Investors target Board Directors for cyber security incidents

Investors are growing concerned that directors are ill prepared for cyber security incidents and technological challenges.

Investors are growing concerned that directors are ill prepared for cyber security incidents and technological challenges.

Facebook has been hit with a fine, a slowdown in user growth and a fall in its share price since news of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal broke in March.

In the months since, the social media company’s handling of the scandal — where data was improperly obtained from up to 87m users — has been heavily scrutinised by regulators, politicians and users.

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandburg last week testified before Congress, facing hours of questioning from the Senate Intelligence Committee. She said the company was “strengthening our defences” against targeted hacking and data collection.

It is also being closely watched by corporate governance specialists at big asset managers who are increasingly concerned that senior management and board directors at listed businesses across the world are ill-prepared for potential data breaches and other technology problems.

“We see cyber security as a key emerging risk,” says Rupert Krefting, head of corporate finance and stewardship at M&G Prudential, which oversees £342 billion in assets. “It is hard for us to judge if management and board directors at listed businesses really do know the technology risks because they are not prepared to talk about it.”

Now a growing number of investors are demanding that directors ensure they are well versed in the technology issues their companies could face.

number cyber data breaches by company type

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Leon Kamhi, head of responsibility at Hermes Investment Management, says the asset manager is engaging “heavily” on the issue. “Cyber security risk is a big issue,” he says. “IT skills on boards can be really important in order to challenge what a head of IT is doing at the inside. Boards need to be on top of it.”

“We want the board to be tech savvy, but we wouldn’t just want it to be a tech board. Our fear is they appoint a tech expert but then no one else on the board is engaged. We want to understand the extent to which all the board is competent.”

The introduction of stringent European data protection rules earlier this year has also prompted investors to ask tough questions about how well companies are coping with technological changes. The General Data Protection Regulation, which came into effect in the EU in May, has reshaped how companies can collect, use and store personal information. Companies face fines of up to 4 per cent of global turnover or €20m, whichever is greater, if they fall foul of GDPR.

Mr Kamhi says that if companies do not step up on cyber security issues there is a risk they will be hit with even more legislation.

Many investors believe the potential issues companies could face linked to technology are far reaching. As well as being “disrupted” — meaning technological solutions could be developed that upend their business model — companies that hold consumer information are at risk of data breaches. There are also concerns about hacks or cyber attacks which could damage business brands and cost businesses millions of dollars.

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Cyber security criminals outspend businesses in security battles

Cyber security criminals are spending 10 times more money finding weaknesses in the cyber defences of organisations than the organisations they target are spending on protecting against attack.

Cyber security criminals are spending 10 times more money finding weaknesses in the cyber defences of organisations than the organisations they target are spending on protecting against attack.

Research from Carbon Black carried out in August also asked 250 UK-based CIOs, CTOs and CISOs about the attacks they faced over the past 12 months.

In total, 92% of UK businesses have had cyber security breaches in the past year and nearly half off those reported falling victim to multiple breaches (three to five times in the past year).

A total of 82% of respondents said they have experienced more attacks this year than last year. In the financial services sector, 89% said this is the case, while 83% of government organisations and 84% of retailers had also experienced an increase in the number of attacks.

Malware was the most common attack on the UK organisations surveyed, with about 28% experiencing at least one such attempted breach. Ransomware was the next most common, with 17.4% reporting at least one attack.

“Following a global trend, cyber attacks in the UK are becoming more frequent and more sophisticated, as nation state actors and crime syndicates continue to leverage fileless attacks, lateral movement, island hopping and counter incident response in an effort to remain undetected,” said the report. “This issue is compounded by resources and budgeting. Not only is there a major talent deficit in cyber security, there is also a major spending delta.”

The report found that IT leaders believe Russia and China to be the source of the vast majority of cyber attacks, but it identified North America as the starting point for more attacks than Iran and North Korea combined.

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Money transfer frauds are top aim of business email cyber attacks

Tricking recipients into transferring money to cyber criminals is the top objective of business email compromise (BEC) attacks.

