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Rethinking IoT/OT Security to Mitigate Cyberthreats

August 26th, 2020 No comments

We live in an exciting time. We’re in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution—first steam, followed by electricity, then computers, and, now, the Internet of Things.

A few years ago, IoT seemed like a futuristic concept that was on the distant horizon. The idea that your fridge would be connected to the internet, constantly uploading and downloading data and ordering things on its own, like new filters or groceries, seemed laughable. Why would anyone want or need such a thing?

Now, IoT and other embedded and operational technologies (OT) are far more pervasive in our lives than anyone could have imagined. Robotics, chemical and pharmaceutical production, power generation, oil production, transportation, mining, healthcare devices, building management systems, and seemingly everything else is becoming part of a smart, interconnected, machine-learning powered system. Machines can now monitor themselves, diagnose problems, and then reconfigure and improve based on the data.

The threat is real

It’s an exciting time, but it’s also an alarming time, especially for CISOs (Chief Information Security Officers) working diligently to employ risk mitigation and keep their companies secure from cyberthreats. Billions of new IoT devices go online each year, and as these environments become more connected with digitization initiatives, their attack surfaces grow.

From consumer goods to manufacturing systems to municipal operations like the power grid, it all needs data protection. The threat is very real. Take the Mirai botnet hack, for example. 150,000 cameras hacked and turned into a botnet that blocked internet access for large portions of the US. We have also seen destructive and rapidly spreading ransomware attacks, like NotPetya, cripple manufacturing and port operations around the globe.  However, existing IT security solutions cannot solve those problems due to the lack of standardized network protocols for such devices and the inability to certify device-specific products and deploy them without impacting critical operations.  So, what exactly is the solution? What do people need to do to resolve the IoT security problem?

Working to solve this problem is why Microsoft has joined industry partners to create the Open Source Security Foundation as well as acquired IoT/OT security leader CyberX. This integration between CyberX’s IoT/OT-aware behavioral analytics platform and Azure unlocks the potential of unified security across converged IT and industrial networks. And, as a complement to the embedded, proactive IoT device security of Microsoft Azure Sphere, CyberX IoT/OT provides monitoring and threat detection for devices that have not yet upgraded to Azure Sphere security. Used together, CyberX and Azure Sphere can give you visibility to what’s happening in your environment while actively preventing exploitation of your connected equipment. The goal is to achieve the mission of securing every unmanaged device to help protect critical operations.

Both Microsoft and CyberX have managed to help protect a large number of enterprises around the world—including leading organizations in manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, power utilities, oil and gas companies, data centers, and more, at a global scale.

This success is due to taking a completely different approach, an innovative solution that prioritizes ease of deployment and use—to provide a security solution custom-built for OT and industrial control systems. So, what do you need to do that?

Let’s sit in a plant. Imagine that the process keeps on running, so from an operational perspective, all is fine. But even if operations are moving smoothly, you don’t know if someone is trying to hack your systems, steal your IP, or disrupt your day-to-day processes—you wouldn’t know that until the processes are disrupted, and by then, it’s too late.

To catch these threats, you need to understand what you have, understand the process interaction, validate access to the resources, and understand root cause analysis from other breaches. From a technology perspective, to gain this level of understanding, you need automated and intelligent asset visibility, behavioral analytics capable of understanding OT/IoT behavior, vulnerability management, and threat hunting. To defend against these threats, you will want to deploy an IoT device security solution that implements critical security properties, including defense in-depth, error reporting, and renewable security, that will help keep your connected devices and equipment protected over time.

Where to go from here

For any business looking to learn more about IoT/OT security, a good place to start is by downloading CyberX’s global IoT/ICS risk report. This free report provides a data-driven analysis of vulnerabilities in our Internet of Things (IoT) and industrial control systems (ICS) infrastructure.

Based on data collected in the past 12 months from 1,821 production IoT/ICS networks—across a diverse mix of industries worldwide—the analysis was performed using passive, agentless monitoring with patented deep packet inspection (DPI) and Network Traffic Analysis (NTA). The data shows that IoT/ICS environments continue to be soft targets for adversaries, with security gaps in key areas such as:

  • Outdated operating systems
  • Unencrypted passwords
  • Remotely accessible devices
  • Unseen indicators of threats
  • Direct internet connections

To learn more about protecting your critical equipment and devices with layered and renewable security, we recommend reading The seven properties of highly secured devices. To understand how these properties are implemented in Azure Sphere, you can download The 19 best practices for Azure Sphere.

