Back in November 1988, Robert Tappan Morris, son of the famous cryptographer Robert Morris Sr., was a 20-something graduate student at Cornell who wanted to know how big the internet was – that is, how many devices were connected to it. So he wrote a program that would travel from computer to computer and ask each machine to send a signal back to a control server, which would keep count.

The program worked well – too well, in fact. Morris had known that if it traveled too fast there might be problems, but the limits he built in weren’t enough to keep the program from clogging up large sections of the internet, both copying itself to new machines and sending those pings back. When he realized what was happening, even his messages warning system administrators about the problem couldn’t get through.

His program became the first of a particular type of cyber attack called “distributed denial of service,” in which large numbers of internet-connected devices, including computers, webcams and other smart gadgets, are told to send lots of traffic to one particular address, overloading it with so much activity that either the system shuts down or its network connections are completely blocked.

As the chair of the integrated Indiana University Cybersecurity Program, I can report that these kinds of attacks are increasingly frequent today. In many ways, Morris’s program, known to history as the “Morris worm,” set the stage for the crucial, and potentially devastating, vulnerabilities in what I and others have called the coming “Internet of Everything.”

Unpacking the Morris worm

Worms and viruses are similar, but different in one key way: A virus needs an external command, from a user or a hacker, to run its program. A worm, by contrast, hits the ground running all on its own. For example, even if you never open your email program, a worm that gets onto your computer might email a copy of itself to everyone in your address book.

In an era when few people were concerned about malicious software and nobody had protective software installed, the Morris worm spread quickly. It took 72 hours for researchers at Purdue and Berkeley to halt the worm. In that time, it infected tens of thousands of systems – about 10 percent of the computers then on the internet. Cleaning up the infection cost hundreds or thousands of dollars for each affected machine.

In the clamor of media attention about this first event of its kind, confusion was rampant. Some reporters even asked whether people could catch the computer infection. Sadly, many journalists as a whole haven’t gotten much more knowledgeable on the topic in the intervening decades.

Morris wasn’t trying to destroy the internet, but the worm’s widespread effects resulted in him being prosecuted under the then-new Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. He was sentenced to three years of probation and a roughly US$10,000 fine. In the late 1990s, though, he became a dot-com millionaire – and is now a professor at MIT.

Rising threats

The internet remains subject to much more frequent – and more crippling – DDoS attacks. With more than 20 billion devices of all types, from refrigerators and cars to fitness trackers, connected to the internet, and millions more being connected weekly, the number of security flaws and vulnerabilities is exploding.

In October 2016, a DDoS attack using thousands of hijacked webcams – often used for security or baby monitors – shut down access to a number of important internet services along the eastern U.S. seaboard. That event was the culmination of a series of increasingly damaging attacks using a botnet, or a network of compromised devices, which was controlled by software called Mirai. Today’s internet is much larger, but not much more secure, than the internet of 1988.

Some things have actually gotten worse. Figuring out who is behind particular attacks is not as easy as waiting for that person to get worried and send out apology notes and warnings, as Morris did in 1988. In some cases – the ones big enough to merit full investigations – it’s possible to identify the culprits. A trio of college students was ultimately found to have created Mirai to gain advantages when playing the “Minecraft” computer game.

Fighting DDoS attacks

But technological tools are not enough, and neither are laws and regulations about online activity – including the law under which Morris was charged. The dozens of state and federal cybercrime statutes on the books have not yet seemed to reduce the overall number or severity of attacks, in part because of the global nature of the problem.

There are some efforts underway in Congress to allow attack victims in some cases to engage in active defense measures – a notion that comes with a number of downsides, including the risk of escalation – and to require better security for internet-connected devices. But passage is far from assured

There is cause for hope, though. In the wake of the Morris worm, Carnegie Mellon University established the world’s first Cyber Emergency Response Team, which has been replicated in the federal government and around the world. Some policymakers are talking about establishing a national cybersecurity safety board, to investigate digital weaknesses and issue recommendations, much as the National Transportation Safety Board does with airplane disasters.

More organizations are also taking preventative action, adopting best practices in cybersecurity as they build their systems, rather than waiting for a problem to happen and trying to clean up afterward. If more organizations considered cybersecurity as an important element of corporate social responsibility, they – and their staff, customers and business partners – would be safer.

