5 Basics of Cloud Security

The basic objective of a cloud security strategy is to provide a method to monitor and protect the flow of information to and from cloud hosted services. There has been and will continue to be a shift towards public and private cloud services as the age of digitisation is increasingly being embraced by organisations. 

 

According to Cisco’s Annual Cyber Security report, one of the principle reasons why organisations are deciding to host corporate applications in the cloud is increased security. 

 

On the other hand many small and medium organisations are adopting cloud technology without a clear strategy resulting in the blurring of edges of responsibility between the cloud provider and the organisation. In the eyes of cloud security providers, there are clear responsibilities and boundaries as illustrated in the graphic below. 

 

Security in the cloud is a shared responsibility: Cloud Security, DNS, IaaS PaaS Saas 

Cyber attackers are increasingly taking advantage of this blurring of the boundaries to exploit systems. It is important to undertake a proper risk assessment before cloud services are adopted. This will enable a clear understanding of the risks and a consequent strategy to mitigate the risks.  

 

The basic approach to cloud security will be based on the risk profile, it essentially needs to address the different phases of the cyber security threat, namely before, during and after an attack. It should be an extension of the organisations security approach to the on-premise information systems and data which generally address the question, who is allowed access to what information. 

 

Some of the key features that need to be addressed with a cloud cyber security approach include; 

  • Visibility and Control
  • Securing Cloud Applications
  • Extended Protection
  • Virtualise the Security Architecture
  • Threat intelligence

 

Visibility and Control 

Users will try to use whatever they can to get the job done. Organisations need visibility and control of what applications are being used in the cloud and remotely, especially with the growth of new SaaS applications. Visibility enables an understanding of what is being used in line with policy, what is out of policy and what is a threat. Visibility is the first step to controlling and securing the organisations environment based on what services should be provided. 

 

Securing Cloud applications 

As SaaS applications are increasingly being deployed in public clouds such as Amazon Web Services and Azure, it is vital to ensure that the cloud platform is secure. Even though the cloud providers will deploy their own security solutions, organisations also need to implement independent security systems to secure the user and the data as this is not the responsibility of the cloud provider. In it’s recent cyber security report, Cisco identified that a major growth area for cyber attacks was the misuse of legitimate cloud services to host malware. Hence the need to secure services in public clouds cannot be understated. 

 

Extended Protection

As remote connectivity and branch networking trends increase in popularity, the security solution should be adaptable to extend the necessary features such as firewalling, threat management and anti-malware capabilities to the edge of the network as opposed to the current centralised deployment model. This functionality should be provided on endpoints, remote connections and remote offices and vitally to devices working off site such as Internet Cafes. 

 

Virtualise the Security Architecture 

The need for security is now pervasive at the client, the branch, the HQ as well as public and private clouds where SaaS applications are located. This necessitates the capability for a virtualised security architecture where the panoply of security functionality can be deployed easily at any location. This approach also enables the organisation to scale security at speed which will meet business demands for rapid deployment of new services while avoiding security being an afterthought. 

 

Threat intelligence 

Most organisations deploy security components from multiple vendors. An intelligent approach to securing information and systems in the emerging environment must make use of threat intelligence to overcome any cross vendor incompatibilities. This is the ability to take intelligence feeds from other sources such as other security vendors feeds and make context based threat assessments relating to your organisation and what it means for you. This assessment can naturally feed into automated protection mechanisms. 

 

In our next blogs in this series, we will cover off some best practices approaches to cloud security and discuss some of the technologies being used. 

 

5 Takeaways from the Carphone Warehouse Breach

The Carphone Warehouse breach is the biggest so far announced in the post GDPR era.

What are the salient points to note from this breach? 

  1. 6 million records accessed 
  2. NCSC, ICO, FCA investigating 
  3. 3 million records accessed in 2015 breach 
  4. Cyber security risk identified by board in last FY report 
  5. If GDPR applies, maximum fine of £420m could apply 

 

A recently announced massive cyber attack at Dixons Carphone Warehouse has resulted in significant unauthorised access to millions of records including personal data. It appears that two breaches occurred which resulted in; 

 

  • 6 million customer records being stolen including 5.9 million payment card details  
  • 1.2 million customer records including name, address, email 

 

In January Carphone Warehouse were fined £400,000 for a breach that occurred in 2015 when 3m customer records (including personal details) and 1,000 employee records were stolen. 

