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.

Making the UK the safest place to live and work online

Government, industry and individuals all have to play their part in enhancing cyber security practices

We all watched a few weeks ago as the chancellor set the new Budget, pledging an extra £1bn to boost UK defences, including cyber security. Add to that the proposed internet safety laws and new regulations around the collection and use of personal data, and in many ways we are on the right path to keeping the UK as a safe place to live and do business online.

But it is always worth reminding ourselves, whether we represent government, industry or the individual, of the key part we all have to play in creating the skills, practices and expectations of a safe online and working environment.

The objective of government should be to help create an environment in which industry and individuals are encouraged to expect and deliver good cyber security, and where the UK has the cyber skills and workforce it needs. This can be achieved through the levers available to government – legislation, policy and incentives.

One area where the government is leading on such efforts in the UK is in establishing new “secure by design” measures, encouraging manufacturers to embed security into the design of new technology rather than as a bolt-on or afterthought.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) says there are expected to be more than 420 million internet-connected devices in use across the UK within the next three years, with the risk of poorly secured devices leaving people exposed to large-scale cyber attacks.

Such secure-by-design codes of practice, developed by the DCMS and the National Cyber Security Centre alongside industry, are not only key in driving innovation in technology, but in creating trust between government, industry and individuals through the development of products and services that keep people safe.

The role of government is also to set an example. According to EY’s 2018-19 Global information security survey, half of all local authorities in England still rely on unsupported server software.

In the face of emerging global cyber threats, and as the gatekeepers to our essential services, effective cyber security can only be tackled with the relevant technology and training rolled out across public sector departments, agencies and bodies to protect our critical assets.

 Cyber security awareness

EY’s survey found that 77% of organisations are still operating with limited cyber security and resilience. Asked what they saw as their top vulnerability, 34% of organisations said careless or unaware employees. This underscores the importance of cyber security awareness and culture as key aspects of the defence against cyber attacks.

So what can be done? Even if the board knows that cyber attacks are on the rise, is it prepared to make the necessary investments in people, processes and technology to tackle these issues? The survey is encouraging in this respect, with 53% of organisations saying they have increased their budgets this year and 65% planning an increase next year.

Despite this, most organisations admit they would be unlikely to step up their cyber security practices or spend more money unless they were hit by a breach or cyber incident. So a breach where no harm was caused would not lead to higher spending for most organisations. The problem is that in most cases, harm has been done – it simply has not come to the surface yet.

But there is an opportunity here. Many organisations now regard emerging technologies as a high priority for business growth, which implies that cyber security could, at last, be designed in. That includes more secure cloud and mobile computing, and also enablers such as cyber security analytics, robotic process automation and machine learning, which can provide early detection, prevention and resilience in the event of an attack.

Ultimately, the role of businesses is to protect their enterprise by building effective lines of defence around their business crown jewels, optimising cyber security by leveraging suitable technologies, and embedding cyber security as an enabler, rather than a barrier, to growth.

In an age when we manage most of our lives online, educating the public to be cautious when it comes to operational security can affect individuals positively, both as employees and consumers.

Finally, it is impossible not to mention the cyber skills deficit. With 30% of surveyed organisations saying they still don’t have the skills they need, cyber security must be promoted more strongly as a growing career path.

Government, industry and the individual all have their role to play in this – government in building the education infrastructure for IT; industry in creating the jobs that will encourage the workforce of the future; and individuals by taking the time to understand cyber security.

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Increasing value of personal data a 21st century challenge

The increasing value of personal data presents the challenge of managing a personal data economy

 

 The increasing value of personal data presents the challenge of managing a personal data economy

 

 

At the start of the millennium, the value of online services was equated with the number of registered users, but that changed after the dot-com bubble burst, according to Jon Shamah, chairman of EEMA, the European association for e-identity and security.

Jon felt that since 2010, that understanding has evolved, and increasingly the true value has been recognised as data about those registered users. He told the EEMA ISSE 2018 cyber security conference in Brussels.

He want on to say that the reality was that personal data had value for the service providers, but people were blindly throwing information at these companies in exchange for services.

