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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LORCA identifies top priorities for cyber security innovation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IoT is ripe for innovation

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

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

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

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

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

Time and skills required by businesses

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

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

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

LORCA to help drive UK cyber exports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK small business cyber security spend low despite breaches

The UK is the most breached country in Europe, but business’ IT cyber security spend remains low compared with other countries in the region, a report reveals

UK small business cyber security spend low despite breaches

More than a third of UK businesses reported cyber security attacks in the past year, which was higher than any other country in Europe, according to the European edition of the 2018 Thales data threat report.

However, despite a 24% increase in the number of attacks compared with the previous year, UK firms claimed to feel less vulnerable to data threats, compared with those across Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, and consequently invested less in cyber security.

While more organisations across Sweden (78%) and the Netherlands (74%) admitted to being breached in the past, compared with just 67% of organisations in the UK, the report said it was a different story in the past 12 months.

Thales data shows that while 37% of businesses across the UK were breached, the figures were lower for Germany (33%), Sweden (30%) and the Netherlands (27%).

Despite the rise in attacks, just 31% of UK organisations said they feel “very” or “extremely” vulnerable to data threats, leaving the majority (69%) feeling “somewhat” or “not at all” vulnerable. Businesses across Sweden claimed to feel the most vulnerable (49%), followed by the Netherlands (47%) and Germany (36%).

Although 69% of UK organisations reported an overall increase in their IT security spending, with 15% saying it was much higher’ than the previous year, the report said the increase is still less than spend in Sweden, where 75% of businesses have upped their budgets to offset threats, and Germany where 76% have increased their IT security budgets.

While 72% of organisations polled have dedicated more money to IT security, UK businesses appeared to still fall short compared with their European counterparts, with 39% of Swedish respondents saying their budget was “much higher” than the previous year and an additional 36% claiming it was ‘somewhat higher’, and spending said to be “a lot more” by 29% of firms in the Netherlands and 24% in France.

The report also reveals that despite the two year bedding in period allowed for compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), 49% of companies in Sweden failed data security audits in the past year, followed by the Netherlands (38%), Germany (33%) and the UK (19%).

Aside from the UK, all other European countries showed decline in their efforts to meet compliance, which the report said was “worrying” in the light of the fact that there are so many changes to standards and regulations. Despite this drop, respondents across the board all cited compliance as being effective when it comes to preventing data breaches.

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Skills shortage a major cyber security risk for small businesses

Cyber security skill shortages remain a major risk to small businesses who are still struggling to defend against cyber breaches, an new survey shows.

Cyber security skill shortages remain a major risk to small businesses who are still struggling to defend against cyber breaches, an new survey shows.

The proportion of information security professionals who feel organisations are getting worse at defending against major cyber security breaches has leapt from 9% to 18% in the past three years, the survey by not-for-profit industry body, the Institute of Information Security Professionals (IISP) has revealled.

Security industry leaders are increasingly putting emphasis on cyber resilience based on good detection and response capabilities, rather than relying mainly on defence technologies and controls.

“These results reflect the difficulty in defending against increasingly sophisticated attacks and the realisation breaches are inevitable – it’s just a case of when and not if,” said Piers Wilson, director at the IISP.

“Security teams are now putting increasing focus on systems and processes to respond to problems when they arise, as well as learning from the experiences of others.”

When it comes to investment, the survey suggests that for many organisations, the threats are outstripping budgets in terms of growth. The number of businesses reporting increased budgets dropped from 70% to 64% and businesses with falling budgets increased from 7% up to 12%.

According to the IISP, economic pressures and uncertainty in the UK market are likely to be restraining factors on security budgets, while the demands of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other regulations such as Payment Services Directive (PSD2) and Networks and Information Systems Directive (NISD) are undoubtedly putting more pressure on limited resources.

The survey report highlights the problem of skills shortages with the proportion of respondents reporting a dearth of skills as a challenge growing to 18%, up from just 8% in 2015.

While acting as a potential brake on capability, the skills shortage is also driving job prospects year-on-year, reflected in a growth of respondents in all the higher salary bands and in those reporting good job and career prospects.

“This year’s survey further highlights the continued need for industry, government, academia and professional bodies like the IISP to continue to work to resolve these shortages in skills across all levels and disciplines,” said Amanda Finch, general manager at the IISP.

“We have seen AI and machine learning used in defensive security systems for some time and this is now starting to become part of a wider automation approach,” said Wilson. “But like the IoT, AI can also be exploited by cyber criminals, so we need to have the people and technologies to respond and mitigate these emerging risks.”

The IISP represents more than 8,000 individuals across private and government sectors, 41 corporate member organisations and 22 academic partners.

As well as surveying its members, the IISP opened the survey up to non-member security professionals, representing a wide range of ages, experience and industry sectors.

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Top cyber security criminals earn up to £1.5m a year study shows

Academic study reveals just how lucrative cyber security crime can be, with top level cyber criminals out earning government leaders.
Academic study reveals just how lucrative cyber security crime can be, with top level cyber criminals out earning government leaders.

Cyber security criminals are acquiring, laundering, spending and reinvesting about £1.1 trillion in profits a year, research has revealed.

The highest earning cyber criminals are making up to £1.5m a year, almost as much as a FTSE250 CEO, according to a study commissioned by Bromium.

Mid level cyber criminals make up to £639,000, which is more than double the US president’s salary, while entry level cyber criminals make about £30,000, which is significantly more than the average UK graduate, the research noted.

The findings on how much cyber criminals earn from their illegal activities and what they spend their profits on are part of an 11-month study into the macro economics of cyber crime and how the various elements link together. It has been led by Michael McGuire, senior lecturer in criminology at Surrey University.

The report highlights how cyber crime has become a booming economy, and reveals cyber criminal links to drug production, human trafficking and even terrorism.

The use of ransomware, crime-as-a-service, data theft, illicit online marketplaces and trade secret/IP theft are helping cyber criminals generate huge revenues with relative ease, the report said.

According to the research the cyber security industry, business and law enforcement agencies need to come together to disrupt cyber criminals and cut off their revenue streams. By focusing on new methods of cyber security that protect rather than detect, we believe we can make cyber crime a lot harder.

Data gathered by the research team through first-hand interviews with 100 convicted or currently engaged cyber criminals, law enforcement agencies and financial institutions, combined with dark web investigations, reveals that 15% of cyber criminals spend most of their money on immediate needs, such as paying bills.

One fifth of cyber criminals focus their spending on drugs and prostitution, 15% spend to attain status or impress, but 30% convert some of their revenue into investments. Some 20% spend at least some of their revenue on reinvestments in further criminal activities, such as buying IT equipment.

The proceeds of cyber crime fuel other crimes, such as terrorism and human trafficking, the report said, much like a legitimate business reinvests profits to expand while also contributing towards core philanthropic values.

The research showed that cyber criminals are reinvesting their money to grow their own business, but also to promote other types of crime. Terrorism, human trafficking, drugs manufacturing and firearms trading have all been beneficiaries of cyber crime.

A lot of cyber criminals spend their money on increasing their status, whether that be with peers or romantic interests.

One individual in the UK, who made around £1.2 million per year, spent huge amounts of money on a trip to Las Vegas, where he claimed to have gambled $40,000 and spent $6,000 hiring sports cars so that they could ‘arrive in style’ at casinos and hotels.

Another UK cyber criminal funnelled his proceeds into gold, drugs, expensive watches and spent £2,000 a week on prostitutes. It’s alarming how easily cyber criminals are able to spend their illicit gains. There is an ever-growing market that is almost tailor-made for cyber criminals to make these ostentatious purchases with little to no regulation or oversight.

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