DNS attacks cost finance firms millions of pounds a year

The average cost of recovering from a single DNS attack is £711,069 – $924,390 for a large financial services company a new survey.

The costs of restoring services after a DNS (Domain Name System) attack are higher for financial services firms than for companies in any other sector.

According to a survey of 1,000 large financial services firms in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, the average cost of recovering from a single DNS attack is $924,390 for a large financial services company.

The survey, carried out by network automation and security supplier EfficientIP, and its subsequent 2018 Global DNS threat report found that the average cost of recovery for such finance firms had increased by 57% compared with last year.

It also revealed that financial services firms suffered an average of seven attacks each last year, and 19% of them were attacked more than 10 times.

The survey found that finance firms took an average of seven hours to mitigate a DNS attack and 5% of them spent a total of 41 working days mitigating attacks in 2017. More than a quarter (26%) lost business because of the attacks.

The most common problems caused by DNS attacks are cloud service downtime, compromised websites and internal application downtime.

“The DNS threat landscape is continually evolving, impacting the financial sector in particular,” said David Williamson, CEO at EfficientIP. “This is because many financial organisations rely on security solutions that fail to combat specific DNS threats.

“Financial services increasingly operate online and rely on internet availability and the capacity to securely communicate information in real time. Therefore, network service continuity and security is a business imperative and a necessity.”

Types of DNS attack include:

Zero day attack – the attacker exploits a previously unknown vulnerability in the DNS protocol stack or DNS server software.
Cache poisoning – the attacker corrupts a DSN server by replacing a legitimate IP address in the server’s cache with that of another, rogue address in order to redirect traffic to a malicious website, collect information or initiate another attack. Cache poisoning may also be referred to as DNS poisoning.
Denial of service – an attack in which a malicious bot sends more traffic to a targeted IP address than the programmers who planned its data buffers anticipated someone might send. The target becomes unable to resolve legitimate requests.
Distributed denial of service – the attacker uses a botnet to generate huge amounts of resolution requests to a targeted IP address.
DNS amplification – the attacker takes advantage of a DNS server that permits recursive lookups and uses recursion to spread the attack to other DNS servers.
Fast-flux DNS – the attacker swaps DNS records in and out with extreme frequency in order redirect DNS requests and avoid detection.

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ICO issues maximum £500,000 fine to Facebook

ICO issues maximum £500,000 fine to Facebook


The UK privacy watchdog has confirmed that Facebook has escaped a fine of more than $1bn under the GDPR, but will face the maximum under the DPA for failing to protect users’ personal information

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined Facebook £500,000 for serious breaches of data protection law involving Cambridge Analytica that affected 87 million users, including nearly 1.1 million Britons.

In July, the ICO issued a Notice of Intent to fine Facebook as part of a wide ranging investigation into the use of data analytics for political purposes.

After considering representations from the company, the ICO has issued the fine to Facebook and confirmed the amount, which is the maximum allowable under the laws that applied at the time the incidents occurred.

The ICO’s investigation found that between 2007 and 2014, Facebook processed the personal information of users unfairly by allowing application developers access to their information without sufficiently clear and informed consent, and allowing access even if users had not downloaded a quiz app, but were simply “friends” with people who had.

Facebook also failed to keep the personal information secure because it did not make suitable checks on apps and developers using its platform. These failings meant one developer, Aleksandr Kogan and his company GSR, harvested the Facebook data of up to 87 million people worldwide, without their knowledge.

A subset of this data was later shared with other organisations, including SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica which was involved in political campaigning in the US, the ICO said.

Even after the misuse of the data was discovered in December 2015, the ICO found that Facebook did not do enough to ensure those who continued to hold it had taken adequate and timely remedial action, including deletion. In the case of SCL Group, the ICO said Facebook did not suspend the company from its platform until 2018.

The ICO found that the personal information of at least one million UK users was among the harvested data and consequently put at risk of further misuse.

Elizabeth Denham, information commissioner mentioned that she feels that facebook failed to sufficiently protect the privacy of its users before, during and after the unlawful processing of this data. She felt that a company of its size and expertise should have known better and it should have done better.

This fine was served under the Data Protection Act 1998. It was replaced in May by the new Data Protection Act 2018, alongside the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These provide a range of new enforcement tools for the ICO, including maximum fines of £17m or 4% of global turnover.

Facebook considered these contraventions to be so serious they imposed the maximum penalty under the previous legislation. The fine would inevitably have been significantly higher under the GDPR. One of their main motivations for taking enforcement action is to drive meaningful change in how organisations handle people’s personal data.

