security leaders understand the adage of being only as strong as the weakest link. With the rise of phishing attacks as well as the use of popups by cyber criminals to spread malware, recognizing threats and preventing accidental clicks becomes crucial. In addition to solutions such as popup blockers and spam filters, a culture of security must be created that instills a sense of skepticism at the user level that aims to defeat the increasingly clever ways in which adversaries are using social engineering to trick well-intentioned employees. Some solutions might include simulated phishing attacks and other training.
Understand Risk Tolerance. As TSC Advantage constantly reiterates, the objective of any effective risk management plan – no matter the industry – should be to anticipate threats to an enterprise based on an assessment of its unique threat profile and an understanding of why determined adversaries might target it in the first place. From there, a preventative and proactive strategy should be implemented that incorporates holistic security controls across multiple domains, such as data, physical and mobile security, internal and external business operations, and insider threat.
Create a Business Continuity Plan. Business continuity plans are essential features of a corporate risk management plan. Simply put, it provides companies with fundamental capabilities needed to reduce the cost of a cyber incident by preserving their access to critical business information and assets. For healthcare organizations to survive the potentially disastrous consequences of ransomware such as Locky, the ability to recover and to return to normal functioning as quickly as possible is paramount. As such, these organizations must categorize both their information and systems based on their criticality to operations and they must determine appropriate risk tolerance levels for these assets accordingly. Once that is understood, they should develop processes which then must be incorporated into a written business continuity plan and executed with confidence should something as dreadful as ransomware occur.
As we at TSC Advantage are fond of saying, while it may be impossible to completely prevent sophisticated cyber attacks using Cryptolocker-type malware, it is essential for organizations to understand that the scope of victimhood will always be a function of an organization’s preparedness.
Contact TSC for more information on ransomware or for help to develop impactful strategies to reduce the impact of cyber extortion on your enterprise.
The Growing Cybersecurity Threat to Critical Infrastructure
The United States Justice Department charged seven hackers tied to the Iranian government over their alleged involvement in a series of cyberattacks on banks as well as a 2013 cyber attack directed against the Bowman Avenue Dam, located 30 miles north of New York City near the town of Rye, NY. After gaining access to the dam’s control system, the hacker was able to acquire operational information, such as water level, temperature and status of the sluice gates, which control water levels and flow rates.
The attacker would have been able to control the dam’s gates had they not been disconnected from the facility’s computer network for maintenance at the time of the intrusion. As a result, the hacker’s ability to sabotage or cause widespread disruption through the remote alteration of equipment settings or sluice gates was eliminated. The hackers were unable to compromise any of the dam’s operational technology.
But how close of a call was this? Is this a sign of things to come, or is it, as U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) described, “a shot across the bow,” signaling perhaps a harbinger of future cyber sabotage that could cause death or even cascading failure of the power grid? In January, the U.S. DHS Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team warned that bad actors are “gaining more and more access to [these target’s] control system layer.”
Why Critical Infrastructure is a Target
Through Executive Order 13636, President Obama defines critical infrastructure as “systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.”
There are 16 critical infrastructure sectors, which among others, include transportation systems, power generation, telecommunications, water supply, financial services, government and public safety, and food production and distribution. It’s clear why targeting these sectors would be appealing to hackers with bad intentions.
Industrial control systems, just like traditional IT environments, are equally targeted by nation-states, hackers, and deliberate insider threat. Nefarious actors understand that the health and prosperity of any country rests on functioning infrastructure. As a consequence, their ability to disrupt or damage these essential backbones can allow their acts of sabotage to have maximum impact.
Vulnerabilities of Industrial Controls
Additionally, these actors likely understand the inherent vulnerabilities within these environments. They realize that security problems with control systems are exacerbated by asset owners’ desire to keep their systems running at all costs. Why? To take a very simple example of an electric utility, any activity that has the potential to inadvertently cause a failure of systems for any amount of time (which in this case, would be the inability of a utility to transmit and distribute power) is simply anathema.
Not only would such a disruption mean loss of revenue for the electricity provider, but also reputation damage and perhaps even penalties as well. Such a reality may explain the historical resistance by these operators to practice basic cybersecurity like patching, for instance, which can be notorious for causing performance glitches and stubborn bugs.
Nefarious actors also understand one other reality commonly associated with industrial control system environments: they do not get replaced for years. In fact, some reports have suggested that the lifespan of an average control system is two decades. Now compare that to a standard PC desktop or laptop we all use, which most of us tend to upgrade every 3-5 years. With legacy systems that are decades old and that use insecure protocols and architecture, it is therefore easy to see why control systems are so attractive to to attackers and why the cyber security of these industrial environments are finally getting the attention they deserve.
Victimized Entities to Date
But besides the Bowman Avenue Dam and the widely publicized Stuxnet rootkit in 2010 that resulted in the physical destruction of 2,000 Iranian centrifuges, are there any more examples of targeted attacks against control system environments? Sadly, the answer is yes.
Ukraine Power Grid Attack: In December 2015, it was reported that as many as 225,000 residents in western Ukraine lost power for six hours after Russian hacking group Sandworm and its malware Black Energy 3 targeted the Prikarpattiaoblenergo electric company and the electric grid it operated.
German Steel Mill Attack: In December 2014, an annual report by the German Federal Office for Information Security discussed a cyber attack of an unnamed steel mill in Germany that was alleged to have utilized both social engineering and spear-phishing in order to gain access to the mill’s information technology environment and later its operational technology environment. Based on reporting, this targeted attack resulted in the compromise of individual industrial control components and the inability of workers to shut down a blast furnace, thus causing physical damage.
Metcalf Sniper Attack: In April 2013, it was widely reported that a coordinated and sophisticated sniper attack against 17 transformers at a PG&E Corporation substation near San Jose, California resulted in approximately $15 million worth of damage. Although originally believed to have been an act of terrorism due to its timing with the Boston Marathon attack across the country, the FBI later ruled that out. Because of this incident, the importance of physical security at critical sites was elevated and resulted in the subsequent publication of security standards for all U.S. substations by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
U.S. Railway Company Hack: In December 2011, the U.S. Transportation Security Agency reported that “hackers, possibly from abroad, executed an attack on a Northwest rail company’s computers that disrupted railway signals for two days.” According to news reports, the investigation revealed malicious actors had penetrated the system from three IP addresses but did not contain the countries where the attacks may have originated.
Turkish Oil Pipeline: In 2008, western intelligence agencies concluded that a portion of the Baku-Tbilisi- Ceyhan oil pipeline near the city of Erzincan exploded and was attributable to hackers and not the result of a technical malfunction or Kurdish separatists, as originally reported. According to reporting, hackers were able to shut down and dismantle alarms, cut off communications, as well as pressurize the crude oil in the line to such an extent as to deliberately trigger a blast.
Australian Water and Sewage System Attack: In late October 2001, an Australian man was sentenced to a two year prison term for his involvement in a cyber attack against a sewage plant in Queensland, Australia that resulted in the unauthorized release of millions of liters of waste water and sewage into local parks, tributaries, and the grounds of a local hotel.
Important Steps to Confront Threats to Critical Infrastructure
What can critical infrastructure businesses do to address the risk of cyber attacks? There are three first steps to take:
- Like with traditional cybersecurity vulnerability impacting IT environments, the first step is to identify every and all risks through a holistic cyber assessment.
- Once risks are identified, manage risk through the development of a strong cyber security culture that establishes cybersecurity goals, adopts best practices, as well as implements (and enforces) policies and procedures covering all aspects of enterprise risk management.
- Consider risk transfer through insurance options which can assist with any financial consequences of an attack.
While federal authorities continue to pursue identified attackers, critical infrastructure businesses can proactively find and fix vulnerabilities, and mitigate risk.
For more information on cyber insurance and to learn more about TSC Advantage’s cyber assessment support to U.S. critical infrastructure, please contact TSC Advantage or our partners at McGriff, Seibels & Williams, Inc.
How Your Digital Crumbs Are a Feast for Corporate Cyber Hackers
It’s a digital world and increasingly, as we all live and work online, we leave bytes of information – digital crumbs – scattered across social media that can be used by hackers to attack not just us but bigger targets – our employers.
Yes, the family trips, causes we support, alumni associations we’re part of, and new jobs or promotions we celebrate online are the details determined hackers can, and have, used to target individuals in an effort to compromise the sensitive information of their employers. How? Because what we view as interests, bad actors see as opportunities and vulnerabilities.
In the view of many, cybersecurity or enterprise security tends to focus on what we refer to as data security, but in fact, threats to an enterprise’s security may emanate from a variety of vectors. The trusted insider plays an important and oftentimes overlooked role in the compromise of data. Additionally, a lack of vetting of third party providers and supply chains creates an immense risk to corporations. That’s why at TSC Advantage, we focus on six domains: Data Security, Insider Threat, External Business Operations, Internal Business Operations, Mobility, and Physical Security.
But what does this have to do with social engineering and your Facebook or LinkedIn account? As we described in a presentation at the recent Business Insurance Risk Management Summit in New York, it’s the connection to one domain in particular – Insider Threat.
We are all the Insider Threat
Simply put, an Insider Threat is a current or former employee, contractor or someone who has or had authorized access to sensitive data, systems, technology, personnel, or other items of interest. That’s most of us, and that’s why more than 70% of all cyber breaches are attributed to a credentialed or trusted insider.
The greatest number of security breaches occur from negligent employees. How many of us have written down all our passwords and left them in plain sight, given our usernames and passwords to colleagues, or yes, even used “password” as our password?
