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.

Businesses warned to prepare for cyber security extortion campaigns

Directors, lawyers and doctors are the top extortion targets of cyber criminals, researchers tracking  sextortion attempts reveals.

Directors, lawyers and doctors are the top extortion targets of cyber criminals, researchers tracking  sextortion attempts reveals.

Cyber criminal groups are promising rewards of £276,300 a year on average to accomplices who help them target high-worth individuals with extortion scams research reports.

The reward promises are even higher for accomplices with network management, penetration testing and programming skills, according to researchers at risk protection firm Digital Shadows.

One threat actor, the report said, was offering £600,000 a year, with add-ons and a final salary after the second year of £840,000.

The main method of cyber security extortion where criminals deem potential victims to be particularly vulnerable is so-called “sextortion”.

Digital Shadows tracked a sample of sextortion campaigns and found that from July 2018 to February 2019 over 89,000 unique recipients faced around 792,000 extortion attempts.

An analysis of bitcoin wallets associated with these scams found that sextortionists could be reaping an average of £414 per victim.

The campaigns follow a similar pattern, the researcher found, in which the extortionist provides the target with a known password as “proof” of compromise, then claims to have video footage of the victim watching adult content online, and finally urges them to pay a ransom to a specified bitcoin address.

However, the researchers said other campaigns can be even more sinister, with one spam campaign from December 2018 claiming that recipients will be “killed” if they did not pay.

Extortion is in part being fuelled by the number of ready made extortion materials readily available on criminal forums, the researchers said, adding that these are lowering the barriers to entry for wannabe criminals with sensitive corporate documents, intellectual property and extortion manuals being sold on by more experienced criminals to service aspiring extortionists for less than £10.

In one example, seen by Digital Shadows, the guide specifically focuses on a sextortion tactic whereby the threat actor begins an online relationship with a married man and then threatens to reveal details of the affair to his partner unless a ransom is paid.

The guide claims this extortion method is the easiest for “novice”’ threat actors to start with, suggesting they could earn between £230 and £380 per extortion attempt. Dedicated subsections exist on criminal forums for this type of dating scam.

Even greater levels of sophistication could be around the corner, the researchers warn, if so-called “crowd-funding” schemes take off.

In April 2018, threat actor “thedarkoverlord” stole documents belonging to the insurance provider, Hiscox, including files related to the 9/11 attacks in the US. The threat actor hoped to play on the public’s appetite for 9/11-related controversy and encourages people to raise funds to view the documents. Currently this campaign has amassed around £8,904.

Crowdfunding models such as this, the researchers said, allow extortionists to raise funds from the general public rather than relying on victims giving in to ransom demands. Organisations dealing with inflammatory or sensational information should therefore consider how they would respond if an attacker opts for this course of action, they said.

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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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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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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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Cyber 139 wishes You a Safe and Secure New Year

Cyber 139 wishes You a Safe and Secure New Year in 2018

Cyber 139 wishes You a Safe and Secure New Year in 2018
With 2018 now here we hope that you have had a Merry Christmas and a great festive break and hope that you are looking forward to a safe and secure year ahead.

Wannacry cyber security money laundering attempt thwarted

The Wannacry cyber security ransomware hackers have tried to conceal who they are by using a virtual currency that is more anonymous than Bitcoin.

Wannacry cyber security money laundering attempt thwarted

Victims paid more than £107,000 in bitcoins to recover files scrambled by Wannacry.

Earlier this week the gang behind the attack started to move the bitcoins out of the wallets they were paid into.

But the operators of the exchange they used to swap the bitcoins have now frozen the accounts they used.

Wannacry caught out thousands of firms around the world when it infected computers on corporate networks and encrypted their files, making them useless.

Victims were told to pay between £229 and £458 in bitcoins to have their files unscrambled and return computers to a working state.

Many security experts believed the money paid into three bitcoin wallets set up by the Wannacry creators would never be moved, because there was so much attention focused on who was behind the attack.

Moving the cash might expose key details about the attackers that could be used to track them down.

Whilst no one knows who owns the 3 accounts- the details of the acounts are known to the blockchain community as they can track the specific accounts.

But the bitcoins were moved earlier this week and some were piped to an exchange network called Shapeshift.io in an attempt to convert them to another virtual currency called Monero.

The Monero crypto-currency was set up to be more anonymous than Bitcoin and seeks to hide as much information as possible about every transaction.

The Wannacry gang is believed to have chosen Shapeshift.io for the digital cash transfer because the service can be used without signing up for an account.

However, the attempt to launder the cash via the platform seems to have been thwarted soon after Shapeshift was told what was happening.

Shapeshift said it would block any further attempts to change the Wannacry bitcoins into Monero or any other crypto-currency.

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Defence minister opens £3m cyber security centre in

UK minister for defence procurement has opened a new cyber security centre aimed at boosting UK cyber defence capability and skills.

UK minister for defence procurement has opened a new cyber security centre aimed at boosting UK cyber defence capability and skills.

The Cyber Works centre, which employs 90 people, will enable Lockheed Martin to work more closely with UK partners to share knowledge and best practice, undertake research and develop new cyber defence capabilities.