Facebook’s work is continuing. There are still bigger questions to be asked and broader conversations to be had about how technology and democracy interact and whether the legal, ethical and regulatory frameworks we have in place are adequate to protect the principles on which their society is based.

A further update on the ICO investigation into data analytics for political purposes will be on 6 November, when the information commissioner will give evidence to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee.

In July, the ICO published an interim progress update on its investigation and also published a partner report, Democracy disrupted? Personal information and political influence, looking at the broader policy issues identified during the investigation along with findings and the ICO’s recommendations for future action.

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How Malwarebytes was founded PT2

How the Malwarebytes company started and grew.

How the Malwarebytes company started and grew.

What made Mrs Kleczynski initially more alarmed was that her teenage son had launched the business with a man in his 30s called Bruce Harrison. Marcin and Bruce had been writing software together for more than a year, after they first started talking on anti-virus forums.

“Here’s this 17-year-old kid… he’s this 35-year-old man. Imagine telling your mum?…” says Marcin.

Marcin and Bruce hadn’t actually met in person at the time. Bruce was a computer repairman in Massachusetts, and Marcin was at home in Chicago. They didn’t in fact see each other in the flesh until Malwarebytes was more than 12 months old.

“We didn’t meet until we made our first million about a year after we launched the product,” says Marcin. “Even that was kind of anti-climatic. It was just, ‘Hey, Bruce!’ – We had a handshake and moved on.”

Today Bruce, who is head of research, still lives and works on the US east coast, while Marcin is based in the head office in Silicon Valley. The company now has more than 750 employees, and overseas offices in the Republic of Ireland, Singapore and Estonia. Since 2014 it has secured $80m of investment funding.

Malwarebytes says its software now performs 187 million virus scans every month for individuals and businesses, and is installed more than 247,000 times every day. Like many antivirus companies it operates a “freemium” business model – the basic version is free, but you can then pay for more advanced protection.

While the company has consistently grown strongly, Marcin has learned some hard lessons along the way. The most difficult time was navigating the business through an almost catastrophic period in 2014 where the product glitched on a huge scale.

“We had a false positive which means we detected a piece of malicious software that wasn’t actually malicious at all,” he says.

“Our software ended up mistakenly bringing down hundreds of thousands of computers. We had 911 emergency centres go down, hospitals go down, it was bad. This has happened to every anti-virus company, by the way, but these mistakes can be company killing because you lose trust.

“But we fixed it and got through it. Even today, the system that we created to prevent this from happening again is called ‘The Malwarebytes Extinction Prevention System’ – our engineers have a great sense of humour.”

Carl Gottlieb, a cyber security podcaster, says that despite operating in the “notoriously hostile” antivirus industry “Malwarebytes is thriving”.

“With so many competing vendors, brand awareness is key, and that step which Malwarebytes took to offer a free product years ago is paying dividends, with so many customers knowing the name and already using it in their homes. What Marcin and his team have achieved is impressive to see.”

Still only 29, Marcin says his young age has been an advantage. He encourages other budding teen entrepreneurs to start their own business.

“You’ve heard my story, I started the company when I was living with my parents,” he says. “And then even at college, it was all paid for on a student loan, so I was getting fed. If you’re in college now, instead of going out and getting drunk with your friends, maybe take one night a week just to see if there’s anything you want to work on personally.”

He admits that his university years were harder than his friends’, that he barely passed his degree, and his social life no doubt suffered. However, he’s glad his mum forced him to go. “For one thing, I met my wife there,” he says.

How Malwarebytes was founded PT1

A lot of entrepreneurs have “a moment”. A moment that makes them realise they’re on to something.

start-up company Malwarebytes was less than a year old back in late 2008, but already gaining a good reputation in the cyber security world.

For Marcin Kleczynski it came while he was discreetly working on his antivirus software business from his student digs.

His start-up company Malwarebytes was less than a year old back in late 2008, but already gaining a good reputation in the cyber security world.

Marcin, then only 18, was just about managing to juggle running his start-up with participating in student life at the University of Illinois when he hit a snag.

“I was having some real trouble analysing the latest computer virus, when all of a sudden I get a white page on my screen that says ‘you’ve been banned from the school network due to malicious activity on your desktop’,” he says.

“They’d obviously detected that I had a virus on my computer, but didn’t realise it was deliberate. So I call the university IT helpline, and they send a kid, no older than me. He sits down at my computer and looks at it and says ‘boy you’ve really screwed this thing up’.

“Then, right in front of me, he logs onto my website and downloads Malwarebytes. I didn’t say anything, I stood behind him and watched him fix my computer with my software to get me back online. He left never knowing who I was, but to this day I love that moment.”

