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Brian Pennington

A blog about Cyber Security & Compliance

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Are British Businesses over confident about the threat of data breaches?

Ilex International have launched their Breach Confidence Index. The Index is a benchmark survey created to monitor the level of confidence that British businesses have when it comes to security breaches. The Index shows high confidence levels

  • 24% of IT decision makers surveyed very confident
  • 59% fairly confident that their business is protected against a data security breach

The Breach Confidence Index raises major concerns for British businesses. Businesses are not currently required to report security breaches and in many cases, may not even know that they have experienced one. The survey found that 49% said their business has not experienced a security breach. In comparison to actual statistics shared at the 2015 Cyber Symposium, there is a major gap between the perception and reality of security breaches among businesses.

According to the survey the most common weaknesses resulting in a Data Breach were
22% MALWARE VULNERABILITIES
21% EMAIL SECURITY
15% EMPLOYEE EDUCATION
12% CLOUD APPLICATIONS
12% INSIDER THREATS
8% ACCESS CONTROL
8% BYOD OR MOBILE ACCESS
6% NON-COMPLIANCE TO CURRENT REGULATIONS

Weaknesses relating to identity and access management considerably increase as organisations expand their workforce. Some of the most common issues highlighted by large businesses include:

  • 44% insider threats
  • 42% employee education
  • 26% access control
  • 24% BYOD or mobile access

All figures in the Ilex International Breach Confidence Index, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 530 IT Decision Makers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6th – 12th August 2015. The survey was carried out online.

Payment Card Industry issues new guidance to help organizations respond to data breaches

For any organization connected to the internet, it is not a question of if but when their business will be under attack, according to a recent cybersecurity report from Symantec, which found Canada ranked No. 4 worldwide in terms of ransomware and social media attacks last year. These increasing attacks put customer information, and especially payment data at risk for compromise.

When breaches do occur, response time continues to be a challenge. In more than one quarter of all breaches investigated worldwide in 2014 by Verizon, it took victim organization weeks, or even months, to contain the breaches. It is against this backdrop that global cybersecurity, payment technology and data forensics experts are gathering in Vancouver for the annual PCI North America Community Meeting to address the ongoing challenge of protecting consumer payment information from criminals, and new best practices on how organizations can best prepare for responding to a data breach. 

A data breach now costs organizations an average total of $3.8 million. However, research shows that having an incident response team in place can create significant savings. Developed in collaboration with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Forensic Investigators (PFI) community, Responding to a Data Breach: A How-to Guide for Incident Management provides merchants and service providers with key recommendations for being prepared to react quickly if a breach is suspected, and specifically what to do contain damage, and facilitate an effective investigation. 

The silver lining to high profile breaches that have occurred is that there is a new sense of urgency that is translating into security vigilance from the top down, forcing businesses to prioritize and make data security business-as-usual,” said PCI SSC General Manager Stephen W. Orfei. “Prevention, detection and response are always going to be the three legs of data protection. Better detection will certainly improve response time and the ability to mitigate attacks, but managing the impact and damage of compromise comes down to preparation, having a plan in place and the right investments in technology, training and partnerships to support it

This guidance is especially important given that in over 95% of breaches it is an external party that informs the compromised organization of the breach,” added PCI SSC International Director Jeremy King. “Knowing what to do, who to contact and how to manage the early stages of the breach is critical

At its annual North America Community Meeting in Vancouver this week, the PCI Security Standards Council will discuss these best practices in the context of today’s threat and breach landscape, along with other standards and resources the industry is developing to help businesses protect their customer payment data. Keynote speaker cybersecurity blogger Brian Krebs will provide insights into the latest attacks and breaches, while PCI Forensic Investigators and authors of the Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report and PCI Compliance Report, will present key findings from their work with breached entities globally. Canadian organizations including City of Calgary, Interac and Rogers will share regional perspectives on implementing payment security technologies and best practices. 

Download a copy of Responding to a Data Breach: A How-to Guide for Incident Management here 

The original PCI SSC press release can be found here.

Standard & Poor’s labeled holes in cybersecurity a financial risk in a report

Banks with weak cybersecurity controls could be downgraded even if they haven’t been attacked, Standard & Poor’s said Monday in a report.

While it hasn’t yet downgraded a bank based on its computer security, the ratings company said it would consider doing so if it determined the lender was ill-prepared to withstand a data breach. It would also drop a bank’s rating if an attack caused reputational harm or resulted in losses that hurt profit, S&P said.

