We make holistic enterprise security possible.
Tailored Solutions & Consulting, Inc. (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. We are a cyber risk consultancy specializing in the protection of trade secrets, intellectual assets, and other sensitive information using a patented and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) SAFETY Act-designated methodology that holistically optimizes clients’ security posture to suit their unique organizational, procedural and market environments.
Headquartered in the Glover Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C., TSC Advantage’s global team brings together over 250 years of combined experience in intelligence operations and analysis, business acumen, and agile technology solutions to meet the needs of 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 250 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 patented Threat Vector Manager ™ (TVM) is a 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 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.”
A Threat to Employee Privacy Can Become an Attack on Your Organization
You’re only as strong as your weakest link. That tired old adage has taken on new meaning when applied to the current state of cybersecurity. And often times, the weak links are a company’s employees. The fact is, every employee has the potential to present a security threat to his or her employer’s business in one way or another. That isn’t to say that every employee is a malicious data thief, but employees are certainly responsible for inadvertent behaviors that are giving rise to potentially devastating cyber incidents, sometimes involving hacktivists and cybercriminals and whose main goal is to cause business disruption and reputational harm. One way for malicious actors to do this is through the exploitation of employees’ personal privacy on third party service platforms such as social media.
As an example, earlier this month, it was widely reported that the Twitter and Facebook accounts of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) had been hacked by a group sympathetic to the terror group ISIS. Authorities believe hackers gained control of the accounts by stealing the login credentials of a CENTCOM administrator, probably by exploiting weak procedural controls governing how the Command promulgated and enforced minimum composition requirements for passwords, susceptibility to a phishing scam, or from keylogging malware. It is probably safe to say that CENTCOM administrators avoided use of two-factor authentication for this service as well which paved the way for this breach to occur.
Once inside, actors posted pro-ISIS messages as well as revealed personally identifiable information of retired general grade officers to include home addresses and personal e-mail information. Although the account was quickly shut down following the breach, the enormity of this event was quickly parlayed as a cyber attack against CENTCOM itself when in reality it was more of an act of vandalism. Regardless of the severity, however, it nonetheless caused great embarrassment to the Command, the Administration, and it offered the rest of us a teachable moment on how fast a breach to personal privacy can cause disruption and reputational harm to a parent organization.
As a first example, it reaffirmed the importance of ensuring passwords meet minimum requirements in order to defeat brute force tools. Regardless of the cause of this breach, passwords should always be at least 10 characters long, should not contain a full word or obvious things like a name, and must incorporate a unique combination of uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and special characters. If being shared by more than one person in an organization (and especially if used for public-facing purposes), credentials should be stored securely in a controlled area and mature procedural controls should be in place that prohibit access to these accounts via mobile devices or from unsecure networks.
Second, defense-in-depth perimeter and endpoint controls are a requirement and awareness for phishing attacks as well as minimum access control solutions like two-factor authentication are a must. Additionally, continuous holistic risk assessments are helpful in identifying other potential ingress points of vulnerability as well, since any cyber risk assessment is insufficient if it ignores expert examination on the role of insider threat, physical security, and the unique vulnerabilities introduced by business dependencies. If you would like to hear more about how TSC Advantage can assist your organization defend its innovation, reputation, and execution, I would love to hear from you. Contact us.
The Uninsured Consequences of the Sony Data Breach
The December 2014 cyberattack against Sony wasn’t the largest or even the most expensive, but this breach may go down as the most embarrassing on record. And it’s that collateral damage that raises the stakes and places the Sony breach among the most damaging in recent history.
While Sony’s CEO is confident that the financial costs of the breach, estimated at around $100M, will be covered by its cyberinsurance policies, he is glossing over the harmful consequences of the sensitive, private and shameful information the hackers revealed to the world. Sony executives were shown making fun of and even insulting the artists they work with in email communications. Will those actors forgive and forget, or will they refuse to work with Sony in the future? How does Sony quantify that damage? How does a company insure against reputational harm?
And consider the internal harm done to employees whose personal information was stolen or who were privy to the leaked internal emails, including some branded as racist or sexist? Could there be legal implications and costs stemming from the theft of employee data or those discriminatory emails?
How about the impact this breach will have on Sony’s insurance coverage? The company was smart to have cyber liability coverage in place, but Sony is now considered a higher risk and will undoubtedly face significantly higher premiums in the future. No underwriter will accept this risk without major offsets in exclusions to future coverage or much higher rates.
Let’s not overlook that $100M cyberinsurance claim. Sony may be off the hook for the short-term financial costs of this breach, but the policy’s underwriter(s) will now have to pay that bill, so the damage flows downstream. However, the consequences of this breach far surpass the sting of a multimillion dollar payout.
The cyberinsurance market has already begun moving toward more comprehensive risk assessment, and this will tip the scales in favor of required pre-binding risk assessment throughout the industry. This will help underwriters reduce gigantic payouts that directly affect not only their bottom line, but also their ability to offer affordable insurance to other companies.
The fact is, there are countless potential ramifications related to this breach that are difficult to predict and hard to quantify. Sony, for all its bravado, will eventually have to pay the price. But, if there’s a silver lining in this story, it’s that the need to better understand cyberrisk at the outset will encourage greater adoption of holistic risk assessment within the cyberinsurance market – an outcome that will benefit everyone.
ThreatLAB 2015 is coming! Save the Date.
Are you looking for a fun and interesting opportunity to network with experts from a wide variety of industries while learning about the multitude of complex cyber threats facing U.S. organizations? After a resounding success last year, ThreatLAB® is back for version 2.0!
ThreatLAB 2015 will combine exciting keynote speakers and panel discussions supplemented with real-world scenarios, where attendees will have the opportunity to learn the latest in cyber leaks and breaches (LAB) as well as other findings, including how traditional investments in cyber security are leaving organizations more vulnerable than secure. And just like with ThreatLAB 2014, our select attendees will have the opportunity to learn and practice applying critical intelligence techniques in order to better diagnose and remediate holistic vulnerabilities often associated with cyber loss events, including corporate espionage incidents and other attacks. ThreatLAB 2015 will illustrate the importance of a proactive, holistic approach in defending your organization’s intellectual assets and creating a more resilient and mature security enterprise.
