The Scoville Scale is a measurement chart used to rate the heat of peppers or other spicy foods. It can also can have a useful application for measuring cybersecurity threats. Cyber-threats are also red hot as the human attack surface is projected to reach over 6 billion people by 2022. In addition, cyber-crime damage costs are estimated to reach $6 trillion annually by 2021. The cybersecurity firm RiskIQ states that every minute approximately 1,861 people fall victim to cyber-attacks, while some $1.14 million is stolen. In recognition of these alarming stats, perhaps it would be useful to categorize cyber-threats in a similar scale to the hot peppers we consume.

I have provided my own Scoville Scale-like heat characterizations of the cyber threats we are facing below.

Data Breaches: According to Juniper Research, over The Next 5 Years, 146 Billion Records Will Be Breached. The 2017 Annual Data Breach Year-end Review (Identity Theft Resource Center) found that 1,946,181,599 of records containing personal and other sensitive data that have been in compromised between Jan. 1, 2017, and March 20, 2018. The true tally of victims is likely much greater as many breaches go unreported. According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans (65%) have already personally experienced a major data breach.  On the Scoville scale, data breaches, by the nature of their growing exponential threat can be easily categorized at a “Ghost Pepper” level.

Malware: According to Forrester Research’s 2017 global security survey, there are 430 million types of malware online—up 40 percent from just three years ago. The Malware Tech Blog cited that 100,000 groups in at least 150 countries and more than 400,000 machines were infected by the Wannacry virus in 2017, at a total cost of around $4 billion. Malware is ubiquitous and we deal with it. It is a steady “Jalepeno Pepper” on the scale.

Ransomware:  Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that ransomware damage costs will rise to $11.5 billion in 2019 with an attack occurring every 14 seconds. According to McAfee Lab’s Threat Report covering Q4 2017, eight new malware samples were recorded every second during the final three months of 2017. Cisco finds that Ransomware attacks are growing more than 350 percent annually. Experts estimate that there are more than 125 separate families of ransomware and hackers have become very adept at hiding malicious code. Ransomware is scary and there is reason to panic, seems like a ”Fatali Pepper.”

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS):   In 2016, DDoS attacks were launched against a Domain Name System (DNS) called Dyn. The attack directed thousands of IoT connected devices to overload and take out internet platforms and services.  The attack used a simple exploit of a default password to target home surveillance cameras, and routers. DDoS is like a “Trinidad Pepper” as it can do quick massive damage and stop commerce cold. DDoS is particularly a frightening scenario for the retail, financial. and healthcare communities.

Phishing:  Phishing is a tool to infect malware, ransomware, and DDoS. The 2017 Ponemon State of Endpoint Security Risk Report found that 56% of organizations in a survey of 1,300 IT decision makers identified targeted phishing attacks as their biggest current cybersecurity threat. According to an analysis by Health Information Privacy/Security Alert, 46,000 new phishing sites are created every day. According to Webroot, An average of 1.385 million new, unique phishing sites are created each month. The bottom line it is easy anyone to be fooled by a targeted phish. No one is invulnerable to a crafty spear-phish, especially the C-Suite. On the Scoville Scale, Phishing is prolific, persistent, and often causes harm. I rate it at the “Habanero Pepper” level.

Protecting The Internet of Things:  The task of securing IoT is increasingly more difficult as mobility, connectivity and the cyber surface attack space grows. Most analysts conclude that there will be more than 20 billion connected Internet devices by 2020. According to a study conducted in April of 2017 by The Altman Vilandrie & Company, neary half of U.S. firms using The Internet of Things experienced cybersecurity breaches.  Last year, Symantec noted that IoT attacks were up 600 percent. Analysts predict 25 percent of cyber-attacks in 2020 will target IoT environments. Protect IoT can be the “Carolina Reaper” as everything connected is vulnerable and the consequences can be devastating.

Lack of Skilled Cybersecurity Workers: Both the public and private sectors are facing major challenges from a dearth of cybersecurity talent. As companies evolve toward digital business, people with cybersecurity skills are becoming more difficult to find and more expensive for companies to hire and keep. A report out from Cybersecurity Ventures estimates there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs by 2021. A 2017 research project by the industry analyst firm Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG ) and the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) found that 70 percent of cybersecurity professionals claimed their organization was impacted by the cybersecurity skills shortage. On the Scoville Scale, I rate the skills shortage as a “Scotch Bonett,” dangerous but perhaps automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence can ease the pain.