 

Dixons say the breach was only discovered in the week leading up to the announcement and it actually occurred in the July 2017. Under the Data Protection Act they would be liable to a maximum fine of £500,000. Under the new GDPR regulation the fine could rise to a maximum of £420m based on last years’ global turnover of £10.5bn. 

 

In their most recent report, Dixons identified information security as a risk and their potential vulnerability to malware and cyber attacks. They identified potential consequences that could include reputational damage, reduced cash flow, financial penalties, reduced revenue and profitability, loss of competitive advantage. Dixons did appear however to be heading in the right direction to manage the risk ensuring senior management oversight including a Strategic Improvement Plan and increased investments targeted at managing the information/cyber security risk. 

 

The independent regulator the ICO is investigating the current breach along with the FCA and NCSC. The ICO has said it is yet to determine whether GDPR or the 1998 Data Protection regulations will apply. 

 

The NCSC is working on how the breach has impacted UK citizens and what measures can be taken to prevent such a breach re-occurring. They have also published guidance on what to do for people who think they have been affected by the breach. 

 

The CEO Alex Baldock has apologised saying that they have fallen short of expected standards. He confirmed that they have called in cyber experts to investigate as well as relevant authorities and the unauthorised access has now been blocked. 

 

Anyone affected or concerned about their personal data being accessed and how it could be used should contact Action Fraud. 

 

The breach came to light as a result of a massive attempt to compromise the cards in a card processing system, this means that someone tried to use the card details to take unauthorised payments. 

 

Dixons shares fell 6% following the announcement of the breach. 

 

Useful Resources

GDPR Readiness Test [Checklist]
GDPR 12 Step to take NOW [Infographic] 
9 Steps to Implement a Security Management Tool [eBook]

 

 

5 Cyber Security Threats Businesses are Facing in 2018

We all know the cyber threat landscape is rapidly evolving and it is a real struggle to keep apace with the threats much less get ahead of them, which ideally is where we should be.
Organisations especially those small to medium sized ones have limited resources in terms of people, money and time to commit to all the areas they need to focus on.
It is therefore vital that their approach to cyber security is focused on the areas that will have the greatest impact in terms of threat prevention. Let’s discuss the most common cyber threats that organisations are likely to face which therefore should help to determine the main areas where protection efforts need to be focused. These threats are;
  • Socially Engineered Malware
  • Password Phising
  • Unpatched Software
  • Social Media Threats
  • Advanced Persistent Threats

Socially engineered malware

Every year, hundreds of millions of successful attacks are conducted by socially engineered malware programs. A typical form of this is data encrypting ransomware which is downloaded either in email attachments or trojan horse software downloaded from a site hosting malware. The unsuspecting user is enticed into clicking a link or opening a document which then installs the malware, oftentimes the user is prompted to bypass security controls if they are in place for this particular type of exploit. The malware is installed on the host machine and can then disable defences  such as anti-virus, conduct callbacks to command and control centres which then lead on to the exploits. Exploits could include data gathering and exfiltration or encryption of data and horizontal propagation of the malware.
This type of threat sometimes requires the use of elevated privileges. Techniques that could be used to help prevent this type of threat include;
  • avoiding giving elevated privileges for daily tasks
  • constantly educate users about these type of threats
  • deploying advanced endpoint protection
  • not relying solely on traditional anti-virus

Password phishing

Phishing has become a huge industry for cyber scammers and it is estimated that approximately 80% of global email is spam. Anti-spam techniques deployed by email providers are becoming better are blocking spam how ever the attackers are constantly refining their approach and inevitably some is still getting through to user’s inboxes. Most of us are so busy we do not bother to hover over the links to check for a valid url and
sometimes they are so well crafted it is so easy to miss.
The best protection against phishing apart from good anti-spam software is user education along with policies that encourage the use of 2 factor authentication such as smartcards, sms messages, etc.