ThreatLAB 2015 will take place on May 20th and 21st and will be held at Las Vegas’s premier resort and casino, the Aria. This is an incredible opportunity – don’t miss it!
The changing threat landscape: insider threats and state-sponsored attacks
If you aren’t one of the 4.5 million people who were directly affected by the Community Health Systems (CHS) Heartbleed data breach, then you’ve certainly heard about it by now. Unfortunately, cases like these and others have become commonplace in today’s business environment. In 2014, the threat landscape is more advanced than ever, with no single industry or organization completely immune from victimhood of cyber attacks.. Within the past two weeks alone, we have seen organizations within the healthcare, government, infrastructure and banking industries caught in the crosshairs of cybercriminals, state-sponsored entities and both malicious and accidental insider threats.
Foreign state-sponsored attacks on the rise
The recent hack of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) illustrates the threat of state-sponsored hacking groups with punishing clarity. In a third hack in three years, it was alleged that anNRC employee unwittingly clicked on an email link that navigated them to a Google spreadsheet where they were instructed to enter sensitive data.
Armond Caglar, one of our threat specialists here at TSC Advantage, speculated that the hacker campaign focused on two key areas: 1. gathering information on US nuclear reactors’ condition and health, and 2. assessing the cyber-readiness of the NRC workforce. This scenario likely could have been avoided through employee training and awareness programs highlighting the growing sophistication of targeted phishing campaigns such as what occurred here.
JPMorgan Chase and several other banks revealed they were also victims of a data breach believed to be perpetrated by Russia-sponsored hackers earlier this month. While the purpose of the attack and the extent of the data breached is still unclear, TSC Advantage believes financial information was likely theinitial target, followed by intelligence data, such as corporate secrets, which could have been passed to security services once all the desired privacy data had been harvested.
Healthcare industry compliance is not enough
The CHS breach compromised the personally identifiable information of millions of patients. The attack, which resulted from the Heartbleed vulnerability, highlights a common issue among healthcare organizations, whichCaglar referred to as the dangers of the “compliance audit mentality.” The is because the single-minded pursuit of meeting compliance baselines could actually contribute to organizational complacency once an audit is completed.
No company is completely secure
Even companies that provide essential services to the U.S. government aren’t immune. U.S. Investigations Services, or USIS, is a company used by a variety of U.S. government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. Customs and Borders Protection to perform background investigations on all employees. Nearly 25,000 of those employees had personal information such as Social Security numbers, birth dates, education and criminal history, and the names and addresses of family and friends compromised in a data breach earlier this month.
Caglar notes, “The implications of this attack are serious and highly concerning. An attack such as this is almost always intended for the purposes of identifying potential recruitment candidates [for intelligence purposes]. By collecting information such as this, attackers will now be able to systematically research which members of the security clearance population could be suitable for a potential approach by foreign [service].”
Implement a proactive security culture to defend against cyberattacks
We can cite compliance standards like HIPAA and various executive orders all day long, but what ultimately serves as the best defense is a good offense and a solid understanding of the evolving nature of cyber threat. In both the foreign intelligence and competitive intelligence world, there will always be motivation to target innovation, privacy data, and national security information. Safeguarding sensitive data – no matter what it is – begins with a proactive and panoramic approach to security that incorporates all possible threat vectors fused with proper training and awareness campaigns tailored to mutable nature of threat.
Contact us to learn how TSC Advantage can help identify and prevent security risks before they damage your organization.
Implications of Smaller-Scale Data Breaches: Citigroup, 2013
Poor security – Citigroup, 2013
The personal information of 150,000 Citigroup clients who filed for bankruptcy between 2007 and 2011 was exposed after Citigroup failed to properly redact court records prior to storing them on the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system.
Citigroup claims that the mishap occurred due to a limitation in the software that the company used to redact personal information. Since Citigroup refused to divulge what software led to the breach, it is impossible for the public to know how the attack was conducted.
Following the incident, the company was quick to upgrade its computer software and re-train its employees on enhanced redaction policies and procedures in order to avoid similar attacks in the future.
Expert insight: Software updates are vital to maintaining computer security because they patch security vulnerabilities, fix program bugs and provide program enhancements. Computer software that is not updated presents a higher risk of being infected with malware and being exploited by other malicious attacks. Organizations must be proactive in order to ensure that security technologies and procedures are up to date and employees are properly trained on security procedures.
It only takes one mistake or oversight to open a company’s network to risk. Contact us to learn how our Enterprise Security Assessment (ESA) can help identify and prevent security risks.
Implications of Smaller-Scale Breaches: Policy and Procedure
Breaches aren’t always the work of external hackers or malicious insider threats. They are frequently the result of carelessness on the part of an employee or security administrator. But when it comes to securing confidential information, there’s no room for error. Improperly implemented or unsuccessfully enforced security policies and procedures leave an organization vulnerable to a wide array of security risks.
Stolen device – Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, 2013
A thief broke into a secure office of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and stole a mobile device that contained sensitive data. Although DJJ’s technology policy requires that all mobile devices be encrypted and password-protected, the stolen device was not compliant with these security measures.
As a result, the records of more than 100,000 juvenile delinquents and employees were compromised, putting them at risk of identity theft. In response to the incident, all DJJ employees and contracted provider programs were emailed a copy of its policy reminder and security instructions.
In order to ensure that employees and contracted provider programs understood DJJ’s technology policy, the documents defined the parameters of the policy in regards to employee requirements and the expectations of contracted provider programs.
Expert insight: In addition to providing a strict and specific mobile security policy, organizations should periodically review policies with employees in order to ensure that everyone thoroughly understands the processes and ramifications of compliance failures. They should also implement training and checks to guarantee security procedures are being followed. Additionally, planned and random audits can help identify weaknesses or irresponsible activities before serious consequences occur.
Why Insider Threat Detection Fails
Virtually anyone who works in industry or government can tell you what the reportable warning signs of insider threat are – sudden behavioral changes, unexplained affluence, odd working hours, etc. Yet every time an espionage incident, intellectual property theft, or mass shooting takes place, it seems as though indicators are either not reported, or somehow fail to reach those who need to know. So what exactly is going on here?