These are key resources for any businesses looking to increase their IoT security and help mitigate cyberthreats to their organization’s systems and data.

Learn more

Tackling the IoT security threat is a big, daunting project, but Microsoft is committed to helping solve them through innovation and development efforts that empower businesses across the globe to operate more safely and securely.

To learn more about Microsoft Security solutions visit our website.  Bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters. Also, follow us at @MSFTSecurity for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.

To learn more about protecting your critical equipment and devices with layered and renewable security, reach out to your Microsoft account team and we recommend reading The seven properties of highly secured devices.

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Preventing data loss and mitigating risk in today’s remote work environment

July 21st, 2020 No comments

The shift to remote work over the past few months has increased the need for organizations to re-evaluate their security and risk management practices. With employees accessing corporate data at times on home computers or sharing and collaborating in new ways, organizations could be at greater risk for data leak or other risks.

To help companies with the visibility they need and better protect their data, we are announcing several new capabilities across Microsoft 365 and Azure, including:

  • New Microsoft Endpoint Data Loss Prevention solution in public preview.
  • New features in public preview for Insider Risk Management and Communication Compliance in Microsoft 365.
  • New third-party data connectors in Microsoft Azure Sentinel.
  • New Double Key Encryption for Microsoft 365 in public preview.

Read on to get more information about all these new security and compliance features rolling out starting today.

Announcing Microsoft Endpoint Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

Having the right data protection and governance approach is critical to not only addressing regulatory compliance and privacy, but also to mitigating data leak and risk. Microsoft Information Protection helps you to identify your data and ensure you have the right data classification in place to properly protect and govern that data, which enables you to apply data loss prevention (DLP) to enforce policies against that data. Data Loss Prevention solutions help prevent data leaks and provide context-based policy enforcement for data at rest, in use, and in motion on-premises and in the cloud. Microsoft 365 already includes built-in data loss prevention capabilities in Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Exchange, and OneDrive, as well as for third-party cloud apps with Microsoft Cloud App Security.

Today we are excited to announce that we are now extending data loss prevention to the endpoint with the public preview of the new Microsoft Endpoint Data Loss Prevention (DLP). Endpoint DLP builds on the labeling and classification in Microsoft Information Protection and extends the existing DLP capabilities in Microsoft 365, helping you to meet compliance requirements and protect sensitive information on endpoints.

Built into Windows 10, Microsoft Edge, and the Office apps, Endpoint DLP provides data-centric protection for sensitive information without the need for an additional agent, enabling you to prevent risky or inappropriate sharing, transfer, or use of sensitive data in accordance with your organization’s policies. For example, organizations can now prevent copying sensitive content to USB drives or print sensitive documents.  The sensitive content labeling integration ensures consistency across all data types and reduces false positive and false negatives within DLP. Microsoft Edge works with Endpoint DLP to extend visibility and control into third-party cloud apps and services. Also, because Endpoint DLP builds on the existing DLP capabilities in Microsoft 365, you immediately get insights when sensitive data is accessed and shared directly from the Activity Explorer in the Microsoft 365 compliance center.

An image showing how you can manage your data loss prevention policies across Microsoft 365 from one location – the Microsoft 365 compliance center.

Figure 1: You can manage your data loss prevention policies across Microsoft 365 from one location – the Microsoft 365 compliance center.

The Microsoft 365 Compliance Center also now provides a single, integrated console to manage DLP policies across Microsoft 365, including endpoints.  The public preview of Endpoint DLP will begin rolling out today. For more information, check out the Tech Community blog.

New features to help you to address insider risk and code of conduct violations

Remote work, while keeping employees healthy during this time, also increases the distractions end users face, such as shared home workspaces and remote learning for children. According to the SEI CERT institute, user distractions are the cause for many accidental and non-malicious insider risks. The current environment has also significantly increased stressors such as potential job loss or safety concerns, creating the potential for increased inadvertent or malicious leaks.

Today we are pleased to announce the public preview of several new features that further enhance the rich set of detection and remediation capabilities available in Insider Risk Management and Communication Compliance in Microsoft 365.