Unpatched software

Unpatched software is a major threat due to the existence of known vulnerabilities that could be protected from if the latest available patch is applied. This problem while common for client applications such as web browsers, and ancillary apps such as adobe and java are also quite common on server systems. I am sure you have seen many instances where critical servers running core business systems are unpatched and carry literally hundreds of vulnerabilities.
Software patching needs to be a part of the IT operations processes and undertaken in a regular and systematic manner to avert an easily avoidable vulnerability.

Social media threats

Social media is pervasive and an essential part of an organisations digital presence. It has therefore become a target for cyber attackers to find exploits and cause reputational damage or extort money from unsuspecting users and owners. The threats could start off as simply as a friend request or application install which then develops into something completely different. One example is a response to a post where a visitor may voice
dissatisfaction with a service. The response offers to provide assistance and redirects the person to a fake site where their usernames and passwords are requested and then exploited on the real social media site.
Yet again user education is a must to help protect against this type of threat and 2 factor authentication could also prevent compromise of username and passwords.

Advanced Persistent Threats

The majority of large organisations have been the subject of advanced persistent threats but that is not to say that small-medium organisations are not affected by this also. The attacker may initially use phishing or trojans to infect one machine but once they get hold of a machine, they extend their reach throughout an organisation and steal data within hours oftentimes remaining undetected for months.
The best way to combat advanced persistent threats is to deploy next generation detection and protection capabilities. Typically such measures will profile the normal network traffic and behaviour thus creating a baseline against which anomalous behaviour can be profiled and alerted.
You may have noticed an underlying theme in terms of the best way to
mitigate most of these threats involved user awareness. The benefits of this cannot be understated and there are some low cost good user training subscriptions that could save organisations a ton of money in costs associated with a successful cyber attack.
It is also however very important to do the basics well such as patching, endpoint protection, password policy and network security.

Cyber Resilience | The Framework you Should Follow

Have you sometimes found yourself bewildered by the sheer volume of bad news out there especially about emerging cyber threats and actual attacks. It is not uncommon to wonder when you will come under a similar threat or worst still is it happening already but you just haven’t detected it yet. What would give us more comfort is understanding that we were cyber resilient to threats to a large extent, sure nothing is ever 100% guaranteed but it would sure be good to a high a high level of confidence about our ability to survive such an eventuality.

So what would good cyber resiliency actually look like?

Cyber resiliency is really about keeping the business operational despite an attack or incident. It is about the organisation having the systems, processes and controls in place to detect an attack, contain it, recover or maintain operations despite the attack and clean up the affected systems.
Some specific objectives of cyber resilience would include the following.
  • Prevention–apply basic cyber protection mechanisms as well as more advanced cyber security controls to reduce the risk. In addition, threat intelligence is applied to keep the protection relevant
  • Cyber response preparation– create and maintain cyber incident scenarios to train staff and maintain a good level of readiness. If an incident happens, there is a plan and people know what to do
  • Minimise service degradation- in the instance of an attack
  • Identify potential damage- and change resources to limit further damage
  • Maintain trust relationships- and review trust of restored systems
  • Effective controls- understand the effectiveness of cyber security controls in relation to the nature of the adversaries
  • Review systems architecture and restructure to reduce risks
The NIST have published some recommendations that could help with achieving cyber resilience and some of these are outlined below.
A word of caution, this is not for the faint hearted as it reads as if from a military manual.
Adaptive Response- maximise the ability to respond in a timely and appropriate manner to adverse conditions thus limiting business impact and maintaining operations.
Analysis and monitoring– maximise the ability to detect attacks by extensive monitoring that can reveal the extent and scope of an attack. We have seen how AI and Machine Learning is playing an increasing role in this area
Coordinated Protection– implemented a range of protection measures that follow the defence in depth principles thus ensuring that attacks will need to overcome multiple mechanisms in order to be successful
Deception– conceal critical equipment or resources from the attacker, this could include techniques such as encryption or multi-layered firewall approach
Diversity– limit the likelihood of successful attacks on common replicated systems forcing attackers to breach different systems necessitating multiple variants of malware
Dynamic Positioning– distribute and dynamically relocate system resources, this could easily be achieved in a resilient cloud environment, this could go a long way to supporting recovery and continuity as well as making it more difficult for attackers to determine the infrastructure topology
Non Persistence– generate and create resources as needed and avoid the likelihood of intrusions through backdoors left on unused resources
Privilege Restriction– restrict access privileges based on attributes of users and systems as well as environmental considerations i.e. do not give admin rights to a user connected via an Internet café or via a country you have no business with
Redundancy–provide multiple instances of critical business systems to aid recovery from failure of primary systems
Segmentation– define and separate elements of your systems based on their criticality and attribute permissions accordingly. This will help to prevent the spread of malware and give further protection to critical systems
Unpredictability– make random and unpredictable changes to increase uncertainty for attackers thus making it more difficult for them to determine their attack sequence
These techniques put together will go a long way to achieve a high degree of cyber resiliency, which will result in the ability to manage the cyber risk and maintain operational services especially in times of persistent attack