There are a variety of mechanisms responsible for the failure of insider threat detection; reporting mechanisms, inter-organizational communications, and the existence and enforcement of policy are just a few laid out in CERT’s Common Sense Guide to Mitigating Insider Threats (2012). While any valid insider threat program certainly should address the nineteen components presented within the guide – it must also examine how detection is communicated to employees.
In a discussion pertaining to evolutionary psychology and business ethics, Cosmides and Tooby (2004) delve into a crucial element of the human mind that gets overlooked when discussing threat detection and reporting – humans are unable to detect procedural rule violations that are not precautionary or social in nature. The hunter-gather mind that humans have developed is equipped with specific machinery to detect social contract violations – instances wherein one receives the benefit (Q) without paying the price (not P) or vice versa – but the majority of humans fail at detecting violations of non-social “if then” rules.
The reason for this selective reasoning specialization is simple; our minds are the product of millions of years of natural selection. In terms of scale, we have just recently emerged from hunter-gatherer societies, yet our minds largely remain within this realm. Our mental machinery has been tailored for a starkly different world from which we live in today. In the past, societies were smaller and people often lived with extended family and spent most of their time outdoors. The number of people that an individual might have encountered throughout his or her lifetime was far less than that of an individual in 2014. In a world where people spent most of their days simply trying to stay alive, being able to detect social contract cheaters, or free-riders, was an essential skill because every individual had the incentive to reap benefits without expending personal resources.
Within the context of natural selection, the fact that humans are adept at detecting violations of precautionary rules (e.g. if you’re going take risk A, then you must take precaution B) makes perfect sense. Possessing this skill provides palpable utility to an individual; and that utility is survival. However, the procedural rules of the workplace are another matter. They are not social or precautionary rules and they generally do not identify a benefit or risk to the individual. For example, most insider threat programs can be boiled down to “if you see something, say something.” While straightforward, it simply does not hit the same mental circuits that say, walking through a pit of snakes might. If there is no obvious risk to the individual, and no potential personal benefit – humans are less engaged.
What threats and benefits to an organization mean to an individual remains largely ambiguous. The human mind was developed in an environment in which social exchanges were face to face, in real time, and the results were often observable. The indirect relationship between benefits to the individual and the group were more readily observable (e.g. if I spend time crafting tools in order to allow the hunters more time to hunt, I will eat better). Reporting a coworker who fails to lock their computer may not activate the same mechanisms. The value to the individual through the group is not as apparent and the threat and benefit are obscured. Even within organizations that are serious about implementing security measures through negative reinforcement (counseling, performance review), individuals generally do not lose their jobs. With that said, a culture of enforcement and repercussions can be advantageous.
To put it in more everyday terms, this is one of the reasons why it’s so difficult to get the public out of traditional ways of doing things. For example, it is common knowledge that studies reflect a direct correlation between smoking tobacco and cancer; it’s usually just a matter of time. In most metropolitan areas of the United States today, the effects of smoking are not observed and documented as often as they should be. Going back a few decades, we all knew smoking led to cancer, but it took serious public campaigns and incentives to curb smoking – even though people could rationally understand that smoking might kill them, the lengthy process generally wasn’t rapidly observable enough to command the public’s attention.
If there isn’t a negative repercussion directly associated with an action, our minds fail to acknowledge the association. This is the substance of modern parenting. In order to curb dangerous behaviors, punishment must be swift, consistent and enforceable; otherwise the lesson is lost. This concept can be assimilated to ocean thermal delay – when actions and reactions are separated by timeframes that exceed the normal human attention span, we are less apt to acknowledge (and accept) the connection.
So how can an organization take steps to effectively address insider threat? Anchor the threat of observable impact to the employee. Simply providing training on the machinations of “if you see something, say something” does not go far enough; insider threat detection needs to be tied to livelihood. Consider the impact of the following two statements:
- All personnel must badge into facility X, never allow a person to “tailgate” into the building.
- Reviews of security incidents over the past two years have found tailgating to be the most common method for unauthorized personnel to gain access to intellectual property at facility X. As a result, several companies are now selling our product at a lower price. We will likely have to find ways to streamline budgets, to include no bonuses or pay increases, and the possibility of layoffs.
The first statement is valid, but it fails to emphasize the bottom line impact. Even the second statement is insufficient due to the fact that the damage has already occurred; therefore, the threat could be considered non-existent.
Another aspect to contemplate is the likelihood of a perceptual difference in security stance between management and the average employee. There are very good reasons for employees to nod in accordance with management when security edicts are discussed, but the underlying truth can be acutely different. Management may be oblivious simply because no one wants to tell the emperors they have no clothes.
In order to address this issue, organizations might consider a neutral third party assessment that compares attitudes and perceptions of security from the viewpoint of both employees and management on a scheduled basis. Industrial psychologists could also assist organizations through framing security training in a manner that elicits not only compliance, but active participation from employees as well.
The combination of impartial active listening, conveyance of threats to the individual employee, and the implementation of swift, observable repercussions can create a proactive culture of security awareness, but the organization must be willing to invest. Please contact us below if you would like to know more about this or our ESA methodology to help secure your enterprise.
About the Author
Gabriel Whalen has a Master’s in Forensic Psychology, a decade of experience in the U.S. National Security community, and a background in acting, biology, and ethical hacking. Gabriel represents TSC Advantage’s diversified talent portfolio as a social engineer, behavioral analyst, and insider threat expert.
Cosmides, L. & Tooby, J. (2004). Knowing thyself: The evolutionary psychology of moral reasoning and moral sentiments. In R. E. Freeman and P. Werhane (Eds.), Business, Science, and Ethics. The Ruffin Series No. 4. (pp. 91-127). Charlottesville, VA: Society for Business Ethics.
Silowash, G., Cappelli, Dawn., Moore, Andrew., Trzeciak, Randall., Shimeall, Timothy., & Flynn, Lori. (2012). Common Sense Guide to Mitigating Insider Threats, 4th Edition (CMU/SEI-2012-TR-012). Retrieved April 02, 2014, from the Software Engineering Institute, Carnegie Mellon University website: http://resources.sei.cmu.edu/library/asset-view.cfm?AssetID=34017
Implications of smaller-scale breaches: The insider threat
Insiders have an advantage over outsiders with malicious intentions. Possessing the knowledge of a company’s physical and technical security policies and procedures allows insiders to bypass safeguards that are implemented to defend against external threats.