Insider Threats: Insider threats can impact a company’s operational capabilities, cause significant financial damages, and harm a reputation. The IBM Cyber Security Index found that 60% of all cyber- attacks were carried out by insiders.  And according to  a recent Accenture HfS Research report 69% of enterprise security executives reported experiencing an attempted theft or corruption of data by insiders over one year. Malicious insider intrusions can involve theft of IP, social engineering; spear-phishing attacks, malware, ransomware, and in some cases sabotage. Often overlooked, insider threats correlate to a “Red Savina Habanero.”

Identity Theft: Nearly 60 million Americans have been affected by identity theft, according to a 2018 online survey by The Harris Poll. The reason for the increased rate of identity fraud is clear. As we become more and more connected, the more visible and vulnerable we become to those who want to hack our accounts and steal our identities. We are often enticed via social media or email phishing. Digital fraud and stealing of our identities is all too common and associated closely to data breaches, a “Chocolate Habanero.”

Crypto-mining and TheftCrypto poses relatively new threats to the cybersecurity ecosystem. Hackers need computing power to find and “mine” for coins and can hijack your computer processor while you are online. Hackers place algorithm scripts on popular websites that people innocently visit.  You might not even know you are being hijacked.  Trend Micro disclosed that Crypto-mining malware detections jumped 956% in the first half of 2018 versus the whole of last year. Also, paying ransomware in crypto currencies seems to be a growing trend. The recent WannaCry and the Petya ransomware attackers demanded payment in bitcoin. On The Scoville Scale, it’s still early for crypto and the threats may evolve but right now a “Tabasco Pepper.”

Potential Remedies: Cybersecurity at its core essence is guided by risk management: people, process, policies, and technologies. Nothing is completely invulnerable, but there are some potential remedies that can help us navigate the increasingly malicious cyber threat landscape. Some of these include:

  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
  • Automation and Adaptive Networks
  • Biometrics and Authentication Technologies
  • Blockchain
  • Cloud Computing
  • Cryptography/Encryption
  • Cyber-hygiene
  • Cyber Insurance
  • Incident Response Plans
  • Information Threat Sharing
  • Managed Security Services
  • Predictive Analytics
  • Quantum-computing and Super-Computing
  • And … Cold Milk

The bottom line is that as we try to keep pace with rising cybersecurity threat levels, we are all going to get burned in one way or another. But we can be prepared and resilient to help mitigate the fire. Keeping track of threats on any sale can be useful toward those goals.

Chuck Brooks is the Principal Market Growth Strategist for General Dynamics Mission Systems for Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies. He is also Adjunct Faculty in Georgetown University’s Graduate Applied Intelligence program.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/cognitiveworld/2018/09/05/a-scoville-heat-scale-for-measuring-cybersecurity/#15abda233275

George Duke-Cohan was recruited by criminal group Apophis Squad

A 19-YEAR-OLD MEMBER of hacking group Apophis Squad has been arrested by British cops.

George Duke-Cohan from Watford, who uses the aliases ‘7R1D3N7′, ‘DoubleParalla’ and ‘optcz1′, was identified after the criminal group launched a series of DDoS attacks on Swiss-based encrypted email and VPN provider ProtonMail in June.

Writing on the ProtonMail blog, CEO Andy Yen said that a team of security researchers had assisted the firm in investigating those responsible for the attacks.

“Our security team began to investigate Apophis Squad almost immediately after the first attacks were launched. In this endeavour, we were assisted by a number of cybersecurity professionals who are also ProtonMail users,” he said.

“It turns out that despite claims by Apophis Squad that federal authorities would never be able to find them, they themselves did not practice very good operational security. In fact, some of their own servers were breached and exposed online.”

Yen did not go into details about how Duke-Cohan was ‘conclusively’ identified, save to say that “intelligence provided by a trusted source” played a part.