How to protect your information assets with technology

Having GDPR compliant processes and procedures is an essential and fundamental part of ensuring a robust data security and management regime is implemented in your organisation. Another crucial and as important component of compliance is having the right tools in place that will support the necessary management, security and monitoring of data assets. This means that you will need to have information at your fingertips about what is happening with your data and your IT infrastructure in general. The technology assets can be quite extensive depending on your environment, but we will focus on just a few elements which are network and device centric. Additional controls will inevitably exist at the application and database level of your infrastructure.
GDPR requirements include breach detection and notification and this is an area where most organisations will need to dramatically improve their approach. Given that most successful breaches steal data within hours while the average time to detect is approaching 100 days, you can see there is a large gap that needs to be bridged. While there may not be the available investment of skilled resources to bridge the gap instantaneously, there are some basic and effective starting points that could bring dramatic and immediate benefits.

Endpoint Security

An effective endpoint security solution will monitor and block threats from compromising the endpoint and propagating threats across your network. Today’s endpoint security must go beyond traditional anti-virus due to the sophistication and ever changing nature of cyber attacks. Systems based only known attacks will be ineffective as malware is able to adapt and evade signature based detection. An advanced endpoint security solution can analyse suspicious files and interrogate up to the second threat intelligence information in the cloud to block attacks that a conventional solution would not notice.
Enhancing endpoint security is, therefore, a quick for organisations looking to significantly improving their security posture at a relatively low cost.

Perimeter Security and threat management

Ask yourself this question, do you know data traffic is coming in or going out of your network? Do you have visibility of what is happening?
Perimeter security for a long time has been about blocking incoming traffic and less about seeing what is going out. Most attacks will rely on data exfiltration as well as callbacks to sites hosting malware.
Implementing effective perimeter security and advanced threat
management will go a long way to dramatically reducing the unwitting interaction between an organisations users or endpoints and known
malware sites. Such a solution must also be good at blocking attempted intrusions as well as scanning file content for threats before allowing
access. Many organisations still have traditional firewalls or have purchased newer devices with advanced features which are yet to be enabled. With the increased regulatory regime of GDPR, it is imperative that the necessary levels of security and threat management are implemented on these platforms. If they do not have the capabilities, they simply need to be replaced with platforms that have a chance of providing protection in the
ever changing threat landscape.

Event Logging and Management

Good IT management will necessitate a security event management tool. The tool will prove invaluable for monitoring, reporting and investigating IT related activity in an organisation.
It can be an effective tool in detecting and preventing attacks by correlating activity and alerts from a number of sources thus aiding in determining the chronology and scope of a security event and it’s root cause. The event management tool will also play a key role in supporting any reporting into a breach because the logs can be analysed to determine the sequence of events and scope of a breach. This will support efforts associated with
the reporting requirements of GDPR for notifying the authorities of breaches.
Correctly specified and implemented technology will have a major role to play in achieving and maintaining good data security standards.