Malicious insiders, most often a disgruntled or departing employee, may knowingly steal or sabotage systems, IP or other important virtual or physical assets. Compromised insiders have had their credentials compromised or stolen by an outsider for purposes such as espionage, fraud or attack.
If you’re a Compromised or Malicious Insider, you may be susceptible to recruitment through social media or some other electronic medium like chat rooms or message boards. Negligent insiders – most of us – may be targeted through phishing or spear-phishing campaigns. With increasing access to smart phones and the Internet of Things, unwitting or negligent insiders represent the largest pool of potential insiders, and if you haven’t already been targeted by some sort of scam, you’re in the minority.
Social Engineering – How it Works
Social engineering is nothing more than conning you. Most people within organizations don’t want to challenge or create an uncomfortable social interaction so as a result they assume someone belongs or is not out to manipulate them into providing private or proprietary information. Social engineering takes advantage of this by combining human interaction, whether in person or via a virtual medium, with social skills, in order obtain or compromise sensitive data.
An adept criminal or other malicious actor will compile data on you using whatever means necessary. The logical first step is to scour your social media presence to tailor their social engineering exploits. For example, using posted details about travel plans, an individual may pose as a hotel employee to call and “confirm” details such as credit card and room number, or birthdate.
Another example of social engineering is the dramatically increasing problem of Business Email Compromise. Targeted emails that appear to originate from the company executives are sent to an employee with access to company funds, ordering them to make wire transfers. Clever criminals have already gathered intelligence and know the companies work with foreign suppliers or are expanding into foreign markets, so their instructions are not questioned. Such schemes have netted criminals $800 million in the past six months since August 2015, according to the FBI.
Phishing on the Menu
But the most ubiquitous form of online compromise is through phishing and spear-phishing. What’s the difference? Phishing campaigns tend to be exploratory, looking for targets of opportunity. Most people have probably received a phishing email – or hundreds of them. Most of them are directed to your junk box or blocked by your network’s perimeter defenses. Similar to social engineering – or used in conjunction with – phishing is a technical deceit that attempts to manipulate victims into opening files, attachments, or clicking on embedded links in an email as a means to deliver malware. In fact, not only criminals, but nation-states use phishing campaigns to target broad industries of interest.
Spear phishing is much more targeted. Collecting data on the potential victim and using social engineering techniques will increase the likelihood that a phishing email will bypass spam filters and actually reach the end user. Once the email is opened, a variety of malware can be injected. This is how a trusted insider becomes the threat.
So, what does a typical targeting cycle look like? First the attacker identifies employment history, family data, hobbies, etc. to create a profile and identify your potential motivations or vulnerabilities. Next, he tries to build a relationship remotely using a cover that appeals to your preferences. Do you ever accept online connection invites with someone you’ve never heard of, or receive unsolicited offers for jobs or interviews?
Determined hackers also craft tailor-made emails using information gathered on your company, often including actual names of colleagues and a malicious attachment. If you click, which studies repeatedly show many people do, you unwittingly become the Insider and the attacker uses this as a jumping off point to infest your organization’s network.
Cyber Threats About More than IT
Every day individuals are targeted, through mass online schemes and detailed social engineering efforts. As a result, we are all insider threats. Cyber security is not so much a technology problem for your IT department to solve; it’s a people problem. In fact, increasing IT budgets to combat the problem through a technological solution eventually results in diminishing returns on those investments.
We believe the best defense is a proactive and holistic approach to cyber security that includes not only technology, but also involves processes and people. That means changing the culture of our workplace, involving key stakeholders across the enterprise, and creating awareness about how to prevent your digital presence from impacting yourself and your employer.
Is Your Supply Chain Open to Hackers? Tips to Ensure Third-Party Vendors Protect Your Data
Like with most things in life, it is crucial to understand history in order to better understand and prepare for the future. Countless examples of cyber attacks that originated through trusted third parties (such as those that affected Jimmy Johns, Lowe’s, Goodwill Industries) serve as a cautionary tale of the extraordinary threats that enterprises face from supply chains and vendors alike.
Still resonating today is the story of retail giant Target and a small HVAC provider. According to analysis by researcher Brian Krebs at the time, Pennsylvania-based Fazio Mechanical Services’ reliance on a free version of a malware detection tool that was licensed explicitly for individuals and not for corporate use, its non-segmented access to Target’s administrative and online project management portals, plus a determined adversary at the helm, all added up to what has been described as the fourth largest data breach of all time.
As TSC Advantage explained at the International Risk Management Institute (IRMI) CyberRisk Summit in Houston on March 3, the vast majority of organizations we have assessed have not identified what information assets are most at risk and why, or where they reside. This lack of insight provides a perfect opening for determined adversaries, who prefer the path of least resistance. The Fazio and Target example illustrate how that path can include use of third parties and supply chain partners to gain foothold onto a targeted network.
As frameworks such as Lockheed Martin’s Cyber Kill Chain Model has demonstrated, sophisticated attackers do their homework during a reconnaissance phase prior to an attack where the main objective is to observe, probe, and formulate potential avenues of approach. Once a plan has been identified and a payload weaponized for delivery, attackers go to work, quietly and systematically purloining data, causing business disruption, and in the case of SCADA attacks, sparking devastating sabotage that can result in ‘failure to supply’ events.
In the case of Target, the infection was delivered through malware-laced emails, opened by Fazio employees, that paved the way for access to segments of the network containing highly sensitive payment card and customer privacy data. Once hackers established a foothold, they prepared for their coup de grâce by uploading malicious software to collect payment card information within a few registers. Once they confirmed that the malware performed properly, they infected hundreds of point-of-sale devices with malware. The attack resulted in the exposure of nearly 110 million customers’ personal and credit card information and upwards of $420 million in liability for the retail giant.
Due Diligence with Third-Party Vendors Protects Supply Chain
While the monumental story of Fazio and Target increased awareness, third-party threats are on the rise and continue to be widely overlooked. Beyond acknowledging the threat exists, the next step is to implement a proactive security posture throughout the enterprise by insisting on greater vigilance on the security practices of third-party partners.
For companies seeking outsourcing of key services, such as data storage in the form of cloud service providers (CSP’s), critical questions must be asked of vendors and suppliers before signing any service level agreement (SLA). From a technical standpoint, companies should be focusing on data security and inquire about the vendor’s controls on three levels:
- Application layer controls, which address whether applications are well written;
- Data layer controls, which address encryption; and
- Access controls for the CSP and the greater client user-base, which address concerns regarding privileged use and access control strength, consistency, and maturity.
Some of the questions that may fall under these technical controls include:
- Is multi-factor authentication used?
- What kinds of legacy defenses are used, such as firewalls, anti-virus, and intrusion detection & prevention?
- What are the encryption standards used for both data in transit and data at rest? Allow the vendor to articulate its security philosophy. Do they invest in ‘compliance’ or are they evidencing maturity beyond the standard?
- Has there ever been a significant cyber breach in the past?
- If so, what was the cause and are there recovery time objectives? Did the third party meet those objectives?
- What resilient measures are in place to prevent similar events from happening again?
- What type of vetting is done on new hires? When somebody is fired, what termination protocols are enacted as to ensure access paths and credentials are revoked?
- Who and how many employees will have access to my data?
- What types of preventative and detective physical security controls are implemented at this location, such as barriers, alarms, cameras, and intrusion detection?
- To what extent is auditing performed on my account if changes are made?
When Subcontractors Send Malicious Messages
The above questions should help companies stay vigilant against accidental breaches via partners, but what about subcontractors and other third parties with nefarious intentions who act deliberately? Although recent and high profile cyber attacks such as Edward Snowden, and the attack on Sony brought focus to the issue of insider threat, the little known case of Khosrow Zarefarid, a subcontractor working for three major banks in the Middle East, shows just how problematic this threat can be.
Zarefarid, a software manager at the company responsible for operating the banks’ networks, was good at his job. He discovered a potentially serious security flaw, and he wrote a formal report to notify the CEOs of each of the three banks that they were at risk of an impending attack. After a year passed with no action being taken, Zarefarid felt unappreciated and resented that bank executives did not heed his advice. The frustrated subcontractor decided to make a point.
The result was the compromise of three million bank accounts and thousands of card numbers and PINS, which Zarefarid exported and posted on his personal blog. This resulted in not just the compromise of payment card and privacy data of millions of the banks’ customers, but enormous reputational and revenue loss for the banks themselves.
Ensure Security Beyond Compliance
Whether they’re the unsuspecting vehicles used by cyber attackers or the originators of such assaults themselves, vendors and subcontractors continue to represent potentially devastating areas of risk to companies.
As the customer, the power of the purse reigns supreme and a company seeking out third-party support has the power to decide with their pocketbook if vendors fail to demonstrate adherence to industry standards and best practices as their minimum baseline. But sadly, that is also not enough. Often lost in the discussion of the Target case is the fact that the retail giant was certified as meeting the standard for the payment card industry (PCI-DSS). And as we know, this did not prevent its victimhood.
Although much has been revealed about the litany of vulnerabilities that contributed to the success of this attack, such as lack of network segmentation of the payment processing network or hardware-based point-to-point encryption, there is still the requirement of companies to exceed minimum, defense-in-depth obligations to ensure security is not just a ‘check-the-box’ exercise.
Conversely, cybersecurity must be an ongoing process that demands vigilance and multiple layers that address people, process, and technology. It is imperative that companies approach their own risk management with these important factors in mind. If history has taught us anything, it’s that those who do not learn from it, are only doomed to repeat it.