In “3001: The Final Odyssey,” science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke envisioned a future where humanity sealed the worst of its weapons in a vault on the moon – which included room for the most malignant computer viruses ever created. Before the next iteration of the Morris worm or Mirai does untold damage to the modern information society, it is up to everyone – governments, companies and individuals alike – to set up rules and programs that support widespread cybersecurity, without waiting another 30 years.

Source:http://theconversation.com/30-years-ago-the-worlds-first-cyberattack-set-the-stage-for-modern-cybersecurity-challenges-105449

While many cyber security myths persist, some are more damaging than others, here are four common cyber security myths and their impact on risk.

Cyber security preparedness is one of the major obstacles facing businesses today, and due to its importance, it can be a magnet for myths. Attacks emerge and cripple systems availability or swipe data quickly and unexpectedly. It happens so fast that the myths so many businesses hold onto as facts are only apparent in the aftermath of an attack.

hile many cyber security myths persist, some are more damaging than others, here are four common cyber security myths and their impact on risk.

Myth 1: Small organisations are low-value targets for hackers.

Thinking you’re not a target is one of the biggest mistakes a company can make. According to data collected from more than 2,200 confirmed data breaches, 58 per cent of security event victims were small businesses. But why would malicious actors target small companies?

Compute resources are valuable malicious actors seek out available computing resources as network nodes to expand their bot networks, which they use to initiate DDoS attacks, for crypto-jacking, to propagate ransomware and spam or for numerous other crimes. Malicious actors build their networks by leveraging free resources, and your systems might be among them.

No matter the size of an organisation, data is valuable and power. Every organisation stores some data that’s critical to its business but holds little value to others. Malicious actors exploit this by unleashing ransomware that cuts off data access, availability, or both, crippling the organisation. Malicious actors then generate revenue through ransom payments.

Small businesses can be an indirect victim and used as a stepping stone into other targets. Malicious actors might target seemingly innocent, low-risk third-party vendors to get to those vendors’ customers. This has been evidenced by the cyber-espionage group known as Dragonfly, which successfully “trojanised” legitimate industrial control system (ICS) software. To do so, the group first compromised the websites of the ICS software suppliers and replaced legitimate files in their repositories with their own malware infected versions. Subsequently, when the ICS software was downloaded from the suppliers’ websites it would install malware alongside legitimate ICS software.

Myth 2: There’s no reason to invest in security when organisations with tight security controls still experience security breaches.

Some organisations rationalise a small cyber security budget by arguing that investing in security is a losing game. They hear about security breaches at large organisations, with presumably large cyber security budgets, and assume if these organisations can fall victim, then what chance does their organisation have?

Tools are just one pillar of a solid security strategy, people and process are equally important. An organisation allocating budget toward security might not be focussing it to the most effective areas. An organisation can have a big budget for tools but if it lacks the right cyber security talent or its processes are faulty, it can still get hit.

Research has illustrated how long it can take before an intrusion is detected. The time taken by firms to detect breaches increased by 40 per cent from 2016 to 175 days on average in 2017, according to the latest M-Trends report by security firm FireEye. Organisations that invest in reactive security controls, in combination with proactive security controls such as Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), may identify suspicious behaviours earlier and limit the damage.

Organisations that shrug off tight security controls are focusing solely on the immediate effects of infiltration, not on the total cost of the security incident. Granted, security controls are not 100 per cent effective at detection and prevention, but they can save significant time and money during each of the subsequent incident response stages: analysis, containment, eradication, recovery and post-incident activities.

Myth 3: Our organisation has not been breached before, so we’re still safe.

Often, organisations incorrectly assume their security risks remain relatively static, when they don’t have a way to effectively evaluate those risks. Projecting future risks based on historical events can be dangerous.

Defining the scope of what to secure requires identifying exactly how many applications, servers, network devices, storage devices and more are within an organisation. When faced with either insufficient or overwhelming amounts of data, the scope may be simplified, and assumptions drawn that can lead to vulnerabilities.

Organisations might assume a particular server doesn’t contain sensitive data and is less likely to be the target of an attack. But it might not be data that malicious actors are after, as mentioned; servers might be valuable as a foothold into another environment. Lastly, people often underestimate risk due to future aversion – the problem of assuming that because the future is unknown it cannot be tested.