Useful Resources

Related Blogs

GDPR compliance: technology and data handling explained

What is GDPR? 6 questions you need to answer before the deadline

Will GDPR protect your personal data?

GDPR compliance: technology and data handling explained

The GDPR regulation is ultimately about good data/information management and governance. Though many organisations acknowledged previous iterations of data protection regulation, GDPR demands that everyone step up their game and take responsibility or face severe consequences. The innovative use of technology aligned with the data handling processes and procedures will go a long way to achieve and maintain GDPR compliance.
Compliance with GDPR has strong data governance at its foundation.
Data governance should have executive ownership at its core and necessitates strong commitment is communicated and actioned. It involves auditing and risk management where data is identified, classified and managed in a controlled manner. Technology can inevitably be used to automate and scale this process especially where data volumes are extensive.

Data analysis and classification

One of the early steps on the GDPR journey is the analysis of data that is held, and identification and tagging of personal data. Organisations may hold a combination of structured and unstructured data, oftentimes data is held in multiple locations as multiple copies of records are made. Once identified, organisations will need to tag personal data and link pieces of data together that relate to the same individual. Systems will then also need to manage the consent element of GDPR enabling all data being held to be collated in accordance with access and consent requirements of GDPR.

Data management and security

Systems need to be in place that manages data quality throughout its lifecycle. Data location needs to be accurate, duplicates need to be detected, records need to be accurate and should be updated including corrections, amendments and deletions when requested including backup copies which are no longer required.
To support the data security requirements, systems functionality need to be in place that manages data records including encryption, deduplication, backup, deletion and providing access to complete records in a transferable manner. Applications that manage the data also need to be secure ensuring
that user access policies are enforced, and users do not get access to data they are not authorised to. Manual processes are likely to be inadequate and therefore technology will inevitably need to be in place to support this requirement.
In a cloud environment, this will need to be provided by cloud providers whose systems are GDPR compliant. The organisation, however, will still be responsible for securing the data and policing user access irrespective of the cloud providers security controls. For an on-premise scenario, the organisation will have total responsibility for ensuring the systems are in place.

Breach detection, response and reporting

GDPR requires that certain types of breaches are notified to the relevant authorities within 72 hours of the breach occurring. The notification will also require details of the breach such as; how many records were accessed, mitigating measures to counter the breach, consequences of the breach, risks to the individual, categories of data breached. To fully comply with this requirement, organisations will need to have excellent cyber security protection mechanisms and controls in place. This will include at least the following components;
  • Network Security to ensure only authorised devices are able to access the networks
  • User authentication mechanisms to ensure only authorised users have access to systems
  • Intrusion Prevention Systems that detect and block unauthorised network access
  • Monitoring systems to identify and alert if unauthorised activities are detected
  • Logging capabilities to ensure all activity is logged and the information is available to undertake a forensic investigation should the need arise
These are just a few areas where technology applied effectively will greatly assist with GDPR compliance. Implementing the above technologies may well require additional investment if the systems are not yet in place, or it may just be a case of fine-tuning and optimising systems that are already in place.
Inevitably changes need to be made if anything more than lip service is to be paid to GDPR. There is, however, a positive spin on GDPR because it’s not about preventing business but about handling data properly, which must be a good thing for all concerned.

What is GDPR? 6 question you need to answer before the deadline

Why is GDPR necessary?

Regulations such as GDPR have come about as a consequence of technology. The increasing storage of private data over decades has led to concerns over individual privacy. Technology has meant that there is a risk that privacy could be trampled on or sensitive user data accessed inappropriately.
Worst still data could be stolen and used for criminal activity. In essence, regulation ultimately is about protecting individual privacy and individual rights from abuse or misuse of technology.

Why has technology become a problem?

Technology has been deployed over the decades initially as a solution to a business problem. Latterly, technology has been deployed as a fundamental part of the business fabric without which most businesses would cease to operate. In the age of digitisation technology in some instances is the business. Technology has however been deployed in a haphazard manner without security at its core and in many instances, organisations are playing catch up as opposed to having security as part of their core design.