The group attacked ProtonMail in June, apparently on a whim, but the attacks intensified after CTO Bart Butler responded to a tweet from the group, saying “we’re back you clowns”. Apophis Squad also attacked Tutanota, another encrypted email provider.

Users of ProtonMail email and VPN services saw them briefly disrupted, but “due to the efforts of Radware, F5 Networks, and our infrastructure team, we were able keep service disruptions to a minimum,” Yen said.

As a member of Apophis Squad, Duke-Cohan was also involved in making hoax bomb threats to schools and colleges and airlines which saw 400 educational facilities in the UK and USA evacuated and a United Airlines flight grounded in San Francisco in March.

He pleaded guilty in Luton Magistrates Court to three counts of making bomb threats and is due to appear before Luton Crown Court on September 21 to face further charges. He also faces possible extradition to the US.

Marc Horsfall, senior investigating officer at the National Crime Agency said: “George Duke-Cohan made a series of bomb threats that caused serious worry and inconvenience to thousands of people, not least an international airline. He carried out these threats hidden behind a computer screen for his own enjoyment, with no consideration for the effect he was having on others.”

Duke-Cohan’s parents have said he was “groomed” by “serious people” online through playing the game Minecraft. Apophis Squad is thought to be based in Russia.

ProtonMail’s Yen said other attackers have also been identified and the authorities notified.

“We will investigate to the fullest extent possible anyone who attacks ProtonMail or uses our platform for crime. We will also cooperate with law enforcement agencies within the framework of Swiss law,” he said.

Source: https://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/3062293/brit-teen-arrested-for-involvement-in-ddos-attack-on-protonmail

As healthcare’s digital transformation continues, security remains a top priority — especially as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks target the click-to-call features on websites.

Click-to-call defines the services that enable patients to immediately call a hospital or clinic directly from a button on their website, either using a traditional phone service or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. This is different from click-to-callback features, which are used for less pressing medical needs, and is an important differentiation when securing hospital communications from DDoS attacks.

Because direct click-to-call scenarios use more resources, such as audio streams and interactive voice response (IVR) systems, these types of connections are much easier to effect using an application-layer DDoS attack.

When a DDoS attack affects a healthcare system, click-to-call features are often taken fully offline. If this occurs during a health emergency, the implications can mean life or death.

However, click-to-call features also offer enhanced and more personalized engagement in a cost-effective manner, so simply removing them could result in delayed care or service abandonment as well as raise the cost of future care. So what’s the best move?

Neustar’s 2017 Worldwide DDoS Attacks and Cyber Insights Research Report found that while 99% of the organizations it surveyed had some sort of DDoS protection in place, the vast majority of them (90%) were planning to invest more than in the previous year, and 36% thought they should be investing even more than that.

The same way that keeping protected health information (PHI) secure continues to be of the utmost importance, further steps must be taken to protect healthcare organizations from DDoS attacks.

Gated access through proper authentication 
One of the primary ways healthcare organizations can prevent a DDoS attack is through proper authentication. Proper authentication reduces the attack surface by providing a gate of access to those systems and rules out certain flavors of anonymous attacks.

Anonymous DDoS attacks use an open access or resource and distribute/coordinate mass usage of the access, and are challenging to thwart as it is difficult to differentiate an attack from actual usage.

Proper authentication provides a simple differentiation. Credential loss is a possible attack vector even with authentication; however, coordinating DDoS attacks with authentication credentials is much more difficult due to the distribution of credentials. For instance, if an attacker has compromised a single access point and distributes the single authentication to all endpoints, a properly protected account could easily thwart an attack with access rate-limiting.

Securing Patient Portals 
Implementing secure patient portals is another way to prevent DDoS attacks on medical call centers.

Patient portals require strong authentication. If proper authentication is required before using resources such as call centers and call agents, then the ability to launch a large-scale attack would require numerous credentials. In circumstances where multi-factor authentication is required, the complexity of a successful DDoS attack only increases — thereby making it more difficult to pull off.

For example, if a username/password entry into a patient portal required a text or email verification as well — or even a prompt on an installed smartphone application — then the loss of even a large set of credentials could not be used in an attack without also compromising some other form(s) of communication. Since patient portals also contain mass amounts of private data, securing that information to the highest degree in order to safeguard it properly is key and can also help prevent a large-scale attack on a hospital’s click-to-call functionality.