By the time Marcin graduated with a degree in computer science in 2012, he had quietly grown Malwarebytes into a business earning a few million dollars a year. All without any of his lecturers having any idea what was taking up his time, and pushing his grades down.

Today the company has an annual turnover of more than $126m, and millions of customers around the world.

Born in Poland in 1989, Marcin moved to the US with his family when he was three, settling in Chicago.

As a gaming-obsessed teenager, he’d accidentally got a virus when he was 14, and learned everything he needed to know about computer bugs from internet forums and a “For Dummies” book.

Formally launching Malwarebytes in January 2008 when he was just 18, it grew quickly, and he decided that starting university in September of that year would just slow him down. His mother had other thoughts.

“The business was becoming real, and so I went sheepishly to my mum and said ‘I don’t think I’m going to go to school’,” says Marcin. “Fifteen seconds later we were packing my stuff and I was going to school.”


CYBER 139 are very pleased to have passed the PDSC Digital Aware Assessment.

CYBER 139 are very pleased to have passed the PDSC Digital Aware Assessment.

Cyber 139 have demonstrated that we have implemented measures that are appropriate to own level of risk. Applicants are assessed by certified cyber security professionals through BSI.

Organisations who choose to participate in the new scheme will be able to obtain a certificate. These certificates are endorsed by the Police and BSI.

Cyber crime is a growing threat to organisations with over a third having suffered at least one cyber attack or breach in the past 12 months. The good news however, is that the overwhelming majority of cyber crime can be prevented by taking a few simple steps.

To help reduce your vulnerability to cyber crime, the Police Digital Security Centre (PDSC) and the British Standards Institution (BSI) have developed a new certification scheme to help your organisation understand where it is at risk and what you can do to protect yourself, your customers and suppliers.

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Use of Cyber Security Insurance increasing

The use of cyber security insurance is growing – but one in three companies is still ignoring the benefits.

Use of Cyber Security Insurance increasing

Cyber security insurance adoption is expected to continue to grow, but only 38% of companies polled in the US and Europe have active cyber insurance policies in place, a study has revealed.

Of those insured organisations, 45% purchased cyber security  cover in the past two years, 32% purchased their policy three to four years ago, and only 24% have been covered for more than five years, according to the study by IT industry networking organisation Spiceworks.

Despite the fact that the adoption of cyber security insurance policies to offset the recovery costs associated with security incidents continues to grow, the survey of nearly 600 organisations revealed that many organisations are still not sold on the benefits of cyber insurance and are hesitant to purchase a policy.

However, according to a separate poll in the Spiceworks Community, 11% of organisations without coverage plan to purchase a cyber insurance policy within the next two years.

Cyber security insurance drivers

The study shows that increased priority on security is a top driver of cyber insurance adoption, with 71% of organisations purchasing cyber insurance as a precautionary measure, while 44% cited an increased priority on cyber security as the reason they bought a policy.

The risk of managing large volumes of personal data also drove 39% of organisations to purchase cyber insurance. This is likely to be linked to the growing number of data protection requirements around the world, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). However, less than 15% purchased a policy due to a recent security incident or data breach.

When comparing the prevalence of cyber security insurance policies in North America and Europe, the regulatory environment and impact of new regulations such as GDPR become apparent, the report said.

Only 4% of organisations in North America purchased cyber security insurance because of new data protection regulations, compared with 43% in Europe.

Across both regions, 52% of companies with cyber security insurance have a coverage limit between $1m and $5m, 19% have a coverage limit between $6m and $10m, and 16% are covered for more than $10m. However, the results showed only 7% had ever filed a claim with their cyber insurance provider.

Among the companies that do not carry cyber insurance, the lack of knowledge about cyber insurance was found to be one of the top three reasons why they have not purchased a policy. Some 36% of IT professionals said their organisation was not covered due to a lack of knowledge about cyber insurance, while 41% said it was not a priority at their organisation, and 40% said they didn’t have budget for it.

Additionally, 33% of organisations have not purchased a policy because they are not sold on the benefits, and 20% reported insufficient use cases for cyber insurance, while 12% said they were not confident claims would be paid out.

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O2 crash proves that humans are the weakest link in cyber security

The O2 mobile network failure that took out data access for some 30 million people recently was caused by an expired software certificate.

The O2 mobile network failure that took out data access for some 30 million people recently was caused by an expired software certificate

No programming error, no undiscovered bug, no malicious interference, but one of the most basic systems administration mistakes you can imagine. Someone somewhere just forgot to renew a certificate.

As a wise voice once said, there’s no patch for stupidity. And herein lies the great unspoken conundrum at the heart of the digital revolution.

Computers go wrong.