Tricking recipients into transferring money to cyber criminals is the top objective of business email compromise (BEC) attacks.Business email compromise is increasingly popular with cyber criminals to steal money and information as well as spread malware, security researchers find

The second most popular objective is to get the recipient to click on a malicious link aimed at stealing information or spreading malware, according to an analysis of more than 3,000 BEC attacks by Barracuda Networks.

BEC attacks are also known as whaling or CEO fraud because attackers typically compromise the email accounts of CEOs and other top executives so those accounts can be used to send messages to more junior staff members, tricking them into taking some action by impersonating the email account holder.

This tactic is extremely effective in manipulating employees as well as partners and customers of targeted businesses because few organisations have processes in place for checking or verifying instructions ostensibly received from a top executive in an email message sent from a genuine account.

In most cases, cyber criminals focus efforts on employees with access to company finances or payroll data and other personally identifiable information(PII).

The study shows that PII is another top target for BEC attackers, accounting for 12.2% of the attacks studied. Another 12.2% were aimed at establishing a rapport with recipients, which in most cases was followed up with a request for a money transfer.

The effectiveness of this attack method has made it extremely popular with cyber criminals, as is indicated by an 80% increase in the number of BEC attacks in the second quarter of 2018 compared with the first quarter, according to a recent report by email management firm Mimecast.

The Barracuda study reveals that in 46.9% of the cases studied, the objective was to trick employees into transferring business money into accounts controlled by the attackers, while in 40.1% of the cases, the aim was to trick them into clicking on a malicious link.

According to Barracuda, email is the top threat vector facing organisations due to the growing number of email-related threats, which include ransomware, banking trojans, phishing, social engineering, information-stealing malware and spam, as well as BEC attacks.

Not surprisingly, the analysis shows that CEO email accounts are the most commonly impersonated (42.95%), followed by other C-level account holders (4.5%), including the CFO (2.2%), and people in the HR and finance departments (2.2%).

CFOs are among the top recipients of BEC emails, representing 16.9% of recipients in the attacks studied, on a par with the finance and HR departments in general and compared with 10.2% received by other C-level execs.

However, the analysis shows that most recipients of BEC emails are in more junior roles, with 53.7% holding roles outside the C-level, underlining the need for regular, ongoing user awareness training.

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LORCA identifies top priorities for cyber security innovation

The top priorities for cyber security innovation are identity management, patch management and configuration management.

The top priorities for cyber security innovation are identity management, patch management and configuration management.

“These are basic components of cyber security, but failure to do them well is still responsible for the bulk of cyber attacks that we are seeing.”said the new LORCA CEO  Hannigan

Identity is one area where the UK is particularly strong, with some great companies focused on it, he said, particularly in the academic “pre-company” sector, where universities are doing some “really innovative things” around identity management and authentication.

“Identity is key to cyber security, and if we can get a product out there that beats others, the sky is the limit, especially for the export market, and it will be about who gets there first with a viable solution,” he said.

Hannigan believes the internet of things (IoT) and cloud computing are two more areas where cyber security entrepreneurs should be focusing their efforts.

He said cloud computing is “problematic” because it makes it harder for companies to understand what the perimeters of their networks are.

“Even for those companies that have worked out what their cyber security policy is and managed the risks, suddenly to do all their processing and storage in the cloud complicates that,” said Hannigan. “It is not terminal, but it means they need to rethink their risks and mitigations.”

He advised organisations to look at the guidance on security in the cloud from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

IoT is ripe for innovation

The IoT is “ripe for innovation”, said Hannigan, because it is unlikely that regulation or government guidelines will address the immediate risks.

“It is going to be a long time before security by default is achieved, so in the meantime we need to find ways to mitigate potential disasters, with billions of devices connecting to the internet,” he said.

In terms of going to market, Hannigan advises cyber security entrepreneurs to spend some time considering things from the customer’s perspective.

“In the UK, companies are more likely to be conservative in their cyber security investments and stick with well-established suppliers than countries like the US and Israel, so startups need to take that into consideration,” he said.

Hannigan believes Lorca has a role to play here in helping startups to think through how their technology will integrate with existing IT environments, making it as easy as possible with minimal disruption.

