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GUEST ESSAY: Why corporate culture plays such a pivotal role in deterring data breaches

By Max Emelianov

Picture two castles. The first is impeccably built – state of the art, with impenetrable walls, a deep moat, and so many defenses that attacking it is akin to suicide.

The second one isn’t quite as well-made. The walls are reasonably strong, but there are clear structural weaknesses. And while it does have a moat, that moat is easily forded.

Related podcast: The case for ‘zero-trust’ security

Obviously, on paper the castle with better defenses is the one that survives a siege. But what really makes the difference here is the people manning it. See, the soldiers in the second castle are unquestionably loyal to their king. While in the first castle, there is a turncoat in the ranks.

As you’ve probably surmised, the castles are meant to represent a business’s security infrastructure.

The soldiers are a business’s employees. Unless the two are in alignment with one another – unless your employees care about keeping corporate data safe and understand what’s required to do so – your business is not secure.

People power

It doesn’t matter how strong your walls are. It doesn’t matter how much money you invest into point solutions and hardened architecture. It doesn’t matter how many people you hire to man your IT department. (more…)

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New DigiCert poll shows companies taking monetary hits due to IoT-related security missteps

By Byron V. Acohido

Even as enterprises across the globe hustle to get their Internet of Things business models up and running, there is a sense of  foreboding about a rising wave of IoT-related security exposures. And, in fact, IoT-related security incidents have already begun taking a toll at ill-prepared companies.

Related: How to hire an IoT botnet — for $20

That’s the upshot of an extensive survey commissioned by global TLS, PKI and IoT security solutions leader DigiCert. The 2018 State of IoT Security study took a poll of 700 organizations in the US, UK, Germany, France and Japan and found IoT is well on its way to be to be woven into all facets of daily business operations. Meanwhile, IoT-related security incidents have already started to wreak havoc, according to study findings released today.

Among companies surveyed that are struggling the most with IoT security, 25 percent reported IoT security-related losses of at least $34 million in the last two years. Losses include lost productivity, compliance penalties, lost reputation and stock price declines.

Carried out by ReRez Research, DigiCert’s poll queried senior officials at organizations in the fields of healthcare, industrial manufacturing, consumer products and transportation ranging in size from 999 to 10,000 employees. Some 83% of respondents indicated IoT is extremely important to their organization, while some 92% indicated IoT will be vital within two years.

Respondents cited operational efficiency, customer experience, revenue and business agility as their top IoT objectives; currently two-thirds are engaged with IoT, although only a third have completed implementing their IoT strategy.

“Enterprises today fully grasp the reality that the Internet of Things is upon us and will continue to revolutionize the way we live, work and recreate,” said Mike Nelson, vice president of IoT Security at DigiCert. “The companies with a good handle on things have discovered how to leverage robust authentication and encryption regimes to help maintain the integrity of their IoT systems.”

Tiered performances

What I found to be particularly instructive about this survey is that it sheds light on how IoT-related security incidents are playing out in the real world. A series of detailed questions were designed to parse differences between companies handling IoT well versus those struggling with IoT implementation.

Survey results were then divided into tiers; the top tier companies reported the least problems with IoT security issues, while the bottom tier organizations were much more likely to report difficulties mastering specific aspects of IoT security. …more

NetSecOPEN names founding members, appoints inaugural board of directors

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Dec. 11, 2018 – NetSecOPEN, the first industry organization focused on the creation of open, transparent network security performance testing standards, today announced that 11 prominent security vendors, test solutions and services vendors, and testing laboratories have joined the organization as founding members.

Related podcast: The importance of sharing alliances

The organization also announced the appointment of its first board of directors, who will guide NetSecOPEN toward its goal: making open network security testing standards a reality.

These developments signal decisive momentum for the organization, which formed in 2017 to close the gap between proprietary performance metrics and the observed real-world performance of security solutions.  Certification of security product performance today is typically conducted by independent testing laboratories using proprietary testing methodologies.

True “apples-to-apples” evaluations of security products pose a challenge for enterprise buyers, because the methodologies and test criteria differ from lab to lab. NetSecOPEN believes that testing methodology requires greater transparency, consensus, and standardization, and that real-world factors need to be integrated into the testing methodology.

The NetSecOPEN standard is designed to provide metrics that can be used to compare solutions fairly and to understand the impact on network performance of different solutions under the same conditions. The goal is to examine the performance ramifications of a solution with all of that solution’s security features enabled, conveying the true costs of the solution.

“There is great urgency for open, transparent standards for the testing of network security equipment,” said Brian Monkman, executive director of NetSecOPEN. “Today, security professionals face significant challenges when evaluating, deploying, and optimizing new solutions. Similar product specifications may deliver different results, and products often behave differently with real-world traffic than they do in lab environments. …more

GUEST ESSAY: ‘Tis the season — to take proactive measures to improve data governance

By Todd Feinman

The holiday season is upon us and the bright lights and greenery aren’t the only indicators that we’ve reached December.

Sadly, data breaches often occur at this time of year. Recently we’ve seen major news stories about breaches at Starwood Hotels and Quora.

Related podcast: The need to lock down unstructured data

Last year, at this time, it was announced that there was a significant privacy leak at eBay affecting many customers. And, it was just before the holidays in 2013 that Target announced the infamous breach impacting more than a hundred million people.