Myth 4: Security is an expense, not a revenue generator.

Organisations prioritise investment in services that generate revenue, especially when budgets are tight. This can leave cyber security, viewed as an expense, on the back burner, when it should be considered a revenue generator.

Data breaches continue to rise globally, and cyber security will influence buying decisions. Organisations that store personal, financial and other sensitive data need to ensure that it is secure. So, businesses can influence customers’ perception of security by proactively marketing the high level of security they adhere to, differentiating their company from their competitors.

Data breaches are only one impact from an adverse security incident. Another is downtime. Consumers can’t purchase products or pay for services if a web site, or the infrastructure that supports web transactions, is unavailable. When the global ransomware WannaCry attack crippled the NHS, hit international shipper FedEx and infected computers in 150 countries in 2016, NHS staff in the UK were forced to revert to pen and paper and use their own mobiles after the attack affected key systems, including telephones.

During the same attack, operations of FedEx’s TNT Express unit in Europe were disrupted by the attack and the company’s following published earnings revealed the cost of falling victim to the attack to be an estimated $300 million in lost earnings.

Whether it’s assuming that an organisation is not a target or that security spend is only ever an expense, buying into these common cyber security myths can set a business up for serious disruption, unhappy customers, a tarnished reputation, not to mention the cost of recovery.

Source: https://www.itproportal.com/features/cyber-security-myths-you-should-stop-telling-yourself/

Server configuration is the top healthcare software vulnerability, followed by information leakage and cryptographic issues, according to Veracode’s State of Software Security (SOSS) study.

Other top vulnerabilities for healthcare include faulty deployment considerations, cross-site scripting holes, credentials management issues, and code quality.

“The highly regulated healthcare industry got high marks in many of this year’s SOSS metrics,” the report noted.

Healthcare scored highest on percentage of applications passing the OWASP Top 10 guidelines, considered a measure of industry best practices for software security. A full 55.3 percent of healthcare apps passed the OWASP test, compared to 27.7 percent of applications for all industries, based on scans conducted by Veracode.

“Flaw persistence analysis shows that when looking at all found vulnerabilities, this industry is statistically closing the window on app risk more quickly than any other sector,” the report concluded.

The report offered four key takeaways for security professionals, app developers, and business executives from its analysis of software security across industries.

First, the faster organizations close software vulnerabilities, the less risk applications pose over time.

Second, organizations need to prioritize which software security flaws to fix first, given the sheer volume of open software flaws. “While many organizations are doing a good job prioritizing by flaw severity, data this year shows that they’re not effectively considering other risk factors such as the criticality of the application or exploitability of flaws,” the report noted.

Third, DevSecOps has a positive effect on software security. The more often an organization scans software per year, the faster security fixes are made. “The frequent, incremental changes brought forth by DevSecOps makes it possible for these teams to fix flaws lightning fast compared to the traditional dev team,” it noted.

Fourth, organizations are still struggling with vulnerable open source components in their software. “As organizations tackle bug-ridden components, they should consider not just the open flaws within libraries and frameworks, but also how those components are being used,” the report observed.

A major software security concern for healthcare organizations is securing application programming interfaces (APIs). The June 2018 HIMSS Healthcare and Cross-sector Cybersecurity Report warned that hackers will be exploiting APIs more to gain access to healthcare organizations and stealing sensitive data.

API attack vectors include man in the middle attacks, session cookie tampering, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, the report noted.

To address the risks that unsecured APIs pose for healthcare, the American Hospital Association (AHA) recommended that stakeholders in the mobile healthcare environment develop a secure app ecosystem for sharing health data.

“To ensure a robust, secure set of tools for individuals to engage with hospitals and health systems via apps, stakeholders will need to work together to build an app ecosystem that is based on a rigorous and continuous vetting process that takes into account evolving risks. This could be done in the public sector, through certification, or through a public-private partnership,” AHA said.

AHA cited the example of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which is an industry-developed standard that includes security requirements companies must adhere to if they want to process credit and debit cards.

The federal government should also develop a consumer education program to make it clear that commercial providers of health apps may not be subject to the HIPAA Privacy Rule, according to the association.

