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

Dec 28, 2017 by infocon in  cyber security Security
what is cyber security, what is cyber security audit, types of cyber security, improtance of cyber sicurity, types of cyber security threats

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.

artificial intelligence, what is artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence notes, definition of artificial intelligence

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.

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.

 

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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *