Cybersecurity Blog: The Cyber Scene is evolving, are you?

WannaCry (or WannaCrypt, WanaCrypt0r 2.0, Wanna Decryptor) is a ransomware targeting Microsoft Windows operating system. On Friday May 12, 2017 a widespread attack using this ransomware was launched affecting IT organizations worldwide. The ransomware encrypts files changing the extensions to: .wnry, .wcry, .wncry and .wncrypt.  The malware then presents a window to the user with a ransom demand.

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The remark “never a dull moment” is rarely an expression used to indicate joy.  Instead, it’s a semi-sarcastic way of lamenting unwelcome excitement.  While no one wants to have a boring job, spending one’s time fighting ransomware outbreaks that disrupt business operations and put one’s job at risk are not the kinds of exhilarating challenges that most Chief Information Security Officers (CISO) pine for.  The recent WannaCry outbreak has all the hallmarks of this unwelcome excitement.  The ransomware infects computers by exploiting a vulnerability that Microsoft patched two months ago.  It propagates through a network port that every enterprise should be locking down.  It exhibits malicious behavior that should be relatively easy to detect and mitigate.  By some accounts, it was arguably a poorly executed attack that did a mediocre job of accomplishing what appears to be its most important objective - extracting money from its victims. 

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Since January of this year, ransomware has emerged as a popular attack impacting large corporations, small businesses, schools, hospitals and home users. This malicious type of crimeware encrypts, locks, or obfuscates digital files, then demands a ransom to return the files. An ill-prepared user or organization can experience catastrophic damage if the data encrypted includes months of work or critical business information. Far worse is when the data encrypted includes financial, legal, or medical records for which retention is required by law. In some cases, these users have no choice but to pay the ransom and hope for the best. Some who pay have their files returned, while others are not as lucky.

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A discussion on sharing threat intelligence while balancing business objectives with cyber defense strategies.

I had the pleasure of attending the SANS CTI Summit a couple weeks ago. The red carpet was rolled out and all the industry’s biggest stars were there to talk about the most pressing topics facing the InfoSec world today. While there was a lot of consensus and agreement on items like what constitutes real intelligence and the power of harnessing internal resources, there were some lingering questions as well. Although everyone agreed that sharing with your friends is a good thing (circle of trust), there was some contention around publicly reporting Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) activity.

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Organizations in the financial services sector have a lot on their plates these days. From dealing with smaller profit margins and challenging regulations, to grappling with higher customer expectations and evolving technologies, there is no shortage of challenges. This includes facing an increase in cyberattacks on the financial services industry.

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One of the most important aspects of cybersecurity is intelligence. Fighting and defending against constant attacks without the proper knowledge of who they are, how and why they are attacking, as well as a lack of understanding of the characteristics that signal an attack can lead to a massive data breach or disruption of service.

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Technological advances notwithstanding, program security still comes down to one basic element: well written code.

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Advanced Persistent Threat (APT), as a term, is perhaps over-used in cybersecurity. Like the Boogie-Man that strikes fear into the minds and hearts of children at night, APTs work just as hard to ensure that CISOs and CIOs never rest easily. But just like the Boogie-Man, the trick to not being afraid of APTs is to understand them. Unfortunately, understanding APTs isn’t as simple as a bed time story.

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