We view weak cybersecurity as an emerging threat that has the potential to pose a higher risk to financial firms in the future, and possibly result in downgrades

S&P analysts led by Stuart Plesser wrote in the report.

Cyberattacks have become a growing threat for banks, with more than a dozen U.S. depository institutions reporting hacks in 2012 and 2013 that prevented consumers from accessing their websites, according to the report. Last year, the personal data of tens of millions of JPMorgan Chase & Co. customers were compromised in a breach. The bank spent $250 million on cybersecurity in 2014 and will increase that to $450 million by next year, S&P said.

Hostile nation-states, terrorist organizations, criminal groups, activists and, in some cases, company insiders are behind most of the global cyberattacks on banks, S&P said. South Korea financial institutions have experienced security breaches in recent years, while a Russian security company working with law enforcement said it uncovered a two-year, billion-dollar theft from banks around the world by a gang of cybercriminals, according to the report, which didn’t identify the lenders.

‘Continual Battle’

S&P classified the global risk of cyberattacks as “medium,” saying large banks have taken steps to mitigate the danger. Bigger institutions have an advantage over smaller ones because their revenue base can defray some expenses, according to the report.

Few banks have disclosed the amount they’re spending to guard against attacks, S&P said. Still, any cuts to technology units as part of larger cost-savings efforts would be “disconcerting.”

Cyberdefense is a continual battle, particularly as technology evolves,” according to the report. “Many tech experts believe that if a hostile nation-state put all its resources into infiltrating a particular bank’s tech system, it would probably prove successful

The original article was published in Crain”s New Yokr Business.

Mobile Payments Data Breaches will Grow

An ISACA survey of more than 900 cybersecurity experts shows that

  • 87% expect to see an increase in mobile payment data breaches over the next 12 months
  • 42% of respondents have used this payment method in 2015

The 2015 Mobile Payment Security Study from global cybersecurity association ISACA suggests that people who use mobile payments are unlikely to be deterred by security concerns.

Other data from the survey show that cybersecurity professionals are willing to balance benefits with perceived security risks of mobile payments:

  • 23% believe that mobile payments are secure in keeping personal information safe.
  • 47% say mobile payments are not secure and 30% are unsure.
  • At 89%, cash was deemed the most secure payment method, but only 9% prefer to use it.

Mobile payments represent the latest frontier for the ongoing choice we all make to balance security and privacy risk and convenience,” said John Pironti, CISA, CISM, CGEIT, CRISC, risk advisor with ISACA and president of IP Architects. “ISACA members, who are some of the most cyber-aware professionals in the world, are using mobile payments while simultaneously identifying and contemplating their potential security risks. This shows that fear of identity theft or a data breach is not slowing down adoption and it shouldn’t as long as risk is properly managed and effective and appropriate security features are in place

Reports say that contactless in-store payment will continue to grow. Overall, the global mobile payment transaction market, including solutions offered by Apple Pay, Google Wallet, PayPal and Venmo, will be worth an estimated US $2.8 trillion by 2020, according to Future Market Insights.

ISACA survey respondents ranked the major vulnerabilities associated with mobile payments:

  1. Use of public WiFi (26%)
  2. Lost or stolen devices (21%)
  3. Phishing/shmishing (phishing attacks via text messages) (18%
  4. Weak passwords (13%)
  5. User error (7%)
  6. There are no security vulnerabilities (0.3%)

What Consumers Need to Know

According to those surveyed, currently the most effective way to make mobile payments more secure is using two ways to authenticate their identity (66%), followed by requiring a short-term authentication code (18%). Far less popular was an option that puts the onus on the consumer installing phone-based security apps (9%).

CSX-Mobile-3-lg

People using mobile payments need to educate themselves so they are making informed choices. You need to know your options, choose an acceptable level of risk, and put a value on your personal information,” said Christos Dimitriadis, Ph.D., CISA, CISM, CRISC, international president of ISACA and group director of information security for INTRALOT. “The best tactic is awareness. Embrace and educate about new services and technologies

Understand your level of risk: Ask yourself what level of personal information and financial loss is acceptable to balance the convenience of mobile payments.

Know your options: Understand the security options available to manage your risk to an acceptable level. Using a unique passcode should be mandatory, but also look into encryption, temporary codes that expire and using multiple ways to authenticate your identity.

Value your personal information: Be aware of what information you are sharing e.g., name, birthday, national identification number, pet name, email, phone number. These pieces of information can be used by hackers to gain access to accounts. Only provide the least amount of information necessary for each transaction.