Insider Risk Management

While having broad visibility into signals from end-user activities, actions, or communications are important, when it comes to effectively identifying the risks, the quality of signals also matters. In this release, we are significantly expanding the quality of signals that Insider Risk Management reasons over to intelligently flag potentially risky behavior. New categories include expanded Windows 10 signals (e.g., files copied to a USB or transferred to a network share), integration with Microsoft Defender ATP for endpoint security signals, more native signals from across Microsoft 365 (including Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and Exchange), and enhancements to our native HR connector.

We are also introducing new security policy violation and data leak policy templates to help you to get started quickly and identify an even broader variety of risks.

Finally, we are also increasing integration to help you to take more action on the risks you identify. For example, integration with ServiceNow’s solution provides the ability for Insider Risk Management case managers to directly create ServiceNow tickets for incident managers. In addition, we are also onboarding Insider Risk Management alerts to the Office 365 Activity Management API, which contains information such as alert severity and status (active, investigating, resolved, dismissed). These alerts can then be consumed by security incident event management (SIEM) systems like Azure Sentinel to take further actions such as disabling user access or linking back to Insider Risk Management for further investigation.

For more information on these new features, check out the Tech Community blog.

Communication Compliance

As we embraced the shift to remote work, the volume of communications sent over collaboration platforms has reached an all-time high. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are now center stage. These new scenarios not only heighten a company’s risk exposure from insiders, but also highlight the need to support employees in these challenging times.

Communication Compliance in Microsoft 365 helps organizations to intelligently detect regulatory compliance and code of conduct violations within an organization’s communications, such as workplace threats and harassment, and take quick remediation efforts on policy violations.

Starting to roll out today, Communication Compliance will introduce enhanced insights to make the review process simpler and less time consuming, through intelligent pattern detection to prioritize alerts of repeat offenders, through a global feedback loop to improve our detection algorithms, and through rich reporting capabilities. New features also include additional third-party connectors to extend the capabilities to sources like Bloomberg Message data, ICE Chat data, and more. Additionally, the solution will see improved remediation actions through Microsoft Teams integration, such as the ability to remove messages from the Teams channel.

You can find more information about these new features in the Tech Community blog.

New partner connectors in Microsoft Azure Sentinel

Microsoft Azure Sentinel is a powerful Security Incident and Event Management (SIEM) solution that can help you collect security data across your entire hybrid organization from devices, users, apps, servers, and any cloud. Using these data sources you can build a more complete picture of the threats that your organization faces, conduct deep threat hunts across your environment, and use the power of automation and orchestration in the cloud to help free up your security analysts to focus on their highest-value tasks.

Today we are announcing several new third-party connectors across Azure Sentinel to simplify getting security insights across many leading solutions and partners, including networks, firewalls, endpoint protection, and vulnerability management.

These connectors, which offer sample queries and dashboards, will help collect security data easily and provide security insights immediately.

An image of new partner connectors provide greater visibility into external threats.

Figure 2: New partner connectors provide greater visibility into external threats.

Some of the new partner connectors include Symantec, Qualys, and Perimeter 81. You can see the full list of new connectors and learn more in our Tech Community blog.

Introducing Double Key Encryption for Microsoft 365

In today’s environment, the success of any organization is contingent upon its ability to drive productivity through information sharing while maintaining data privacy and regulatory compliance. Regulations, particularly in the financial services sector, often contain specialized requirements for certain data, which specifies that an organization must control their encryption key.  Typically, a very small percentage of a customer’s data falls into this category, but it is important for our customers to care for that specific data correctly.

To address that regulatory and unique need for some organizations, today we are pleased to announce the public preview of Double Key Encryption for Microsoft 365, which allows you to protect your most confidential data while maintaining full control of your encryption key. Double Key Encryption for Microsoft 365 uses two keys to protect your data, with one key in your control and the second in Microsoft’s control. To view the data, one must have access to both keys. Since Microsoft can access only one key, your data and key are unavailable to Microsoft, helping to ensure the privacy and security of your data.

With Double Key Encryption for Microsoft 365, you not only hold your own key, but this capability also helps you to address many regulatory compliance requirements, easily deploy the reference implementation, and enjoy a consistent labeling experience across your data estate. For more information, check out the Tech Community blog.

Get started today

Endpoint Data Loss Prevention, Insider Risk Management, Communication Compliance, and Double Key Encryption are rolling out in public preview starting today and are a part of Microsoft 365 E5. If you don’t have Microsoft 365 E5, you can get started with a trial today.