What the threat of DDoS attacks means to the global security community 
Today it’s obviously critical that global security managers remain aware of the daunting DDoS threat. When (not “if”) an attack occurs, critical resources are consumed — sometimes even resources that are unrelated.

For example, a DDoS attack against a website might consume networking resources, bringing down a patient portal, and an attack against a patient portal may consume database resources and prevent normal internal operations.

DDoS attacks on weak targets are relatively inexpensive for attackers — existing botnets with simple traffic flooding exist and await the next purchase — and simple networking attacks can be thwarted with up-to-date networking equipment front-ending services.

However, application-aware and custom attacks are much more expensive to create, and can be made prohibitively expensive by taking simple steps like requiring authentication before allowing access to resource offerings.

Additionally, keeping software up-to-date is critical as software flaws are discovered, and quickly updating components is effective at blocking attacks before they can be crafted and deployed. Regularly updating systems and keeping them free of malware not only reduces available botnet size, amplification points and reflection points, but may also prevent a hop-off point for more sophisticated attacks.

As more tech companies enter the healthcare field to enable its digitization, and information security continues to be top of mind in every field, it’s important for those in the security industry — some of whom may directly dabble in healthcare — as well as the healthcare organizations themselves to focus on increasing their security measures and to know what they should be doing to prevent this type of communications attack.

Source: https://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/opinions/mcdreary-medical-ddos/

Aatish Pattni, regional director, UK & Ireland, Link11, explores in Information Age how DDoS attacks have grown in size and sophistication over the last two decades.

What is the biggest cyber-threat to your company? In April 2018, the UK’s National Crime Agency answered that question by naming DDoS attacks as the joint leading threat facing businesses, alongside ransomware. The NCA noted the sharp increase in DDoS attacks on a range of organisations during 2017 and into 2018, and advised organisations to take immediate steps to protect themselves against the potential attacks.

It’s no surprise that DDoS is seen as such a significant business risk. Every industry sector is now reliant on web connectivity and online services. No organisation can afford to have its systems offline or inaccessible for more than a few minutes: business partners and consumers expect seamless, 24/7 access to services, and being forced offline costs a company dearly. A Ponemon Institute study found that each DDoS incident costs $981,000 on average, including factors such as lost sales and productivity, the effect on customers and suppliers, the cost of restoring IT systems, and brand damage.

So how have DDoS attacks evolved from their early iterations as stunts used by attention-seeking teens, to one of the biggest threats to business? What techniques are attackers now using, and how can organisations defend themselves?

Early days of DDoS

The first major DDoS attack to gain international attention was early in 2000, launched by a 15-year-old from Canada who called himself Mafiaboy. His campaign effectively broke the internet, restricting access to the web’s most popular sites for a full week, including Yahoo!, Fifa.com, Amazon.com, eBay, CNN, Dell, and more.

DDoS continued to be primarily a tool for pranks and small-scale digital vandalism until 2007, when a range of Estonian banking, news, and national government websites were attacked. The attack sparked nationwide riots and is widely regarded as one of the world’s first nation-state acts of cyberwar.

The technique is also successful as a diversion tactic, to draw the attention of IT and security teams while a second attack is launched: another security incident accompanies up to 75% of DDoS attacks.

Denial of service has also been used as a method of protest by activist groups including Anonymous and others, to conduct targeted take-downs of websites and online services. Anonymous has even made its attacks tools freely available for anyone to use. Recent years have also seen the rise of DDoS-on-demand services such as Webstresser.org. Before being shut down by international police, Webstresser offered attack services for as little as £11, with no user expertise required – yet the attacks were powerful enough to disrupt operations at seven of the UK’s biggest banks.

Amplified and multi-vector attacks

In October 2016, a new method for distributing DoS attacks emerged – using a network of Internet of Things (IoT) devices to amplify attacks. The first of these, the Mirai botnet infected thousands of insecure IoT devices to power the largest DDoS attack witnessed at the time, with volumes over a Terabyte. By attacking Internet infrastructure company Dyn, Mirai brought down Reddit, Etsy, Spotify, CNN and the New York Times.