WE’VE IDENTIFIED THE ENEMY AND IT’S US!
The overwhelming majority of insider threat events are not the result of a malicious employee’s actions, rather they are caused by the unintentional insider – someone gets hit by a spear phishing email, data spillage occurs, documents are destroyed improperly, a data storage device is lost or stolen, people are the victims of social engineering and elicitation.
Research shows that while well-known events like the Ashley Madison compromise, which involved an insider, get a lot of attention, organizations may be too focused on the spectacular threat vectors. A 2013 CERT Software Engineering Institute (SEI) study on unintentional insider threat showed that 17% of cases were unintentional hacks, while 49% were unintentional disclosure. The SEI highlights that employees should be cognizant of the non-spectacular risks which are far more common than the over-exaggerated spectacular risks. In other words, it may be more often the case that organizations are the victims of 10,000 paper cuts rather than a single atomic event.
While a lot of time and energy has gone into examining the root elements of the malicious insider, the unintentional vector has received less focus. Available research on the topic points to the perception of risk, biases, the influence of environment, and everyday stressors, though we shouldn’t discount simple ignorance. So, how can organizations address the very real risk of unintentional insider threat? Start by getting inside the mind of the average employee as you roll out your strategies.
Insider threat and cybersecurity training during onboarding or even annually may not be enough. The constantly evolving threat landscape requires ongoing training. For example, phishing emails used to be fairly obvious – spelling errors, an obviously incorrect sender email address, etc. Now, spear phishers commonly spoof legitimate sender email addresses, or have taken control of a legitimate user’s account through earlier attacks.
There may be little that employees can do other than call the sender to verify unusual requests for information or action, but that highlights another challenge to security.
Hoping for the Best!
Many of us don’t want to contact our superior on seemingly simple requests at the risk of looking insubordinate or challenging their authority. This deference to authority is exactly what attack authors are preying on. Of course, this could be addressed by management or even incorporated into organizational policy – such as using voice confirmation for certain types of requests – but it must be part of a larger cultural shift to have any lasting effect.
Ignorance is Bliss.
People in general have a deferential attitude towards what happens on their workstations – if there is no error screen or warning, then they must be ok, right? For most people who are not intimately familiar with the mechanics of computing and the internet, they trust their machine or an administrator to tell them when something is wrong. The message to employees and the public in general usually says something to the extent of having anti-virus software and not providing a social security number to anyone asking for it in an email.
I Know What I’m Supposed to Do, But….
Consider the feet-on-the-ground workplace culture – in this case I am referring to culture as a system of beliefs, practices, orientations, acceptable norms, demonized and praised attributes, that organically emerge – not the practices as written. Individuals may be trained to respond in a certain way when risk presents itself, but face a cost-benefit analysis in terms of culture compliance. When there is no obstacle between the individual and cultural practices, or when individual and cultural norms are aligned, there is no pressure on the individual to act in a contrary manner (e.g. not follow security protocol). When the individual’s behavior is not in line, or contrary to cultural norms, then the individual must make a cost-benefit decision, the result of which could depend on any number of factors.
Consider the recent Department of Justice “hack” in which 20,000 FBI employee names were released. According to media reports, the hacker said he or she was able to access systems by telling a help desk attendant he or she lacked a token code (dual-factor authentication) and the attendant provided one since he/she posed as a “new employee.”
It seems unbelievable at first, but consider it from the attendant’s point of view. The caller seemed to know what they were talking about in terms of access. The caller may be in a position of authority and could pose risk to the attendant’s job by not performing. The attendant’s primary duty is to resolve issues, not to analyze issues.
Going back to the authority statement, while most of us have been trained to know when to deny a privilege escalation – it’s another thing to get a request from a person who seems to be in charge – who might be able to affect our day to day stress level. So what do you do? What does a low level system administrator in today’s economy do?
But Mom Said it’s OK.
A dysfunctional work culture, or work culture incongruent with documented policies and procedures, tends to be the result of some incentivized behavior, either through perceived or actual punishment or reward. This isn’t too far a stretch from mixed messaging in parenting psychology – inconsistent rule application/messaging and unbalanced, sometimes opposing, responses to behaviors, result in confusion for the child and ability to function accordingly.
Why Should I Care?
As I pointed out in my blog post “Why Insider Threat Detection Fails”, humans are poor performers when it comes to detecting rule violations of anything other than social contract or personal safety rules. While we function in a super connected world of relationships, the human mind still functions in a hunter-gatherer world, designed to monitor maybe 50 relationships. Simply put, the human mind is really concerned with its own survival, and by extension its progeny; concepts like threat to the corporation from abstract concepts like supply chain are not natural to the human mind and do not present as an immediate threat to self.
As such, if training and communications about cybersecurity are only presented as a series of “if-then” concepts without tying those to the individual’s health and well being, they will fall on deaf ears. That message – that the health of the company is the health of the individual – needs to be articulated, repeated, demonstrated, and believable. Rote memorization of “if-then” rules will yield some measure of protection, but it does nothing to build a culture or to take real residence in the mind of the employee.
Your employees are your first responders, your first line of defense, and the most critical asset. There are certainly a variety of factors which might cause them to become the next unintentional insider threat, but nothing is worse than apathy.
5 Ways to Combat Insider Risk
- Climate surveys by a third party industrial psychologist can clarify what the culture really is.
- Messaging to the workforce – if in doubt, question. Build a culture of rewarding security posture and questioning suspect vectors.
- Tie organizational risk to real life employee risk in training. Don’t just say it’s bad for the company to lose money from IP theft via insider threat. Tie it all to the employee’s bottom line.
- Be consistent – what’s on paper needs to match what managers exude.
- Encourage questions. It might save you a lot of money. Employees who think they might be facing a security issue, insider or cyber, should feel reporting/questioning is a duty rather than a burden. Make this a value and you could very well save a lot of pain in the end.
Gabriel Whalen is a behavioral consultant and social engineer expert at TSC Advantage.
FIVE IDEAS TO ACCELERATE YOUR CYBER STRATEGY
The third annual threatLAB conference, Feb 1-3 in Florida, brought together cyber leaders from U.S. federal law enforcement and the intelligence community as well as industry experts from across the Fortune 500, including sectors such as energy, manufacturing, telecommunications, insurance, and more. Together, they shared insights on this year’s theme – Cyber Risk 360° – which embodies the TSC Advantage philosophy of encouraging businesses to take a proactive and panoramic view of their cyber security.
After a packed agenda that included discussions on cyber resiliency, a review of the latest threat actors, a case study on the Ashley Madison attack, and significant findings collected from TSC Advantage’s holistic Enterprise Security Assessments (ESA) conducted over the course of two years, we’ve compiled a short list of takeaways that organizations should consider as they plan their cyber strategies.
- Harmonization of Technology, Processes and People
Security is neither a single act, nor a vendor sensor. Rather, it is the collection of activities that harmonize corporate investments in people, process, and technology. While technology is indeed crucial to any risk management discussion, it cannot be relied upon at the expense of other considerations, such as the importance of developing a mature cyber security culture that has complete C-suite buy-in, or understanding the litany of technical and non-technical threats that may imperil sensitive digital assets. TSC Advantage’s ESAs performed on organizations of varying sizes and sectors have demonstrated that those that invest in cyber security across their holistic enterprise are best able to prevent, detect, correct, and ultimately recover from a cyber attack or breach.
- Cyber Security + Cyber Resiliency = Cyber Maturity
In the years TSC Advantage has been conducting assessments, we have seen a transition from a discussion about cyber security – network security – to one of cyber resiliency. Cyber security is focused on keeping external threats out through preventative fortifications. Cyber resiliency acknowledges that no controls are perfect and because threats evolve, consideration must be paid to those resilient functions designed to detect and correct. Right now the average amount of time it takes to detect a breach is 256 days. That’s simply too long and costly. But, by combining cyber security and cyber resiliency, enterprises would be in a better position to achieve a level of cyber maturity that will make them a much harder target and help them get back to business as quickly as possible.
- Transfer Risk!
Enterprises can choose to avoid, mitigate, accept, or transfer risks to their organization. Cyber insurance can serve as part of an overall risk management plan designed to maintain customer privacy and corporate reputation. The first step is to understand both exposure and risk, including potential physical damage and third party exposures. Step two is to understand your policies. threatLAB guest speaker Mary Guzman of McGriff, Seibels & Williams, outlined how policyholders should be aware there may be exclusions in their current policies for cyber-related incidents. Know the limits and exclusions, and depending on sector, understand regulatory requirements that may impact your enterprise. Cyber insurance can provide an additional line of defense by transferring risk, but more importantly, by requiring organizations to submit to annual holistic cyber risk assessments per the terms of their policy, a virtuous cycle is created that leads to greater cyber maturity of the insured and a lower risk inherited by the insurer.
- Partnerships Promote Sharing
At threatLAB, we heard from senior special agents from the FBI as well as officers representing U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Both have robust threat intelligence sharing and public/private sector outreach programs covering critical infrastructure, white-collar crime, economic espionage, terrorism and more. Make these additional resources part of your organization’s cyber toolkit. Depending on your specific industry, there are also numerous member-driven Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs) which collect, analyze and share threat information. Join one to maintain sector-specific situational-awareness.
