On Thursday February 2 the IRS put out a press release warning schools, hospitals, restaurants, tribal groups and "others" to be on the lookout for sophisticated W-2 phishing scam that has netted crooks millions of dollars and cost employees, in some instances, their jobs. This diverse list of potential targets and "others" is of note because the W-2 phishing scam is growing in reach and effectiveness, hoovering up a larger and more diverse group of victims. Discovered in 2016, the W-2 scam is particularly dangerous because it is a blended attack that targets employees with authority to do two things: release employees’ W-2 tax information in bulk and/or conduct wire transfers on behalf of their employers. Wire transfer scams are called business email compromise (BEC) scams and are carried out using similar means to the W-2 hacks.
Whenever a company suffers a headline-grabbing data breach, its reputation takes a serious blow. If you’re a big company, evidence suggests the impact is short-lived. But if you’re a small company doing business with large partners, it could be a different story. Retail giant Target saw its sales decline after suffering a breach in 2013 that compromised payment card information of 110 million customers, but one year later the company’s sales had increased. In a March 2015 article, Fortune magazine reported that breaches cost big companies “shockingly little.” Citing a study by Benjamin Dean, a fellow at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Fortune reported that breach-related expenses cost Sony, Target and Home Depot “less than 1 percent of each company’s annual revenues” after suffering major cyber attacks. Even though the study measured revenue, there is a correlation to reputation. If customers abandoned a company in droves after it suffers a breach, the impact wouldn’t be this low.
Part II – Identity
As the business world continues to embrace cloud and mobile technologies, and any semblance of a secure network perimeter is being obliterated, it is imperative for cyber security pros to focus their efforts on the technologies and techniques that will have the greatest impact in the shortest amount of time for the greatest number of users. This is why focusing on identity management is increasingly seen as a sound cyber security practice. In a perimeter-less world, if you can know what people are doing on the network and can limit that activity and their access based on roles or other privileges, you will be far more able to thwart a cyberattack before it gets out of hand or even gets started. According to one highly placed security industry CTO, "If you could achieve that guarantee at all times, your problems would more-or-less be solved. And identity is foundational in that regard."
Part I – Visibility
As has been made abundantly clear by the 2016 presidential election, hacking has entered new territory. This land grab shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone responsible for cyber security but, if it does, what they need to realize is cyber security today is about a lot more than protecting a few credit card numbers. Thankfully, the seriousness of countering these bad actors is finally getting the Board Room notice it deserves. So now that a beachhead in the battle for basic awareness is finally being established, the focus can shift to mounting an effective counter-offensive? We use this term deliberately. Up until the past few years, most cyber security measures have been defensive in nature: firewalls, IDS/IPS, anti-virus, monitoring, alterting, etc. According to analyst Zeus Kerravala writing NetworkWorld, the average company deploys security products from 32 different vendors.
Traditional cybersecurity approaches revolve around building a defensive posture. Cybercriminals come up with new, inventive ways to break into networks, and cybersecurity professionals scramble to stop them.
But what if you flipped this approach on its head? What if rather than a defensive approach, you went on the offensive? Is that even possible?
The increase in regulatory legislation in the years since the 2008 financial crisis, should not come as a surprise to anyone. Yet they have brought increasingly tough challenges to financial services organizations that must implement them. These and other vital topics are being addressed at FICO World, which is going on now in Washington DC.
For IT security professionals today, one thing that is of minimal concern is an attack that goes undetected. That certainly is a concern, but it's trivial compared with the much bigger threat: an attack that is detected by software but is ignored by IT staff. The problem of systems that over-alert is huge and amounts to a much bigger threat than almost anything else.
An article in Above the Law, 7 Cybersecurity Tips For Lawyers, offers some valuable guidelines for law firms to help them observe best practices in protecting the sensitive data they store and transmit every day. Data breaches like the recent attack on Biglaw, illustrate how vulnerable law firms can be and as the article points out, law firms involved in market-moving, transactional data are being targeted by Russian hackers who hope to trade on the information they steal. For the firms that get hacked, the consequences can be serious and prolonged. Right now, class action litigators are preparing suits against several firms on the grounds they provided inadequate cybersecurity.
A new article in Data Center Knowledge, Are Security Data Breaches Hastening a Shift to the Cloud?, poses the interesting hypothesis that the continuous parade of data breaches, rather than discouraging cloud computing adoption, is actually prompting more organizations to embrace the cloud. This is an interesting take on security in the cloud, because organizations more often have expressed concern about a lack of cloud security, citing it as a reason for not embracing the cloud.
A new survey by the consulting firm NTT Com Security illustrates how some organizations seem poorly prepared to protect their data in spite of many highly publicized data breaches in the last few years. The survey included 1,000 business executives from both US and European firms and found that a majority of them not only feel ill-prepared to protect their data, they fully expect to be victims of an attack. Other findings should prove equally stunning to even the most jaded security industry veteran. Keep in mind, it’s pretty safe to assume that these executives are aware of the data breaches at Target, Anthem, Sony, JP Morgan Stanley, etc. And it’s not that they think it won’t happen to them, it’s almost as if they accept the inevitability of a data breach. Here are some other revelations from the survey: