What is cyber security? How to build a cyber security strategy

Dec 28, 2017 by infocon in  cyber security Security
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Organizations face many threats to their information systems and data. Understanding all the basic elements to cyber security is the first step to meeting those threats.

Cyber security is the practice of ensuring the integrity, confidentiality and availability (ICA) of information. It represents the ability to defend against and recover from accidents like hard drive failures or power outages, and from attacks by adversaries. The latter includes everyone from script kiddies to hackers and criminal groups capable of executing advanced persistent threats (APTs), and they pose serious threats to the enterprise. Business continuity and disaster recovery planning are every bit as critical to cyber security as application and network security.

Security should be top of mind across the enterprise, and come with a mandate from senior management. The fragility of the information world we now live in also demands strong cyber security controls. Management should see that all systems are built to certain security standards and that employees are properly trained. All code, for example, has bugs, and some of those bugs are security flaws. Developers are only human, after all.

Security training

The human is always the weakest element in any cyber security program. Training developers to code securely, training operations staff to prioritize a strong security posture, training end users to spot phishing emails and social engineering attacks — cyber security begins with awareness.

All companies will experience some kind of cyber attack, even if strong controls are in place. An attacker will always exploit the weakest link, and many attacks are easily preventable by performing basic security tasks, sometimes referred to as “cyber hygiene.” A surgeon would never enter an operating room without washing their hands first. Likewise, an enterprise has a duty to perform the basic elements of cyber security care such as maintaining strong authentication practices and not storing sensitive data where it is openly accessible.

A good cyber security strategy needs to go beyond these basics, though. Sophisticated hackers can circumvent most defenses, and the attack surface — the number of ways or “vectors” an attacker can gain entry to a system — is expanding for most companies. For example, the information and the physical world are merging, and criminals and nation-state spies now threaten the ICA of cyber-physical systems such as cars, power plants, medical devices, even your IoT fridge. Similarly, the trends toward cloud computing, bring your own device (BYOD) policies in the workplace, and the burgeoning internet of things (IoT) create new challenges. Defending these systems has never been more important.

Further complicating cyber security is the regulatory climate around consumer privacy. Compliance with stringent regulatory frameworks like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) also demands new kinds of roles to ensure that organizations meet the privacy and security mandates of the GDPR and other regulations.

As a result, growing demand for cyber security professionals has hiring managers struggling to fill positions with qualified candidates. That struggle requires organizations to have a sharp focus on areas of greatest risk.

Types of cyber security

The scope of cyber security is broad. The core areas are described below, and any good cyber security strategy should take them all into account.

Critical infrastructure

Critical infrastructure includes the cyber-physical systems that society relies on, including the electricity grid, water purification, traffic lights and hospitals. Plugging a power plant into the internet, for example, makes it vulnerable to cyber attacks. The solution for organizations responsible for critical infrastructure is to perform due diligence to protect understand the vulnerabilities and protect against them. Everyone else should evaluate how an attack on critical infrastructure they depend on might affect them and then develop a contingency plan.

Network security

Network security guards against unauthorized intrusion as well as malicious insiders. Ensuring network security often requires trade-offs. For example, access controls such as extra logins might be necessary, but slow down productivity.

Tools used to monitor network security generate a lot of data — so much that valid alerts are often missed. To help better manage network security monitoring, security teams are increasingly using machine learning to flag abnormal traffic and alert to threats in real time.

Cloud security

The enterprise’s move into the cloud creates new security challenges. For example, 2017 has seen almost weekly data breaches from poorly configured cloud instances. Cloud providers are creating new security tools to help enterprise users better secure their data, but the bottom line remains: Moving to the cloud is not a panacea for performing due diligence when it comes to cyber security.

Application security

Application security (AppSec), especially web application security, has become the weakest technical point of attack, but few organizations adequately mitigate all the OWASP Top Ten web vulnerabilities. AppSec begins with secure coding practices, and should be augmented by fuzzing and penetration testing.

Rapid application development and deployment to the cloud has seen the advent of DevOps as a new discipline. DevOps teams typically prioritize business needs over security, a focus that will likely change given the proliferation of threats.

Internet of things (IoT) security

IoT refers to a wide variety of critical and non-critical cyber physical systems, like appliances, sensors, printers and security cameras. IoT devices frequently ship in an insecure state and offer little to no security patching, posing threats to not only their users, but also to others on the internet, as these devices often find themselves part of a botnet. This poses unique security challenges for both home users and society.

Types of cyber security threats

Common cyber threats fall under three general categories:

Attacks on confidentiality: Stealing, or rather copying, a target’s personal information is how many cyber attacks begin, including garden-variety criminal attacks like credit card fraud, identity theft, or stealing bitcoin wallets. Nation-state spies make confidentiality attacks a major portion of their work, seeking to acquire confidential information for political, military, or economic gain.