Insider advantage – Vodafone Telecommunications, 2013
In September of 2013, the German telecommunication company Vodafone fell victim to an insider breach perpetrated by a contract worker. The contractor was able to successfully breach a database containing 2 million customer names, addresses, gender, birthdates and banking account numbers.
Vodafone responded to the incident by changing the passwords and certificates of all administrators and wiping the affected server. It also informed its customers to be on the lookout for phishing scams that could occur as a result of the breach.
Expert insight: Identifying potential insider threats can be difficult, especially in a corporate setting. Employers should strive to become acquainted with their employees so they can detect behavioral indications that an individual is up to no good. Organizations should also apply physical and technical security measures in order to increase the levels of protection against malicious insiders. Contact us to learn more about these solutions and other safeguards to ensure the fortification of your enterprise.
Implications of Smaller-Scale Data Breaches (Pt. 1)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard all about the massive Target data breach. After all, it’s hard not to take notice when the personal information of 110 million people is stolen. However, such massive breaches are rare. Far more frequent, are smaller, less well-known and often unheard of breaches that impact organizations worldwide every day. While these breaches may not be on the evening news, their relative impact on the people affected by them is equally harmful.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll profile a few smaller-scale, high-impact breaches and share our insights about what went wrong and how these breaches could have been prevented. Although these incidents occur on a regular basis in the US, below is an example of one prominent targeted attack that put more than financial records at risk in South Africa.
Targeted breach – South African Police Service, 2013
Anonymous is responsible for jeopardizing the lives of thousands of individuals after revealing the identities of users of an anonymous whistleblowing website that is run by the South African Police Service (SAPS).
As a result of a simple SQL injection, roughly 16,000 records dating back to 2005 were exposed, exported and posted to a website hosted by Anonymous. Details obtained included the names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of whistleblowers. Since the website is hosted outside of South Africa, authorities were unable to shut it down. Subsequent to the incident, thousands of informants and their families became easy targets for vengeful criminals.
Considering that the database was easily hacked, people are concerned that SAPS isn’t following strong security measures.
Expert insight: In order to prevent SQL injections, security administrators should implement input validation techniques. By doing so, user input is authenticated against a set of rules that regulate input length, type and syntax. Additionally, organizations should create application-specific database user accounts and grant users access permissions to the database with the lowest privileges possible.
For more recent examples of cyberattacks, check out our recap of recent incidents here: bit.ly/1hIE8VU.
ThreatLAB2014: The Cybersecurity Conversations you Need to Hear
It was the second day of ThreatLAB2014 and the room was full. The final closing remarks and “thank you’s” were said and done; the plates from the wonderful lunch provided by the Las Vegas Monte Carlo Resort and Casino were cleared. Effectively, the conference was over, yet none of the attendees wanted to leave.
More than a year ago, TSC Advantage and our partners began to wonder what a conference that focused on holistic security would look like. Naturally, the conference would have keynotes, presenters and panels; but it would also incorporate an interactive component. We knew we didn’t want to just get people in a room and talk at them about cyberthreats; we wanted to get the right people in the room and have an open discussion about holistic solutions to cyberthreats.
The real insider threat
The opening keynote by John Powell set the stage for ThreatLAB perfectly. Mr. Powell was the general counsel for American Superconductor Corporation (AMSC) in 2011 when the company fell victim to a devastating corporate espionage event. He offered a chilling retelling of how a single employee, who had all the right access and who was working with a China-based competitor, was able to steal AMSC’s proprietary source code. As a result of this insider threat, AMSC’s market capitalization was reduced by 90 percent, its annual revenue plummeted by 75 percent and its workforce was decimated by 70 percent.
Threat, it turns out, does not always emanate from the outside. No firewall could have prevented this attack. AMSC was a small company; the company knew it should have compartmentalized its crown-jewel code, but “AMSC often does field-testing, and having our code compartmented wouldn’t have been practical in the day-to-day operations of our small business,” Mr. Powell said. As he continued, Mr. Powell reiterated a common theme regarding how most companies think about cyberthreats: “We were a small company, we had tight budgets and a small staff busy executing our business plan. We honestly just thought this would never happen to us.” Powerful words that — if we are all as honest with ourselves as Mr. Powell was with us — may prove beneficial for us.
The insider threat that happened to AMSC highlights exactly what TSC Advantage has been saying for years: cyber-centric solutions to cyberproblems ignore the fundamental reality that threats are diversified and never limited to just one domain.
From reactive to holistic
With John’s story still fresh in our minds, we began what would be one of the most interesting portions of the conference: the interactive scenarios. Using TSC Advantage’s Enterprise Security Assessment (ESA) tool loaded onto iPads, we divided into threat assessment teams and worked our way through several scenarios modeled directly after real-life headlines of cyberattacks.
The first scenario flawlessly captured the confusion that stems from being forced into the reactive state of post-incident reaction: What do we know? How did this happen? What vulnerabilities were exposed? How do we keep this from happening again? Chaos and confusion are the emotions that characterize being caught in a reactive state. All of your strengths and weaknesses sharply come into focus and you begin to realize that policy without training and training without follow-up is meaningless. “If you are reacting to something, then you have already lost,” said one participant.
But attendees did not stay “lost.” As the day progressed and teams began to mesh, they started to look beyond the “who-did-it-and-how” stance of post-incident reaction and something magical happened. Presenting the participants with information from TSC Advantage’s ESA tool allowed them to step beyond the reactionary role and begin discussing the need to eradicate the concept that legacy defenses such as firewalls or physical security solutions, such as guns, gates and guards, offer sufficient protection in today’s evolving landscape.
The conversation quickly turned to holistic solutions, transitioning the mentality of cyber being the cure-all into a comprehensive assessment examining the full suite of ingress points through which threats may enter an organization. One participant who works for a major online retailer said it best when he proclaimed, “In order to mitigate risk we must have buy-in from not only corporate leadership, but from all divisions across our organization.” Holistic security means you need to find your enterprise-wide vulnerabilities fix them and protect them through ongoing cross-domain conversations within your organization.
