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GUEST ESSAY: Here’s why managed security services — MSS and MSSP — are catching on

By Morten Kjaersgaard

The unification revolution of cybersecurity solutions has started – and managed security service providers are leading the way. Managed security services (MSS) refer to a service model that enable the monitoring and managing of security technologies, systems, or even software-as-a-service (SaaS) products. Here’s more on the various types and benefits of MSS, as well as the state of the MSS(P) market in 2022!

Related: Reviving ‘observability’ to secure complex networks

Fully-managed vs. co-managed

The current unification in the cybersecurity market is driving a massive movement towards fewer vendors, which at the same time means more polarization of either using MSS/MSSP or doing the security work internally.

In terms of Managed Security Services, they can be fully-managed or co-managed. In the case of fully-managed security services, the provider of security services owns the security technologies and maintains and monitors the incidents gathered by these tools and technologies. Fully-managed security services represent, of course, a particularly good bet for budget-conscious companies or for those who lack the internal capabilities to study and handle a wide range of technologies

Co-managed security services best suit those companies that capitalize a variety of security systems but lack the internal security personnel needed to monitor these solutions 24 hours a day, seven days per week. Managed security services providers (MSSP) can help their customers learn more about the capabilities and functioning of each tool, as well as set up the appropriate configuration, allowing their employees to focus on more strategic security objectives.

Tipping the scale favorably

Whether you prioritize cybersecurity or not, cybercriminals will always prioritize (their own) profit, as the attacks described in our 2021 Threat Report prove. Under these circumstances, it’s crucial to understand that MSS can truly help you tip the scales in your favor. Here’s why:

•Managed security services provide round-the-clock monitoring 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. A significant advantage, because handling business security in-house without the assistance of an outsourced partner naturally necessitates a significant investment in personnel and technology.

•Cyber attacks are increasing at an alarming rate, and cybercriminals are devising new tactics to achieve their unscrupulous goals nearly on a daily basis. Keeping up with new risks, resolving them as soon as they occur, and recovering from incidents identified too late may, as you can certainly imagine, (more…)

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GUEST ESSAY: A primer on content management systems (CMS) — and how to secure them

By Sebastian Gierlinger

You very likely will interact with a content management system (CMS) multiple times today.

Related: How ‘business logic’ hackers steal from companies

For instance, the The Last Watchdog article you are reading uses a CMS to store posts, display them in an attractive manner, and provide search capabilities. Wikipedia uses a CMS for textual entries, blog posts, images, photographs, videos, charts, graphics, and “talk pages” that help its many contributors collaborate.

Chances are strong that your corporate website uses a CMS, and perhaps you have a separate CMS for documents and other files shared by your employees, partners, and suppliers.

Security is essential for a CMS. That’s obviously true if the content in that system requires some level of privacy and access control for internal use, such as for legal documents, customer contracts, and other assets. Security is also necessary if your retrieval system (such as a website or mobile app) has a paywall or is restricted to only a subset of people, such as customers or resellers.

What about public information? Even if you give your content away, you don’t want to allow unauthorized people to add, delete, or tamper with your files.

MY TAKE: How ‘CAASM’ can help security teams embrace complexity – instead of trying to tame it

By Byron V. Acohido

The shift to software-defined everything and reliance on IT infrastructure scattered across the Internet has boosted corporate productivity rather spectacularly.

Related: Stopping attack surface expansion

And yet, the modern attack surface continues to expand exponentially, largely unchecked. This dichotomy cannot be tolerated over the long run.

Encouragingly, an emerging class of network visibility technology is gaining notable traction. These specialized tools are expressly designed to help companies get a much better grip on the sprawling array of digital assets they’ve come to depend on. Gartner refers to this nascent technology and emerging discipline as “cyber asset attack surface management,” or CAASM.

I sat down with Erkang Zheng, founder and CEO of JupiterOne, a Morrisville, NC-based CAASM platform provider, to discuss how security got left so far behind in digital transformation – and why getting attack surface management under control is an essential first step to catching up.

For a full drill down, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are my takeaways:

NEW TECH SNAPSHOT: Can ‘CAASM’ help slow, perhaps reverse, attack surface expansion?

By Byron V. Acohido

Defending companies as they transition to cloud-first infrastructures has become a very big problem – but it’s certainly not an unsolvable one.

Coming Wed., May 18: How security teams can help drive business growth — by embracing complexity. 

The good news is that a long-overdue transition to a new attack surface and security paradigm is well underway, one built on a fresh set of cloud-native security frameworks and buttressed by software-defined security technologies.

It strikes me that the security systems we will need to carry us forward can be divided into two big buckets: those that help organizations closely monitor network traffic flying across increasingly cloud-native infrastructure and those that help them keep their critical system configurations in shipshape.