Attacks on integrity: Also known by its common name, sabotage, integrity attacks seek to corrupt, damage, or destroy information or systems, and the people who rely on them. Integrity attacks can be subtle — a typo here, a bit fiddled there — or a slash and burn campaign of sabotage against a target. Perpetrators can range from script kiddies to nation-state attackers.

Attacks on availability: Preventing a target from accessing their data is most frequently seen today in the form of ransomware and denial-of-service attacks. Ransomware encrypts a target’s data and demands a ransom to decrypt it. A denial-of-service attack, typically in the form of a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, floods a network resource with requests, making it unavailable.

The following describes the means by which these attacks are carried out.

Social engineering

Attackers aren’t going to hack a computer if they can hack a human instead. Socially engineered malware, often used to deliver ransomware, is the No. 1 method of attack (not a buffer overflow, misconfiguration, or advanced exploit). An end-user is tricked into running a Trojan horse program, often from a website they trust and visit often. Ongoing user education is the best countermeasure against this attack.

Phishing attacks

Sometimes the best way to steal someone’s password is to trick them into revealing it This accounts for the spectacular success of phishing. Even smart users, well-trained in security, can fall for a phishing attack. That’s why the best defense is two-factor authentication (2FA) — a stolen password is worthless to an attacker without a second factor, such as hardware security token, or soft token authenticator app on the user’s phone.

Unpatched software

It’s hard to blame your enterprise if an attacker deploys a zero-day exploit against you, but failure to patch looks a lot like failure to perform due diligence. If months and years pass after disclosure of a vulnerability, and your enterprise has not applied that security patch, you open yourself to accusations of negligence. Patch, patch, patch.

Social media threats

Catfishing isn’t just for the dating scene. Believable sock puppet accounts can worm their way through your LinkedIn network. If someone who knows 100 of your professional contacts strikes up a conversation about your work, are you going to think it strange? Loose lips sink ships. Expect social media espionage, of both the industrial and nation-state variety.

Advanced persistent threats

Speaking of nation-state adversaries, your enterprise has them. Don’t be surprised if multiple APTs are playing hide-and-go-seek on your corporate network. If you’re doing anything remotely interesting to someone, anywhere, you need to consider your security posture against sophisticated APTs. Nowhere is this more true than in the technology space, an industry rich with valuable intellectual property many criminals and nations will not scruple to steal.

Cybersecurity careers

Executing a strong cyber security strategy requires you have the right people in place. The demand for professional cyber security folk has never been higher, from the C-suite down to the security engineers working on the front lines. Security leaders have elbowed their way into the C-suite and boardrooms, as protecting company data becomes mission critical for organizations. A chief security officer (CSO) or chief information security officer (CISO) is now a core management position that any serious organization must have.

Roles have also grown more specialized. The days of the generalist security analyst are fading fast. Today a penetration tester might focus on application security, or network security, or phishing users to test security awareness. Incident response may see you on call 24/7. The following roles are the foundation of any security team.

CISO/CSO

The CISO is a C-level management executive who oversees the operations of an organization’s IT security department and related staff. The CISO directs and manages strategy, operations, and the budget to protect an organization’s information assets.

Security analyst

Also referred to as cyber security analyst, data security analyst, information systems security analyst, or IT security analyst, this role typically has these responsibilities:

  • Plan, implement and upgrade security measures and controls
  • Protect digital files and information systems against unauthorized access, modification or destruction
  • Maintain data and monitor security access
  • Conduct internal and external security audits
  • Manage network, intrusion detection and prevention systems
  • Analyze security breaches to determine their root cause
  • Define, implement and maintain corporate security policies
  • Coordinate security plans with outside vendors

Security architect

A good information security architect straddles the business and technical worlds. While the role can vary in the details by industry, is that of a senior-level employee responsible to plan, analyze, design, configure, test, implement, maintain, and support an organization’s computer and network security infrastructure. This requires knowing the business with a comprehensive awareness of its technology and information needs.

Security engineer

The security engineer is on the front line of protecting a company’s assets from threats. The job requires strong technical, organizational and communication skills. IT security engineer is a relatively new job title. Its focus is on quality control within the IT infrastructure. This includes designing, building, and defending scalable, secure, and robust systems; working on operational data center systems and networks; helping the organization understand advanced cyber threats; and helping to create strategies to protect those networks.

How does WannaCry affect India?

Oct 24, 2017

In emerging economies like India where the government is undertaking large scale digital initiatives and schemes, security has become a major concern. Cyber experts believe that the damage done by WannaCry ransomware is an issue of under-reported magnitude.