This was just a signpost showing how big attacks could become. In late February 2018, developer platform Github was hit with a 1.35 Tbps attack, and days later a new record was set with an attack volume exceeding 1.7 Tbps. These massive attacks were powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and self-learning algorithms which amplified their scale, giving them the ability to disrupt the operations of any organisation, of any size.

Attacks are not only getting bigger but are increasingly multi-vector. In Q4 2017, Link11 researchers noted that attackers are increasingly combining multiple DDoS attack techniques. Over 45% of attacks used 2 or more different techniques, and for the first time, researchers saw attacks which feature up to 12 vectors. These sophisticated attacks are difficult to defend against, and even low-volume attacks can cause problems, as happened in early 2018 when online services from several Dutch banks, financial and government services were brought to a standstill.

Staying ahead of next-generation AI-based attacks

As DDoS attacks now have such massive scale and complexity, traditional DDoS defences can no longer withstand them. Firewalls, special hardware appliances and intrusion detection systems are the main pillars of protection against DDoS, but these all have major limitations. Current attack volume levels can easily overload even high-capacity firewalls or appliances, consuming so many resources that that reliable operation is no longer possible.

Extortion by DDoS

The next iteration of attackers set out to use DDoS as an extortion tool, threatening organisations with an overwhelming attack unless they meet the attacker’s demand for cryptocurrency. Notable extortionists included the original Armada Collective, which targeted banks, web hosting providers, data centre operators as well as e-commerce and online marketing agencies in Greece and Central Europe.

Between January and March 2018, Link11’s Security Operation Centre recorded 14,736 DDoS attacks, an average of 160 attacks per day, with multiple attacks exceeding 100 Gbps. Malicious traffic at these high volumes can simply flood a company’s internet bandwidth, rendering on-premise network security solutions useless.

What’s needed is to deploy a cloud-native solution that can use AI to filter, analyse, and block web traffic if necessary before it even reaches a company’s IT systems. This can be done by routing the company’s Internet traffic via an external, cloud-based protection service. With this approach, incoming traffic is subject to granular analysis, with the various traffic types being digitally ‘fingerprinted’.

Each fingerprint consists of hundreds of properties, including browser data, user behaviour, and its origin. The solution builds up an index of both normal and abnormal, or malicious traffic fingerprints. When known attack patterns are detected in a traffic flow, the attack ‘client’ is blocked immediately and automatically in the cloud, before it even reaches customers’ networks – so that only clean; legitimate traffic reaches the organisation. However, regular traffic is still allowed, enabling a business to continue unaffected, without users being aware of the filtering process.

The solution’s self-learning AI algorithms also help to identify and block attacks for which there is no current fingerprint within a matter of seconds, to minimise the impact on the organisation’s website or web services. This means each new attack helps the system improve its detection capabilities, for the benefit of all users. Furthermore, this automated approach to blocking attacks frees up IT and security teams, enabling them to focus on more strategic work without being distracted by DDoS attempts.

In conclusion, DDoS attacks will continue to evolve and grow, simply because with DDoS-for-hire services and increasingly sophisticated methods, they are relatively easy and cheap to do – and they continue to be effective in targeting organisations. But by understanding how attacks are evolving and implementing the protective measures described here, organisations will be better placed to deny DDoS attackers.

Source: https://www.information-age.com/evolution-of-ddos-123473947/

The government department says the attack did not expose any sensitive or confidential information.

The South African Department of Labour has confirmed a recent cyberattack which disrupted the government agency’s website.

In a statement, the Department of Labour said that a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack was launched against the organization’s front-facing servers over the weekend.

According to the department’s acting chief information officer Xola Monakali, the “attempt was through the external Domain Name Server (DNS) server which is sitting at the State Information Technology Agency,” and “no internal servers, systems, or client information were compromised, as they are separated with the relevant protection in place.”

The government agency has asked external cybersecurity experts to assist in the investigation.

DDoS attacks are often launched through botnets, which contain countless enslaved devices — ranging from standard PCs to IoT devices — which are commanded to flood a domain with traffic requests.