In addition, to learn more about the rest of the Microsoft 365 product updates being announced today, check out the Microsoft 365 blog from Jared Spataro.

You can also learn more about how you can modernize your SIEM with Azure Sentinel. 

To learn more about Microsoft Security solutions visit our website.  Bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters. Also, follow us at @MSFTSecurity for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.

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Changing the Monolith—Part 3: What’s your process?

January 30th, 2020 No comments

In my 25-year journey, I have led security and privacy programs for corporations and provided professional advisory services for organizations of all types. Often, I encounter teams frantically running around in their own silos, trying to connect the dots and yet unsure if those are the right dots. Connecting the dots becomes exponentially difficult in an environment where everyone is trying to achieve a different goal.

Here are a few tips to create teams unified around a common mission:

1. Define the mission and implement it like any other business plan

First, you must know what you are trying to achieve. Are you protecting trade secrets? Limiting reputation damage? Reducing the chance of unauthorized access to sensitive data? Complying with all local, regional, and national data protection laws? Trying to keep employees safe? Keep patients, passengers, customers, and business partners safe? Is the answer “All the above?” Define an order of risk magnitude.

Focus on what success looks like, identify quick wins, and get the opinions of executive leadership. What do they view as success? Don’t settle for unrealistic answers such as “We want 100 percent security.” Explain what is realistic and offer your approach as a business plan.

2. Define success—be able to articulate what it is and how it can be measured

When you start any endeavor, how do you determine when it is finished? While information security has a lifecycle that never ends, certain foundations must be established to foster a culture of security and privacy. Success could look like reducing risk to trade secrets, reducing the impact of third-party risk, or protecting an organization’s reputation.

However, success is defined for your mission, success needs to be measurable. If you can’t summarize success during an elevator pitch, a monthly CEO report, or a board presentation, you haven’t defined it appropriately.

3. Leverage a methodology and make it part of the game plan

Think of the methodology as a game plan. There aren’t enough people, not enough time, and a finite amount of money. Attempting to do everything all at once is a fool’s errand. The moment you know what you’re trying to achieve, it allows you to create a plan of attack. The plan should follow a proven set of steps that move in the right direction.

A popular methodology right now is the Zero Trust model, which has been waiting in the wings for its big debut for over a decade. Zero Trust has made it to the spotlight largely because the conventional perimeter has been deemed a myth. So, what is your approach to achieving security, compliance, and privacy once you have chosen a methodology?

Zero Trust

Reach the optimal state in your Zero Trust journey.

Learn more

4. Market the plan

One of the main hurdles I constantly witness is that the larger the organization, the more isolated the business units—especially in IT. In many cases, cybersecurity leadership does not engage in regular communication within factions of IT. To name a few, there are application development, user support, database teams, infrastructure, and cloud teams. And almost always outside their purview resides HR, Legal, Finance, Procurement, Corporate Communications, and Physical Security departments.

In a previous role, I found success by borrowing employees from some of these other departments. Not only to help build political capital for the cybersecurity team, but to land the security awareness message with the populace and connect with the aforementioned units within IT and business leadership. To do the same, start by building a plan and define your message. Repeat the message often enough so it’s recognized, and people are energized to help drive the mission forward.

5. Teamwork in the form of governance

Once “inter-IT” and business relationships are established, governance can commence—that ultimately means creating process and policy. Involve as many stakeholders as possible and document everything you can. Make everyone aware of their role in the mission and hold them accountable.

Take for example a mobile device policy. Whose input should be solicited? At a minimum, you should involve HR, Legal, Finance, the CIO, and the user community. What do they want and need? When everyone agrees and all requirements are negotiated, it’s amazing how quickly a policy is ratified and becomes official.

Cybersecurity, privacy, compliance, and risk management should be managed like any other business; and any business values process. Without process, product doesn’t get manufactured or shipped, patients don’t heal, and the supply chain grinds to a halt. Without process, there can be no consensus on how to protect the organization.

Stay tuned

Stay tuned for the next installment of my series, Changing the Monolith: People, Process, and Technology. In the meantime, check out the first two posts in the series, on people:

Also, bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters and follow us at @MSFTSecurity for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.