Time and skills required by businesses

Although businesses do not necessarily need to spend a fortune on cyber security, it does require some time and sometimes skills that may be lacking in-house, said Hannigan.

“I do have sympathy for small businesses, but many are doing more than they used to in the past and are using things like Cyber Essentials and the small business guide because they are seeing how cyber attacks are affecting companies or because their insurance companies have told them to,” he said.

Hannigan believes there is a need for effective managed security services for small and medium-sized businesses. “A regular complaint I get is that managed security services suppliers are not really appropriate for small businesses and aren’t necessarily that effective, so there is a challenge there to the industry to come up with managed security services that really work and that don’t just dump the problem back onto the client, but actually do something about it,” he said.

LORCA to help drive UK cyber exports

LORCA – the new London cyber security innovation centre will help to boost exports of UK cyber security expertise.

LORCA - the new London cyber security innovation centre will help to boost exports of UK cyber security expertise.

A key part of the ambition for London’s £13.5m government-funded cyber innovation centre is that it will help drive UK exports, according to Robert Hannigan, former head of GCHQ.

“We hope that companies founded and given a boost and support in going to market will also go to market overseas,” he said at the official opening of the centre – to be known as the London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement (Lorca).

“The government’s ambition is very clearly to make the UK a leader in cyber security exports, and I see massive potential out there in countries around the world that need a variety of different solutions,” said Hannigan, who will lead Lorca’s industry advisory board.

“We know we have great talent, potential and possibilities, and bringing it all together was the challenge for government and what has led to this [cyber security innovation] centre,” he said.

The centre will play an important role in bringing together the many good innovators and incubators across the UK and provide a focal point for interacting with government, said Hannigan.

Lorca will also bring together cyber security innovators with academics in the field, with various industry sectors – starting with the cyber security-leading finance sector, with other technical and non-technical disciplines, and with international partners.

“This centre has links to the US, Israel and Singapore, and convening the three most prominent cyber security industry centres in the world is going to be very powerful in magnifying the value of this centre,” said Hannigan.

Commenting further on the potential for cyber security exports, Hannigan said there is a “massive market” out there because there are many economies that are some way behind the cyber security technology front-runners that are looking for solutions.

“There is massive potential, we have got some great companies, the UK has a good reputation and we should capitalise on that because if we put all that together and get it right, we will have a booming cyber security export industry,” he said.

“There is a lot of private sector capital looking to invest in cyber. So there is no shortage of capital, it is all about finding the right vehicle, and Lorca will help with that. But there is no reason why, in the future, there shouldn’t be more initiatives along the same lines.”

For this reason, Hannigan believes there is room for many more initiatives aimed at supporting cyber security entrepreneurs.

“There is no competition between incubators and accelerators within the UK – the more the merrier,” he said, explaining that each has something different to offer, with Lorca being more industry-focused with international links, for example, and the GCHQ accelerator and innovation centre in Cheltenham being more focused on national cyber security.

The government funding for Lorca will also promote its role as a convening body for other accelerators and incubators as a “useful way of amplifying the UK’s overall cyber security offering, particularly overseas, said Hannigan.

Data protection is critical for all small businesses

Small businesses that misuse data or fall victim to breaches not only risk financial loss, but also reputational damage.

Small businesses that misuse data or fall victim to breaches not only risk financial loss, but also reputational damage.

A study from Gigya showed that 69% of consumers have reservations about brands handling their personal information, while nearly half of UK firms were affected by a data breach in 2017.

By failing to implement sufficient mechanisms to protect customer data, companies not only risk incurring financial loss by having to pay hefty fines and mitigate damage caused by breaches, but they also risk reputational damage.
Facebook, for instance, has been criticised for taking a lacklustre approach to data privacy after it was discovered that that the social media site somehow let marketing firm Cambridge Analytica gain unauthorised access to an estimated 87 million user accounts.

With the compliance deadline for the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 25 May 2018, most firms should be considering what they can do to boost and improve their data protection procedures and prevent breaches.

Customer trust is paramount for small businesses

As the compliance deadline for the GDPR looms, firms have increasingly been exploring ways they can improve their security mechanisms. Businesses that fail to adhere to the law face having to pay up to €20m in fines.

