Why ‘WannaCry’ must be a lesson for all

Oct 24, 2017 by infocon in  cyber security Security

May 12, 2017 is one of the most dreadful days of the year for cyber experts and its stakeholders. About 150 countries across the globe suffered a cyber-attack, affecting 200,000 computers.

It was the infamous “WannaCry” ransomware in which hackers locked people out of their computers, demanding a ransom of $300 in bitcoins. Medical care became inaccessible and factories were shut down for more than 2 days to minimize loss of confidential and further damage.

Here goes a brief on one of the most dangerous ransomware attacks in the Cyber-verse:

What is “WannaCry”?

“WannaCry” appears to have utilized a flaw in Microsoft’s software, discovered by the National Security Agency, which was quickly leaked by hackers. The malicious code that relied on the victims opening a zip file emailed to them, spread rapidly across networks locking away files one by one. From then on, the programme used Microsoft’s flaw to thrive.

Microsoft had released a security update which addressed the vulnerability in the sixteen year old Windows XP operating system, in March 2017. This update was exploited by the hackers to trigger the massive ransomware attack.

 

 

Who got affected?

Several computer networks worldwide were affected, including Telefonica as well as other major organizations in Spain. The British National Health Service (NHS), too, was forced to cancel scheduled patients.

FedEx, Deutsche Bahn, the Russian Interior  Ministry and Russian telecom MegaFon were barred from normal operating services. According to Quartz the three bitcoin wallets used in the attack received just under 300 payments totalling a sum of 48.8635565 bitcoins, which is the equivalent of about $101,000.

 

What is a ransomware attack?

The term ‘ransomware’ appeared in 2005 in the US with the first notable biggest threats to security. While cyber experts maintain it to be 2005, the history of ransomware goes back to 1989.

 

PC CYBORG advisory from 1989. Screenshot via Security Focus

 

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, the earliest ransomware attack occurred in 1989, targeting the healthcare industry. Tracing the same, the healthcare industry still remains a top target for such attacks even after twenty eight years.

Ransomware is a cyber-attack wherein hackers gain control over a computer system and block access to it until the demanded ransom is paid. Hackers get control of systems by downloading a type of malicious software onto a device within the network. This is usually done by getting a victim to click on download link by mistake. The link is normally attached with an email, which once opened, encrypts the hard drive. Once the software gets into the victim’s computer, it enables the hackers to launch an attack that locks all files it can find within that network.

The recent ‘WannaCry’, also known as Wanna Decryptor is a ransomware programme that locks all the available data in the system leaving the user with only instructions on what to do next and the Wanna Decryptor programme itself.

When the software is opened, it tells the users that the files on their computer have been encrypted. It then gives them a few days to pay up, warning that their files will otherwise be deleted. It generally gives them instructions to pay in Bitcoin, providing the Bitcoin address for it to be sent to.

 

 

What is the way out?

Larger organizations should ideally follow the guidelines provided by concerned institutions:

  • Apply the latest Microsoft security patches for this particular flaw.
  • Ensure all outgoing and incoming emails are scanned for malicious attachments.
  • Ensure anti-virus programmes are up to date and conducting regular scans.
  • Backup all key data and information.
  • Organize education programmes on malware so employees can identify scams, malicious links or emails that may contain hazardous viruses.
  • Run “penetration tests” against your network’s security at least once a year.

Many experts even suggested restoring all files from a backup. If that isn’t possible, there are tools that can decrypt and recover some information.

Infocon Bangladesh 2016

Apr 23, 2016

Introduction

The civilization has always been interested on protection, let it be primitive or sophisticated present ages. Human Life or property or business, our thoughts revolves on safeguarding the same.
With the advancement with technology, we are getting more engaged with internet and in effect data security is becoming more critical worldwide. Information security is a well-known consideration globally. We are regularly facing attacks, frauds, security breaches, confidentiality issues, information misuse, piracy, sniffing and leakage of data across the domain.
During my last visit to Bangladesh (During 14th to 18th March, 2016) , Bangladesh bank fraudulent activities came to my notice. Bangladesh got into the news for all the wrong reasons. The situation enforced the banks to take corrective actions in line of Cyber Security. We thought of spreading awareness on the domain in Bangldeash through our initiative “Infocon”.