So how is GDPR different to other regulations?

GDPR aims to compel organisations to protect individual privacy by ensuring that those handling the sensitive data are competent; only storing what data is essential, enforcing a policy that only allows access to the relevant people, and has systems in place to protect against and detect unauthorised access.
GDPR gives real teeth to data regulators in terms of enforcement powers including significant fines. It also extends responsibility globally to anyone who processes EU citizens data.

What do businesses need to do to comply with GDPR?

In order to comply with GDPR regulation, organisations need to do the following;
  • Awareness–ensure everyone in your organisations knows about GDPR
  • Information- document what personal data you hold and where
  • Privacy and rights– ensure procedures cover individual rights
  • Subject access requests– update procedures to handle access requests
  • Lawful basis– identify your lawful basis for processing data
  • Consent– review how you manage consent
  • Minors– ensure you have consent for minors
  • Breaches– ensure you have a plan and procedures to detect and report them
  • Impact assessment– plan to undertake these in accordance with ICO guidelines
  • Data Processing Officer– designate a DPO within your organisation
That is it in a nutshell. It is obviously much more involved in practice. The information commissioners website is a great resource for understanding what needs to be done and how to do it.

What are the benefits of becoming GDPR compliant?

Achieving compliance with GDPR will have a number of direct and indirect benefits. Firstly there will be a cost associated with achieving compliance which will likely involve resources of time and money.
Being compliant however is a strong indication that the organisation is processing data in a robust way compliant with best practices. This should mean that organisations are;
  • More likely to protect sensitive data and thus individual privacy and rights
  • Less likely to be breached as they will have better security in place
  • Are more likely to detect security breaches
  • Will be able to respond satisfactorily to individual’s information requests
There is an increasing trend amongst organisations that are now requiring their supply chain to confirm their compliance with GDPR. This will become a differentiator enabling GDPR compliant organisations to be viewed more credibly.

What are the consequences of not complying with GDPR?

Non-compliance with GDPR can have quite severe consequences over time. This could include being excluded from business opportunities as well as the likely punitive measures that may result from an ICO investigation if an organisation has been found wanting in it’s approach to compliance.
Analysts are also predicting that after PPI claims expire next year, GDPR breaches will spawn a new chapter in the claims culture that could run for decades. Compliance with GDPR should be seen as a business opportunity and approached positively in terms of the benefits that it might bring to organisations.

Useful Resources

GDPR Readiness Test [Checklist]
GDPR 12 Step to take NOW [Infographic] 
9 Steps to Implement a Security Managment Tool [eBook]

7 infographics from the Cisco 2018 Cyber Security Report explained

In our final part of Cisco’s 68 page 2018 Annual Cyber Security Report, we summarise the key findings and highlight the main takeaways contained in the report.
While most of the information is already known, put in context it gives a thorough view of the changing landscape and importantly identifies some of the steps that Information Security teams could take to mitigate the growing risk.
The reports highlights include;
  • Self-propagating ransomware is a growing trend
  • Legitimate cloud platforms are increasingly being exploited for cyber attacks
  • Cyber attackers are exploiting gaps in security coverage as organisations move to the cloud
  • Lack of skilled cyber security staff is a growing problem
  • Security is more effective when policies governing technology, processes and people are synced
  • Scalable cloud security, advanced endpoint protection and threat intelligence can be deployed to reduce the cyber threat risk
According to the Cisco report, cyber attackers are amassing their techniques and capabilities at an unprecedented scale.
Ransomware is the most profitable form of malware and has evolved into self-propagating network based cryptoworms as witnessed by Nyetya
and WannaCry. These ransomware variants took down whole regions and
sectors of infrastructure such as the Ukraine and the NHS.
Cyber attackers are weaponizing the cloud and using legitimate cloud services from well known vendors such as Google, Amazon, Twitter to host and conduct malware attacks. They are in fact capitalising on the benefits of cloud platforms such as security, agility, scalability and good reputation, oftentimes repurposing their sites before they are detected.
Cyber attackers are exploiting gaps in security coverage including IoT and cloud services especially where the organisation has not extended their security controls to include securing users and data in the cloud. Another growing obstacle to more effective cyber security is lack of skilled cyber security personal and inadequate budgets.
Cisco’s report also provides some essential guidance that organisations
should adopt in order to meet the growing challenge and provide more effective cyber security protection. Some of these measures include;
  • Implementing scalable cloud security solutions
  • Ensuring alignment of corporate policies for technology, applications and processes
  • Implementing network segmentation, advanced endpoint security and incorporating threat intelligence into security monitoring
  • Reviewing and practising security response procedures
  • Adopting advanced security solutions that include AI and machine learning especially where encryption is used to evade detection
While the security report is essential reading for all personnel responsible for an organisations information assets, in many areas it reiterates what we have been hearing about in the news and trade publications. The essential call to action is really to make a good start by doing the essentials. If you have already done this, then keep testing, refining and improving your cyber security posture.