In February 2017, Lockheed Martin announced that it would support the UK government’s CyberFirst scheme to inspire and support young people considering roles in cyber security.

The Cyber Works centre is designed to deliver cyber capabilities to UK government as well as support the development of skills and careers in cyber security and intelligence.

Harriett Baldwin, UK minister for defence procurement, said that with its £1.9 billion National Cyber Security Strategy, the country is a world leader in the field.

“The opening of today’s cutting-edge centre is a great example of how partnerships with industry are at the heart of that strategy,” she said. “Together, we are developing solutions to national security risks.”

A key part of the Cyber Security Strategy is partnerships with industry, with £10 million being invested in a new Cyber Innovation Fund to give startups the boost and partners they need

Baldwin said the UK is already leading Nato in its support for offensive and defensive operations in the fight against Islamic State (IS) and complex cyber threats. “This centre will further boost the UK’s cyber capabilities,” she said.

Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest aerospace and defence company and a longstanding leader in the fields of cyber security and intelligence.

The company pioneered the development of the cyber kill chain, an analysis method for cyber network defence that has been broadly adopted across industries and sectors.

Lockheed Martin is also a top provider of capabilities to defence and intelligence communities around the world and operates facilities to defend its own networks across 70 countries.

As well as investing in the new facility, Lockheed Martin plans to take part in the National Cyber Security Centre’s £6.5 million CyberInvest scheme to support cutting-edge cyber security research in the UK.

With National Offensive Cyber Planning allowing the UK to integrate cyber into all of its military operations, defence plays a key role in the country’s cyber security strategy, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Offensive cyber is being routinely used in the war against IS, not only in Iraq but also in the campaign to liberate Raqqa and other towns on the Euphrates, the MoD said.

In defence, the MoD said the £800m Innovation Initiative has already boosted investment in UK research and business, with multimillion-pound competitions to develop artificial intelligence and automated systems.

In January next year, the ministry will open a dedicated state-of-the-art Defence Cyber School at Shrivenham, bringing together all military joint cyber training into one place.

The MoD also has a key role to play in contributing to a culture of resilience, which is why the Defence Cyber Partnership Programme was set up to ensure its industrial partners protect themselves and meet robust cyber security standards, the ministry said.

 

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UK firms still relying on perimeter defences for cyber security

Despite the increasing number of data breaches, many companies are still relying on perimeter defences and are underinvesting in technologies to keep data safe.

Despite the increasing number of data breaches, many companies are still relying on perimeter defences and are underinvesting in technologies to keep data safe.

Some 96% of UK businesses feel as though their network perimeter security is effective at keeping unauthorised users out of their network, according to the fourth-annual Gemalto Data Security Confidence Index.

The global ransomware attack in May 2017 affected more than 200,000 computers in over 150 countries, including in the UK where the NHS was forced to restrict operations and turn away patients.

Across the 10 global regions surveyed, 94% of the more than 1,000 IT professionals said perimeter security is effective, but only 35% said they were extremely confident their data would be secure if perimeter defences were breached.

However, the survey also revealed that 46% of UK businesses are only protecting their customers’ data with passwords, and when considering their latest data breaches, 75% of the data stolen from businesses on average was not encrypted, with 11% of businesses not encrypting any of their data.

“As a security professional, it feels like I’ve been saying forever that basic perimeter security measures are no longer enough,” said Joe Pindar, director of data protection product strategy at Gemalto.

“So it’s worrying to see the UK is continuing to place ultimate faith in these systems, without thinking about what attackers actually want – their data,” he said.

Without a switch in mentality, and starting to protect the data at its source with robust encryption and two-factor authentication, the UK is like one of the three little pigs.

“Unfortunately, the one sitting in the straw house – not realising that when the time comes, passwords and perimeter security alone will not stand up to attackers,” he said.

The Gemalto report notes that many businesses are continuing to prioritise perimeter security without realising it is largely ineffective against sophisticated cyber attacks.

According to the research findings, 76% of global respondents said their organisation had increased investment in perimeter security technologies such as firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention, antivirus, content filtering, and anomaly detection to protect against external attackers.

Despite this investment, 68% believe unauthorised users could access their network, rendering their perimeter security ineffective.

These findings suggest a lack of confidence in the solutions used, especially when over a quarter (28%) of organisations polled have suffered perimeter security breaches in the past 12 months. The reality of the situation worsens when considering that, on average, only 8% of data breached was encrypted.

Businesses’ confidence is further undermined by over half of respondents (55%) not knowing where their sensitive data is stored. In addition, over a third of businesses do not encrypt valuable information such as payment (32%) or customer (35%) data.

According to the Gemalto report, this means that, should the data be stolen, a hacker would have full access to this information, and could use it for crimes including identify theft, financial fraud or ransomware.

“It is clear there is a divide between organisations’ perceptions of the effectiveness of perimeter security and the reality,” said Jason Hart, vice-president and chief technology officer for data protection at Gemalto.

“By believing that their data is already secure, businesses are failing to prioritise the measures necessary to protect their data, which is a company’s most valuable asset,” he said, adding that it is important to focus on protecting this resource. “Otherwise, reality will inevitably bite those that fail to do so.”

 

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