Security Governance for Retailers and Payment Providers

In the emerging mobile payment landscape, ISACA notes that there is no generally accepted understanding of which entity is responsible for keeping mobile payments secure—the consumer, the payment provider or the retailer. One approach is for businesses to use the COBIT governance framework to involve all key stakeholders in deciding on an acceptable balance of fraud rate vs. revenue. Based on that outcome, organizations should set policies and make sure that mobile payment systems adhere to them.

Members of the IT or information security group taking part in the discussion should also ensure they are keeping up to date with the latest cybersecurity developments and credentials. A joint 2015 ISACA/RSA study shows that nearly 70% of information security/information technology professionals require certification when looking for candidates to fill open security positions.

The full ISACA Press Release can be found here.

Data Breaches: Are You Prepared?

Data privacy and security continues to be a growing concern for many organizations. With cyber attacks increasing each year, businesses must be mindful of how data breaches occur in order to prevent the exposure of confidential information. Recognizing vulnerabilities in data security efforts can help minimize the effects a cyber attack may have on an organization.

Thomson Reuters data-breaches

Original produced here by Thomson Reuters.

UK-Avast-for-Business-INFOGRAPHIC

5 steps to respond to a security breach

Is your organisation equipped to deal with potential financial and reputational damage following an attack? 

Has your organisation established an incident management plan that covers data breaches? Recent evidence shows that organisations are ill-equipped to deal with an attack.

Australian bulk deals website, Catch of the Day, suffered a security breach in 2011, with passwords and other user information stolen from the company’s databases. It took until 2014 to notify customers, suggesting there was no response plan in place.

The backlash was very severe for global retail giant, Target, which fell victim to the second largest credit card heist in history. Many customers were outraged about the retailer’s inability to provide information after the breach, and its failure to assure customers that the issue was resolved.

Consequences included settlement payouts of up to $10 million and the resignations of its CIO and CEO.

Organisations should have established and tested incident management plans to respond to data security breaches sooner rather than later. A solid response plan and adherence to these steps can spare much unnecessary business and associated reputational harm.

Here’s a five step plan to ensure you give your organisation the best chance of minimising financial and reputational damage following an attack. 

Step 1: Don’t panic, assemble a taskforce

Clear thinking and swift action is required to mitigate the damage. There is no time for blame-shifting. You need a clear, pre-determined response protocol in place to help people focus in what can be a high pressure situation and your incident management plan should follow this protocol.

Having the right team on the job is critical. Bear these factors in mind when assembling your team: Appoint one leader who will have overall responsibility for responding to the breach. Obvious choices are your CIO or chief risk officer. This leader should have a direct reporting line into top level management so decisions can be made quickly.

Include representatives from all relevant areas, including IT, to trace and deal with any technical flaws that led to the breach; and corporate affairs, in case liaison with authorities is required, to manage media and customer communications.

Don’t forget privacy (you do have a chief privacy officer, don’t you?) and legal, to deal with regulators and advise on potential exposure to liability).

If you anticipate that litigation could result from the breach, then it may be appropriate for the detailed internal investigation of the breach to be managed by the legal team. If your organisation doesn’t have these capabilities, seek assistance from third parties at an early stage.

Step 2: Containment

The taskforce should first identify the cause of the breach and ensure that it is contained. Steps may include:

  • Installing patches to resolve viruses and technology flaws. The ‘Heartbleed’ security bug identified in April 2014 at one time compromised 17 per cent of internet servers. Although a security patch was made available almost immediately once it was discovered, some administrators were slow to react, leaving servers exposed for longer than necessary.
  • Resetting passwords for user accounts that may have been compromised and advising users to change other accounts on which they use the same password.
  • Disabling network access for computers known to be infected by viruses or other malware (so they can be quarantined) and blocking the accounts of users that may have been involved in wrongdoing.
  • Taking steps to recall or delete information such as recalling emails, asking unintended recipients to destroy copies or disabling links that have been mistakenly posted. Take care to ensure that steps taken to contain the breach don’t inadvertently compromise the integrity of any investigation.