The use of pirated and outdated software is rampant among Indian users as well mid-size and small IT organizations. Fearing licensing issues, a huge number of these incidents will not be reporting the losses, concludes expert opinion on the latest cyber attack.

According to the Centre’s instruction to CERT-IN (Computer Emergency Response Team), “all the information of reported ransomware” have been collected into a report. Many of the cases across the country were isolated but the wave of attacks certainly shows that the impact to India is certainly a caution alarm.

The report states these places as worst hit by WannaCry:

1. 10% of Vadodara’s total computers in the District Administration Collectorate Office.

2.  Computers in Panchayat offices of Wayanad and Pathanamthitta districts in Kerala.

3.  120 computers connected with Gujarat State Wide Area Network in Gujarat.

4.  18 systems of Andhra Pradesh Police Department.

5.  Systems in the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) Shrine in Andhra Pradesh.

6.  Computers of the Personnel Department of the Southern Railways’ Palakkad Division.

7.  Computers in several locations of the Police Department of Maharashtra.

8.  Many attacks happened in computers across Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

 

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) to affect 60%-70% of the current jobs

Oct 18, 2017

As the world moves from ‘globalization’ to ‘glocalization’, the era of digitization seems to make its entry into global markets too. We’ve stepped into the age of ‘digital disruption’ where every new technology succeeds over its predecessor, proving the former a failure.
Increasing digital market environments are becoming a goal for every contemporary business organization. Digital interventions of social, analytics, mobile, big data and cloud technologies are laying the foundation for transformation. When these are integrated into cognitive computing, robotics, internet of things, 3 D printing, they form multiple disruptive scenarios like P2P, remote healthcare, digital banks, etc.
From the industry perspective, digital disruption is blurring lines between practices and learning from one industry being implemented in the other. Proliferation of smart devices and surge of AI, is the new battleground that is taking many sectors by storm.
AI has become the new hiring manager as job losses are projected to be the next big story. A recent World Bank research shows that AI threatens 69% and 77% of jobs in India and China respectively. A report by US-based research firm HfS Research states that about 7 lakh low-skilled workers in IT and BPO industry in India are likely to lose their jobs 2022, due to automation and AI.
Further, AI is set to affect 60%-70% of the current jobs. They will either get marginalized or totally eliminated.
A number of AI-based startups like Skillate, Belong, Stockroom, etc. scan through resumes and contain automatically updating algorithms for CVs. All of these are slowly taking over jobs portals like monster.com, Indeed, etc.
AI is shaking up the recruitment industry. Companies like Airbnb, WeWork, are starting pay-per-use models in both products and services. This has consistently given rise to freelancers who enroll for project-based work in growing gigs economy. Projections show that 43% of the US workforce will be freelancers by 2020.
In the time interactivity, where AI ensures upgrade on the go, jobseekers often complained of websites becoming useless for their resumes. Many even complained of no update on feedback on their interviews.
With AI, the most prime concern is of privacy. It is naïve to believe that AI-based platforms only track data in the public domain. A lot of times, a candidate’s political bias might potentially affect the employer’s decision-making. Or in the digitally-dominated world, potentially employable candidates who don’t use a lot of computers, may miss out on opportunities.
It is largely expected by cyber specialists that gradually, a person’s digital footprints will significance in the future.

India witnesses one cyber crime per 10 minutes: 2017

Oct 17, 2017

With increasing number of people in India going online every year, the risk of cybercrime hovers above. The rise of smaller organizations and their less or no protection of data also leads to maximum cases of security breach.

In the first six months of 2017, India saw one incident of cybercrime per 10 minutes. These include ransomware attacks to minor phishing rackets. The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team reported 27,482 cases between January and June.

Phishing, scanning, probing, viruses, defacements, site intrusions and denial-of-service were the most reported incidents. Ransomware attacks are gaining pace in India.

1.71L crimes have been reported in the last 3.5 years.

 

The RBI has also issued warnings about bitcoins, the preferred mode of payment for attackers.

Here is a list of the most remembered security breaches in India last year:

  • Mirai botnet malware: A botnet malware named Mirai took over the Internet targeting home router users and other IoT based devices. The malware affected 2.5 million IoT devices; it’s not clear how many systems were affected in India. CERT—In had also issued an advisory regarding the attack back in October 2016.

 

  • WannaCry: Ransomware WannaCry swept the world in May. CERT-In immediately put out an advisory notice. Few instances of the ransomware were reported to have hit banks in India, and some businesses in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat as well during the first wave of the attack. Railwaire users were also most affected by the ransomware.

 

  • Petya: India was also on the top 10 list of countries to be hit by Petya ransomware attacks, with the country faring worst among other Asia Pacific (APAC) countries, cyber security firm Symantec said in a blog postlast month. Globally, India took the 7th spot with less than 20 organisations being affected as per the Symantec’s analysis.

 

 

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