- Get Back to Basics
Finally, let’s get back to basics and practice basic cyber hygiene. Surprisingly, some enterprises overlook basic security controls such as complex passwords, multi-factor authentication and use of a virtual private network (VPN). But basics should go beyond that. TSC Advantage has found that only half of the organizations we’ve assessed had fully documented external crisis communication plans for disasters or breaches, and very few organizations have identified, classified, and monitored their critical and valuable assets. While we understand this is not an easy undertaking, it makes the job of protecting those assets virtually impossible if you don’t know what exists or where these assets are located. Executives: you’ve seen the data – board involvement and good governance reduces the actual cost of a cyber breach. Be a champion of good cyber hygiene within your enterprise.
These are just five of the many take-aways we gleaned from our roster of speakers at threatLAB 2016. Contact the TSC Advantage team for more information on these or other enterprise risk topics and we look forward to welcoming you to threatLAB 2017!
Consumer Demand Drives Need for Secure Mobile
Business communications and transactions are increasingly moving from the security of legacy networks as organizations demand the agility of mobile. Meeting threats on the mobile arena will become a top challenge when transforming business and critical functions of society.
How can organizations embrace the mobile future while also reducing the risk of cyber breaches? The question will be explored at threatLAB 2016 – Cyber Risk 360°, Feb 1-3, by Robin von Post, CTO of Sectra Communications. threatLAB asked von Post for a preview.
threatLAB: What’s your prediction for the continued adoption of secure mobile technology?
Robin von Post: The drive to introduce mobile technology in business and process environments comes from an extreme progress in technology with respect to stability, availability, performance and reduced cost for mobile communication solutions. It is mainly the consumer market that pushed this and that will also drive the end users’ requirements on what information can and will be available to whom and when in their respective professional environments.
At the same time, organizations see a way of improving their operations by letting information flow more fluidly between domains. The cost cutting effects and possibilities to scale up operations with the same staff is of course tempting. But the threat towards exposed connected devices (Internet of Things) and communications will increase. The adversaries see their business models evolving in line with the increased attack surfaces and opportunities to turn information into money (such as mobile ransomware).
Balanced protection of communication is needed, which for instance could be a Mobile VPN-solution or the application designed with end-to-end protection out of the box.
threatLAB: What do organizations need to know about how to make this transition smoothly?
von Post: In order to embrace change, organizations need to understand their current picture. Developing a map of where assets in systems are created, handled and communicated will help managers understand where the move to mobile will introduce new attack surfaces. Plus, it gives a helpful starting point for how to design a good security net around the assets in the new architecture. Usually a roadmap for segmentation, early detection and a defense-in-depth will catch adversaries before they can actually create disruptions or ransom situations to the critical parts of your operations.
threatLAB: The European Union has the most stringent data privacy regulation anywhere. What should companies in the United States know about the rules around data privacy and data sovereignty?
von Post: In the European Union (EU), business models relying on personal data gathering do not work the same as in the United States. The essential difference is that in the EU, interpretation of agreement law views company-person asymmetry strongly in favor of private individuals much more than in the US, meaning that acceptance of user conditions is void.
It is possible to make business models based on data gathering in the EU but you need to address the gathering of information with the data as a group not by the individual.
threatLAB: What lessons can industry draw from your experience working with government and defense organizations?
von Post: These organizations have worked with a defined threat model for many many years and not only with respect to communications. So they understand the need to design security solutions as a part of the overall system that holds the information needing protection. It could be extremely costly or almost impossible to add security “after the fact.” And my main advice would be to work closely with strategic security partners to help when defining, building or procuring IT solutions for business transformation.
Learn more about threatLAB 2016, Cyber Risk 360° to accelerate your cybersecurity strategy and hear from a cross-section of cyber experts. Feb. 1-3 at the Streamsong Golf Resort & Spa in central Florida.
Losses Fuel Interest in Cyber Insurance
Cyber incidents are the most important long-term risk for companies in the next 10 years, according to the Allianz Risk Barometer, which surveyed over 800 risk managers and insurance experts in more than 40 countries. With hundreds of millions already paid out to cover cyber losses in the United States alone, businesses are seeking greater insurance coverage. The forecast for cyber insurance is a topic that will be explored at the TSC Advantage threatLAB 2016 – Cyber Risk 360° conference, Feb 1-3, by Mary Guzman, Senior Vice President, Director of E&O and Cyber Sales and Strategy at McGriff, Seibels & Williams. threatLAB asked Guzman for a preview.
threatLAB: How would you characterize the change in demand for cyberinsurance?
Mary Guzman: I would say that over the last three years the demand for cyber insurance in general across all industries has probably doubled or even more. The interest is at an all-time high. Every client that we have, no matter the industry they’re in, is trying to educate themselves and understand whether they need cyber insurance and what their risks and exposures are. Healthcare, financial, technology services, and retailers have been earlier adopters but even they are assessing their limits and potentially buying more as they gain insight into how much one of these losses could really cost them.
Their boards are demanding they carry more insurance if they’re public companies. The boards are saying, “What are we doing about this? We’re being held personally accountable for making sure we understand our risk mitigation strategies around information security. One of those has to be insurance.” And they’re saying that to the risk manager now or the general counsel.
We’re also seeing a lot more interest among critical infrastructure companies, including the full spectrum of energy – oil and gas, pipelines, and utilities – because they understand their SCADA and other industrial control systems are vulnerable to attack.
threatLAB: What trends do you see in what is being offered in cyberinsurance?
Guzman: The policies have become broader, specifically addressing the needs clients have around the disclosure of confidential personally identifiable information (PII) and personal health information (PHI). The underwriters understand the risks when they write this exposure now and they’ve dramatically increased their rates and adjusted their rating models to compensate for the fact that there will be significant payouts either from card brand demands or regulatory requirements to respond to a breach. As a result, the coverage is still there, but it has become more expensive and you have to know the ins and outs of the policy language to make sure that it’s going to address all of the unique exposures that arise out of those contractual and regulatory obligations that clients have, as opposed to most insurance policies, which are designed to respond to general legal liability or negligence claims.
I would also say that until two or three years ago, there wasn’t coverage available to critical infrastructure, specifically to power companies for failure to supply, and now you can get failure to supply coverage, which has brought a lot more clients to the table.
threatLAB: What do companies need to know about cyber risk policies?
Guzman: We still see a lot of policy forms that have sub-limits in them, especially around all the breach notification expenses that are incurred. When you have an information security breach that involves PII or PHI, a lot of those policies have limitations on how much the client can spend for forensics, notification or credit monitoring. So you want to make sure you don’t have sub-limits or that you understand exactly how they’re going to work.
The second thing is that I don’t think people have a great understanding of how their policies will cover their contingent risks from use of vendors or third-party service providers, which is a huge exposure in the cyber world. On the first party side you have coverage for your own business interruption loss, and on the third party side for liability claims. It can cause significant problems for clients if they don’t understand how their policy will respond if the loss doesn’t happen directly to them. It happens regularly where a business will have a loss and expect it to be covered and it’s not covered because it happened to a third party service provider. For example, the third party provides web hosting or security services or another service relied upon to keep systems up and running. It’s a major exposure and it’s actually hard to insure.
threatLAB: What kind of information should companies expect to provide to insurers?
Guzman: That’s definitely changed over the last 18 to 24 months, especially for retailers and large merchants. It used to be that you could fill out the form and check the box that said that you were PCI compliant, for example, and you could get $200M in cyber insurance. Now, the underwriters have a full questionnaire just around PCI, POS applications and assessments. And they’re wanting to take a deep dive on point to point or end to end encryption, and whether or not you’ve followed the requirements by the card brands to move from the stripe to chip and pin. So it’s a lot more involved than it used to be and may require a separate questionnaire or a conference call with the CIO or CISO.
Or, if it’s really significant or challenging risk, some of the underwriters require at least a separate conference call no matter what limit the client buys or how broad the policy is. Others will require it only for critical infrastructure clients. The markets are spending a lot more time asking questions and focusing on security assessments and whether or not you follow recommended guidelines. The riskiest industries may require a formal on-site assessment.
threatLAB: What connection have you seen between the purchase of cyber insurance and organizational security posture?
Guzman: There definitely is a connection. From year to year, when you go to renew the policy, insurers want to see consistent improvements to information security. Some of the recent articles and statistics point to the fact that if you have better security and a better business continuity and disaster recovery plan, you will do far better in the event of a breach. Many assessments focus on preventing the hacker from getting in, whereas I think the underwriters are coming to realize that hackers will get in, and that if you don’t have a developed and tested business continuity and disaster recovery plan, things will not go well. The cost to respond to the breach, the public fallout, changes in share price will all be reflective of how ready you are as a company. So insurers are a lot more focused on business continuity and disaster recovery planning than they have been before.
threatLAB: Have you see companies benefit from the experience of going through assessments?
Some of our energy clients who have been through the TSC Tier 3, including one of the largest utilities in the country, developed their whole 2015 information security plan based on what they learned in their 2014 TSC assessment. They put their focus on improving their security maturity in the identified areas and it really paid off for them. They got kudos from their board of directors, they had a very actionable plan that could help them justify their information security spend in their budget and hiring the resources they wanted. And they also got a reduction on this year’s renewal for their information security insurance program.
Learn more about threatLAB 2016, Cyber Risk 360°.
POWER GRID HACK SIGNALS MOUNTING THREAT
Reports of a late December cyber attack that caused a widespread power outage in Ukraine signal an escalation in the use of malware to disrupt critical infrastructure, and emphasize the need for a full-spectrum approach to security.
Ukrainian government officials attributed the December 23 power outage, which affected about 700,000 homes for several hours, to a remote access attack on industrial control systems of energy companies. If the blackout is confirmed to be the work of hackers, it will be the first documented case of a cyber attack that led to a loss of power, and an escalation of the use of malware designed to disrupt operations by deleting files to make systems un-bootable.