Preface

In line with Bangladesh Bank attack, the mandates came to all Banks to cover Information Security and Cyber Security risk/threats in order to secure public money and confidential/critical information.
The Cyber Security Governance and risks assessment are to be enforced across the employees of the organization. There should be preparations for Assessment of technological difficulties and emergency management procedures. The same may be achieved through third party assessment, skill development on security for all Employees.
Information Security should be continuously monitored through Operation Centres 24×7 basis.
PCI-DSS compliance is to be adopted with two-factor authentication systems for Chip-n-Pin based cards. Logs should be collected, maintained, co-related and maintained for all critical assets in order to have proactive measures.
Besides there are needs for ISO 27001:2013, ISO 20000:2011, ISO 9001:2015 standards. Apart from these Risk Assessment Framework based on the industry de-facto standard NIST Controls and FISMA Law/Compliance/ Cobit framework.
People are looking as protecting against malware, ransomware, APT etc
In effect various providers, OEMs positioned their product/solutions to the financial sector potential clients. But different product/solutions on same domain created lots of confusions, dilemma in the customer mind before going for conclusion. Before “Infocom Bangladesh 2016” event is narrated, I will try to explain some of the burning topics on Secuirty which are not only critical for Bangladesh, but across the globe.

Ransomware

Now a days threats are multifold. Every day we are discovering new lines of threats. Ransomware is one of the latest in the bucket. Ransomware is turning out to be one of the most virulent and potentially heart-breaking malware infections to become a victim of. If you are unfortunate enough to accidentally download this type of malicious code — whether through phishing attacks or illegitimate downloads and compromised websites — the malware locks your screen, encrypts your files and attempts to exhort a fee before giving you the cryptographic key required to get your files back. There are many strains of ransomware including CryptoWall, CryptoLocker, CoinVault and Bitcryptor. This malware is nasty enough, however the prediction is that new generations will increase in sophistication — including stealth tactics, the silent encryption of data — on both systems and backups — and potentially the use of kernel components to encrypt files on the fly.

APT

An advanced persistent threat (APT) is a network attack in which an unauthorized person gains access to a network and stays there undetected for a long period of time. The intention of an APT attack is to steal data rather than to cause damage to the network or organization. APT attacks target organizations in sectors with high-value information, such as national defence, manufacturing and the financial industry. An APT attacker often uses spear fishing, a type of social engineering, to gain access to the network through legitimate means. Once access has been achieved, the attacker establishes a back door.
The next step is to gather valid user credentials (especially administrative ones) and move laterally across the network, installing more back doors. The back doors allow the attacker to install bogus utilities and create a “ghost infrastructure” for distributing malware that remains hidden in plain sight.

PCI DSS

PCI-DSS stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard
PCI DSS and related security standards are administered by the PCI Security Standards Council, which was founded by American Express, Discover Financial Services, JCB International, MasterCard Worldwide and Visa Inc. Participating organizations include merchants, payment card issuing banks, processors, developers and other vendors.
There are three ongoing steps for adhering to the PCI DSS:

  • Assess — identifying cardholder data, taking an inventory of your IT assets and business processes for payment card processing, and analyzing them for vulnerabilities that could expose cardholder data.
  • Remediate — fixing vulnerabilities and not storing cardholder data unless you need it.

Report — compiling and submitting required remediation validation records (if applicable), and submitting compliance reports to the acquiring bank and card brands you do business with.
PCI Data Security Standard – High Level Overview

Build and Maintain a Secure Network and Systems Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data
Do not use vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters
Protect Cardholder Data Protect stored cardholder data
Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public network
Maintain a Vulnerability Management Program (VAPT) Protect all systems against malware and regularly update anti-virus software or programs
Develop and maintain secure systems and applications
Implement Strong Access Control Measures Restrict access to cardholder data by business need to know
Identify and authenticate access to system components
Restrict physical access to cardholder data
Regularly Monitor and Test Networks Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data
Regularly test security systems and processes
Maintain an Information Security Policy Maintain a policy that addresses information security for all personnel

Web Application Firewall,Sometimes, in orders to comply with PCI-DSS, some components are essential to implementation as a part of remediation:

  • Web Content Filtering,
  • Endpoint Security,
  • HIPS (Host Based Intrusion Prevention),
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM),
  • Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing Tools (VAPT),
  • Data Leakage Protection (DLP),
  • File Integrity Monitoring,
  • End point Encryption,
  • Privilege User monitoring,
  • Identity Management (IDM) etc.