Such a sum of money would be damaging for most firms, but reputational damage would be more catastrophic to companies. Consumers put their faith in firms that conduct good data practice.

Businesses must be more transparent at disclosing not only policies and terms and conditions, but exactly how the data will be used. They need to be more specific in terms of what data is being collected and detail the intended use. Many companies are asking customers for their permission to harvest data, but opt-in mechanisms are vague.

Consumers are becoming more aware about data privacy concerns, mainly because of news headlines. A key example is the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica debacle.

Data protection is a constant operation

Many businesses are failing to implement appropriate mechanisms to protect this information.

Personal data is considered to be one of the most sensitive categories of data an organisation has access to, and perhaps it is the most valuable. As the value of personal data increases, so should the controls needed to protect it.

Personal data should be processed only with clear consent given by the data owner, with a transparent agreement and an organisation-wide focus on preventing data theft or misuse.

To identify misuse, firms should constantly analyse their businesses procedures and operations to ensure they are compliant with the latest data protection safeguards. Firms should not assume that once they have installed or developed a system to protect customer data, they have nothing else to do.

With the GDPR compliance deadline looming, UK organisations should be in the final stages of educating their workforce and deploying the appropriate technology to manage the large swathes of information they hold.

As masses of devices continue to connect to the internet, it is clear companies will have access to an ever-growing amount of data. If they put the right data protection and management mechanisms in place, they can gain a lot of potential from customer information. But without sufficient safeguards, the risks will keep on growing and firms could find themselves in all sorts of trouble.

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Majority of SME businesses firms unprepared for cyber phishing attacks

57% of SME small businesses are unprepared for a cyber phishing attack, despite the fact that 78% have been hit by a cyber security attack that started that way, a report shows.

57% of SME small businesses are unprepared for a cyber phishing attack, despite the fact that 78% have been hit by a cyber security attack that started that way, a report shows.
Most cyber attacks can be traced back to a phishing email, but more than half of small businesses are unprepared to deal with email-based attacks, research has revealed

Security teams reported that they are struggling to respond to the number of suspicious emails being received, according to the latest European phishing response trends report by phishing defence firm Cofense.

Other key findings of the small business report include that the top security concern is phishing and email-related threats, with 41% of respondents saying their biggest anti-phishing challenge is poorly integrated security systems.

The UK reports the most suspicious emails each week across Europe with 23% reporting more than 500, followed by the Netherlands (22%), France (20%), Germany (18%) and Belgium (16%).

With phishing and email-related threats being the main security concern of the European-based survey respondents, the report said it is critical that businesses have an effective strategy to counter the attack vector, which is fully integrated with broader security solutions.

According to Cofense, it is paramount that phishing simulations are like the real thing and encourage reporting which, in turn, can not only stop a malicious email compromising an enterprise’s network, but can also give the incident response team a head start.

“The analysis of email-based attacks gives us extremely valuable insight into the security posture of European organisations,” said Rohyt Belani, co-founder and CEO of Cofense. “What we’re really looking at here is addressing human susceptibility and building human resiliency to work in concert with technology to combat security threats facing Europe.”

Cyber Security Phishing Dangers

  • More than one million new phishing sites created each month.
  • Phishing is no longer just a consumer problem, say experts. The scams are hurting companies’ reputations and bottom lines.
  • Email is the number one entry point for data breaches, which includes targeted email attacks such as business email compromise and spear phishing.
  • Targeted malware attacks and social engineering schemes such as phishing and whaling pose a growing security threat because cyber criminals are getting help from unwitting users.

Cyber attacks, particularly those on a scale that can siphon billions of euros from the financial system, involve a complex web of both victims and potential access points for cyber criminals to elevate the severity of an attack.

Phishing attacks, despite being among the most well-known cyber security attack vectors, are still consistently fooling companies and private individuals.

Phishing presents such a concern because it is the “spark that ignites a long line of malicious activity, creating a pipeline of infected systems and accessible data for threat actors to leverage in further criminal campaigns.

Small businesses need to engage with stringent educational campaigns around these issues across all levels of the organisation.