There’s a lot percolating in this second bucket, of late. A bevy of cybersecurity vendors have commenced delivering new services to help companies gain visibility into their cyber asset environment, and remediate security control and vulnerability gaps continuously. This is the long-run path to slowing the expansion of a modern attack surface.

“The challenge is that cyber assets are exploding out of control and security teams are having a hard time getting a grasp on what’s going on,” says Ekrang Zheng, founder and CEO of JupiterOne, a Morrisville, NC-based asset visibility platform. “But at the same time, because everything is now software-defined, we actually can approach this problem with a data-driven and an automation-driven mechanism.”

JupiterOne is in a group of cybersecurity vendors that are innovating new technology designed to help companies start doing what they should have done before racing off to migrate everything to the cloud. What happened was that digital transition shifted into high gear without anyone giving due consideration to the security gaps they were creating.

The need to start doing this is glaring; so the rise of specialized technology to get this done is a welcomed development.

Indeed, research firm Gartner very recently created yet … more

GUEST ESSAY: The many ways your supply chain is exposing your company to a cyber attack

By Josel Lorenzo

It’s a scenario executives know too well.

Related: Third-party audits can hold valuable intel

You and your cybersecurity team do everything correctly to safeguard your infrastructure, yet the frightening alert still arrives that you’ve suffered a data breach.

It’s a maddening situation that occurs far more often than it should.

One of the main culprits for these incredibly frustrating attacks has not so much to do with how a team functions or the protocols a company employs, but instead, it’s a procurement issue that results from supply-chain shortcomings and the hard-to-detect vulnerabilities layered into a particular device.

“The same technologies that make supply chains faster and more effective also threaten their cybersecurity,” writes David Lukic, a privacy, security, and compliance consultant. “Supply chains have vulnerabilities at touchpoints with manufacturers, suppliers, and other service providers.”

The inherent complexity of the supply chain for modern technology is a reason why so many cybercrime attempts have been successful. Before a device reaches the end user, multiple stakeholders have contributed to it or handled it.

MY TAKE: Log4j’s big lesson – legacy tools, new tech are both needed to secure modern networks

By Byron V. Acohido

Log4j is the latest, greatest vulnerability to demonstrate just how tenuous the security of modern networks has become.

Related: The exposures created by API profileration

Log4j, aka Log4Shell, blasted a surgical light on the multiplying tiers of attack vectors arising from enterprises’ deepening reliance on open-source software.

This is all part of corporations plunging into the near future: migration to cloud-based IT infrastructure is in high gear, complexity is mushrooming and fear of falling behind is keeping the competitive heat on. In this heady environment, open-source networking components like Log4j spell opportunity for threat actors. It’s notable that open-source software vulnerabilities comprise just one of several paths ripe for malicious manipulation.

By no means has the cybersecurity community been blind to the complex security challenges spinning out of digital transformation. A methodical drive has been underway for at least the past decade to affect a transition to a new network security paradigm – one less rooted in the past and better suited for what’s coming next.

Log4j bathes light on a couple of solidifying developments. It reinforces the notion that a new portfolio of cloud-centric security frameworks must take hold, the sooner the better. What’s more, it will likely take a blend of legacy security technologies – in advanced iterations – combined with a new class of smart security tools to cut through the complexities of defending contemporary business networks.

GUEST ESSAY: Embracing ‘Zero Trust’ can help cloud-native organizations operate securely

By Jawahar Sivasankaran

Some 96 percent of organizations — according to the recently released 2021 Cloud Native Survey — are either using or evaluating Kubernetes in their production environment, demonstrating that enthusiasm for cloud native technologies has, in the words of the report’s authors, “crossed the adoption chasm.”

Related: The targeting of supply-chain security holes

It’s easy to understand why a cloud-native approach elicits such fervor. By using flexible, modular container technologies such as Kubernetes and microservices, development teams are better equipped to streamline and accelerate the application lifecycle, which in turn enables the business to deliver on their ambitious digital transformation initiatives.

However, despite cloud-native’s promise to deliver greater speed and agility, a variety of legitimate security concerns have kept IT leaders from pushing the throttle on their cloud-native agenda.

According to the most recent State of Kubernetes Security report, more than half (55 percent) of respondents reported that they have delayed deploying Kubernetes applications into production due to security concerns (up 11 percent from the year prior) while 94 percent admitted to experiencing a security incident in their Kubernetes or container environment in the past year.

It’s clear that until we can deliver security at the same velocity in which containers are being built and deployed that many of our cloud-native aspirations will remain unfulfilled.