Black Energy Malware Identified
Malicious software known as BlackEnergy was found on the networks of the targeted Ukrainian power company Prykarpattyaoblenergo – the same malware used in a campaign that targeted U.S. power facilities in 2014. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has twice issued warnings about BlackEnergy malware, urging power companies to “isolate industrial control systems from the Internet using reliable defensive measures and sound authentication requirements,” stating, “If you’re connected, you’re likely infected!”
Disruption Attack Highlights Need for Security Planning
While the 2014 U.S. attacks appeared to be for the purpose of espionage, the Ukrainian attack was intended to sabotage or disrupt electricity providers. This highlights the need for a Continuity of Operations Plan, according to Natalie Lehr, vice president of analytics for TSC Advantage. “How do you sustain your operations while in a reduced state? The speed of your response is dependent upon your ability to quickly effect a plan that involves the whole organization working together, and which also includes third party dependencies. Having that plan already in place provides clarity of vision.”
It’s significant that when Trojan malware deletes files, rendering systems inoperable, backup tapes are essential to “roll back and restore integrity to systems in order to recover faster,” adds Lehr.
Also notable about the BlackEnergy attacks is their method of delivery – through spear-phishing emails that contain an attachment with an infected document. While the attack approach is relatively simple, no operation of this type is conducted on a whim, says Mark Lopes, TSC Advantage Director of Security Intelligence. He notes that countless hours of planning, targeting, searching for and finding weaknesses over time is involved. “A piece of technology purchased in 2015 is worthless against a potential adversary who has been planning for years to conduct an attack on an unknown date. They target weaknesses they are confident will exist regardless of technological changes between the targeting phase and the execution phase.”
Proactive Posture is Best Defense
What can asset owners take away from the 2014 and 2015 intrusions? That an enterprise-wide approach to cybersecurity will provide the best defense against an adversary that is constantly evolving its methods and is patiently probing for vulnerabilities, preparing for the moment to execute when the order is given. Consider the following:
- While deploying technical sensors to detect and respond to advanced persistent threats is good practice, it is not a panacea since threats change and the people implementing policy are fallible.
- Cybersecurity Insurance provides a backup to IT tools, systems and processes. While it can help offset liability and speed a company’s return to business, when approached as an offensive measure, insurance can be a significant part of a proactive risk management strategy.
- Security assessment as part of the underwriting process identifies vulnerabilities, both within an organization, and among third parties, such as vendors and partners. An assessment also informs the strategic planning process that enables companies to respond to and shorten an attack window.
- Boards of directors, the government, and the public increasingly demand that companies demonstrate mature security practices – and the resiliency that results from them. A comprehensive security assessment report captures security maturity and provides actionable recommendations to mitigate deficiencies – in essence, a roadmap for improved security.
U.S. companies can’t possibly expect to enact security protocols that will compete with sophisticated and constantly evolving adversaries. This is a lesson already learned by major retailers, health insurers and the financial sector. However, insurance combined with a comprehensive risk assessment provides the power of proactive risk mitigation.
4 MUST-KEEP CYBER RESOLUTIONS FOR BUSINESS
The New Year is almost here and you know what that means – a brand new set of cyber-related security challenges. Thankfully, there are ways to navigate the ominous waters of a dynamic threat environment so that you and your company can hold on to as much as possible of that most precious of data sets: Trade Secrets, Intellectual Property, and Customer Privacy Information.
We asked some TSC Advantage experts for the New Year’s resolutions they recommend to help companies develop a mature security enterprise and face down the risks of 2016.
Armond Caglar, Senior Threat Specialist
Address Third Party Threats: You already heard about Target and countless other examples of companies that have suffered extraordinary loss as a result of cyber exposure originating from their vendor, suppliers, and other business dependencies. These kinds of third-party threats, steadily on the rise within the last couple of years, will continue to be overlooked in 2016. This is due to continued lack of awareness and vigilance about the security practices of third-party partners.
In 2016, if you find yourself in the market for a cloud service provider (CSP), and before signing any Service Level Agreement, remember to ask these vendors (and others) important questions about their security practices and what they will be doing in order to keep your precious data secure.
Specifically, you should inquire about their technical controls on three levels:
- Application layer controls, which address whether apps are well written;
- Data layer controls, where the last line of defense is often encryption;
- Access controls and the client user-base, which addresses concerns regarding privileged use and access control strength/consistency.
Remember, when it involves your company’s precious data, don’t take anything for granted and if you are not comfortable with a vendor’s cyber security culture or their implementation of industry best practices, exercise the power of the purse and find a mature vendor that takes this seriously.
Brendan Fitzpatrick, Enterprise Security Assessment Team Lead and Threat Analyst
Implement Effective Cyber Security Training: Increasing the effectiveness of your cyber security training is one of the biggest bangs for the security buck. What does effective cyber security training look like? In our capacity as enterprise security assessors, we have seen a number of training programs with vastly different capabilities. Within those organizations that demonstrate strong cyber security resilience, we have noted a few key factors that contribute to effective training programs:
- Whether it is an interactive computer-based delivery or a classroom setting, training that engages a student increases the comprehension and retention of the material versus passive, slide-based presentations.
- Organizations that deliver cyber security training throughout the year, instead of in one large training session, create training that is easier to digest, is responsive to the changing threat landscape, and that constantly reinforces the organization’s cyber security culture.
- Effective organizations establish key training metrics to identify gaps and improve the quality of their training materials.
- Mature cyber security training is specific to the organization and to the individual business or functional units, addressing the unique and specific threats that these each of these units face.
An effective training program demonstrates to each employee the organization’s commitment to cyber security and enlists their help as a key component of that security. While not as easy as “fire and forget” slide show training, mature organizations find the extra effort pays large dividends.
Gabriel Whalen, TSC Insider Threat Senior Official, Behavioral Analyst
Recognize Insider Threat Vectors Are Not “Cyber”: While cybersecurity solutions tend to focus on computing – it’s a problem for the computer guys – Insider Threat is a human vector. Information technology certainly has a part to play, but is not the sole or star player. Some points to consider for your Insider Threat program:
- Non-spectacular. Humans tend to over-emphasize and prepare for the spectacular attack, but the non-spectacular is far more likely. In other words, it’s more likely someone will leak details of a planned merger than carry out a “sophisticated cyber attack.”
- Human Resources. They are your first responder and detector. Enable and empower your HR department to not only detect, but also mitigate employee issues, which lowers the risk of inadvertent and malicious insider threat.
- Training: Humans are horrible at “if-then” tests, especially when it doesn’t affect them directly (e.g. protecting company intellectual property to keep America “safe”). Training does need to alert the employee to trigger behaviors or situations, but it must address immediate employee needs to be effective (e.g. if the company loses this contract, you won’t get a paycheck).
- Public Relations: I predict that in 2016, industry will see a greater number of ideology-driven attacks from “cyber vigilantes.” Perhaps more now than at any time in history, company actions and relationships are open to public discovery. We are entering a new age of checks and balances. Companies that are insensitive to the public whim may expose themselves to more hacks and more inspired insider events.
Remember, humans precipitate Insider Threat events, not machines. Likewise, human behavior needs to be the focus of screening, training, and prevention.
Craig Guiliano, Director, Threat Analytics
Don’t overlook the obvious: Surprisingly enough, too many enterprises fail to implement even the most basic security protocols. As we welcome 2016, consider finally enforcing these simple, but often overlooked, best practices:
- Password Length and Complexity – Passwords should be at least eight characters and contain upper and lowercase with at least one number and one special character. Please do not write it down. Consider that a very strong password should be at least 128 bits.
- Multi-Factor Authentication – This simply adds another (or multiple) layer of authentication, in addition to your password. Think of it this way: what we know, what we have, and what we are, thus multiple ways to determine we are who we say we are when using our protected sites.
- Use of a virtual private network (VPN) – Companies should require their employees to connect securely via VPNs to access files, applications, printers, and other resources on the office network without compromising security.
The year ahead will undoubtedly bring a continued barrage of cybersecurity challenges, but organizations that stick to their cyber resolutions will be stronger and more resilient in 2016.
What ESA Trends Show About Cyber Resilience
2015’s devastating cyber attacks on Sony, the Office of Personnel Management and the Ashley Madison site are just the latest evidence of why it’s so important to remain vigilant against cyber threats. Awareness of the need to put protections in place grows with every major breach. What takes longer is an understanding of what should be protected, how, and by whom.
Are organizations moving beyond the IT department and software solutions to achieve a higher level of cyber maturity? It’s a topic that will be explored at threatLAB 2016, Feb 1-3, by Jason Tugman, Enterprise Security Assessment Program Manager at TSC Advantage. threatLAB asked Tugman for a preview.
threatLAB: What is your presentation “Trending Vulnerability and Resilience Data – Findings from the Field” about?
Jason Tugman: One of the things I’m most excited about with threatLAB 2016 will be our signature Trends from the Field talk. This year will be threatLAB’s third iteration and I think it will be really exciting to dig into the enormous amounts of data we’ve been able to collect over the course of the last two years performing holistic cyber assessment on customers within the U.S. critical infrastructure segment and Fortune 1000. This is especially true because now we can start to trend that data year over year, as well as share with our attendees what our data is telling us. For example, in 2014, cyber breaches in the news began to really capture the attention of the c-suite and boards of directors. In 2015, we’ve seen an expansion of IT budgets and a demand for controls against these emerging threat actors.
threatLAB: That sounds like a positive trend. Would you agree?