“Commercial app companies generally are not HIPAA-covered entities. Therefore, when information flows from a hospital’s information system to an app, it likely no longer will be protected by HIPAA,” said AHA.

“Most individuals will not be aware of this change and may be surprised when commercial app companies share their sensitive health information obtained from a hospital, such as diagnoses, medications or test results, in ways that are not allowed by HIPAA,” the association noted.

Source: https://healthitsecurity.com/news/server-configuration-is-top-healthcare-software-vulnerability

The quarterly incident response (IR) threat report from Carbon Black isn’t usually such an exciting read, aggregating as it does data from across a number of partners in order to provide actionable intelligence for business leaders. The latest report, published today, is a politically charged exception. Not only does it reveal that nation-state politically motivated cyberattacks are on the up, with China and Russia responsible for 41.4% of all the reported attacks, but that voter databases from Alabama to Washington (and 18 others) are for sale on the dark web. These databases cover 21 states in all, with records for 81,534,624 voters that include voter IDs, names and addresses, phone numbers and citizenship status. Tom Kellerman, Carbon Black’s chief cybersecurity officer, describes the nation-state attackers as not “just committing simple burglary or even home invasion, they’re arsonists.” Nobody relishes their house burning down, even figuratively speaking. Which is why, according to another newly published report, this time from Unisys, suggests one in five voters may stay at home during the midterms as they fear their votes won’t count if systems suffer a cyberattack.

Amongst the key findings of the Carbon Black report, however, is the fact that China and Russia were responsible for 41.4% of the investigated attacks analyzed by researchers. The two also lead the pack when it comes to which countries incident response teams are seeing cyberattacks originating from. China was top of the table on 68% with Russia second on 59%. While the continent of North America (the report does not contain statistics that break this down to attacks from the United States alone) was third on 49%$, Iran, North Korea and Brazil were next in line. Earlier this year, Venafi surveyed security professionals with regards to election infrastructure risk. That research revealed that 81% of them thought threat actors will target election data as it is transmitted by voting machines. Worryingly, only 2% were ‘very confident’ in the capability of local, state and federal government to detect such attacks and only 3% thought the same about their abilities to block those attacks.

It’s just as well, then, that it has been reported the United States Cyber Command has now started what is believed to be the first cyber-operation to protect against election interference from Russia. “The attack surface in the US is incredibly broad and fragmented making security highly challenging” says Simon Staffell, head of public affairs at Nominet, who continues “but the response that has taken place in the US is also of an entirely different magnitude to anything seen before.” Yet this response does not appear to target Chinese threat actors. Some may find this omission a surprise, considering that Vice President Pence stated earlier this month that “what the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country” and suggested that China wants to turn Trump voters against the administration.

Fraser Kyne, EMEA CTO at Bromium, would not be amongst the surprised though. He tells me that Bromium researchers have been working with Dr Mike McGuire to look into the impact of fake news on the US midterms. Early indications appear to suggest accusations against China are most likely unfounded. “Whilst China is funding local campaigns like the advertising taken out in US newspapers to promote US-Chinese trade” Kyne says “there is little evidence at the moment to suggest China is attempting to subvert democracy and influence the midterm elections.”

Meanwhile, some 68% of respondents to the Carbon Black report, representing a cross-section of some of the leading cybersecurity professionals across the globe, believe that cyberattacks will influence the midterms. This isn’t any kind of surprise when you take in the amount of election hacking and meddling resources that those same researchers found to be on sale through the dark web. These range from the aforementioned voter databases, through to social media election influence kits to target thousands of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts as well as the services of freelance hackers for hire who are offering to target government entities “for the purposes of database manipulation, economic/corporate espionage, DDoS attacks and botnet rentals.”

So, what kind of cyberattacks can we expect to see from state-sponsored actors as far as the midterms are concerned? Tony Richards, group CISO at Falanx Group, expects there will be some minor and likely not state sanctioned hacking attempts on electronic voting machines. “The fallout if a nation state was identified as the perpetrator would be considerable” Richards told me “so this would have to be a deniable operation.” It would also have to be done by someone with physical access to the voting machines in order to exploit many of the vulnerabilities that have been identified by researchers. “Voting machines are not usually connected to the Internet” explains Rafael Amado, senior strategy and research analyst at Digital Shadows, which means “the ability for attackers to tamper with voting ballots and results is greatly hindered.”