Cloud-native requirements

Traditionally, developers didn’t think much about application security until after deployment. However, as DevOps and modern development practices such as Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) have become the norm, we’ve come to appreciate that bolting security on after the fact can be a recipe for future application vulnerabilities.

Security must be ‘baked in’ rather than ‘brushed on’—and this current ethos has given rise to the DevSecOps movement where security plays a leading role in the DevOps process. However, it’s not enough to simply shoehorn these practices into the dynamic cloud-native development lifecycle.

SHARED INTEL: Can Apple’s pricey ‘Business Essentials’ truly help SMBs secure their endpoints?

By Apu Pavithran

Today’s operating system battleground has long been defined by the warfare between the top three players—Microsoft’s Windows, Google’s Android, and Apple’s iOS.

Related: Cook vs. Zuckerberg on privacy

While each of them has its distinguishing features, Apple’s privacy and security are what makes it the typical enterprise’s pick. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, could be heard stating in the virtual Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection Conference, “Privacy is one of the top issues of the century and it should be weighed as equal as climate change.”

In June 2020, Apple’s intention of expanding in the enterprise space was made evident by the acquisition of Fleetsmith, a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution for Apple devices. What would unfold next with Fleetsmith on their team was the most anticipated question.

In effect, Apple launched Apple Business Essentials (ABE). Let’s take a look at whether ABE will suffice enterprises’ demands.

Apple eyes SMBs

In recent years, we have seen diverse initiatives, including the Apple Business Manager (ABM) app launched in spring 2018 and Apple Business Essentials (ABE) in 2021, clearly showing Apple’s desire to conquer the enterprise market.

MY TAKE: What if Big Data and AI could be intensively focused on health and wellbeing?

By Byron V. Acohido

Might it be possible to direct cool digital services at holistically improving the wellbeing of each citizen of planet Earth?

Related: Pursuing a biological digital twin

A movement aspiring to do just that is underway — and it’s not being led by a covey of tech-savvy Tibetan monks. This push is coming from the corporate sector.

Last August, NTT, the Tokyo-based technology giant, unveiled its Health and Wellbeing initiative – an ambitious effort to guide corporate, political and community leaders onto a more enlightened path. NTT, in short, has set out to usher in a new era of human wellness.

Towards this end it has begun sharing videos, whitepapers and reports designed to rally decision makers from all quarters to a common cause. The blue-sky mission is to bring modern data mining and machine learning technologies to bear delivering personalized services that ameliorate not just physical ailments, but also mental and even emotional ones.

That’s a sizable fish to fry. I had a lively discussion with Craig Hinkley, CEO of NTT Application Security, about the thinking behind this crusade. I came away encouraged that some smart folks are striving to pull us in a well-considered direction. For a full drill down, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are a few key takeaways:

A new starting point

Modern medicine has advanced leaps and bounds in my lifetime when it comes to diagnosing and treating severe illnesses. Even so, for a variety of reasons, healthcare sectors in the U.S. and other jurisdictions have abjectly failed over the past 20 years leveraging Big Data to innovate personalized healthcare services.

GUEST ESSAY: 5 tips for ‘de-risking’ work scenarios that require accessing personal data

By Alexey Kessenikh

Working with personal data in today’s cyber threat landscape is inherently risky.

Related: The dangers of normalizing encryption for government use

It’s possible to de-risk work scenarios involving personal data by carrying out a classic risk assessment of an organization’s internal and external infrastructure. This can include:

Security contours. Setting up security contours for certain types of personal data can be useful for:

•Nullifying threats and risks applicable to general infrastructural components and their environment.

•Planning required processes and security components when initially building your architecture.

•Helping ensure data privacy.

Unique IDs. It is also possible to obfuscate personal data by replacing it with unique identifiers (UID). This de-risks personal data that does not fit in a separate security contour.

Implementing a UID system can reduce risk when accessing personal data for use in analytical reports, statistical analysis, or for client support.

SHARED INTEL: Log4j vulnerability presents a gaping attack vector companies must heed in 2022

By Byron V. Acohido

As we close out 2021, a gargantuan open-source vulnerability has reared its ugly head.

Related: The case for ‘SBOM’

This flaw in the Apache Log4J logging library is already being aggressively probed and exploited by threat actors — and it is sure to become a major headache for security teams in 2022.

“This vulnerability is so dangerous because of its massive scale. Java is used on over 3 billion devices, and a large number of those use Log4j,” says Forrester cybersecurity analyst Allie Mellen, adding that crypto miners and botnet operators are already making hay.

“We can expect more devastating attacks, like ransomware, leveraging this vulnerability in the future,” Mellen adds. “This vulnerability will be used for months if not years to attack enterprises, which is why security teams must strike while the iron is hot.”