Tugman: Yes and no, because a lot of organizations purchase new hardware to solve network security issues, however what we’re finding is that these are not necessarily network security issues but instead are asset security issues. That difference is incredibly important and is something we will spend a good amount of time on at threatLAB 2016. With that said, what we’re seeing in the data we’ve collected and from the community of people we’ve been talking to the past year, shows a change in voice. Three years ago the conversation was about cybersecurity. It’s been fascinating to witness a transition from cybersecurity — network security — to cyber resiliency.
threatLAB: What is the difference between the two?
Tugman: Cybersecurity is the piece parts, the IT functions that make up the security of your organization. They’re like the “guards, gates and guns” of physical security. Cyber resiliency is really understanding how cyber fits within the risk structure of your enterprise. It’s a change in tone, a transition of thinking. Identifying cyber vulnerabilities is plugging holes in a dam. Cyber resiliency is more akin to building the dam itself.
Think of it this way – cybersecurity is predicated on keeping all external threats out through fortifications and controls. Cyber resiliency is predicated on the fact that no controls are perfect and could fail. So in addition to fortifications, what resilient functions are you putting in place to detect, correct and recover with the least amount of damage in the event that a breach does occur.
threatLAB: Why is it so important to approach cyber threats this way?
Our data shows there is a clear correlation between an organization’s effort to adopt a wider cyber governance framework and its ability to recognize and mitigate risk. threatLAB attendees have been asking us to speak more in-depth on the philosophy that helps guide TSC Advantage and its assessments. The absolute difference between cybersecurity and resiliency is that cybersecurity is a big circle function and cyber resiliency is a small circle function. You will ask, “What is the difference?” To really understand what that means, I will see you in Florida!
Learn more about threatLAB 2016, Cyber Risk 360°.
4 Cybersecurity Disconnects in an Always-Connected World
We live in a connected world, and as the lines between work, home and travel blur, being always connected can expose your company’s intellectual assets to risk. As incidents of competitive intelligence and corporate espionage are becoming more prevalent, it’s a good time to heed the advice offered during Cyber Security Awareness Month. Here are four behaviors – let’s call them cybersecurity disconnects – that may open the door to significant data loss.
Busy people rely on and trust the tools that make it possible to work on the go. But some of those conveniences reduce security defenses. Plus, inattention to surroundings can reveal confidential information.
- While convenient and tempting, Public Wi-Fi is rife with risk and vulnerable to data exposure. While surfing online, personally identifiable information and payment card information may be visible to the opportune criminal sniffing your web session or cloning your accounts
- Removable media devices such as USB sticks offer quick and easy storage and transfer of data, but have long been the delivery mechanism of catastrophic malware
- Working in public places like the executive lounge, taxis, or up in business class can expose confidential details through an overheard conversation, curious shoulder surfer, or lost or stolen laptop
Sure, you know that cybercrime is in the news almost daily. But did you know that credentialed insiders present one of the most underreported yet biggest threats to corporate data?
Companies can protect sensitive data through effective policy and procedure development as well as providing routine training and awareness on:
- Social engineering tactics such as spear phishing and pretext phone calls
- Dangers of removable media and the importance of policies limiting their use
- Data compartmentalization and classification
- Personal factors and behavioral indicators that some Insider Threat for Intellectual Property Theft exhibit
The IT department handles cybersecurity so it’s taken care of, right? Nope. Security-conscious organizations understand how threats to data security can originate from multiple sources and directions. Are you aware of enterprise weak spots, the sensitive digital assets your organization possesses, and the potential motivations of those attackers targeting it? Possibilities can include:
- A state-sponsored hacker group with a political bent looking for retribution
- A software engineer, passed up for promotion, who is enticed to sell your intellectual property to a competitor
- An employee of your maintenance contractor falling victim to a theft of his credentials to an adversary, causing a foothold on your network to be established and the exfiltration of customer payment card data from your network
People who travel for business, especially to countries known for state-sponsored IP theft, should take extra precautions to avoid becoming a victim.
- Always bring a dedicated travel laptop and ensure the data you bring is just the minimum amount needed for the successful outcome of your trip
- Politely decline unsolicited upgrades for hotel rooms
- Keep laptop and other devices with you at all times, even when you’re in the gym, at dinner, or taking in some tourist attractions
Visit the TSC Advantage blog often to learn more about staying protected in an always-connected world.
CYBERSECURITY THREATS EVERY EMPLOYEE SHOULD UNDERSTAND
Employees are the fuel that drives organizations, but their actions can also put the brakes on success. Why? Because not surprisingly, every employee presents a potential security threat to intellectual property, trade secrets, and other protected information. Most employees are not malicious data thieves, but their actions could inadvertently open the door to cyber attackers scanning for the weakest link.
National Cybersecurity Awareness Month highlights the need to create a culture of cybersecurity at work. In our last blog “Who Owns Cybersecurity?” we said it’s a shared responsibility, and that each person in an organization should be accountable. Proactive awareness of potential threats is a step that individuals can take to protect their organizations. Here are three threat trends every employee should know about:
PHISHING ATTACKS can cost an organization up to $3.7 million per year, and waste more than 4 hours annually per employee, according to a 2015 report by the Ponemon Institute. While many individuals know about phishing emails, they still fall for the messages which can trick the recipient into giving out personal or financial information, or provide access to networks which is then used to exfiltrate information. It is difficult to change employee habits. Months after an attack that revealed the personal details of more than 800,000 workers, the US Postal Service tested its employees and found that a quarter of recipients clicked on a phony link in its simulated attack. On the private sector side, a CBS News/Intel Security test of 19,000 people revealed in early 2015 that 80% clicked on at least one of the phishing emails they received. As we can see, the growing sophistication of these types of attacks are causing havoc across both the public and private sector – and even those employees who might fancy themselves as being relatively cyber savvy are being duped.
What should employees do to avoid this type of threat? Take part in proactive training and awareness campaigns that corporate risk managers should be rolling out. If they’re not, push for such training. In addition, the federal government does have numerous websites that may be helpful. Like TSC Advantage and others in the industry, the Federal Trade Commission has been evangelizing what it takes to be safe in this new threat environment. This includes warning about the rise in application-targeted attacks (such as Google Docs, Adobe, or file sharing sites); how the commercial availability of malware has essentially industrialized and propagated these malicious acts; and the under-reported reality that an increasing amount of sophisticated phishing attempts are becoming heavily personalized and tailored to the target and therefore are more believable than ever. Remember, phishing is no longer the Nigerian 419 scam promising you great wealth. It’s a good practice to report such emails to firstname.lastname@example.org, a working group of security vendors, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies.
BUSINESS EMAIL COMPROMISE (BEC) is a rapidly growing and increasingly sophisticated form of cyber fraud. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), more than 7,000 US companies have been victimized since late 2013 at a loss of over $740 million, and the number has spiked in 2015 alone. Often, criminals establish a foothold onto a company’s network through targeted malware such as phishing, then gather information from email threads about billing and invoices to create legitimate-looking requests from CEO’s and CFO’s for wire transfers. The money is directed to fraudulent accounts.
The IC3 offers numerous tips to avoid being victimized, including: verify changes in vendor payment location and confirm requests for transfer of funds; be suspicious of requests for secrecy or pressure to take action quickly; use intrusion detection system rules that flag emails with suspicious addresses.
THIRD PARTY RISK is an area TSC Advantage spends a lot of time with via our External Business Operations domain and is a threat that all organizations and employees must understand since partnering is part of doing business. The recent T-Mobile breach affecting 15 million customers began with a data breach at Experian, which T-Mobile used to run credit checks on customers. Whether they’re unsuspecting portals for cyber attackers or the originators of such assaults, vendors and subcontractors now represent a growing, frequent and serious risk to organizations. Security professionals continue to overlook that risk, however, even as high-profile cases crop up in the U.S., the Middle East, Europe and the Asia Pacific region.
As the customer, a company has the ability to choose which vendors it wants to hire. A significant part of that decision should hinge on the vendor’s answers to questions about its security policies and controls. Further, if a vendor will need access to the company network, preventative measures such as segmentation should be discussed, as would be the importance of understanding other defense-in-depth areas, such as access controls, data layer controls, and a serious look at language contained in service level agreements.
The one constant in the world of cyber is that threat is continually evolving. While it’s impossible for every individual to stay on top of every threat, making cybersecurity awareness part of organizational culture can go a long way in reducing susceptibility to victimhood in the first place.
Who Owns Cybersecurity? Everyone
We all benefit from the advantages of a connected world. Business, government, education, healthcare, and individuals have come to rely on the data at our fingertips and the ease of work and commerce that it affords. Most of us though, take those benefits for granted, leaving digital security to the IT department only or worse, not thinking of it at all until there’s a problem (which, despite the constant headlines of attacks and breaches, happens more often than you think!).
Who owns cybersecurity? Everyone. During October’s national cybersecurity awareness month, here are three ways that organizations can ensure everyone has a role in the shared responsibility of reducing cyber risk.
- Understand what cybersecurity really means. There are countless data security tools and technologies to prevent and detect cyber intrusions. However, a single-minded approach to IT security elevates the role of these sensors at the expense of other considerations, such as the importance of instituting a mature cyber security culture, a panoramic threat analysis across the enterprise of how cyber infection can metastasize, and understanding what it means to be resilient and get back to business as quickly as possible if a cyber event does occur.