Why? Because they’re designed, manufactured, programmed, configured, secured and operated by the most fallible, unpredictable and unreliable resource in the technology world – people.

Of course, it’s those same people who every day ensure that the IT systems supporting every company and government in the world work mostly as intended, who keep the internet running and protect the vast majority of our personal data.

That’s because people are pretty good at computers these days. But we’ll never be perfect.

The job of running IT systems is becoming increasingly abstracted from the technology – virtualisation, cloud, containers, serverless, orchestration, all these trends aim to remove that human fallibility from everyday tasks. Not forgetting that it still takes another human somewhere to make those technologies work in the first place.

Much as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are replacing or augmenting corporate jobs, so the IT department will see further dramatic change as more of its responsibilities are taken over by software robots. Of course, those software robots were created and programmed by humans too.

And they aren’t exactly perfect – as the Amazon workers in a New Jersey warehouse found out this week, when a robot accidentally punctured a can of bear repellent, sending 24 staff to hospital.

There is, correctly, much debate about ethics in AI and technology, not least the need to prevent human bias from becoming too infused in the algorithms they rely on.

People outside IT are taking more of an interest in the workings of IT than ever before. It’s fair to assume those non-IT types are pretty fallible too.

The outage was a small reminder of how reliant most of us have become on technology.

When O2 went down, there was much humour taken from the sight of people trying to consult paper maps to find their way around, and attempted insights from those who found a whole new world beyond the smartphone they’d been glued to until then.

For all the great advances of recent decades, it’s going to be a long time before we no longer see headlines screaming “computer crash”. Whether through malice or simple error, human fallibility is a part of our digital future too.

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UK business in the dark on impact of cyber security attacks

UK businesses so not understand the resilience required to withstand cyber security threats, a study shows.

UK business in the dark on impact of cyber security attacks

While 99% of UK business leaders believe that making technology resilient to business disruptions is important, only 54% claim their organisation is as resilient as it needs to be, a study has revealed.

In recent years, the security industry has increasingly recognised the importance of focusing on resilience to ensure that when defences are breached, organisations are able to reduce the impact on the business.

A fifth of more than 1,000 UK business decision makers polled by security firm Tanium admitted they would not be able to calculate indirect costs from lost revenue and productivity following a cyber attack.

The Tanium resilience gap study also found that there are more barriers to achieving the resilience that 97% of respondents believe to be important, with 38% of respondents blaming their organisation’s growing complexity as one of the biggest barriers to building business resilience, while 21% blame siloed business units.

Asked about their team and tools, 35% of respondent said the issue lies with the hackers being more sophisticated than IT teams, 21% claim that they do not have the skills needed within the company to detect cyber breaches accurately in real time, and 27% said poor visibility of entry points is a barrier to resilience.

Business resilience is fundamental to any strategy for long-term growth, yet the findings suggest that many UK businesses still have a long way to go.

The study also revealed gaps in accountability and trust across organisations.

One of the main reasons organisations are unable to achieve business resilience against disruptions such as cyber threats is due to growing confusion internally on where the responsibility for resilience lies.

More than a quarter (28%) believe it should be the responsibility of the CIO or head of IT, the same proportion said every employee should be responsible, while 13% said full responsibility lies with the CEO alone. One in 10 (11%) believe it falls to senior leadership.

Businesses are becoming entirely dependent on their technology platforms. But if that technology stops running, the business will too, with potentially serious consequences for sales, customer confidence, and brand equity, not to mention productivity.

To deliver resilience, a new discipline needs to be instilled across governments and enterprise organisations. This discipline is more than prevention. It’s more than recovery. It’s a shared practice that should unite IT, operations and security teams to ensure strong security fundamentals are embedded across the entire company network. Only then can organisations act and react in real time to threats.

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NSCS warns about business’s third party cyber security risks

GCHQ’s NCSC warns that third party suppliers may be businesses’ biggest cyber security risk.

GCHQ's NCSC warns that third party suppliers may be businesses' biggest cyber security risk.

Despite spending millions on cyber security enhancements and compliance around the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), organisations remain reluctant to address the weakest link in their IT security environment – their supply chain and associated third-party relationships.

A report in October from the UK National Cyber Security Centre revealed that the GCHQ offshoot had stopped almost 1,200 attacks in the past two years and is fighting off around 10 attacks every week.

Addressing third party cyber security risks are challenging and significant.

For larger organisations, procurement decisions are usually made without input from those responsible for cyber security, and such agreements can provide access to critical systems via open application programming interfaces (APIs) and other interaction mechanisms.

Supplier relationships are also overwhelming without a standard process to manage cyber risk when the relationship is via an arms-length contractual arrangement. Many organisations are struggling to address their internal network security issues and have not sufficiently considered the risks beyond their own network.