This Log4j vulnerability was disclosed to Apache on Nov. 24 by the Alibaba Cloud Security team. Then on Dec. 9, the vulnerability, formally designated CVE-2021-44228, was disclosed on Twitter; meanwhile a  proof-of-concept exploit got posted on GitHub.

This flaw in an open-source web server software used far and wide  puts open-source risks in the spotlight – yet again. Companies will have to deal with Log4J in much the same manner as they were compelled to react to the open source flaws Heartbleed and Shellshock in 2014.

ROUNDTABLE: Cybersecurity experts reflect on 2021, foresee intensifying challenges in 2022

By Byron V. Acohido

Privacy and cybersecurity challenges and controversies reverberated through all aspect of business, government and culture in the year coming to a close.

Related: Thumbs up for Biden’s cybersecurity exec order

Last Watchdog sought commentary from technology thought leaders about lessons learned in 2021– and guidance heading into 2022. More than two dozen experts participated. Here the first of two articles highlighting what they had to say. Comments edited for clarity and length. The second roundtable column will be published on Dec. 27th.

Paul Ayers, CEO, Noetic Cyber

In 2021, large supply chain attacks successfully exploited critical vulnerabilities.  Patching is hard and prioritization is key. By mapping cyber relationships to business context, security teams can focus on a smaller number of critical assets and vulnerabilities.

The cyber industry swings back and forth between prevention and response. A renewed focus on preventative approaches, like security posture management, cyber hygiene and cyber asset management shows organizations are trying to anticipate these problems. Forward thinking security teams working to unlock siloed telemetry and generate a wider cybersecurity view of the organization.

Dr. Darren Williams, CEO, BlackFog

We’re seeing ransomware gangs morph into savvy businesses, with one going so far as to create a fake company to recruit talent. In 2022, we’ll see this trend continue to pick up steam, with greater coordination between gangs, double extortion evolving to triple extortion, and short selling schemes skyrocketing.

Additionally, we will see a shift in threat actors coming from Southeast Asia and Africa. As cyber criminals look to find cheaper labor and technical expertise, we’ll see activity pick up in these regions in 2022 and beyond.

SHARED INTEL: Here’s why it has become so vital to prioritize the security-proofing of APIs

By Byron V. Acohido

Application Programming Interface. APIs. Where would we be without them?

Related: Supply-chain exposures on the rise

APIs are the snippets of code that interconnect the underlying components of all the digital services we can’t seem to live without. Indeed, APIs have opened new horizons of cloud services, mobile computing and IoT infrastructure, with much more to come.

Yet, in bringing us here, APIs have also spawned a vast new tier of security holes. API vulnerabilities are ubiquitous and multiplying; they’re turning up everywhere. Yet, API security risks haven’t gotten the attention they deserve. It has become clear that API security needs to be prioritized as companies strive to mitigate modern-day cyber exposures.

Consider that as agile software development proliferates, fresh APIs get flung into service to build and update cool new apps. Since APIs are explicitly used to connect data and services between applications, each fresh batch of APIs and API updates are like a beacon to malicious actors.

Organizations don’t even know how many APIs they have, much less how those APIs are exposing sensitive data. Thus security-proofing APIs has become a huge challenge. APIs are like snowflakes: each one is unique. Therefore, every API vulnerability is necessarily unique. Attackers have taken to poking and prodding APIs to find inadvertent and overlooked flaws; even better yet, from a hacker’s point of view, many properly designed APIs are discovered to be easy to  manipulate — to gain access and to steal sensitive data.

Meanwhile, the best security tooling money can buy was never designed to deal with this phenomenon.

MY TAKE: lastwatchdog.com receives recognition as a Top 10 cybersecurity webzine in 2021

By Byron V. Acohido

Last Watchdog’s mission is to foster useful understanding about emerging cybersecurity and privacy exposures.

Related article: The road to a Pulitzer

While I no longer concern myself with seeking professional recognition for my work, it’s, of course, always terrific to receive peer validation that we’re steering a good course.

That’s why I’m thrilled to point out that Last Watchdog has been recognized, once again, as a trusted source of information on cybersecurity and privacy topics. The recognition comes from Cyber Security Hub, a website sponsored by IQPC Digital. We’ve been named one of the Top 10 cybersecurity webzines in 2021.

Here is their very gracious description of what Last Watchdog is all about:

“Founder, contributor and executive editor of the forward-thinking Last Watchdog webzine, Byron V. Acohido is a Pulitzer-winning journalist and web producer. Visit Last Watchdog to view videos, surf cyber news, gain informative analysis and read guest essays from leading lights in the cybersecurity community. Expect content that is always accurate and fair, with recent posts exploring the monitoring of complex modern networks, telecom data breaches that expose vast numbers of mobile users, efforts to make software products safer and ransomware attacks on global supply chains.”