Some go as far as suggesting that to take the hacking concern out of the equation, elections should look back rather than forwards. The ‘right’ solution, according to Ryan Kalember, senior vice-president, Cybersecurity Strategy at Proofpoint, is paper. “An election system can be extremely resilient to fraud if there are paper records for registration and the votes themselves” Kalember insists, agreeing that this “may seem anti-modern, but is where we find ourselves in 2018.” Other cybersecurity experts suggest that the focus, when it comes to mitigating risk of interference in the midterm elections, simply needs to extend beyond voter registration and voting machine security altogether. “It’s important to take a look at the entire digital voting system” says Cindy Provin, CEO at Thales eSecurity, “how citizens register, how they find their polling places, how they check in, how they cast their ballots and how they find out who won.” This is an argument that is also made by Joseph Carson, chief security scientist & advisory CISO with Thycotic, who told me that the biggest challenge is that cybersecurity is only taken seriously in the voting infrastructure “when it is lacking in candidate campaigns, leaving the US open to serious cyber influence from foreign nation states.”

Maybe the notion of cyberattacks during the election process itself is something of a red-herring altogether? Especially given that there is such a global media appetite for Russian meddling stories, which will surely lead to this being such a high risk maneuver that it’s unlikely to be executed in any meaningful way. “The main effort will likely be in attempting to generate genuine conversations with organizations and individuals that have influence over a significant audience” says James Monckton, strategic communications director at Verbalisation, who thinks that the ‘influencing the influencers’ approach would be a highly effective method with a low level of attribution risk. The idea of shaping the debate by amplifying a particular viewpoint isn’t new news, but it is the most obvious meddling methodology we will see. Or rather, not see. “In the long term, it spreads mistrust as it becomes harder to distinguish the true from the fake” concludes Emily Orton, co-founder and director at Darktrace, “and has profound effects on democratic societies…”

One thing is for sure, according to Michael O’Malley, vice president of marketing with Radware, and that’s the threat of election interference will continue unabated until the US moves from the current fragmented state-by-state model to a nationwide election system. “We need a one person one vote approach and the US must make the necessary security upgrades to prevent voter fraud, foreign influence campaigns and hacking of our election infrastructure” O’Malley insists, warning that “Federal legislation needs to be introduced to make this happen…”

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/daveywinder/2018/10/30/81-5m-voter-records-for-sale-on-dark-web-ahead-of-midterm-elections/#1dca850f2a0c

A New Jersey man received a court order to pay $8.6 million for launching a series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against Rutgers University.

On October 26, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey announced the sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp to Paras Jha, 22, of Fanwood, New Jersey.

According to court documents, Jha targeted Rutgers University with a series of DDoS attacks between November 2014 and September 2016. The attacks took down the education institution’s central authentication server that maintains the gateway portal used by staff, faculty and students. In so doing, the DDoS campaigns disrupted students’ and faculty members’ ability to exchange assignments and assessments.

The FBI assisted Rutgers in its investigation of the attacks. In August 2015, the university also hired three security firms to test its network for vulnerabilities.

Jha’s criminal efforts online didn’t stop at Rutgers. In the summer and fall of 2016, Jha created the Mirai botnet with Josiah White, 21, of Washington, Pennsylvania and Dalton Norman, 22, of Metairie, Louisiana. The trio spent the next few months infecting more than 100,000 web-connected devices. They then abused that botnet to commit advertising fraud.

In December 2017, the three individuals pleaded guilty in the District of Alaska for conspiring to violate the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act by operating the Mirai botnet. It was less than a year later that a federal court in Alaska ordered the men to serve five-year probation periods, complete 2,500 hours of community service, pay restitution in the amount of $127,000 and voluntarily relinquish cryptocurrency seized by law enforcement during an investigation of their crimes.

Judge Shipp passed down his sentence to Jha within a Trenton federal court. As part of that decision, Jha must serve six months of home incarceration, complete five years of supervised release and perform 2,500 hours of community service for violating the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act.

Source: https://www.tripwire.com/state-of-security/security-data-protection/man-ordered-to-pay-8-6-million-for-launching-ddos-attacks-against-rutgers-university/