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Most UK Britons concerned about personal data sharing

More than half of UK consumers (57%) are worried that about how much personal data they have shared online.

More than half of UK consumers (57%) are worried that about how much personal data they have shared online.

Britons also feel that the data they share is not being used to benefit them, with 48% saying businesses benefit the most and 63% saying the organisation holding the data should be responsible for protecting it, according to a poll of more than 2,000 UK consumers commissioned by identity management firm ForgeRock.

Only a third (36%) of consumers say they would be likely to share personal data to get a more personalised service, with over half (53%) saying they would not be comfortable for their personal information to be shared with a third party under any circumstances. Just 15% say they would be likely to sell personal data to an organisation or business.

At the same time, UK consumers underestimate how much personal information is available online, with 46% saying they do not feel they know how much data is available about them online, 19% saying they think Twitter has access to data on users’ political affiliations, 31% believing Instagram has access to location data on its users, 48% thinking Facebook holds information on whether they have children, and 20% believing Facebook does not have access to any personal data about its users, despite the fact that social networks have access to this data on a large number of their users.

One in three would take legal action and 24% would contact the police about their personal data being shared.

British consumers are also clear that there would be consequences for any company sharing their data without their consent, with 58% saying they would stop using a company’s services completely if it shared data without their permission, 49% would remove or delete all the data held on them by that company, 44% would advise their family and friends against using the company, and 30% would request financial compensation.

Growing concerns about data sharing

With the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set to give consumers much more control over their personal data and how it is used, the survey report said it is crucial that members of the public understand their rights and how their data is being used and shared.

The ForgeRock survey suggests there are growing concerns about data sharing, which businesses and regulators should address. Some 63% of UK consumers say they know little or nothing about their rights regarding personal data and 64% have never heard of or know nothing about GDPR.

Banks and credit card companies are most likely to be seen as trusted holders of personal data, the survey shows, with 82% of consumers reporting that they trust these organisations to store and use personal data responsibly. Amazon also performed well, with over three-quarters (78%) of consumers saying they trust the ecommerce company to manage personal data.

Social media platforms performed less well, with 63% of Britons saying they trust social networks to treat personal data in a responsible manner.

There is a clear correlation between the organisations consumers trust with their data and how in control they feel, the report said, with Amazon (60%), banks and credit card companies (58%) and mobile phone operators (51%) ranked as the organisations that give users most control over their data. Just 51% of UK consumers said they feel in control of the data that is shared with social media platforms.

In contrast, social media companies offer consumers experiences without any financial payment – instead they pay in data. If companies were more transparent about how their business models rely on purchases, attention or data, consumers would have a much stronger understanding of what their privacy risks are and could tailor their behaviours and trust levels accordingly.

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Small businesses face unprecedented volume of cyber attacks

Small businesses are facing the highest levels of cyber attacks in both number and sophistication as automated swarm attacks increase.

Small businesses are facing the highest levels of cyber attacks in both number and sophistication as automated swarm attacks increase.

A cyber threat report reveals an average of 274 exploit detections per firm were recorded in the last quarter of 2017, up 82% from the previous quarter, according to Fortinet’s latest global threat landscape report.

The Fortinet report shows that the number of malware families also increased by 25% and unique variants grew by 19%, indicating not only growth in volume, but also an evolution of the malware.

Also, automated and sophisticated “swarm attacks” are accelerating, the report said, making it increasingly difficult for organisations to protect users, applications and devices.

As small businesses become more digital, the report warned that cyber criminals are taking advantage of the expanding attack surface to carry out new disruptive attacks, including swarm-like assaults that target multiple vulnerabilities, devices and access points simultaneously.

The combination of rapid threat development and the increased propagation of new variants is increasingly difficult for many organisations to counter, the report said.

The researchers found that encrypted traffic using HTTPS and SSL (secure sockets layer) grew to a high of 60% of total network traffic, but the report noted that although encryption can help protect data in motion as it moves between core, cloud and endpoint environments, it also represents a real challenge for traditional security technology that has no way of filtering encrypted traffic.