MY TAKE: For better or worse, machine-to-machine code connections now form much of the castle wall

By Byron V. Acohido

Managing permissions is proving to be a huge security blind spot for many companies.

Related: President Biden’s cybersecurity order sets the stage

What’s happening is that businesses are scaling up their adoption of multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud infrastructures. And in doing so, they’re embracing agile software deployments, which requires authentication and access privileges to be dispensed, on the fly, for each human-to-machine and machine-to-machine coding connection.

This frenetic activity brings us cool new digital services, alright. But the flip side is that companies have conceded to a dramatic expansion of their cloud attack surface – and left it wide open to threat actors.

“The explosion in the number of human and non-human identities in the public cloud has become a security risk that businesses simply can’t ignore,” observes Eric Kedrosky, CISO at Sonrai Security.

I’ve had a couple of deep discussions with Kedrosky about this. Based in New York City, Sonrai is a leading innovator in a nascent security discipline, referred to as Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM,)

MY TAKE: Can Project Wildland’s egalitarian platform make Google, Facebook obsolete?

By Byron V. Acohido

Most of the people I know professionally and personally don’t spend a lot of time contemplating the true price we pay for the amazing digital services we’ve all become addicted to.

Related: Blockchain’s role in the next industrial revolution

I’ll use myself as a prime example. My professional and social life revolve around free and inexpensive information feeds and digital tools supplied by Google, Microsoft, Amazon, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

I’m productive. Yet, I’m certainly not immune to the clutter and skewed perspectives these tech giants throw at me on an hourly basis — as they focus myopically on monetizing my digital footprints. I don’t know what I’d do without my tech tools, but I also have a foreboding sense that I spend way too much with them.

Technologically speaking, we are where we are because a handful of tech giants figured out how to collect, store and monetize user data in a singular fashion. Each operates a closed platform designed to voraciously gather, store and monetize user data.

SHARED INTEL: Reviving ‘observability’ as a means to deeply monitor complex modern networks

By Byron V. Acohido

An array of promising security trends is in motion.

New frameworks, like SASE, CWPP and CSPM, seek to weave security more robustly into the highly dynamic, intensely complex architecture of modern business networks.

Related: 5 Top SIEM myths

And a slew of new application security technologies designed specifically to infuse security deeply into specific software components – as new coding is being developed and even after it gets deployed and begins running in live use.

Now comes another security initiative worth noting. A broad push is underway to retool an old-school software monitoring technique, called observability, and bring it to bear on modern business networks. I had the chance to sit down with George Gerchow, chief security officer at Sumo Logic, to get into the weeds on this.

Based in Redwood City, Calif., Sumo Logic supplies advanced cloud monitoring services and is in the thick of this drive to adapt classic observability to the convoluted needs of company networks, today and going forward. For a drill down on this lively discussion, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are the main takeaways:

ROUNDTABLE: Why T-Mobile’s latest huge data breach could fuel attacks directed at mobile devices

By Byron V. Acohido

TMobile has now issued a formal apology and offered free identity theft recovery services to nearly 48 million customers for whom the telecom giant failed to protect their sensitive personal information.

At the start of this week, word got out that hackers claimed to have seized personal data for as many as 100 million T-Mobile  patrons.

Related: Kaseya hack worsens supply chain risk

This stolen booty reportedly included social security numbers, phone numbers, names, home addresses, unique IMEI numbers, and driver’s license information.

Once more, a heavily protected enterprise network has been pillaged by data thieves. Last Watchdog convened a roundtable of cybersecurity experts to discuss the ramifications, which seem all too familiar. Here’s what they had to say, edited for clarity and length:

Allie Mellen, analyst, Forrester

According to the attackers, this was a configuration issue on an access point T-Mobile used for testing. The configuration issue made this access point publicly available on the Internet. This was not a sophisticated attack. T-Mobile left a gate left wide open for attackers – and attackers just had to find the gate.”

T-Mobile is offering two free years of identity protection for affected customers, but ultimately this is pushing the responsibility for the safety of the data onto the user. Instead of addressing the security gaps that have plagued T-Mobile for years, they are offering their customers temporary identity protection when breaches happen, as if to say, ‘This is the best we can do.’

Chris Clements, VP of Solutions Architecture, Cerberus Sentinel

Author Q&A: In modern cyberwarfare ‘information security’ is one in the same with ‘national security’

By Byron V. Acohido

What exactly constitutes cyberwarfare?

The answer is not easy to pin down. On one hand, one could argue that cyber criminals are waging an increasingly debilitating economic war on consumers and businesses in the form of account hijacking, fraud, and extortion. Meanwhile, nation-states — the superpowers and second-tier nations alike — are hotly pursuing strategic advantage by stealing intellectual property, hacking into industrial controls, and dispersing political propaganda at an unheard-of scale.