The list goes on, and with each incident everyone is always asking the same question — Could this have been prevented and how? Every large brand is acutely aware that securing its data is of foremost importance in today’s world, and that by protecting data you are protecting the brand’s equity.  That should be obvious after what we see in the news, however, it’s not always so straightforward.

According to the Poneman analyst report, The Importance of DLP in Cybersecutiy Defense, many organizations still believe, “it’s probably not going to happen to me.” The first step toward fortifying one of the company’s most valuable assets — customer or employee data — is to get to know the data better. …more

GUEST ESSAY: 5 security steps all companies should adopt from the Intelligence Community

By Angela Hill and Edwin Hill

The United States Intelligence Community, or IC, is a federation of 16 separate U.S. intelligence agencies, plus a 17th administrative office.

The IC gathers, stores and processes large amounts of data, from a variety of sources,  in order to provide actionable information for key stakeholders. And, in doing so, the IC has developed an effective set of data handling and cybersecurity best practices.

Related video: Using the NIST framework as a starting point

Businesses at large would do well to model their data collection and security processes after what the IC refers to as the “intelligence cycle.” This cycle takes a holistic approach to detecting and deterring external threats and enforcing best-of-class data governance procedures.

The IC has been using this approach to generate reliable and accurate intelligence that is the basis for making vital national security decisions, in particular, those having to do with protecting critical U.S. infrastructure from cyber attacks.

In the same vein, businesses at large can use the intelligence cycle as a model to detect and deter any attacks coming from foreign intelligence services. Such threats impact more businesses than you may think.

Per a 2017 CNN source, nearly 100,000 agents from as many as 80 nations operate within the United States with the intention of targeting businesses to gain …more

GUEST ESSAY: Atrium Health data breach highlights lingering third-party exposures

By Jonathan Simkins

The healthcare industry has poured vast resources into cybersecurity since 2015, when a surge of major breaches began.  While the nature of these breaches has evolved over the last four years, the growth in total healthcare incidents has unfortunately continued unabated.

Related: How to get off of HIPAA’s hit list

The recent disclosure from Atrium Health that more than 2.65 million patients had significant amounts of PII exposed by the healthcare provider’s third-party billing vendor, AccuDoc Solutions, shows the healthcare sector remains acutely vulnerable to attacks exploiting third-party contractors even as their first-party security posture hardens.

Atrium Health operates over 40 hospitals and almost 1,000 other healthcare facilities, primarily in North Carolina and South Carolina.  AccuDoc kept payment records from several Atrium Health locations.  A hacker accessed AccuDoc’s databases from September 22-29.

The compromised databases included names, addresses, dates of birth, insurance policy details, medical record numbers, account balances and dates of service — of both guarantors and patients.  Additionally, the Social Security numbers of about 700,000 patients were also exposed.

Weak links

The Atrium breach demonstrates how any third party in a company’s digital ecosystem can be the weak link that gives attackers a clear path to exposed data.  The fact that this incident is being labeled “the Atrium breach” in the media also shows where the reputational risk lies. …more

MY TAKE: Massive Marriott breach continues seemingly endless run of successful hacks

By Byron V. Acohido

I have a Yahoo email account, I’ve shopped at Home Depot and Target, my father was in the military and had a security clearance, which included a dossier on his family, archived at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, I’ve had insurance coverage from Premera Blue Cross and I’ve stayed at the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco.

Related: Uber hack shows DevOps risk

The common demonitor: All of those organizations have now disclosed massive data breaches over a span of the past five years.

On Friday, Starwood Properties, which merged with Marriott in 2016, disclosed as many as 500 million people who made reservations at their hotels may have had their personal information accessed in a breach that lasted as long as four years.

The Starwood hack appears to come in second in scale only to the 2013 Yahoo breach, which affected as many as 3 billion accounts, while a subsequent Yahoo breach also hit 500 million accounts.

The breach is rightly attracting attention of regulators in Europe and the United States. Marriott shares fell nearly 6 percent to $114.67 in Friday afternoon trading. Here’s a roundup of reaction from cybersecurity thought leaders: …more

MY TAKE: Why security innovations paving the way for driverless cars will make IoT much safer

By Byron V. Acohido

Intelligent computing systems have been insinuating themselves into our homes and public gathering places for a while now.

But smart homes, smart workplaces and smart shopping malls are just the warm-up act. Get ready for smart ground transportation.

Related: Michigan’s Cyber Range hubs help narrow talent gap

Driverless autos, trucks and military transport vehicles are on a fast track for wide deployment in the next five years. The good news is that there is some very deep, behind-the-scenes research and development work being done to make driverless vehicles safe and secure enough for public acceptance.

I’m encouraged that this work should produce a halo effect on other smart systems, ultimately making less-critical Internet of Things systems much more secure, as well.

These sentiments settled in upon returning from my recent visit to Detroit, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids. I was part of a group of journalists escorted on a tour of cybersecurity programs and facilities hosted by the Michigan Economic Development Corp., aka the MEDC.

One of our stops was at a freshly-erected skunk works for auto software research set up in a low-slung warehouse – previously a country western bar – in rural Sparta, on the outskirts of Grand Rapids. The warehouse today is home to Grimm, an Arlington, VA – based cyber research firm that specializes in embedded systems security, and whose claim to fame is doing proprietary projects for U.S. military and intelligence agencies.

Deep testing

Grimm received a $216,000 MEDC grant to set up shop in Sparta and direct its expertise towards discovering security flaws in autonomous vehicle systems under development by Detroit’s big car makers. …more