Until next year
ThreatLAB2014 was full of real-life tales of woe, yet as we sat around the now cleared tables, we were not discussing the tragic headline-making outcomes of past incidents. Instead we discussed the commonalities we all face as business professionals. “Surprisingly, the biggest challenge I still face is convincing my leadership that mitigating cyberthreats has a direct value to our bottom line,” said a participant representing a global logistics provider. Every person at the table wholeheartedly agreed on that concept.
As I stood up to exchange business cards with a director of IT for an energy company, he said, “these are the conversations I needed to hear.” We shook hands and as he turned to leave he paused and asked, “ThreatLAB is going to be an annual thing, right?”
It turns out that getting the right group of people together to discuss the ever-morphing challenges of cyberthreats is exactly what many people have been looking for. ThreatLab2014 was an amazing two-day conversation and it was one we hope will continue throughout the year until ThreatLAB2015!
Threat Lab 2014 is Coming: Join Us in Solving the Complex Threats Facing U.S. Innovation
A lot of people have been asking us about ThreatLAB2014. Slots for attendance have been filling up fast and we are hard at work developing the exciting scenarios for the interactive portion scheduled for day one. In case you haven’t heard, the ThreatLAB2014 event will highlight the complex threats facing U.S. innovation. It will be a combination of traditional keynote speakers and panel discussions coupled with interactive scenarios during which our attendees will have the opportunity to learn critical intelligence techniques to better understand holistic vulnerabilities associated with corporate espionage incidents impacting three fictional companies. (Spoiler alert: the vulnerabilities are not just limited to the traditional “cyber” threat and ALL could have been avoided had there been an emphasis on being proactive rather than reactive.)
In fact, the real reason why we at TSC Advantage (along with our partners) came up with the ThreatLAB 2014 concept was because we needed a fun and interesting way to tell the market what we have been saying since our founding in 2006: cyber-centric solutions are fundamentally limited when it comes to responding to cyber threats. This is because isolated investments in expensive technology hardware and software ignore the role of people and processes. What about human behavior inside an organization (think insider threat)?; Or the role of external dependencies, such as suppliers, sub-suppliers, or contractors (think the Target breach)?; Or even the financial and business constraints affecting security investments (think every organization everywhere). This is why we advocate a holistic approach to risk assessment – one that is “proactive” at its core and that considers the evolving risks in dependent business functions. It also can deliver a more cost-effective and more resilient approach to security that explores all the internal and external forces affecting a security posture.
For our ThreatLAB 2014 keynote, we are lucky to have John Powell, who was the general counsel for American Superconductor Corporation (AMSC) in 2011 when the company fell victim to a devastating corporate espionage event where an employee – in exchange for an apartment in Beijing, $1.7 million, and gifts for his girlfriend – sold out his company by providing AMSC’s competitor with crucial source code relating to its proprietary wind turbine technology. As a result of this insider threat, AMSC’s market capitalization was reduced by 90 percent, its annual revenue plummeted by 75 percent and its workforce was decimated by 70 percent. John’s presentation, “Sinovel Trade Secret Theft: Case Study of AMSC’s Successful Litigation and Conviction After Purported Chinese Corporate Espionage of AMSC Trade Secrets,” will serve as a valuable, albeit somber learning experience for ThreatLAB 2014 participants as they begin to transition to problem-solving mode and start the scenarios.
This is going to be an awesome event. Did I mention it is going to be in Las Vegas and that accommodations at the amazing Monte Carlo Resort & Casino are covered for participants? This is one event you don’t want to miss.
Why Industrial Espionage? It’s Basic Economics
Over the past few years, traveling around the country and talking to companies about industrial espionage has proven to be an enlightening experience. I’ve met aspiring entrepreneurs, Fortune 100 executives and everything in between. Some companies I’ve met have been so paranoid that they refuse to even consider overseas operations; while others are so naïve that they think it could “never happen to me”. Sadly, I can count on one hand the number of companies that are 1) both aware of the threat and 2) taking appropriate steps to safeguard their confidential and sensitive information.
The degrees of denial are sometimes overwhelming. Frequently, the legal representative in the room chimes in about how litigation is the key to successful IP protection. Almost as often, I will hear from the IT rep about the latest and greatest firewall that was recently installed that now “fully protects” all of their intellectual assets. Both camps could not be farther from reality.
In the beginning, it was often a challenge to overcome every objection because each party had a natural and vested interest in thinking that they weren’t the department charged with protecting the company’s intellectual assets and other sensitive data (this was sometimes in contradiction to the opinion of the C-Suite, which had the opinion that a particular department was in fact the LEAD in protecting intellectual assets). That is, until one day I realized there was a universal way to describe the problem that all functional areas and levels of an organization could relate to: basic economics.
Imagine two groups of kids putting lemonade stands on the street corner for an afternoon.
- Group 1 begins their venture by purchasing supplies. They spend $4 on cups, signs and markers. They spend $1 each on five different brands of lemonade ($5) to determine which tastes the best, mixes the best, and holds up in the heat. After some trial and error, they decide on one brand and purchase $1 of product for the day.
- Group 2 also starts by purchasing start-up supplies. They spend $4 on cups, signs and markers. But instead of spending any money on developing their product, one of their employees pulls out a pair of binoculars and observes that Lemonade Stand #1 is using Acme brand mix. They spend $1 on the Acme lemonade powder to mix with water.
|Start-Up Costs (R&D)||
|Break Even Sales||
Group 2 has significantly lower start-up costs, meaning they can enter the market with a 20% pricing discount and still reach profitability almost 2x faster than their competitor. What company wouldn’t take that?
This may seem overly simplistic, but it is this exact example that has had, by far, the most impact with the companies whom I have had the pleasure of speaking. Everyone can see the clear economic benefit to Group 2 by skipping the R&D phase. The IT department realizes that the theft of IP doesn’t need to go through their firewall. The General Counsel realizes that not all theft is easily proven and litigated against. And the CFO in the room sees the clear financial stakes of not protecting sensitive information.
I vividly recall one particular California executive took umbrage with my talking points about overseas industrial espionage and indicated it was nothing more than the current scare tactic of the day. No more than two weeks later, a report by a respected publication came out detailing pervasive and irrefutable evidence of concerted overseas efforts to acquire US technology. I’ll never forget the call back from this executive asking if we’d come in and take a look at their current security posture.