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Data governance and retention in your Microsoft 365 tenant—a secure and highly capable solution

December 18th, 2019 No comments

Data governance has relied on transferring data to a third-party for hosting an archive service. Emails, documents, chat logs, and third-party data (Bloomberg, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) must be saved in a way that it can’t be changed and won’t be lost. Data governance is part of IT at the enterprise level. It serves regulatory compliance, can facilitate eDiscovery, and is part of a business strategy to protect the integrity of the data estate.

However, there are downsides.

In addition to acquisition costs, the archive is one more system that needs ongoing maintenance. When data is moved to another system, the risk footprint is increased, and data can be compromised in transit. An at-rest archive can become another target of attack.

When you take the data to the archive, you miss the opportunity to reason over it with machine learning to extract additional business value and insights to improve the governance program.

The game changer is to have reliable, auditable retention inside the Microsoft 365 tenant. This way, all the security controls and visibility in Microsoft 365 and Azure remain in effect. There is no additional archive to be attacked, protected, or monitored. In addition, there is no third-party archiving system to be purchased or maintained.

All the machine learning and correlation tools—always on and native to Microsoft 365—are reasoning over your data estate. Dark data can be illuminated.

Microsoft 365 tenant dashboards

Microsoft 365 dashboards are created automatically. Tiles allow you to drill down to the file level and locate sensitive data. Retention, disposition review, and deletion policies can be visualized, and compliance verified. Audit-ready governance reports can be generated.

Screenshot of label analytics in the Microsoft 365 compliance tenant dashboard.

Your data governance program becomes measurable, manageable, and useable. It adds value to your business rather than being just a compliance tool.

Data governance is more than retention for Microsoft 365. Businesses rely on non-Microsoft solutions as well. There are built-in connectors for Bloomberg, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other popular third-party applications that allow this data to be brought into Microsoft 365 for retention.

Screenshot of a connector being added in the Office 365 Security & Compliance dashboard.

Where we don’t yet have a connector for your solution, Microsoft Partners can provide a wide range of pre-built connectors or the ability to build custom connectors using our software development toolkit. To learn more, read Work with a partner to archive third-party data in Office 365.

In some cases, particularly where regulatory compliance—such as with the CFTC Rule 1.31(c)-(d), FINRA Rule 4511, and SEC Rule 17a-4—is needed, immutability of records must be maintained. These rules have specific requirements for electronic data storage, including many aspects of records management, such as the duration, format, quality, availability, and accountability of records retention. Microsoft provides the admin this ability in the Label settings. To do this, under Classify content as a “Record” with this label, select the Yes, classify as a regulatory “Record” dropdown option, and then under Retain this content, set the duration.

Screenshot of a label setting in the Office 365 Security & Compliance dashboard.

Once set, this option cannot be changed. Even admins are not able to change or delete the records.

Microsoft engaged Cohasset Associates to review this capability and provide an assessment document for consideration of our customers and their regulators. The assessment is available at: Data Protection Resources. Currently the assessment includes Exchange Online and will be extended to include SharePoint Online in mid-2020.

The ability to archive data inside the Microsoft 365 tenant with security controls intact and all the visibility and machine learning features of Microsoft 365 available is an advantage that many organizations can use, some with their existing licenses.

Learn more

To find out more about other advanced compliance features, check out Microsoft 365 compliance documentation. Also, bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters and follow us at @MSFTSecurity for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.

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Guarding against supply chain attacks—Part 1: The big picture

October 16th, 2019 No comments

Every day, somewhere in the world, governments, businesses, educational organizations, and individuals are hacked. Precious data is stolen or held for ransom, and the wheels of “business-as-usual” grind to a halt. These criminal acts are expected to cost more than $2 trillion in 2019, a four-fold increase in just four years. The seeds that bloom into these business disasters are often planted in both hardware and software systems created in various steps of your supply chain, propagated by bad actors and out-of-date business practices.

These compromises in the safety and integrity of your supply chain can threaten the success of your business, no matter the size of your operation. But typically, the longer your supply chain, the higher the risk for attack, because of all the supply sources in play.

In this blog series, “Guarding against supply chain attacks,” we examine various components of the supply chain, the vulnerabilities they present, and how to protect yourself from them.

Defining the problem

Supply chain attacks are not new. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been focused on driving awareness in this space since 2008. And this problem is not going away. In 2017 and 2018, according to Symantec, supply chain attacks rose 78 percent. Mitigating this type of third-party risk has become a major board issue as executives now understand that partner and supplier relationships pose fundamental challenges to businesses of all sizes and verticals.