But third party cyber security risk is too significant and too dangerous an issue for board members to continue to overlook.

NIS Directive
Current regulatory initiatives including the Networks and Information Systems (NIS) Directive and GDPR require organisations to take responsibility for ensuring that external suppliers have implemented adequate cyber security measures.

Both NIS and GDPR require notification to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) no later than 72 hours after an organisation is aware of a data breach or a cyber incident having a substantial impact on its services.

Many data breaches affecting large organisations occur within a third party service provider. Organisations that do not have the contractual provisions and processes in place with these suppliers to secure the necessary information surrounding the data breach are unlikely to meet the 72-hour deadline.

Missed deadlines and poor or inaccurate information reveal due diligence and contractual failures. These failures increase the risk of a regulatory investigation and significant financial penalties.

But regulatory fines are just the beginning. There are also civil liabilities, as well as loss of consumer trust and investor confidence that result from a cyber breach. Under GDPR, individuals can claim compensation for material and non-material damage.

A data controller is jointly and severally liable for the damage if it was in some way also responsible for a breach due to unlawful processing by a data processor.

To mitigate these risks, organisations that outsource cyber security functions should comprehensively review their third party contractual arrangements and revise their internal procurement processes and procedures to include cyber security assessments. These reviews should, at a minimum, assess, document and monitor these agreements.

Cyber threats are on the rise in both number and complexity. They are purposely attacking the supply chain. Recent regulatory approaches under NIS and GDPR require organisations to take an active role overseeing their third-party providers.

Failure to do so can result in regulatory fines, civil liabilities and reputational loss. Investing human and financial capital now to assess and mitigate risk can help significantly reduce these liabilities, protect an organisation’s reputation and strengthen consumer trust.

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Investors target Board Directors for cyber security incidents PT2

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

Investors target Board Directors for cyber security incidents

An investor “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.”

Earlier this week, British Airways was forced to vow to compensate passengers after it revealed hackers had stolen data relating to about 380,000 customers from its website and mobile app during a two-week period in August. The data included personal and financial details.

Companies ranging from Equifax to JPMorgan Chase have all suffered data breaches in recent years. Meanwhile, large multinationals from Moller-Maersk to Reckitt Benckinser and FedEx were all forced to warn shareholders that the NotPetya cyber attack in 2017 had hurt profits, potentially costing each company hundreds of millions of dollars.

Ovidiu Patrascu, research analyst at Schroders, says it is crucial that companies have well-resourced cyber security teams that should ideally report directly to the highest levels of the organisation.

“As seen in a number of recent high-profile public failures, data breaches often uncover poor governance practices and weak management at the heart of companies, while also hitting their revenues and intangible assets such as reputation and trust,” he says.

“Cyber risk should also not just be the preserve of tech specialists — company boards also need to ensure they understand and can effectively oversee these very particular risks,” he adds.

A 2017 study by the Ponemon Institute, a research centre, found that there had been a 22.7 per cent rise in the cost of cyber security for businesses in just one year. It also found a 27.4 per cent rise in the number of data breaches at businesses, based on 2,182 interviews from 254 companies in seven countries — Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US.

A follow-up study in 2018 found that the average cost of a data breach globally is $3.86m, a 6.4 per cent increase from the 2017 report. It also warned that so-called “mega breaches”, ranging from 1m to 50m records lost, could cost companies between $40m and $350m to deal with.

For many investors, the fact that a huge technology company such as Facebook could suffer a data breach has hit home how vulnerable smaller or less tech-savvy businesses could be. In July, Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office hit Facebook with its first financial penalty over the data leak to Cambridge Analytica, accusing the social network of breaking the law.

A big investor at a large asset manager says that he wants boards to be able to explain where their key vulnerabilities are and whether they have stress tested the financial impact of tech issues. “We think every board member should be able to speak about this issue. They need to know where they are vulnerable, what the impact could be and how the board would respond,” he adds.

Mr Krefting says he wants the businesses M&G invests in to clearly outline in their reports and accounts what risks they face when it comes to technology and cyber security. “When we talk to companies about this, they often clam up — either because the CEO or chair doesn’t know about it or it is delegated to the chief information officer or someone below the board, or they say this is too sensitive.”

But he adds: “We want policies on governance and structures and how they are approaching cyber. We don’t necessarily need to know how many times they were faced with attempted hacks last week, but we want to see processes and that they are doing testing and that the right controls are in place.”

This article was first published by the Financial Times at https://www.ft.com/content/c70caa94-2d88-3ece-b802-79e9bac2f32c.

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