It shouldn’t take a publication to prove to US companies that economic espionage is occurring; it’s just basic economics.
BYOD: Everyone is (Or Will Be) Doing It
What is BYOD? Glad you asked. Today’s employees are investing their hard earned paychecks in mobile computing devices that are newer, smaller, more powerful, and more productive. These devices are evolving at a pace faster than most companies are updating their computer hardware. Employees expect to be able to do their work on devices that are at least as fast and capable as their personal devices. In order to avoid obligatory hardware refreshes on a yearly basis, companies have sought less expensive alternatives.
Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD, is the latest evolution in the new distributed network model revolution that began with cloud services. In a nutshell, BYOD means employees bring their own devices to the workplace and use them throughout the course of conducting business. Employees utilize their personal devices to access customer/prospect data, send emails and engage in a host of other activities/tasks. For those of us (I am guilty) who miss the good old days of secure devices operating on secure networks, BYOD can foster some debate. How can a company expect to retain control of its intellectual property when it is floating in a cloud, readily accessible by employee’s personal devices?
BYOD exists at your company, with or without your blessing, acknowledgement, or approval. As a result, your organization may be reaping benefits such as cost reduction, improved productivity, and employee morale. However, without a BYOD policy, you are putting your organization and its intellectual assets, trade secrets, and other proprietary data at risk. So the question isn’t “IF” you should adopt a policy but “WHEN”.
The answer to this question is simply – “ASAP”. A well-crafted BYOD policy should be implemented immediately. And it should maintain pace with current technology as well as in an intelligent and methodical manner that will provide employees with benefits while ensuring your intellectual property remains secure.
Key components of a BYOD policy:
- Determining the types of phones and other devices that will be supported
- Training for employees on Do’s and Don’ts
- IT outreach for set up and configuration
- Requiring employees to sign a statement that they were properly briefed and trained on the policy. In addition, they must understand that the company will audit the use of the documents on their device
- Company must have ability to audit use and control documents through software
- Company needs ability to encrypt and remotely delete documents if the device is lost or stolen
- Implementing BYOD will inevitably present challenges to safeguarding the integrity of your network. TSC Advantage can help implement a cost effective solution that is designed to identify those challenges before they become problems or evolve into a catastrophic situation. Become the technological champion who innovates, saves money, and fortifies the future of your company.
IP Protection and the Manufacturing Industry
When you read the morning newspaper, daily articles detail the latest intellectual property, trade secret or personal information theft from commercial and government entities. On the commercial front, the stories primarily focus on high technology or financial institutions (such as Google or J.P. Morgan). Theft from manufacturing companies is often ignored. It is here where some of the most significant IP and data losses occur and often go unnoticed for months or years. Losses typically go undetected until a competitor comes out with a product that “looks just like “x” product” that was being produced by the targeted company(s).
Manufacturing companies produce a wealth of IP and innovation. However, the public and media (as well as the companies themselves) have been slow to recognize the threats. In order to effectively combat these threats, manufacturing companies must first identify the IP and data that represent the lifeblood of their organization. Second, they must understand how it is potentially at risk.
They must establish effective processes and procedures to safeguard their IP and data. It’s critical to institute monitoring technologies such as data loss prevention (DLP) tools and digital rights management tools. Additionally, employees need training and awareness programs to help them understand both the significance of IP and data protection and “how” they should both handle IP and data and report potential security violations.
The major issues common to classic manufacturing companies are:
- Non-security employees (engineers, line workers, admin and support staff, et al) are paid to “get the job done” and IP/data security typically takes a back seat. Training that emphasizes the need for each and every employee to take IP and data security seriously and “own” protecting IP and data within their environment is a MUST.
- Internal system constraints and legacy processes lead to potential IP and data loss. TSC Advantage often finds that poor internal system design and/or lack of bandwidth leads employees to design broken business processes in order to “work around” system limitations. In one example, remote locations had trouble accessing sensitive design information. An employee was chartered to “print out” all documents that were needed for work. This led to the potential for physical loss of paper data but also allowed unauthorized personnel to see particular data and provided them with the ability to violate the “least privilege” practice of IP protection.
- Foreign joint ventures and suppliers need extra focus. This is a large area for IP and data leakage via either direct espionage or basic “losses.” A comprehensive system analysis is necessary in addition to sensitivity to cultural norms and legal requirements in various overseas locations.
These are just some of the challenges that commercial manufacturing entities face. TSC Advantage is helping this significant and perpetually emergent manufacturing base acknowledge the threat to their sensitive IP and data sources and to implement protection measures to ensure these companies retain their industry advantages.
Employee Awareness May be Your Best Line of Defense
The presence of fortified security in the form of gates and guards offers false hope to companies looking to protect their sensitive data. While physical security is undeniably an important element of deterrence, it should never be regarded as the sole antidote in preventing compromise to intellectual assets and trade secrets. In fact, no single component of enterprise security ever provides complete protection in an age of sophisticated and persistent threats to sensitive data. Security solutions must be as diversified and resilient as the very threats that are targeting you (not trying to scare you, but you are probably in possession of information that somebody wants).
One way to begin an effective IP protection strategy is through employee education and awareness. Employees are on the front lines. They are your human resources specialists, your administrative staff, your operations and sales people, your information technologists, and your research and development team. The scope is boundless. What likens these seemingly unrelated groups is that they all have access to sensitive information – from knowledge of competitive processes and trade secrets to patents, trademarks, and copyrights – that directly contributes to your differentiation and thus your ability to create and capture value.