Moreover, for compliance reasons, third-party risk also continues to be a focus. In New York State, Nebraska, and elsewhere in the U.S., third-party risk has emerged as a significant compliance issue.

Throughout the supply chain, hackers look for weaknesses that they can exploit. Hardware, software, people, processes, vendors—all of it is fair game. At its core, attackers are looking to break trust mechanisms, including the trust that businesses naturally have for their suppliers. Hackers hide their bad intentions behind the shield of trust a supplier has built with their customers over time and look for the weakest, most vulnerable place to gain entry, so they can do their worst.

According to NIST, cyber supply chain risks include:

  • Insertion of counterfeits.
  • Unauthorized production of components.
  • Tampering with production parts and processes.
  • Theft of components.
  • Insertion of malicious hardware and software.
  • Poor manufacturing and development practices that compromise quality.

Cyber Supply Chain Risk Management (C-SCRM) identifies what the risks are and where they come from, assesses past damage and ongoing and future risk, and mitigates these risks across the entire lifetime of every system.

This process examines:

  • Product design and development.
  • How parts of the supply chain are distributed and deployed.
  • Where and how they are acquired.
  • How they are maintained.
  • How, at end-of-life, they are destroyed.

The NIST approach to C-SCRM considers how foundational practices and risk are managed across the whole organization.

Examples of past supply chain attacks

The following are examples of sources of recent supply chain attacks:

Hardware component attacks—When you think about it, OEMs are among the most logical places in a supply chain which an adversary will likely try to insert vulnerabilities. Moreover, these vulnerabilities can be inserted into the end product via physical access as a physical component is being transported or delivered, during pre-production access in a factory or manufacturing facility, via a technical insertion point, or other means.

Software component attacks—Again in 2016, Chinese hackers purportedly attacked TeamViewer software, which was a potential virtual invitation to view and access information on the computers of millions of people all over the world who use this program.

People perpetrated attacks—People are a common connector between the various steps and entities in any supply chain and are subject to the influence of corrupting forces. Nation-states or other “cause-related” organizations prey on people susceptible to bribery and blackmail. In 2016, the Indian tech giant, Wipro, had three employees arrested in a suspected security breach of customer records for the U.K. company TalkTalk.

Business processes—Business practices (including services), both upstream and downstream, are also examples of vulnerable sources of infiltration. For example, Monster.com experienced an exposed database when one of its customers did not adequately protect a web server storing resumes, which contain emails and physical addresses, along with other personal information, including immigration records. This and other issues can be avoided if typical business practices such as risk profiling and assessment services are in place and are regularly reviewed to make sure they comply with changing security and privacy requirements. This includes policies for “bring your own” IoT devices, which are another fast-growing vulnerability.

Big picture practical advice

Here’s some practical advice to take into consideration:

Watch out for copycat attacks—If a data heist worked with one corporate victim, it’s likely to work with another. This means once a new weapon is introduced into the supply chain, it is likely to be re-used—in some cases, for years.

To prove the point, here are some of the many examples of cybercrimes that reuse code stolen from legal hackers and deployed by criminals.

  • The Conficker botnet MS10-067 is over a decade old and is still found on millions of PCs every month.
  • The criminal group known as the Shadow Brokers used the Eternal Blue code designed by the U.S. National Security Agency as part of their cybersecurity toolkit. When the code was leaked illegally and sold to North Korea, they used it to execute WannaCry in 2017, which spread to 150 countries and infected over 200,000 computers.
  • Turla, a purportedly Russian group, has been active since 2008, infecting computers in the U.S. and Europe with spyware that establishes a hidden foothold in infected networks that searches for and steals data.

Crafting a successful cyberattack from scratch is not a simple undertaking. It requires technical know-how, resources to create or acquire new working exploits, and the technique to then deliver the exploit, to ensure that it operates as intended, and then to successfully remove information or data from a target.

It’s much easier to take a successful exploit and simply recycle it—saving development and testing costs, as well as the costs that come from targeting known soft targets (e.g., avoiding known defenses that may detect it). We advise you to stay in the know about past attacks, as any one of them may come your way. Just ask yourself: Would your company survive a similar attack? If the answer is no—or even maybe—then fix your vulnerabilities or at the very least make sure you have mitigation in place.