- Establish a proactive cybersecurity strategy. Seems crazy to have to mention this still, but never assume that your organization won’t or hasn’t already been a target. It is still amazing to hear risk managers and other enterprise security leaders that we encounter in the market and on the speaking circuit who deny their victimhood or think they are not “important” enough to even be targeted in the first place. Sixty per cent of attacks in 2014 were against small-and medium-sized organizations, according to the Symantec 2015 Internet Security Threat Report. Advanced attackers targeted five out of six large companies. Don’t wait.
- Start by creating a data classification policy. Review and categorize data and intellectual assets by degree of sensitivity and value to the organization.
- Assess risk. Identify the most serious threats to your data by considering how and where your organization operates, your supply chain, and what risk controls are currently in place.
- Plan for the worst. Do you have a crisis management plan in place to quickly respond to a cyber attack? Multiple studies have shown that financial losses from a single cyber attack can exceed $50,000 for small businesses, and well over $1 million for large organizations. Having a quickly executable plan that includes clear responsibilities and lines of communication will help minimize the damage.
- Consider cyber insurance as a final safeguard of an overall risk management plan that prioritizes security assessment, holistic cyber risk solutions, and an organizational focus on security. In September, Sarah Bloom Raskin, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Department, described cyber insurance as “a game changer” because the underwriting process that businesses undergo to apply for cyber insurance can help determine weaknesses and encourage best practices. Cybersecurity then “becomes part of an organization’s DNA,” she said.
- Create a cybersecurity culture. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility. Each person in an organization should understand this and be accountable. And unfortunately, it starts with the not-so-exciting task of ensuring processes are in place to provide the backbone governing necessary security-related activities – from processes covering controls such as vendor access management, to firewall configuration, to remote wipe capability procedures within an enterprise BYOD deployment. Culture starts with process, and process is implemented through effective policies and procedures that are matured through equal application, enforcement, and management.
Cyber attacks happen every day. The cyber threat is evolving and growing. Knowing these facts, it’s time for organizations large and small to put cybersecurity in the hands of the whole team.
3 Ways to Check Your Medical Cyber Pulse
Ten million – that’s the latest staggering number of victims in the cyber hacking world’s rush to steal protected health information (PHI). Excellus BlueCross BlueShield estimates 10 million members and individuals have been affected by an attack that may have gained unauthorized access to names and addresses, dates of birth, social security numbers, financial, and health claim information. Excellus is now contacting those victims with promises to provide free credit monitoring and identity theft protection. What are the lessons of yet another massive cyber breach in the health sector? Here are three:
1. Consider the widespread damage of a cyber breach
There are immediate and long-term costs to both the individuals whose information was compromised, and to the companies that care for their health needs. For individuals, the wealth of stolen data dramatically increases the possibility that a cybercriminal can assume their identity to open new lines of credit, make fraudulent purchases or medical claims, and empty bank accounts.
As TSC Advantage explained at the 11th Annual Medical Liability Insurance ExecuSummit in Connecticut on 16 September, cyber attacks and data breaches are impacting health care organizations, large and small. There are immediate and significant costs associated with incident resolution and reputation harm and also the longer-range costs such as decreased customer trust and the potential loss of revenue that such events bring.
Additionally, and as covered entities and their business associates are undoubtedly aware, there is the potential for regulatory penalties levied by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for failing to meet HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules. It all adds up to considerable losses. The Ponemon Institute’s 2015 Global Cost of Data Breach study found the healthcare industry has the highest cost per stolen record – at $363 – more than double that of other industry averages.
2. Understand why the medical industry is at particular risk
Excellus is just the latest in a growing list of health insurers like Anthem and CareFirst to be hacked. What is the lure of the healthcare industry to cybercriminals?
- The value of the information stored in healthcare organization databases: personally identifiable information (PII), personal medical history, diagnosis codes, billing and payment card information. It can all be sold on the black market, with fraudulent claims and charges through identity theft not being noticed for months or years.
- The limitations of a compliance-based approach to enterprise security: Savvy cybercriminals and other nefarious actors understand the difference between security and CYA. They know most organizations implement security as a ‘check-the-box’ exercise as a means to pass an annual audit and are not interested in maturing their security beyond the standard. This is an unfortunate reality that must change.
3. Create a holistic and proactive understanding of enterprise threat posture
With attacks in the medical industry happening at a growing rate, the time is now to put a risk-based and relevant risk management program in place.
- While you may start with legacy technical controls and other traditional IT deployments, it’s crucial to remember the multitude of non-technical ways in which cyber risk can be introduced into an enterprise environment. Faceless remote access attacks originating in foreign countries are not the only threat. What about an unencrypted laptop that is stolen, or a disgruntled employee, or gaps in physical security? The TSC Advantage risk assessment methodology incorporates standards from best-in-class compliance audits like HIPAA, but exceeds them with a unique approach mapping to over 10 international and national standards. This is combined with expertise obtained from service in the U.S. national security community to provide a complete or holistic view of enterprise risk.
- To meet your HIPAA Security Rule obligation requiring all covered entities and business associates, conduct an accurate and thorough assessment of the potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity and availability of e-PHI. An assessment approach such as our Threat Vector Manager methodology can help.
It is no secret by now that diversified cyber threats are impacting all organizations, and covered entities and their business associate colleagues in particular. Maturing beyond the standard to a more holistic risk management approach will ultimately lead to a healthier risk posture.
THINK CYBERSECURITY, THINK I-T? THINK AGAIN!
When you think of cybersecurity, do you still think IT? If so, you’re not alone. Even though cyber attacks are increasing in frequency and costing more than ever, many organizations view the problem as one that can only be solved through the introduction of those legacy sensors we commonly associate with traditional cyber security. But as the market is increasingly becoming aware, these “off-the-shelf” tools are only part of the solution.
Relying on data security practices in isolation from non-technical threats leaves gaping holes that undermine an organization’s ability to prevent, detect, correct and recover from intrusions. In a deep dive on cybersecurity at a recent cyber security seminar in Northern Virginia, TSC Advantage presented six key areas that public and private organizations should focus on to create awareness of a holistic and proactive threat posture: insider threat, physical security, mobility, external business operations, internal business operations, and yes, data security.
Threats Cross Departmental Borders
Why do these all matter? Because as the news headlines are increasingly reporting, cyber is about more than IT. A traditional organizational chart would likely show each of the domains in a separate vertical, with their own leaders, policies, programs and procedures, and with separate accountability and responsibility mechanisms. From a risk management perspective, a stove-piped and traditional view of security wouldn’t recognize how a business event occurring in one domain could introduce enterprise vulnerability via another. Take a major commercial customer our team recently assessed. For high-risk employee terminations, while we found there to be ‘good’ communication between the HR and IT departments at this client location, our team nonetheless identified priority vulnerabilities associated with access control, change management, and the maturity of existing procedures governing these activities.
To take another example, how about the business traveler in a foreign country who engages in business talk and unwittingly shares proprietary details of an upcoming project during the cab ride from the airport to the hotel. If you don’t think that in certain countries the driver could also be a member of his country’s security apparatus, think again. Armed with that knowledge, the information is eventually passed along to a competitive intelligence rival who is all too eager to erase years of your sweat equity and smash your bottom line.
Insider threat, one of the most underreported as well as most taboo, can take the form of an employee who inadvertently introduces malware through a seemingly innocuous click, to a disgruntled employee who deliberately downloads or erases proprietary information, to a worker who is targeted and paid by competitors to steal information. Training and awareness programs highlighting the personal, behavioral, and organizational precursors that contribute to these events is a responsibility that crosses all departments within the enterprise.
Cost of Cyber Attacks Grow
Those are just a few examples of the many ways in which cyber threats can enter an organization. Any one of them can have a devastating cost. Leaders are forced to resign – most recently the CEO of extramarital dating site Ashley Madison, and in July the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Consider the reputation harm suffered by Sony Pictures when unflattering emails were revealed. Or the cost to the taxpayers to cover the OPM breach – $133 million just to pay for victims’ credit and identity theft monitoring.
The Ponemon Institute’s annual Cost of Data Breach Study of 11 countries puts the average cost of a single data breach at $3.8 million, a 23 per cent increase since 2013. The study also found the average cost for each lost or stolen record containing sensitive and confidential information is $154, and double that for healthcare information.
Five Ways to Improve Organizational Cybersecurity
• When you think of cyber, think beyond the IT department. How are your departments working together to identify potential risk, formulate and communicate policy? Consider creating a risk management team.
• Identify your organization’s most valuable intellectual assets. Define and categorize this data according to its level of sensitivity, value to the organization, and when they might be most imperiled.
• Assess risk by reviewing how your organization operates – what physical assets need to be protected, how often do employees travel, do they use personal and/or work devices?
• Consider the potential for not just external, but also internal threats. Does your organization monitor for unintentional or deliberate unauthorized access or inappropriate use of data?
• Foster and communicate a security culture. From the board of directors, to the C-suite, to every level of the organization, each employee has a front line responsibility in securing the enterprise.
In today’s environment, cyber attacks are an eventual certainty for every organization. So take a deep dive on cybersecurity. Thinking about risk holistically will help minimize the potential damage.
We Made the Inc. 5000 List of Fastest Growing Companies!
We are pleased to announce that TSC Advantage has been ranked #3294 in the prestigious Inc. 500|5000 for 2015 – Inc. Magazine’s List of America’s Fastest Growing Private Companies. This accomplishment is the direct result of a lot of tireless effort by members of the TSC Advantage team, the trust our customers place in us, and the support of our colleagues, friends, and family.