Related: Experts react to Biden’s cybersecurity executive order

Now comes a book by John Arquilla, titled Bitskrieg: The New Challenge of Cyberwarfare, that lays out who’s doing what, and why, in terms of malicious use of digital resources connected over the Internet. Arquilla is a distinguished professor of defense analysis at the United States Naval Postgraduate School. He coined the term ‘cyberwar,’ along with David Ronfeldt, over 20 years ago and is a leading expert on the threats posed by cyber technologies to national security.

Bitskrieg gives substance to, and connects the dots between, a couple of assertions that have become axiomatic:

•Military might no longer has primacy. It used to be the biggest, loudest weapons prevailed and prosperous nations waged military campaigns to achieve physically measurable gains. Today, tactical cyber strikes can come from a variety of operatives – and they may have mixed motives, only one of which happens to be helping a nation-state achieve a geo-political objective.

•Information is weaponizable. This is truer today than ever before. Arquilla references nuanced milestones from World War II to make this point – and get you thinking. For instance, he points out how John Steinbeck used a work of fiction to help stir the resistance movement across Europe.

Steinbeck’s imaginative novel, The Moon is Down, evocatively portrayed how ordinary Norwegians took extraordinary measures to disrupt Nazi occupation. This reference got me thinking about how Donald Trump used social media to stir the Jan. 6 insurrection in … more

Black Hat insights: How to shift security-by-design to the right, instead of left, with SBOM, deep audits

By Byron V. Acohido

There is a well-established business practice referred to as bill of materials, or BOM, that is a big reason why we can trust that a can of soup isn’t toxic or that the jetliner we’re about to board won’t fail catastrophically

Related: Experts react to Biden cybersecurity executive order

A bill of materials is a complete list of the components used to manufacture a product. The software industry has something called SBOM: software bill of materials. However, SBOMs are rudimentary when compared to the BOMs associated with manufacturing just about everything else we expect to be safe and secure: food, buildings, medical equipment, medicines and transportation vehicles.

An effort to bring SBOMs up to par is gaining steam and getting a lot of attention at Black Hat USA 2021 this week in Las Vegas. President Biden’s cybersecurity executive order, issued in May, includes a detailed SBOM requirement for all software delivered to the federal government.

ReversingLabs, a Cambridge, MA-based software vendor that helps companies conduct deep analysis of new apps just before they go out the door, is in the thick of this development. I had the chance to visit with its co-founder and chief software architect Tomislav Pericin. For a full drill down on our discussion please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are the big takeaways:

Gordian Knot challenge

The software industry is fully cognizant of the core value of a bill of materials and has been striving for a number of years to adapt it to software development.

Q&A: All-powerful developers begin steering to the promise land of automated security

By Byron V. Acohido

Software developers have become the masters of the digital universe.

Related: GraphQL APIs pose new risks

Companies in the throes of digital transformation are in hot pursuit of agile software and this has elevated developers to the top of the food chain in computing.

There is an argument to be made that agility-minded developers, in fact, are in a terrific position to champion the rearchitecting of Enterprise security that’s sure to play out over the next few years — much more so than methodical, status-quo-minded security engineers.

With Black Hat USA 2021 reconvening in Las Vegas this week, I had a deep discussion about this with Himanshu Dwivedi, founder and chief executive officer, and Doug Dooley, chief operating officer, of Data Theorem, a Palo Alto, CA-based supplier of a SaaS security platform to help companies secure their APIs and modern applications.

For a full drill down on this evocative conversation discussion please view the accompanying video. Here are the highlights, edited for clarity and length:

LW:  Bad actors today are seeking out APIs that they can manipulate, and then they follow the data flow to a weakly protected asset. Can you frame how we got here?

Dwivedi: So 20 years ago, as a hacker, I’d go see where a company registered its IP. I’d do an ARIN Whois look-up. I’d profile their network and build an attack tree. Fast forward 20 years and everything is in the cloud. Everything is in Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform or Microsoft Azure and I can’t tell where anything is hosted based solely on IP registration.

So as a hacker today, I’m no longer looking for a cross-site scripting issue of some website since I can only attack one person at a time with that. I’m looking at the client, which could be an IoT device, or a mobile app or a single page web app (SPA) or it could be an … more

NEW TECH: How the emailing of verified company logos actually stands to fortify cybersecurity

By Byron V. Acohido

Google’s addition to Gmail of something called Verified Mark Certificates (VMCs) is a very big deal in the arcane world of online marketing.