Know your supply chain—Like many information and operational technology businesses, you probably depend on a global system of suppliers. But do you know where the various technology components of your business come from? Who makes the hardware you use—and where do the parts to make that hardware come from? Your software? Have you examined how your business practices and those of your suppliers keep you safe from bad actors with a financial interest in undermining the most basic components of your business? Take some time to look at these questions and see how you’d score yourself and your suppliers.

Looking ahead

Hopefully, the above information will encourage (if not convince) you to take a big picture look at who and what your supply chain consists of and make sure that you have defenses in place that will protect you from all the known attacks that play out in cyberspace each day.

In the remainder of the “Guarding against supply chain attacks” series, we’ll drill down into supply chain components to help make you aware of potential vulnerabilities and supply advice to help you protect your company from attack.

Stay tuned for these upcoming posts:

  • Part 2—Explores the risks of hardware attacks.
  • Part 3—Examines ways in which software can become compromised.
  • Part 4—Looks at how people and processes can expose companies to risk.
  • Part 5—Summarizes our advice with a look to the future.

In the meantime, bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters. Also, follow us at @MSFTSecurity for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.

To learn more about how you can protect your time and empower your team, check out the cybersecurity awareness page this month.

The post Guarding against supply chain attacks—Part 1: The big picture appeared first on Microsoft Security.

How to avoid getting caught in a “Groundhog Day” loop of security issues

October 8th, 2019 No comments

It’s Cyber Security Awareness Month and it made me think about one of my favorite movies, called Groundhog Day. Have you ever seen it? Bill Murray is the cynical weatherman, Phil Connors, who gets stuck in an endless loop where he repeats the same day over and over again until he “participates in his own rescue” by becoming a better person.

Sometimes it can feel like we’re caught in our own repetitious loops in cybersecurity—I even did a keynote at RSA APJ on this very topic a few years ago. The good news is that we can get out of the loop. By learning lessons from the past and bringing them forward and applying them to today’s technologies, outcomes can be changed—with “change” being the operative word.

If companies continue to do things the same way—in insecure ways—attackers will come along and BOOM you’re in trouble. You may resolve that breach, but that won’t help in the long run. Unless the source of the problem is determined and changed, just like Phil Connors, you’ll wake up one day and BOOM—you’re attacked again.

How security experts can help organizations protect against cybercrime

We can learn from past mistakes. And to prove it, I’d like to cite a heartening statistic. Ransomware encounters decreased by 60 percent between March 2017 and December 2018. While attackers don’t share the specifics about their choice of approach, when one approach isn’t working, they move to another. After all, it’s a business—in fact it’s a successful (and criminal) business—bringing in nearly $200 billion in profits each year.1 We do know that ransomware has less of chance of spreading on fully patched and well-segmented networks and companies are less likely to pay ransoms when they have up-to-date, clean backups to restore from. In other words, it’s very likely that robust cybersecurity hygiene is an important contributor to the decrease in ransomware encounters. (See Lesson 1: Practice good cybersecurity hygiene below.)

The bad news of course is that attackers began to shift their efforts to crimes like cryptocurrency mining, which hijacks victims’ computing resources to make digital money for the attackers.1 But that’s because cybercriminals are opportunists and they’re always searching for the weakest link.

One of the best ways to thwart cybercrime is to involve security experts before deploying new products and/or services. A decade ago, this wasn’t typically done in many organizations. But with the rise of security awareness as part of the overall corporate risk posture, we’re seeing security involved early on in deployments of modern architectures, container deployments, digital transformations, and DevOps.

When security experts connect the wisdom of the past—such as the importance of protecting data in transit with encryption—to the technology rollouts of today, they can help organizations anticipate what could go wrong. This helps you bake controls and processes into your products and services before deployment. The people who have already learned the lessons you need to know can help so you don’t wake up to the same problems every (well, almost) day. When security experts carry those lessons forward, they can help end your Groundhog Day.

In addition, involving security experts early on doesn’t have to slow things down. They can actually help speed things up and prevent backtracking later in the product development cycle to fix problems missed the first time around.

Security can help anticipate problems and produce solutions before they occur. When Wi-Fi networking was first being deployed in the late 1990s, communications were protected with Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP). But WEP suffered from significant design problems such as the initialization vector (IV) being part of the RC4 encryption key that were already known issues in the cryptographic community. The result was a lot of WEP crackers and the rapid development of the stronger Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) set of protocols. If designers had worked with crypto experts, who already had designed a solution free of known issues, time, money, and privacy could have been saved.