Just a couple years ago, we were a company with very little name recognition in a very crowded space. Our vision was to upend traditional approaches to cyber security and endeavor to be one of the most prestigious cyber risk assessment firms out there – to take our passion and unique lens by which we explore enterprise vulnerability and use it to transform organizations into becoming more resilient enterprises in these extraordinary times of data breaches and sophisticated cyber attacks.
Now, that passion has built a 50-person company with customers and trusted partners, scores of successfully completed projects around the world, and a growth rate that even made us pause for a minute. We’re thrilled to be working with leading global brands across many verticals in helping them transform awareness of their risk postures as well as chartering new paths in other areas, including delivering objective and comprehensive cyber insurance assessments on behalf of Lloyd’s and other leading markets.
We want to extend a big thanks to everyone who has supported us so far. Inc. has recognized the growth we have achieved, but we have an ambitious plan for what is next for us. We couldn’t be more excited for what the future will bring and we know our team and valued clients will continue to be a part of it.
St. Louis Cardinals’ Hacking Scandal Highlights Realities of Corporate Espionage
The alleged hack perpetrated by the St. Louis Cardinals against the Houston Astros took a traditional sports rivalry into foul territory. The FBI is investigating evidence that suggests Cardinals employees infiltrated a network the Astros built to store data containing discussions about trades, proprietary stats and scouting reports.
Some reports suggest the Cardinals conducted the attack as revenge against Jeff Luhnow, a former Cardinals executive, now with the Astros. Others suggest the hack was an attempt to gain a competitive advantage. Regardless the motive, the news rocked the sports world and brought home an often-overlooked fact: most organizations still do not take cybersecurity seriously enough.
Cyber espionage is a very real issue in highly competitive industries, such as manufacturing and technology, but it’s something of a surprise in Major League Baseball. While Luhnow has downplayed the significance of the hack, suggesting much of the information named by the FBI would be entirely obsolete at this point, the damage could have been much worse.
Almost Too Easy
Unfortunately, many organizations outside of the traditional hacking targets don’t seem to approach cybersecurity with the same level of rigor as healthcare, financial institutions, or big retailers. Their complacency leads to the kind of security lapses officials believe made this hack possible, such as poor password hygiene and a complacent cybersecurity culture.
According to media reports, the alleged perpetrators were able to guess network passwords based on those previously used by Luhnow or Sig Mejdal, another former Cardinals employee now working for the Astros. Sports organizations regularly see players, staff and executives leave for rival franchises. It’s therefore critical to integrate preventative security controls that make it harder to breach network defenses and make proactive, holistic security part of the process.
All Data is Valuable to Someone
With all the attention on foreign sponsored data breaches, such as the recent OPM breach attributed to China, many organizations believe themselves to be safe from cyberattacks. However, domestic corporate espionage events can be just as prevalent. Consider the 2009 spat between Starwood Hotels and Hilton where Starwood claimed two of its former executives stole sensitive trade secrets and brought them to Hilton. Or the famous corporate espionage scandal between General Motors and Vokswagen A.G.
In this case, even if the Cardinals didn’t get access to information that truly gave them a competitive advantage, it’s clear enterprise security is still not taken seriously enough by most organizations – whether corporate or government. As this hack (and others before it) demonstrates, every industry and organization has data worth protecting, and the onus is on them to ensure they have all their bases covered.
April 28, 2016
Hacktivist group Anonymous shut down the website of white supremacist group the White Knights of the KKK through a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack which overwhelmed the site. The hackers told the media they were protesting the KKK’s “blunt racism.”
April 26, 2016
The international money transfer network known as SWIFT says it has suffered a number of recent cyberattacks and recommends that its 11,000 financial institution customers update their systems with newly released software. SWIFT acknowledges that its software was altered as part of the February cybertheft of $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank account at the New York Federal Reserve Bank.
April 18, 2016
IBM researchers say they’ve discovered a new type of hybrid malware called GozNym that has been used to attack customers of banks in the U.S. and Canada, stealing about $4 million dollars in the first few days of April. Bank customers with business accounts are targeted with an email that when clicked installs malware which remains dormant until the victim logs onto a bank account.
April 12, 2016
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) experienced a case of Insider Threat. It says 44,000 customer records were removed from its files when a departing employee downloaded the data to a removable media device in February. The FDIC says a data loss prevention tool detected the breach within three days and the employee returned the device with the data.
April 8, 2016
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says “business email compromise” is responsible for $2.3 billion in company losses from October 2013 through February of this year. In the scams, hackers impersonate company executives in emails, ordering staff to transfer large amounts of money to accounts that are actually controlled by criminals.
March 31, 2016
Just weeks after hospitals in Kentucky and California were hit with ransomware attacks, the MedStar Health network in the Washington, DC region faced a cyberattack on its email and patient records databases. Staff reported to media they saw pop-up messages demanding a $19,000 payment in bitcoin to release the records or they would be rendered unrecoverable.
March 11, 2016
Just over $80 million was stolen from the Central Bank of Bangladesh when cyber attackers hacked into the Bank’s system, acquired credentials, then sent a series of money-transfer requests to the New York Federal Reserve. Four requests for $20 million were processed before a typo in the routing instructions alerted officials that something was amiss.
March 10, 2016
For the first time, a ransomware attack has successfully affected Apple Inc’s Mac computers. The “KeRanger” ransomware found in a tainted version of data transfer program Transmission, was downloaded more than 6,000 times by Apple users before the threat was contained. Ransomware attacks are more common on computers running Windows.
February 26, 2016
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says a 2015 cyber attack may have affected seven times more taxpayers than it originally reported. The IRS says criminals used credentials obtained from “non-IRS sources” to access 724,000 “Get Transcript” accounts, which contain information similar to that on a tax return.
February 18, 2016
Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid a 40 bitcoin ($17,000) ransom demanded by hackers to end a week-long cyber attack and regain control of its computer network. The “significant IT issues” caused by the hack required the hospital to work on paper, divert hundreds of patients to other hospitals, and shut down whole departments.
February 9, 2016
The IRS said it recently stopped an automated attack upon its Electronic Filing PIN application on IRS.gov. Using personal data stolen elsewhere outside the IRS, identity thieves used malware in an attempt to generate E-file PINs for approximately 464,000 stolen social security numbers. An E-file pin is used in some instances to electronically file a tax return.
January 28, 2016
The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), America’s biggest police union, saw its private files, including officer names and addresses, forum posts critical of the U.S. President, and controversial contracts with city authorities, posted online after a hacker breached its website.
January 22, 2016
The State of Michigan said it was the victim of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack that slowed and eventually crashed its website. It came a day after a Flint, MI hospital was hacked, following warnings by a hacktivist group upset about a crisis over lead in the water supply.
January 13, 2016
Automaker Nissan shut down its global websites after a distributed denial of service (DDoS) cyberattack that may have been carried out by “hacktivists” opposed to Japan’s controversial whale and dolphin hunts. An activist connected with the hacking collective Anonymous tweeted objections to whale hunting and photos of a Nissan executive.
January 6, 2016
U.S. power companies have been advised by an electric industry group to review network defenses following reports that a malware known as BlackEnergy caused a widespread late-December power blackout in Ukraine. It’s believed to be the first time that a cyber attack has taken down an electric grid.
January 4, 2016
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) confirms that hackers accessed more than 100 million health records of Americans in 2015. Eight of the 10 largest health care provider hacks took place last year, according to the federal agency.
December 29, 2015
The details of 191 million U.S. voters, including names, addresses, birth dates, party affiliations, phone numbers and emails, were discovered in a publicly-available database by an independent computer security researcher who says the database was incorrectly configured. Such information could be a valuable one-stop site for criminals wishing to target large numbers with fraud schemes.
December 22, 2015
Iranian hackers are reported to have gained access to control systems at a small dam in the downstate town of Rye, NY in 2013, though no action was carried out. According to the Associated Press, Iranian cyber operators are also responsible for multiple intrusions into the US electrical grid since August 2013, for information-gathering and data theft.
December 15, 2015
December 14, 2015
The website for Trump Towers, owned by republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, was offline for about an hour, allegedly breached by hacktavist group Anonymous. The group tweeted that it took down the site “as a statement against racism and hatred,” after Trump suggested temporarily barring Muslims from entering the United States.
It’s easier than you think for your sensitive data – such as intellectual assets, trade secrets, protected health information, or customer data – to fall into the hands of a competitor, hacker, disgruntled employee, or foreign government.
Let us introduce you to a couple of our team members who will be helping you secure your enterprise.
AllenSenior Project Manager
Allen joined the company in 2011. With more than 20 years of experience in the commercial and government sectors, Allen has worked at a variety of organizations including several Fortune 500 corporations. During his commercial tenure, Allen managed numerous programs within the telecommunications and information security industries, including several large multi-million dollar projects related to cellular/satellite network implementation. Allen’s background also includes defense policy analysis and national security policy, as well as military experience in the US Navy as a Russian Linguist and Soviet Naval analyst. Allen possesses a PMP and CISSP certification and holds a Masters degree in International Affairs from Columbia University.
NatalieDirector of Analytics
Natalie has been with the company since 2007. With more than 15 years of experience as an intelligence professional, Natalie’s expertise spans both the government and commercial sectors. Natalie’s work for the U.S. Government includes extensive experience in the identification, acquisition, and development of critical information, supporting high value national security interests. In the commercial arena, Natalie led the development of innovative methods to acquire and analyze critical information to protect specific interests and high-value intellectual assets. Natalie holds a Masters degree in International Relations from Yale University.
Interested in proactively defending your enterprise? Curious about possible employment opportunities?