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.

India at 23rd position in the list of information secured countries

Oct 17, 2017

The second Global Cyber Security Index (GCI), released by the UN telecommunications agency, International Telecommunications Union (UTC) places India at 23rd position in the list of information secured countries. The rank is among 165 other nations across the world who have committed to cyber security.

The report reveals that only about half of all countries already have a cyber security strategy or are in the process of developing one. It urges countries to engage in cyber security education initiatives and job creation in the sector.

Singapore tops the index with a 0.925 score.

Other countries in the top 10 are United States, Malaysia, Oman, Estonia, Mauritius, Australia, Georgia, France and Canada.

The report says that 38 per cent of these countries have a published cyber security strategy while 12 per cent of governments are in the process of developing one.

The threat is dangerously worrying because in 2016, according to ITU, about one per cent of all emails sent were malicious attacks. The rate is the highest in recent years.

The findings show that there is “space for further improvement in cooperation” at all levels. It further advocates for encouraging governments to consider national policies that take into account cyber security and encourage private citizens to make smart decisions online.

Five point strategy of ITU to develop efficient information security systems

The Indian government has taken a few steps to bring the attacks under control. Under PM Narendra Modi’s tenure, the Central govt established the office of Chief Information Ofiicer of Cyber Security Cell under PM’s office. Dr Gulshan Rai is the first to hold the post.

CERT-In, an emergency response team is set up under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology for dealing with a range of cyber-attacks.

Apart from this, the Government of India has four Sectoral Computer Emergency Response Teams to address Cyber Security Threats in Power Systems: Transmission, Thermal, Hydro and Distribution.

All the four utilities have been asked to identify a nodal senior executive as its Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) to lead the process of strengthening organizational systems with respect to cyber security and implement an information security management systems as recommended by rules under the Information Technology (IT) Act 2008.

Govt discusses measures for safer digital transactions

Oct 18, 2017

To curb the rising cyber fraud in digital transactions, a high level meeting has proposed the imposition of a token ‘security fee’ on digital payments in India.

The meeting, focused on measures to make digital transactions safer, was held on 13 September. Chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, it was attended by officers from the MeITY, Home Ministry, Department of Financial Services, Department of Telecom, Reserve Bank of India and Intelligence Bureau. All major stakeholders were present to discuss and propose ways for the same.

Prasanto K. Roy, Nasscom Internet Council Head, expressed that every digital transaction could be aimed at starting a fund for creating better infrastructure to secure digital transactions.

“A special fund could help develop security infrastructure, hire experts and secure online transactions, though a cess on digital transactions isn’t the best way of doing it,” he told ThePrint. He further said that there was a need for the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to make digital transactions cheaper and secure.

An official from the Ministry said on condition of anonymity, “It was also discussed that an Act needs to be in place for regularizing digital payments, which will be looked after by the Finance Ministry, and to how fix the responsibilities of agencies”.

The action came after the official figures were disclosed that indicate that cases related to e-wallets and e-payments (that were reported to banks) jumped from 13,083 cases in 2014-15 to 16,468 cases in 2015-16.

Mostly, online frauds occur when people share their passwords, 3 D secure pins, ATM pins, etc. Hence there is a need to educate people about it. “A standard procedure for all e-wallets needs to be in place as right now anyone can make a wallet just by downloading the app. The KYC norms need to be strengthened for safer transactions,” the official from the Home Ministry said.

Further, the Ministry recommended undertaking a digital transaction education campaign and creation of dedicated cyber-forensics lab. Also, training for police personnel and forensic officers needs to be in place so that they can tackle cyber fraud cases.

“As of now we do not have the manpower or expertise to deal with cyber fraud cases, which is going to be challenging…we need to be prepared,” the Home Ministry official said.

The Intelligence Bureau proposed the Indian Government ensure the introduction of necessary software that is able to detect attempts at cyber fraud. Accordingly, the software would be incorporated by payment gateways so that customers can be alerted about suspicious activity.

“There needs to be a machinery to detect out-of-bound transactions and the pattern of violations in cyber fraud cases. The machinery should be able to figure if the transaction is fraudulent by looking at its pattern and send alerts,” Nasscom’s Roy said to The Print.

 

Cloud Security and Compliance Issues

Oct 25, 2017

Cloud Security and Compliance Issues:

 

A new report by Threat Stack and ESG (Environmental, Social Governance) raises major security concerns about the increasing public cloud environments and containers. The report reveals a notable gap in security and compliance readiness across the rapidly growing cloud-container environs.

The report discloses some significant facts as:

  • 60 percent of organizations regard security and compliance a hindrance to winning new business associates.
  • 57 percent of those surveyed complained of significant delays in the sales cycle blaming troubles created to meet customer security requirements.
  • 31 percent of those surveyed said they were unable to cope with the growing cloud and container environments. As a result, 62 percent said they’re aiming for greater visibility into their public cloud workloads.
  • 40 percent of the respondents conveyed that in the next 12 months, they will have hybrid environments, which is an increase from the current 12 percent. Meanwhile, 45 percent of organizations plan on starting to test or deploy containerized environs, which is above the current 42 percent of those who already do.
  • 94 percent of respondents believe containers give negative security implications for their organizations.

As the market democratizes, companies are adopting more complex technical solutions that were earlier reserved for only software giants.

This, experts believe, has led to the creation of an opening for external as well internal threats as security teams catch up on the cloud, containers, etc.

Sam Bisbee, Threat Stack CSO feels, “Containers originally focused on resource isolation, offering system building blocks to address specific operational needs that could be coupled with security solutions – they were not supposed to be a replacement for VMs, which is how most teams treat them”.

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