5 Takeaways from the Cisco 2018 Annual Cyber Security Report

Cisco Annual Cybersecurity Report 2018

Cloud abuse on the rise according to Cisco Security Report

Cisco’s Annual Cyber Security Report 2018 provides an insightful account into the changing cyber security landscape. This article summarises some findings of the report pertaining to cloud security.
Some main take aways from the report that will be discussed in this blog include:
  • Legitimate cloud services such as Twitter and Amazon being used by attackers to scale their activities
  • Machine-Learning is being used to capture download behaviour
  • Cloud Security is a shared responsibility between organisations and its provider
  • There is an increase of belief in the benefits of cloud security
  • Cloud abuse is on the rise
According to the report, increased security was the principle reason security professionals gave for organisations deciding to host corporate applications in the cloud.
Fifty seven percent believe the cloud offers better data security
Organisations who have a security operations team are likely to have a well defined cloud security approach that may include the adoption of Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) as they deploy to the cloud.
Many smaller organisations however are adopting cloud services without a clear security strategy, there is therefore a blurring of the security boundaries where many organisations are not certain about where their responsibilities end and where the responsibility of the cloud provider starts.
Security in the cloud is a shared responsibility: Cloud Security, DNS, IaaS PaaS Saas
Security in the cloud is a shared responsibility
Cyber attackers are increasingly taking advantage of this blurring of the boundaries to exploit systems.
An increasing trend amongst cyber attackers is to use legitimate cloud services to host malware and command and control infrastructure. Public clouds that have been used for malware activity include Amazon, Google, DropBox and Microsoft.
This makes it doubly difficult for security teams to identify bad domains and take protective measures without risking significant commercial impact caused by denying user access to legitimate business services.
Examples of legitimate services abused by malware for C2
The misuse of legitimate services is attractive to cyber attackers for a number of reasons;
  • Easy to register a new account and set up a web page
  • Adopt use of legitimate SSL certificate
  • Services can be adapted and transformed on the fly
  • Reuse of domain and resources for multiple malware campaigns
  • Less likely that infrastructure will be ‘burned’ (service can just be taken down) with little evidence of its purpose
  • Reduce overhead for attacker and better return on investment
Cyber attackers are effectively using legitimate and well known cloud infrastructure with their attendant benefits; ease of scale, trusted brand and secure features such as SSL. This enables them to scale their activity with less likelihood of detection if current protection methods are retained.
The challenges posed for the security teams defending organisations from these new threats call for a more sophisticated approach because in effect you need to block services that users are trying to access for legitimate work such as Amazon or Dropbox. Furthermore, the legitimate services are encrypted and so malware will be encrypted and evade most forms of threat inspection techniques– the threat will only become apparent after it has been activated on a host.
Intelligent cloud security tools will need to be deployed to help identify malware domains and sub-domains using legitimate cloud services. Such tools can also be used to further analyse related malware characteristics such as associated IP addresses, related domains and the registrant’s details.
An emerging and valuable approach to detect anomalous behaviour is machine learning.
Machine learning algorithms can be used to characterise normal user activity, unusual activity can be identified, and action taken automatically.
Machine-learning algorithms capture user download behaviour 2017
To meet the range of challenges presented by cloud adoption,
organisations need to apply a combination of best practices, advanced security technologies, and some experimental methodologies especially where they need to overcome the use of legitimate services by cyber attackers.