Traditional technology thinks about “use” cases. Security thinks about “misuse” cases. Product people focus on the business and social benefits of a solution. Security people think about the risks and vulnerabilities by asking these questions:

  • What happens if the solutions are attacked or used improperly?
  • How is this product or workload going to behave in a non-perfect environment?
  • Where is your system vulnerable and what happens when it comes under attack?

Security also remembers lessons learned while creating threat models to head off common mistakes at the past.

Rita: I didn’t know you could play like that.

Phil: I’m versatile.

Groundhog Day (1993) starring Bill Murray as Phil and Andie McDowell as Rita. Sony Pictures©

Example: Think about designing a car. Cars are cool because they can go fast—really fast. But if you had some security folks on the team, they’d be thinking about the fact that while going fast can be thrilling—you’re going to have to stop at some point.

Security are the kind of thinkers who would probably suggest brakes. And they would make sure that those brakes worked in the rain, snow, and on ice just as well as they worked on dry pavement. Furthermore—because security is obsessed (in a good way) with safety—they would be the ones to plan for contingencies, like having a spare tire and jack in the car in case you get a flat tire.

Learning from and planning for known past issues, like the network equivalent of flat tires, is a very important part of secure cyber design. Machine learning can provide intelligence to help avoid repeats of major attacks. For example, machine learning is very useful in detecting and dismantling fileless malware that lives “off the land” like the recent Astaroth campaign.

Top practices inspired by lessons learned by helping organizations be more secure

Thinking about and modeling for the types of problems that have occurred in the past helps keep systems more secure in the future. For example, we take off our shoes in the airport because someone smuggled explosives onto a plane by hiding it in their footwear.

How DO you stop someone who wants to steal, manipulate, or damage the integrity of your data? What can you do to stop them from trying to monetize it and put your company and customers in jeopardy of losing their privacy? I’m glad you asked—here are four lessons that can help your organization be more secure:

Lesson 1: Practice good cybersecurity hygiene—It may not be shiny and new, but cybersecurity hygiene really matters. This is perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from the past—taking steps to ensure the basics are covered can go a very long way for security. That 60 percent decrease in ransomware encounters globally mentioned earlier is most likely due to better cybersecurity hygiene.

Lesson 2: Schedule regular backups—With regular backups (especially cold backups, held offline), you always have an uncompromised version of your data.

Lesson 3: Use licensed software—Licensed software decreases the likelihood that bugs, worms, and other bad things won’t be infiltrating your infrastructure. Deploying necessary patching that makes systems less vulnerable to exploit is part of keeping the integrity of your licensed software intact.

Lesson 4: Lean into humans “being human” while leveraging technological advances—For example, acknowledge that humans aren’t great at remembering strong passwords, especially when they change frequently. Rather than berating people for their very human brains, focus on developing solutions, such as password wallets and passwordless solutions, which acknowledge how hard strong passwords are to remember without sacrificing security.

Rita: Do you ever have déjà vu?

Phil: Didn’t you just ask me that?

Groundhog Day (1993) Sony Pictures©

Admittedly, we can’t promise there won’t be some share of Groundhog Day repeats. But the point is progress, not perfection. And we are making significant progress in our approach to cybersecurity and resilience. Above are just a couple of examples.

I’d love to hear more from you about examples you may have to share, too! Reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter, @DianaKelley14. Also, bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters.

To learn more about how you can protect your time and empower your team, check out the cybersecurity awareness page this month.

1Cybercrime Profits Total nearly $200 Billion Each Year, Study Reveals

The post How to avoid getting caught in a “Groundhog Day” loop of security issues appeared first on Microsoft Security.

Follow the latest privacy and online safety news

July 26th, 2011 No comments

The official Twitter account for the Microsoft Privacy team has relaunched at twitter.com/MSFTPrivacy.

@MSFTPrivacy was launched for us to engage in real-time with our privacy community.  We will use this channel to talk about privacy issues, while raising awareness of Microsoft’s approach to addressing concerns through our data governance policies. Here are recent updates you might be interested in:

Follow the Microsoft Privacy team.

The Microsoft Online Safety team also regularly tweets at twitter.com/safer_online. Here, the focus is on Internet safety for families, but we also include relevant privacy and security news.

Recent updates:

 Follow the Microsoft Online Safety team.