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GUEST ESSAY: Why the hack of South Korea’s weapons, munitions systems was so predictable

By Pravin Kothari

The disclosure that malicious intruders hacked the computer systems of the South Korean government agency that oversees weapons and munitions acquisitions for the country’s military forces is not much of a surprise.

Related podcast. Evidence shows we’re in ‘Golden Age’ of cyber spying

The breach of some 30 computers of South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), which is part of the Ministry of National Defense, reportedly occurred last October. News reports this week indicate internal documents, including details of arms procurement for the country’s next-generation fighter aircraft, were pilfered from at least 10 of the hacked computers.

The hackers reportedly manipulated server software and succeeded in siphoning records from connected workstations. Though South Korean officials stopped short of blaming North …more

Q&A: Why emerging IoT platforms require the same leading-edge security as industrial controls

By Byron V. Acohido

The heyday of traditional corporate IT networks has come and gone.

In 2019, and moving ahead, look for legacy IT business networks to increasingly intersect with a new class of networks dedicated to controlling the operations of a IoT-enabled services of all types, including smart buildings, IoT-enabled healthcare services and driverless cars.

Related podcast: Why the golden age of cyber espionage is upon us

This coming wave of IoT networks, architected to carry out narrowly-focused tasks, will share much in common with the legacy operational technology, or OT, systems long deployed to run physical plants — such as Industrial Control Systems (ICS,)  Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA ,) Data Control System (DCS,) and Programmable Logic Controller (PLC.)

The global cybersecurity community is keenly aware of these developments and earnest discussions are underway about how to deal with the attendant security exposures. This includes a rising debate about the efficacy of the Common Vulnerability Scoring System, or CVSS.  Initially introduced in 2005, CVSS is a framework for rating the severity of security vulnerabilities in software.

Last Watchdog recently sat down with a couple of senior executives at Radiflow, a Tel Aviv-based supplier of cybersecurity solutions for ICS and SCADA networks, to get their perspective about how NIST and ICS-CERT, the two main organizations for disclosing and rating vulnerabilities, are sometimes not aligned. Radiflow currently is conducting this survey to collect feedback from IT and OT professionals about the ramifications of this conflict.

Radiflow expects to release its survey findings in late January. This is not just another arcane tussle among nerdy IT professionals. New vulnerabilities and exposures are part and parcel of accelerating the deployment of vast distributed systems, fed by billions of IoT sensors. And they must be fully addressed if digital commerce is to reach its full potential. Here are excerpts of my discussion about this with Radiflow’s CEO Ilan Barda and CTO Yehonatan Kfir, edited for clarity and length:

LW: As we move forward with digital transformation and the Internet of Things, is it becoming more urgent to think about how we protect OT systems?

Barda: Yes. The risks are growing for two reasons. One is the fact that there are more and more of these kinds of OT networks, …more

GUEST ESSAY: The true cost of complacency, when it comes to protecting data, content

By John Safa

Facebook was lucky when the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)—the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest—hit the U.S. social media company with a £500,000 fine.

Related: Zuckerberg’s mea culpa rings hollow

This penalty was in connection with Facebook harvesting user data, over the course of seven years — between 2007 and 2014. This user data became part of the now infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Facebook was very lucky, indeed, that its misdeeds happened before May 25, 2018. On that date, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force.

If its violation had happened after that, the fine could have been up to £17 million or 4 percent of global turnover. Yet, even with the prospect of stupendously steep fines hanging over the heads, insecure enterprises still don’t grasp the true cost of data privacy complacency.

According to research by one law firm, pre-GDPR regulatory fines had almost doubled, on average, between 2017 and 2018, up from £73,191 to £146,412. Those figures pale when stacked against the potential bottom line impact that now exists. …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