Step 3: Assess the extent and severity of the breach

The results will dictate the subsequent steps of your response. A thorough assessment involves:

  • Identifying who and what has been affected. If it’s not possible to tell exactly what data has been compromised, it may be wise to take a conservative approach to estimation.
  • Assessing how the data could be used against the victims. If the data contains information that could be used for identity theft or other criminal activity (such as names, dates of birth and credit card numbers) or that could be sensitive (such as medical records), the breach should be treated as more severe. If the data has been encrypted or anonymised, there is a lower risk of harm.
  • Considering the context of the breach. If there has been a deliberate hacking, rather than an inadvertent breach of security, then the consequences for the relevant individuals or organisations could be much more significant. This should inform how you respond to the breach.

Step 4: Notification

For serious data security breaches, proactive notification is generally the right strategy. A mandatory notification scheme has been proposed in Australia, with the government promising implementation by the end of 2015.

In any case, there are good reasons to consider voluntary notifications, which include:

  • Victims may be able to protect themselves, for example by changing passwords, cancelling credit cards and monitoring bank statements.

E-Bay was roundly criticised in 2014 for not acting quickly enough to notify users affected by a hacking attack, and only doing so by means of a website notice rather than by sending individual messages. Notices should be practical, suggesting steps that recipients can take to protect themselves.

  • The Privacy Commissioner may also be involved, particularly if personal information has been stolen. The Commissioner may take a more lenient approach to organisations that proactively address problems when they arise.
  • Other third parties may also need to be notified. For example, if financial information is compromised, you might notify relevant financial institutions so that they can watch for suspicious transactions.

Step 5: Action to prevent future breaches

Having addressed the immediate threat, prevention is the final step. While customers may understand an isolated failure, they are typically less forgiving of repeated mistakes. Carry out a thorough post-breach audit to determine whether your security practices can be improved.

This could include:

  • Engaging a data security consultant, which will give you a fresh perspective on your existing practices, and help to reassure customers and others that you do business with.
  • Promptly remedying any identified security flaws – changes should be reflected in data security policies and training documents (and if such documents don’t exist, create them.)
  • Rolling out training to relevant personnel to ensure that everyone is up to speed on the latest practices.
  • Reviewing arrangements with service providers to ensure that they are subject to appropriate data security obligations (and, if not already the case, make data security compliance a key criterion applied in the procurement process).

Written by Cheng Lim is a partner at global law firm King & Wood Mallesons. Cheng leads KWM’s Cyber-Resilience initiative and has assisted clients over many years in dealing with privacy, data security and data breaches. Originally produced for CIO Australia.

Guest blog: PCI audits and how to recognize a good QSA auditor and partner

Many organizations approach a PCI audit with fear and trepidation. There are a lot of stories out there about how difficult, expensive and disruptive a PCI audit can be, but I want to see if I can add some balance to this view. I believe that when it comes to a PCI auditor it matters a great deal who you are working with. We just completed a PCI audit of our Alliance Key Manager for VMware solution and it gave me a whole new perspective and attitude about the audit process. Our PCI work was conducted by Coalfire, a security company that provides PCI audit services as well as audit services for the health and financial communities. Most of my remarks will reflect on the great experience we had with Coalfire and some of the lessons we learned.

As is true of financial auditors, the QSA auditor has a duty to accurately assess the security of your IT systems to insure that they meet or exceed the PCI Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) as outlined by the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC). They have a professional responsibility to tell you where you meet the PCI DSS standard, and where you fall short. That “falling short” part is the thing most people dread hearing about.

I would suggest that this is exactly where a good security audit can be very helpful. We need to know where our security is weak, and we need to know how to fix the problems. A good QSA auditor will be more than a gatekeeper for the PCI security standards – they will be a trusted advisor on how to get things right from a security perspective. That practical advice is exactly what we need to protect our sensitive data.

Finding problems and fixing them is less expensive than suffering a data breach and then scrambling to fix the problems.

Another often overlooked benefit of having a good QSA auditor is that you get a get a trusted advisor in the process. It is one thing to have an auditor point out the faults in your security strategy, it is another to find an auditor who can advise you on the security strategies and potential solutions that can help you. While there must be an arms-length relationship between an auditor and a solution provider, your QSA auditor should be able to point you to a number of solutions that can help you mitigate security weaknesses. An experienced auditor is going to help you navigate towards a good solution.

It is hard to quantify the benefit of this type of guidance, but I personally think it is invaluable.

The take-away is that you should set high expectations for the relationship you develop with your QSA auditor. You can walk away from the experience with checks in boxes, or you can meet PCI compliance AND achieve a credible security strategy and trusted advisor. I found the latter in my relationship with Coalfire.

Patrick Townsend

Townsend Security

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