ISMS

ISMS is Information Security Management System and the latest standard is ISO 27001:2013. It is essential to protect company data, not only to protect the future of your systems, but also to protect customer information, that has been entrusted to you. This requires a holistic approach covering price, IT Security, physical security and staff policy & procedures. ISO 27001 is the formal standard against which organizations seek independent certification of all their Information Security Management Systems.

IS0 27001 helps to protect against

  • Customer Information leakage
  • Virus & hacker attacks
  • Incompatible software conflicts
  • Failure to back up systems
  • Loss or theft of unencrypted backups
  • Internal security breaches
  • Loss of information resulting from staff turnover
  • System downtimeISMS

Ideal Coverage should include:

  • ISMS Scope Definitions
  • ISO 27001 ” Gap “Analysis Assessments
  • Performing an assessment of your existing ISMS
  • Information Security Policy and Procedure Development
  • Information Security Risk Assessments
  • ISMS Manual Development
  • ISO 27001 ISMS Implementation Support
  • Security Improvement Plans
  • Incident Management Plans
  • ISMS & Internal Audits
  • Management Reviews
  • Pre-certification Audits and support
  • Post Certification Audits Corrective Action Support
  • ISMS Trainings for Management & Employee
  • Integration of ISMS with COBIT, COSO, ITIL/ISO 20000 etc

VAPT

Vulnerability assessments and penetration testing (pen tests for short) are processed to identify threats and Vulnerabilities in the IT landscape using valuable tools, that can benefit any information security program and they are both integral components of a Management process.

Vulnerability Assessment

A vulnerability assessment is the process of identifying and quantifying security vulnerabilities in an environment. It is an in-depth evaluation of your information security posture, indicating weaknesses as well as providing the appropriate mitigation procedures required to either eliminate those weaknesses or reduce them to an acceptable level of risk.

Vulnerability Assessments Follow These General Steps

  • Catalog assets and resources in a system
  • Assign quantifiable value and importance to the resources
  • Identify the security vulnerabilities or potential threats to each resource
  • Mitigate or eliminate the most serious vulnerabilities for the most valuable resources

Penetration Test

A penetration test simulates the actions of an external and/or internal cyber attacker that aims to breach the information security of the organization. Using many tools and techniques, the penetration tester (ethical hacker) attempts to exploit critical systems and gain access to sensitive data.
Depending on the scope, a pen test can expand beyond the network to include social engineering attacks or physical security tests. Also, there are two primary types of pen tests: “white box”, which uses vulnerability assessment and other pre-disclosed information, and “black box”, which is performed with very little knowledge of the target systems and it is left to the tester to perform their own reconnaissance.

Penetration Testing Follow These General Steps

  • Determination of scope
  • Targeted information gathering or reconnaissance
  • Exploit attempts for access and escalation
  • Sensitive data collection testing
  • Clean up and final reporting

With the increase of usage for Social, Mobile apps, Cloud, Big Data, IoT (more precisely SMAC – Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud), we are approaching towards a danger zone. Hope you have heard of Jeep Cherokee incident where hackers can take control of a connected car and lead you to death as well.

Event Details

Prime Infoserv LLP being a domain expert in the category, wanted to spread the awareness on Information Security and “Infocon Bangladesh 2016” took birth. The idea was to empower Enterprises with better wisdom with knowledge for doing proper diligence, understanding the actual need to cover-up the concerns.
The event took place on 16-04-2016 (Saturday) with the audience from major banks. Speakers took sessions on various aspects of cyber security and risks. The knowledge sharing was OEM agnostic in order to spread more awareness so that people can be more empowered to take decision beyond OEM/System Integrator Influence. The sessions were fully interactive like Q&A, discussions with concern areas and off course encouragement with surprise gifts.
      

      
Event had kicked off with lunch, followed by discussions on the burning topics as mentioned above.
The attendees were awarded with Trend Micro endorsed certificate.
More details of the events can be fetched from below links:

 Conclusion

Infocon is not just an event, rather a process to build eco system surrounding the topic. We intent to create forums where domain experts and attendees can exchange thoughts even after events. There will be follow-up awareness sessions. There are serious thoughts to publish a Book covering pain points and resolutions to spread the awareness.
This retrospection will bring our smile back in order to have peace and fulfilment with wisdom.
We will have follow-up event in Bangladesh. Upcoming events are being planned in Kolkata, Bhutan, London, Africa and Mauritius.
Stay tuned for our upcoming initiatives under the brand “Infocon”.

5 Strategies for Cyber Security in Small Business Organizations

Oct 16, 2017

If you’re a small business organization, there is absolutely no reason for you to neglect cyber security. Not spending on security or relying on outdated software to protect your data – both are equally bad ideas.