Three of the top 20 attacks identified in the quarter targeted internet of things (IoT) devices and exploit activity quadrupled against devices such as Wi-Fi cameras. None of these detections was associated with a known or named vulnerability, which the report said is one of the troubling aspects of vulnerable IoT devices.

Unlike previous IoT-related attacks, which focused on exploiting a single vulnerability, the report said new IoT botnets such as Reaper and Hajime can target multiple vulnerabilities simultaneously, which is much harder to combat.

The data shows ransomware is still prevalent, with several strains topping the list of malware variants. Locky was the most widespread malware variant and GlobeImposter was second.

The report highlighted an increase in sophisticated industrial malware, with the data showing an uptick in exploit activity against industrial control systems (ICS) and safety instrumental systems (SIS). This suggests these under-the-radar attacks might be climbing higher on attackers’ radar, the report said, citing an attack dubbed Triton, which has the ability to cover its tracks by overwriting the malware itself with garbage data to thwart forensic analysis.

Because these platforms affect vital critical infrastructures, they are enticing for threat actors, the report said, adding that successful attacks can cause significant damage with far-reaching impact.

The report also pointed out that steganography, which embeds malicious code in images, also appears to be resurgent.

The Sundown exploit kit, the report said, uses steganography to steal information, and although it has been around for some time, it was reported by more organisations than any other exploit kit, and was found dropping multiple ransomware variants.

The threat data in the quarter’s report reinforces many of the predictions made by the Fortinet FortiGuard Labs global research team for 2018, which forecast the rise of self-learning hivenets and swarmbots.

The report predicted that the attack surface will continue to expand, while visibility and control over today’s infrastructures diminish. To address the problems of speed and scale by adversaries, the report said organisations need to adopt strategies based on automation and integration.

“Security should operate at digital speeds by automating responses as well as applying intelligence and self-learning so that networks can make effective and autonomous decisions,” the report said.

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Poor data handling is effecting business sales

The failure to protect customer data is creating sales problems for businesses.

The failure to protect customer data is creating sales problems for businesses.

According to a survey by security firm RSA some 90% of respondents said they were concerned about their personal data being lost, manipulated or stolen.

Monetary theft (74%), identity theft (70%) and having embarrassing or sensitive information made public (45%) were the biggest data security concerns. More than a third (36%) also fear being blackmailed with stolen private images or messages.

Some 84% of UK respondents and 81% of Italians listed security information as a concern, both higher than the global average, while German respondents expressed the most concern about genetic data, US respondent were the most concerned about location data.

As a result, 78% said they try to limit the amount of personal information they share and 49% have falsified information online in an attempt to protect themselves,

More importantly from a business point of view, 62% of consumers said they would blame the company involved above anyone else, even the hacker had exposed their personal data.

With 78% saying a company’s reputation relating to its handling of customer data made an impact on their buying decisions.

In fact, an average of 69% said they have or would boycott a company that showed a lack of regard for protecting customer data, with 82% of UK respondents saying they do so.

Some 60% of all respondents said if they hear that a company has been selling or misusing data without consent they will avoid handing data over to them, and 58% said if they know a company has been mishandling data they are less likely to buy services from them.

RSA said “With more than half (54%) of respondents less likely to buy from a company they know has been mishandling data, and 62% inclined to blame the company above anyone else if data is lost, it’s clear consumers are ready to vote with their feet against organisations that fall short of their expectations.”

“The financial and reputational damage of a data breach in 2018 could be devastating.”

The research further underlines the business benefit of ensuring customers’ data and privacy is protected. More than half (53%) of respondents said they were more likely to shop with a company that could prove it takes data protection seriously.

Consumers clearly understand the value of their personal data and, while there may rightly be occasions for caution, they are willing to part with it under the right circumstances.

After the compliance deadline for the European Union’s (EU’s) GDPR on 25 May 2018, RSA Security predicts that organisational privacy and data protection failings will become even more transparent because businesses will be forced to disclose any breach of the regulation.

Under this microscope, the security firm recommends that organisations must think of the wider business impact of privacy and data protection, while also understanding how to work within the GDPR to their advantage.

The research report points out that the GDPR will affect all companies that handle EU citizens’ data, including US cloud providers and businesses in post-Brexit Britain.

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