Yet, the question remains: are these employees aware of the value of the information they possess? Do they understand what information is considered more valuable than others? Furthermore, are they cognizant of the vital role they play in protecting it? In all industries and in all organizations, the need for employee security awareness, effective education, as well as data classification and loss prevention are critical to the safeguard of sensitive information. In this regard, a Fortune 500 company is no different than a state health exchange or a major public university. The reason? All three organizations have information that they are obligated to protect. For the Fortune 500 Company, it is trade secrets and intellectual assets. For the state health exchange, it is electronic protected health information covered under the HIPAA Security Rule. And for higher education, it is personal identifiable information protected under FERPA guidelines as set by the U.S. Department of Education. What unifies these organizations is their requirement to secure information that must be protected – because a failure to do so may result in significant value degradation or even administrative and financial penalties imposed by regulatory authorities, such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
So what are some classic examples of poor employee awareness and education? Take for example a common theme among organizations with robust physical security programs, such as a gated campus, visitor access control, and security patrol. At such a place, employees may develop a sense of false security and neglect basic security measures out of the belief that the onus is not on them, per se, but rather “the security folks” who probably “got it covered”. The employee may not even think to question the presence of a stranger (or a known colleague) within a sensitive area – such as a server room or an area where key R&D takes place – because of a mistaken assumption that the person probably “belongs.” But that is a dangerous assumption to make. The rise in sophistication of intellectual property theft – even from Insider Threats (http://goo.gl/jeQmcE) demonstrates the need to equip employees with the knowledge of the complexity of threat directed against them and how it does not matter if a particular component of their enterprise – such as physical security – is well fortified. If an adversary is determined enough, they will certainly pivot and exploit the vulnerability left undefended.
Educating your employees on what constitutes “valuable” as well as the tactics that may be used to pilfer data can offer a proactive step in fortifying your enterprise against IP and trade secret theft. At TSC Advantage, we specialize in a holistic approach to enterprise security that seeks to understand vulnerability being created by six critical domains across your organization – whether private or public sector – in our unique approach to IP and trade secret protection. But make no mistake: the front lines of protection rests with the human front lines of defense (and that’s everybody who works for you).
Helpful Hints: Protecting Intellectual Assets During Foreign Travel
“The willingness of US scientists and scholars to engage in academic exchange makes US travelers particularly vulnerable not only to standard electronic monitoring devices—installed in hotel rooms or conference centers—but also to simple approaches by foreigners trained to ask the right questions.”
– Annual Report to Congress on Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage, 2003
“If a company has significant intellectual property that the Chinese and Russians are interested in, and you go over there with mobile devices, your devices will get penetrated.”
– Joel F. Brenner, Official in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 2012
These quotes are indicative of the risks to intellectual property that US businesses face everyday when traveling overseas. So what is the best strategy to use if you want to show a prospective client your capabilities and how your company is the right solution for them? How do you separate yourself from competitors while simultaneously protecting your intellectual assets?
Before I do, here are a few examples of intellectual assets that we unknowingly possess while traveling overseas that could prove extremely valuable to an adversary:
- Customer data
- Employee data
- Vendor information
- Pricing information
- Proprietary formulas and processes
- Technical components and plans
- Corporate, financial or investment data
- Phone directories
- Computer access protocols and network design
- Corporate, marketing or acquisition strategies
- Negotiation strategies
- Passwords (computer, phone, accounts)
Here are a few practices to minimize information loss while still allowing you to have a successful trip abroad:
- Research and understand the environment of your potential client prior to your travel.
- Only take what you and your company are prepared to lose if ever compromised.
- Have your company information security experts wipe clean all electronic devices prior to your travel and upon your return.
- Minimize the use of personal devices while traveling overseas.
- Never load anything (such as thumb drives) given to you by anyone overseas on to your devices.
- Understand that some businesses in foreign countries may have host government affiliations. Be cognizant of what information you convey back to your company headquarters.
- Adhere to your company’s information security policies for travelling abroad.
- Be attentive – Where are your belongings at all times? What are you being asked and by whom? Do you remember your talking points? Is the material being discussed part of the pre-approved agenda sent ahead of your trip, or is it being solicited?
The truth is there is no simple solution to completely eliminate the possibility of corporate espionage or deterring an adversary from stealing your intellectual assets. However, making an effort to constantly improve employee awareness and guidelines while traveling overseas will lead to successful trips and the protection of valuable intellectual assets. Please give us a shout if you have any questions on how TSC Advantage can assist in your development of an effective mobility policy.
Why Tactical Solutions to Strategic Problems Always Fail
For six long months, you’ve worked a lot of overtime to earn a little extra money so you can treat your family to a theme park vacation. Eventually, you reach your financial goal, pick up the amusement park tickets and take out some cash for the surprise trip. But first, you take your family out to dinner to celebrate. After relaxing, all seems right in the world. However, things take a drastic turn for the worse when you return home. Your state-of-the-art security system has been disabled. You find yourself in a momentary state of confusion as you recall having turned it on before leaving. There are no broken windows, all your doors are locked from the inside and you find no evidence of forced entry.
As you frantically scour the house, it appears as though nothing has been taken or damaged. Then it hits you: there IS one thing that may be missing. You race to the locked cabinet, and frantically open it. With one glance, your heart drops. The envelope with the amusement park passes, cash, and airline tickets are gone. Six months of effort squandered. In a matter of hours, someone completely unraveled everything you had been working towards.
After surveying the damage, you transition into “problem-solver mode.” You vow that this will never happen again. You install floodlights and motions sensors. A new, six foot fence encompasses your property and two large Doberman’s prowl within. You upgrade the alarm system. Your window and door locks are now top of the line. And finally, you replace the locked cabinet with a Class TXTL-60 safe that can withstand explosive charges. You have hardened your defenses from the outside in, thus ensuring that your hard work and family dreams will never be taken from you again.
Unfortunately, you are no closer to being safe than you were the moment you left for that family dinner. Why?
You have applied sound, robust and proven tactical solutions to an overwhelmingly strategic problem. You failed to recognize that the real issue was not the theft of your vacation envelope but HOW the thief knew it existed. You upgraded a safe in order to prevent easy entry, but you still don’t know how the locked cabinet in your home office was so easily identified as holding the prize. You improved the features of your alarm system without addressing how the deactivation code was compromised last time. Your dogs now prowl and protect your exterior, yet it remains unclear how the initial entry was made. In essence, you’ve improved your security marginally (if at all), while simultaneously highlighting to any previously unwitting bystander that there must be something valuable to protect inside. Otherwise, why would you spend precious family resources on all of these security upgrades? Perhaps instead of being the target of one professional thief, you’ll now be the target of an additional few who are willing to chance the security for the assumed windfall inside. And worst of all, you’ve created a false sense of security for yourself and your family.