This approach has changed in recent times, he said, particularly after the Facebook – Cambridge Analytica data sharing scandal that highlighted the potential for personal data to be misused.

People are finally waking up to the value of the information they have so willingly given in the past and their eyes have started to open. The evolution of data analysis tools, including the incorporation of artificial intelligence, he said, means that data collected in the past is becoming useful in new ways and therefore even more valuable.

John mentioned that it also means that service providers are able to analyse users’ online activities, largely without users’ knowledge or consent, and use that to tailor advertising on web pages, creating new and direct revenue streams. Something had to be done, and if it has achieved nothing else, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation has focused people’s minds and got company executives and board members to take this issue seriously because now they have to be accountable and declare breaches.

This means data protection in Europe, said Shamah, is no longer just the concern of technical teams in organisations, but also chief executives and shareholders.

In the light of the recent revelations about the misuse of data, everyone needs to consider what kind of digital footprint they want to leave; a permanent one like those left by the first astronauts on the surface of the moon or temporary like those left in the sand on a beach.

The aim, he said, should be for digital footprints that last only for as long as they are needed and then erased without a trace. In addition to being disposed of properly, personal data also has to be geographically safe because there are a lot of concerns about where data is stored and keeping it in home jurisdictions, and we need the trustees to be accountable and responsible.”

The issue going forward, said Shamah, is how well people and society will be able to adapt to the new reality that there are no free services without giving up personal data.

Perhaps the company will be able to control their own data through the application of things like self-sovereign identity, but ultimately the challenge is attaining a mixed and balanced personal data economy.

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DNS attacks cost finance firms millions of pounds a year

Average cost of recovering from a single DNS attack is $924,390 for a large financial services company, survey shows

 Average cost of recovering from a single DNS attack is $924,390 for a large financial services company, survey shows

 

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.

David Williamson, CEO at EfficientIP feels that the DNS threat landscape is continually evolving, impacting the financial sector in particular. 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.

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority voices concerns about weaknesses in banks’ IT systems.

There was a 48% rise in the amount of money stolen from UK online banks in 2014, as criminals pilfered more than £60m. But IT security teams at large finance firms have to balance their resources in the face of increasing cyber threats. A survey commissioned by VMWare earlier this year showed that 90% of IT security professionals in financial services have to make compromises that could leave other areas of their organisation exposed to cyber threats, and half admitted doing this regularly.

Types of DNS attack include:

  1. Zero day attack – the attacker exploits a previously unknown vulnerability in the DNS protocol stack or DNS server software.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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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GCHQ warns of cyber security scams on Black Friday

GCHQ has issued an warning of cyber security scams on Black Friday.

GCHQ has issued an warning of cyber security scams on Black Friday.

Black Friday sales could be targeted as easy pickings for cyber-crime, according to Cheltenham-based GCHQ.

The National Cyber Security Centre, part of GCHQ, is advising shoppers of the risk of online threats. It is the first such official cyber security warning in the run up to Christmas.

GCHQ wants to start a “national cyber-chat” today (Black Friday), when billions are spent online. Known for working in secret, the agency wants to be open and engage with the public over the seriousness of the threat.

The National Cyber Security Centre has tackled more than 550 significant cyber incidents over the past year, and has taken down almost 140,000 “phishing” websites.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is giving tips for shoppers to avoid cyber-crime – and for the first time it will be publishing answers to questions from the public on Twitter.

The agency recently warned of a serious and sustained threat from elite hackers in other countries, which could include the theft of millions from retailers and attacks on the financial networks the shops depend on.

The British Retail Consortium is backing the calls for better cyber security during the Christmas shopping season, and retailers continue to invest heavily in protecting themselves against cyber-threats.

The National Cyber Security Centre’s advice to reduce the risk of cyber crime is:

  • Install the latest software and app updates
  • Type in a shop’s website address rather than clicking on links in emails
  • Choose strong and separate passwords for accounts
  • Keep an eye on bank accounts for unrecognised payments
  • Avoid over-sharing unnecessary information with shops, even if they ask
  • Make sure all your home gadgets are secure

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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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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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