Here are a few ways you should undertake to prevent damage to the reputation of your business repute:

Backups: Cyber attackers and hackers never leave an opportunity to take your data “hostage” and demand a ransom before releasing that data. Hence, small organizations must practice backing up data in the cloud or a hybrid data centre.

Update IT Systems: As malicious attacks are evermore wreaking havoc in the cyber-verse, it is essential for organizations to protect their business data at all costs. A top to bottom evaluation with an emphasis on vulnerabilities is important. Key assets like information about property, confidential personal data, etc. must be guarded against.

   Cyber security education: In any data-security effort, any individual can intentionally or not become a “weak-link”. More often, an employee nursing grudge against the organization may compromise security. To avoid such incidences, smaller organizations can always undertake a rigorous cyber security education program.

Proper planning: Included in the data-security education program should be procedures teaching employees how to react in the event of unauthorized intrusions, example, phishing or malware attempts. A detailed incident response plan that redirects to helpdesks or IT teams can have a significant impact.

Mobile device security: A lot of times employees in small organizations use their mobile devices for work and work-related communication. The thought of data passage through unsecured channels is nightmarish enough for organizations to establish policies like – (i) Categorizing and restricting the types of information that can be shared or accessed through these devices, (ii) Enforcing network access control wherein employees can access your business’s VPN and email in a reliable manner, (iii) Determining whether mobile devices provided by the business can be taken off-site.

Bringing Information Security to book – Infocon initiative

Oct 21, 2016

How much information security is enough security ?

Infocon is an initiative by Prime Infoserv, Kolkata and Wordsmith has been a collaborator in the initiative. Any contemporary CXO who is not concerned with the theme and confusion called Information Security is either non-existent or soon will face bankruptcy judge.

Billions are lost by private and public institutions worldwide through loopholes in securing information. Information is literally money. If you are a financial institution and if your customer database is compromised, then the fall-out can be seriously embarrassing to catastrophic.

The Problem of Mr. K, a CIO of the castle called Kolkata 

Mr. K is a  CIO of a large healthcare company in Kolkata. His 60% life was spent without internet and when his career is at the matured peak, he finds that he needs to reckon with information security. His CEO has instructed him to “do something”. What he should do ?

In case of an enterprise, any “doing” needs management time, money and attention (follow-up). More important, no vendor appears to be able to answer the question : “How much information security is good security ? “How much I should spend, considering the solutions are correct ?” 

Mr. K, found to his great confusion that he is not able to get these “figures”.

In a autumn morning in Kolkata, post-Durga Puja last year,  I and Sushobhan, CEO of Prime met Mr. K in his East Calcutta office, overlooking the wetlands of Calcutta that appear to be merging with the Sunderbans.  Mr. K narrated his predicament, especially the most important one – “How much money and resource he should ask for approval ? ” from his top management to implement the solution selected. The problem with the solution was its very nature : the solution is directly connected to the threat – real, perceived, imagined or enmeshed in the business interest of the information security vendor.

The Mathematical Model

In other words, we need an analytic framework backed up by the cold, austere and objective mathematical perspective other than paranoia, vendor interest, disaster porn, technical jargon, hardware and software vendor with their exotic offerings lined up in the form of priests of some esoteric cult.

There is a mathematical model called Gordon-Leob model that does exactly that. It uses mathematical tools like probability, confidence interval, distribution to produce a mathematically verifiable statement

After the coffee, I and Sushobhan told Mr. K that he should spend no more than 37% of the amount X, where X is calculated by

X = Cost * Maximum probable vulnerability * Impact Constant * Quantified Risk

Mr. K was delighted. He is now at least dealing with arithmetic, not anxiety-metric.

In due course, we did find out X for his organization by using a 4 step method which is basically a combination of police work + detective work. In the first step, we did a vulnerability analysis and logged all known risks, in the 2nd step, we had assigned some metric to those risks in consultation with the company. In the 3rd step, we calculated the probabilities of such events, in the final step, we tabulated the impact and then estimated X.

Since then, we have been working in this area with clients in India, Bangladesh, UK and everywhere we found one common aspect : lack of awareness. Then the idea of Infocon was born.

Infocon 2016 is happening on 18th November – a platform for sharing our confusion, triumph, fear, best practices and combining our torches in a same direction to create a path in the literal jungle of information which not only has exotic fruits, flowers and scenes but ferocious enemies.

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