Related: Dangers of weaponized email

This happened rather quietly as Google announced the official launch of VMCs in a blog post on July 12. Henceforth companies will be able to insert their trademarked logos in Gmail’s avatar slot; many marketers can’t wait to distribute email carrying certified logos to billions of inboxes. They view logoed email as an inexpensive way to boost brand awareness and customer engagement on a global scale.

However, there is a fascinating back story about how Google’s introduction of VMCs – to meet advertising and marketing imperatives — could ultimately foster a profound advance in email security. Over the long term, VMCs, and the underlying Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) standards, could very well give rise to a bulwark against email spoofing and phishing.

I had a chance to sit down with Dean Coclin, senior director of business development at DigiCert, to get into the weeds of this quirky, potentially profound, security development. DigiCert is a Lehi, Utah-based Certificate Authority (CA) and supplier of Public Key Infrastructure services.

Coclin and I worked through how a huge email security breakthrough could serendipitously arrive as a collateral benefit of VMCs. Here are the main takeaways from our discussion:

ROUNDTABLE: Kaseya hack exacerbates worrisome supply-chain, ransomware exposures

By Byron V. Acohido

It was bound to happen: a supply-chain compromise, ala SolarWinds, has been combined with a ransomware assault, akin to Colonial Pipeline, with devasting implications.

Related: The targeting of supply chains

Last Friday, July 2, in a matter of a few minutes,  a Russian hacking collective, known as REvil, distributed leading-edge ransomware to thousands of small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) across the planet — and succeeded in locking out critical systems in at least 1,500 of them. This was accomplished by exploiting a zero-day vulnerability in Kaseya VSA, a network management tool widely used by managed service providers (MSPs)  as their primary tool to remotely manage IT systems on behalf of SMBs.

REvil essentially took full control of the Kaseya VSA servers at the MSP level, then used them for the singular purpose of extorting victimized companies — mostly SMBs —  for payments of $45,000, payable in Minera. In a few instances, the attackers requested $70 million, payable in Bitcoin, for a universal decryptor.

Like SolarWinds and Colonial Pipeline, Miami-based software vendor, Kaseya, was a thriving entity humming right along, striving like everyone else to leverage digital agility — while also dodging cybersecurity pitfalls. Now Kaseya and many of its downstream customers find themselves in a  crisis recovery mode faced with shoring up their security posture and reconstituting trust. Neither will come easily or cheaply.

MY TAKE: Why monetizing data lakes will require applying ‘attribute-based’ access rules to encryption

By Byron V. Acohido

The amount of data in the world topped an astounding 59 zetabytes in 2020, much of it pooling in data lakes.

Related:  The importance of basic research

We’ve barely scratched the surface of applying artificial intelligence and advanced data analytics to the raw data collecting in these gargantuan cloud-storage structures erected by Amazon, Microsoft and Google. But it’s coming, in the form of driverless cars, climate-restoring infrastructure and next-gen healthcare technology.

In order to get there, one big technical hurdle must be surmounted. A new form of agile cryptography must get established in order to robustly preserve privacy and security as all this raw data gets put to commercial use.

I recently had the chance to discuss this with Kei Karasawa, vice president of strategy, and Fang Wu, consultant, at NTT Research, a Silicon Valley-based think tank which is in the thick of deriving the math formulas that will get us there.

They outlined why something called attribute-based encryption, or ABE, has emerged as the basis for a new form of agile cryptography that we will need in order to kick digital transformation into high gear.

For a drill down on our discussion, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are the key takeaways:

Cloud exposures

Data lakes continue to swell because each second of every day, every human, on average, is creating 1.7 megabytes of fresh data. These are the rivulets feeding the data lakes.

A zettabyte equals one trillion gigabytes. Big data just keeps getting bigger. And we humans crunch as much of it as we can by applying machine learning and artificial intelligence to derive cool new digital services. But we’re going to need the help of quantum computers to get to the really amazing stuff, and that hardware is coming.

As we press ahead into our digital future, however, we’ll also need to retool the public-key-infrastructure. PKI is the authentication and encryption framework … more

GUEST ESSAY: ‘Cybersecurity specialist’ tops list of work-from-home IT jobs that need filling

By Scott Orr

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic turned many office workers into work-from-home (WFH) experts, the trend toward working without having to commute was clear.

Related: Mock attacks help SMBs harden defenses

As internet bandwidth has become more available, with homes having access to gigabit download speeds, a whole new world of career paths has opened for those who want to control their work hours and conditions. Maybe you want better pay, to be home near your kids or you just like the idea of avoiding the daily drive to an office. Whatever the reason, you can likely find work online.