Would you like to learn more? Claim your Free copy of our latest eBook “A View of the Cyber Threat Landscape”. Click here.

What’s HOT What’s NOT: Cyber Security 2018

What are the main cyber security trends and focus areas for IT Managers and Chief Security Officers so far in 2018?

One thing we know for sure is that cyber security won’t be taking a lower profile as IT embeds itself at the core of organisations becoming a true business enabler.
IT is at the core of organisations and if there is a glitch then the business impact is profound. It is therefore beneficial to be able to focus limited resources and efforts on the priorities that will really
make the biggest difference.
 So the question is what will be HOT and what will NOT in 2018. The list below, while not being exhaustive, gives a focus on what you should be prioritising.

 HOT

  • GDPR
  • Ransomware
  • Cloud

NOT

  • Anti-Virus
  • VPNs

HOT: GDPR

25th May 2018 is the date the GDPR will come into force. The regulation will affect literally every organisation that holds personal data. With the increasing regulatory powers for investigation and enforcement, firms not complying with the regulation could face severe penalties.
GDPR must, therefore, be high on the list of business priorities and a comprehensive approach to GDPR compliance will necessitate a comprehensive review of policy, process and technology.
In a recent article we discovered that 52% of medium sized business have NOT made changes/prepared for GDPR!

NOT: Anti-Virus

In the face of the new breed of sophisticated, adaptable forms of cyber attacks, traditional Anti-Virus is becoming redundant. The approach of traditional Anti-Virus which is based of signatures relies on threats having been detected and updates being propagated to clients before an attack occurs.
Organisations need multiple layers of protection to stand any chance of detecting and blocking new threats some of which can dynamically probe and adapt to the host environment.
Anti-Virus is still essential especially if it also monitors for abnormal behaviour, however if it is your primary line of defence, expect the worst, as Robert Mueller says, you will be attacked, depending solely on Anti-Virus increases the likelihood of it happen sooner and more frequent.

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HOT: Ransomware

2017 saw the spread of global ransomware variants Wannacry and Nyetya. Wannacry made significant parts of the NHS powerless while Nyetya caused major losses for businesses. Fedex counted losses in excess of $300m and at one stage had to resort to WhatsApp for internal communications due to compromised email systems.
The ransomware ‘business model’ has stepped up a notch with it being made available to buy as a service. The avatar of the attacker has suddenly changed from a stereotypical hoody wearing geek to just about anyone who can pay with some Bitcoin.
Ransomware has been the most profitable form of cyber attack to date and franchising it just made it cement it’s pole position as the number one threat in 2018.

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NOT: VPNs

Statistics indicate that nearly 50% of workforces are mobile, meaning they access their organisation’s IT applications from remote locations to the organisation’s offices. The ubiquitous VPN has been the secure way of connecting.
 With the various flavours and increasing range of users requiring connections, VPNs are becoming a greater management overhead and an increasing security risk especially if the controls are not kept up to date with the threats.
A need for a more sophisticated and granular method of providing remote access is emerging where users are connected only to what they require, when they require it and furthermore their security posture is established even before they are allowed any connectivity.

Cloud: HOT

Organisations having realised the benefits of cloud adoption have embraced it while mitigating the risks as best they can. The benefits of the cloud in many instances include lower operational costs, agility, increased resilience and scalability.
Cloud adoption is also well suited to the growth of a mobile workforce who need anytime anywhere access to their applications. Securing the cloud data and user access is however an area of cloud implementation that is emerging as a focus area that businesses have not paid sufficient attention to.
Technologies such as secure DNS and the secure Internet gateway are solutions that are highly likely to gain a lot of traction as organisations audit and protect cloud connectivity from a range of emerging cyber threats.

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There will inevitably be questions about security topics such as BlockChain, IoT and Phishing just to name a few. Let us know how your list wouldn’t be different.

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