You would never expend funds unless you were sure it was addressing the problem. Unfortunately, these are the mistakes that countless U.S. corporations – from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies – are making daily in response to a systemic problem of intellectual property and trade secret theft. Tactical solutions such as the latest and greatest anti-virus program and physical security upgrades are often viewed as adequate countermeasures against leakage of sensitive corporate information. In an effort to prevent the next theft, they are failing to understand the root cause that may lead to 100 more thefts down the road. How did these bad actors know where to find your sensitive information? Who told them a product was moving from R&D to Pilot phase? How did the information get through the strong internal controls? Was an insider involved? Did someone in the corporate ecosystem such as a supplier, joint venture or partner gain access to the information? Is this part of a larger concerted effort against your organization?
No one should tell you that a tactical solution would not be a part of a broader security strategy. There is often a significant overlap. Holistic solutions include proper IT protection, travel security and basic physical security safeguards. However, your corporate IP thief is banking on the fact that every U.S. corporation will stop its protection efforts there. And most importantly, they are counting on the fact that human nature will stay true to form and a false sense of security will envelop the organization as people see the enterprise protection efforts in place. The only state of an enterprise more attractive to an IP thief than complacency is denial.
Maintain hope. There is no cliff to dive off. There is no such thing as an insurmountable enemy. The American spirit is based on the belief that a large challenge is simply a great opportunity to conquer. It is important to understand the root causes of our current challenge. We must focus our precious corporate resources on not just stopping an ongoing issue but knowing how it was perpetrated and learning from it in order to prevent the next one. Through increased awareness and attention, corporate leaders have taken the important first steps in getting a handle on this acutely imperative issue. How this issue is addressed will define whether we continue to lead the world in innovation for generations to come or succumb to the economic realities of constant competition against entities that have built their success upon our shoulders.
May 23, 2015
The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis confirmed last week that hackers had successfully attacked the bank, redirecting users of its online research services to fake websites set up by the attackers. The breach was just the latest in a spate of hackings against government systems in recent months, impacting the White House, the State Department and even the president’s own email account.
May 21, 2015
U.S. health insurer Carefirst has admitted it has been hacked and the data of 1.1. million of its customers exposed. The company, which operates in several U.S. states, is the third such company to fall victim to hackers.
May 18, 2015
Hackers alleged to be based in China have had access to Pennsylvania State University’s engineering school computers for over two years, the university recently disclosed after a lengthy analysis by federal and private investigators. The breach potentially has exposed research pertaining to technology for the U.S. Defense Department.
May 14, 2015
The Sally Beauty chain confirmed Thursday that it has suffered its second data breach in just over two years. The beauty products seller notified customers earlier this month that it was investigating reports of suspicious activity on payment cards used at some of locations in the U.S.
May 13, 2015
An indictment has been unsealed charging Charles Harvey Eccleston, a former employee of the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), in connection with an attempted spear-phishing attack in January 2015, targeting dozens of Department of Energy employee e-mail accounts.
May 4, 2015
A cyber attack against the Rutgers University computer network is responsible for ongoing interruptions in internet service, school officials said. Rutgers Office of Information and Technology officials indicated the service outages were related to a distributed denial of service attack.
April 13, 2015
France’s TV5Monde television channel was forced to abandon its regular programming last Thursday after falling victim to an “unprecedented” hack by self-proclaimed Islamic State militants, who also hijacked its website and social networks.
April 6, 2015
Auburn University is investigating a data security incident that could have exposed the personal information of about 370,000 current, former and prospective students.
March 26, 2015
Advantage Dental, serving more than 200,000 residents across Oregon through 30 clinics, notified over 150,000 patients of a breach of protected health information within 30 days after an internal database was hacked.
March 18, 2015
Health insurer Premera Blue Cross said hackers gained access to the personal information of around 11 million customers, including bank account and protected health information.
March 2, 2015
Uber says a database containing the names and driver’s license numbers of 50,000 of its drivers was breached in May. The ride-sharing service said it has notified the drivers and hasn’t received any reports yet of the information being misused.
February 23, 2015
A University of Maine professor’s laptop containing the Social Security numbers of more than 600 former students was reported stolen from the educator’s luggage during a flight from Seattle to Boston earlier this month. The laptop was password protected but a media card, which contained the personally identifiable information, lacked encryption.
February 5, 2015
Anthem Inc, which has nearly 40 million U.S. customers, indicated late on Wednesday that hackers had breached one of its IT systems and stolen personal information relating to current and former consumers and employees.
February 2, 2015
The Central Vermont Humane Society found out its website had been attacked by a Russian malware virus that had been targeting WordPress, a content management platform.
January 27, 2015
The user names and email addresses of 20 million visitors to a Russian dating website has reportedly been put up for sale on an online crime forum, according to a leading anti-fraud consultancy.
January 12, 2015
The FBI is investigating the cyber attack against Twitter and YouTube accounts belonging to the U.S. Central Command, which oversees the U.S.-led airstrikes on Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
January 6, 2015
A federal weather service employee charged with stealing sensitive infrastructure data from an Army Corps of Engineers database met a Chinese government official in Beijing, according to court documents that reveal the case to be part of an FBI probe of Chinese economic espionage.
December 27, 2014
South Korean nuclear power operator Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power has said cyber-attacks on non-critical operations at its headquarters are continuing but the country’s nuclear power plants are operating safely and are secure from attack.
December 23, 2014
The computer breach at JPMorgan Chase this summer was the largest intrusion of an American bank ever. Details surrounding the breach are now surfacing and it appears as though the breach might have been thwarted if the bank had installed a very simple security fix to an overlooked server in its network.
December 9, 2014
Former Apple Global Operations manager Paul Devine has been sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to charges of money laundering, conspiracy and wire fraud. He also must repay Apple $4.5 million. From 2007 until 2010, Devine and his partner Andrew Ang sold confidential internal Apple information such as product specifications and pricing to Apple’s suppliers and manufacturers. The information they received allowed them to negotiate more favorable contracts with Apple.
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.
ArmondSenior Threat Specialist
Armond joined TSC Advantage in 2011 and has 10 years of international security and consulting experience. He has managed complex global projects as well as led specialized training and awareness programs focusing on threat remediation and intellectual asset protection for both the private and public sector. He holds a Masters degree in International Affairs with an emphasis on International Business from Tufts University’s Fletcher School.
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?