One of the hottest fields right now on the WFH radar is the information technology (IT) sector. But you’ll first need to learn the specifics to get to work. Fortunately, there are online classes you can take to get that knowledge – and best of all, you can take them for free.  Let’s look at what’s available and how you might jumpstart a new career.

Most IT jobs require you to have some sort of experience before you can start charging enough to make them viable as full-time employment. And some are more like a side hustle or temp job.

Having said that, here are some examples of IT careers you can learn online through free courses:

Security specialist

The more we do online, the more criminals want to take advantage of us. That makes fighting cybercrime a definite growth industry. A wide range of companies, in just about every field, are adding computer security specialists. In fact, these jobs are expected to increase a whopping 31% by 2029. This job involves planning and implementing security measures for large and small companies that rely on computer networks. You will need to develop the ability to anticipate techniques used in future cyberattacks so they can be prevented.

MY TAKE: Apple users show strong support for Tim Cook’s privacy war against Mark Zuckerberger

By Byron V. Acohido

Like a couple of WWE arch rivals, Apple’s Tim Cook and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg have squared off against each other in a donnybrook over consumer privacy.

Cook initially body slammed Zuckerberg — when Apple issued new privacy policies aimed at giving U.S. consumers a smidgen more control over their personal data while online.

Related: Raising kids who care about their privacy

Zuckerberg then dropped kicked Cook by taking out full-page newspaper ads painting Apple’s social responsibility flexing as bad for business; he then hammered Cook with a pop-up ad campaign designed to undermine Apple’s new privacy policies.

But wait. Here’s Cook rising from the mat to bash Z-Man at the Brussels’ International Privacy Day, labeling his tormentor as an obsessive exploiter who ought to be stopped from so greedily exploiting consumers’ digital footprints for his personal gain.

This colorful chapter in the history of technology and society isn’t just breezing by unnoticed. A recent survey of some 2,000 U.S. iPhone and iPad users, conducted by SellCell.com, a phone and tech trade-in website, shows American consumers are tuned in and beginning to recognize what’s at stake.

Fully 72 percent of those polled by SellCell said they were aware of new privacy changes in recent Apple software updates, not just in a cursory manner, but with a high level of understanding; some 42 percent said they understood the privacy improvements extremely well or at least very well, while 21 percent said they understood them moderately well.

Another telling finding: some 65 percent of respondents indicated they were extremely or very concerned about websites and mobile apps that proactively track their online behaviors, while only 14 percent said they were not at all concerned.

GUEST ESSAY: Rising global tensions put us a few lines of code away from a significant cyber event

By Emil Sayegh

Reflecting on the threats and targets that we are most concerned with given the Russia-Ukraine war, cybersecurity is now the front line of our country’s wellbeing. Cyber threats endanger businesses and individuals — they can affect supply chains, cause power grid failures, and much more.

Related: Reaction to Biden’s cybersecurity order

This growing environment of risks and increasingly aggressive adversaries demand our readiness, yet our national response continues to be largely reactive to threat conditions. History shows how a small event built on daisy-chained circumstances can kick off a catastrophe, or even a shooting war.

As the war in Ukraine endures and as countries around the world align, a rising threat emerges from Russian sources, adversarial states, unscrupulous opportunists, and a shadow world of 5th column provocateurs. An 800% increase in activities was observed in the first 48 hours of the invasion alone, and scanning and probes on domestic network infrastructures are reaching historic highs.

Cyber vs kinetic warfare

This is a heightened condition of hostilities that will continue and extend beyond physical engagements. We must confront the fact that globally sourced cyberattacks are the essence of modern warfare. It is simpler, cheaper, and more impactful to run a cyberattack campaign than a traditional kinetic act of war.

GUEST ESSAY: Best practices checklists each individual computer user still needs to follow

By Peter Stelzhammer

In the days of non-stop attacks on personal and work devices, the common day consumer wouldn’t know where to begin in order to protect their devices.

Related: Apple’s privacy stance questioned

The rise of attacks is unavoidable and with the everyday announcement of a new strain of malware, ransomware and now data wipers, consumers find themselves asking: where do I start? How do I do this?

Whether you are focused on your home computer, work laptop or business operating system as a whole, it’s important to learn the key steps you can take to ensure your defenses are active and up to date.

Update checklist

•Use and keep your security software (i.e. anti-virus program) up to date and turned on. Many users switch off their real-time protection to gain some speed, but safety should come before. We strongly recommend making sure that you use the latest version of the anti-virus software, and for that matter of any software that you are using on your computer. Newest versions come with improved and additional features to enhance software capability.

•Keep your firewall turned on. Software based firewalls are widely recommended for single computers, while hardware firewalls are typically provided with routers for networks. Some operating systems provide native software firewalls (such as Windows OS). For Microsoft Windows home users we recommend using the firewall in its default settings.