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MY TAKE: The back story on the convergence, continuing evolution of endpoint security

By Byron V. Acohido

No one in cybersecurity refers to “antivirus” protection any more. The technology that corrals malicious software circulating through desktop PCs, laptops and mobile devices has evolved into a multi-layered security technology referred to as ‘endpoint security.’

This designation change unfolded a few years back. It was a reflection of attackers moving to take full advantage of the fresh attack vectors cropping up as companies retooled their legacy networks – comprised of ‘on-premises’ servers and clients – to operate in the expanding world of cloud services, mobile devices and the Internet of Things.

Having covered the Symantec, McAfee, Trend Micro, Sophos, Kaspersky, et. al. since the nascent days of the antivirus market, I find in fascinating that the top dozen or so antivirus players have all managed to remain in the game. What’s more, they’ve all successfully grown into multi-layered full-service endpoint security suppliers.

I visited with Joe Sykora, vice president of worldwide channel development for Bitdefender, at Black Hat USA 2018, and asked him to put the remarkable staying power of endpoint security in context. In 1990, Florin and Mariuca Talpes parlayed a $300 stake borrowed from a relative into a company which would become Bitdefender in 2001. Founded in Bucharest, the company of 1,600 employees is in the thick of reshaping endpoint security.

For a drill down on my discussion with Sykora, please listen to the accompanying podcast. Here are a few big takeaways: …more

Q&A: Here’s how Google’s labeling HTTP websites “Not Secure” will strengthen the Internet

By Byron V. Acohido

In a move to blanket the Internet with encrypted website traffic, Google is moving forward with its insistence that straggling website publishers adopt HTTPS Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

Related: How PKI can secure IoT

Google’s Chrome web browser commands a 60% market share. So the search giant has been leading the push to get 100% of websites to jettison HTTP and replace it with HTTPS. The former – Hypertext Transfer Protocol – standardized the way web browsers fetch a web page from its host server and thus made the world wide web as we know it today possible.

But HTTP connections are carried out in plain text. This makes it trivial for eavesdroppers to snatch plain-text communications, such as when users fill out forms on web pages or use shopping carts or conduct online banking. This makes any personal information and details of financial transactions typed on HTTP web pages easy pickings.

So along came SSL and its successor, Transport Layer Security (TLS), the underpinnings of secure online transactions. SSL and TLS come into play in the form of digital certificates issued by Certificate Authorities (CAs) —  vendors that diligently verify the authenticity of websites, and then also help the website owners encrypt the information consumers type into web page forms.

The PKI (public key infrastructure) encryption protocol makes all this happen instantaneously, triggering a visual confirmation – the tiny green padlock preceding the HTTPS address in Chrome’s address bar.

With the release its Chrome 68 browser on July 24, any web page not running HTTPS with a valid TLS certificate will display a “Not Secure” warning in Chrome’s address bar. …more

Q&A: How your typing and screen swiping nuances can verify your identity

The recent data breaches at Timehop and Macy’s are the latest harbingers of what’s in store for companies that fail to vigorously guard access to all of their mission-critical systems.

Related podcast: Why identities are the new firewall

A common thread to just about every deep network breach these days is the failure of the victimized entity to effectively deploy multi-factor authentication (MFA) to at least make it harder for threat actors to access their sensitive systems.

Compromised accounts came into play in data breaches of Uber, Tesla, Gemalto, Aviva, Equifax and many others. Threat actors are authenticating themselves at numerous junctures in order to gain deep access and deliver malicious payloads without being detected.

And with “digital transformation” accelerating, there are so many more weakly-secured login accounts just waiting to be maliciously manipulated.

Generally speaking, companies have yet to fully address authentication weaknesses, with respect to their legacy on-premises systems. And yet they doubling down on public cloud services, as well as increasing their dependence on an entire new solar system of  software “microservices” and  “containers” that come and go.

The vast majority of these new, interconnected components and layers that make up digital transformation require login accounts, which translates into a fresh galaxy of attack vectors.

The good news is that this is a solvable problem. The Identity Access Management (IAM) space is one of the more mature subsectors of the cybersecurity industry. And IAM vendors are innovating like crazy. They are bringing data-analytics, machine-learning and behavioral biometrics to bear, to help companies more effectively manage account authentication, without slowing down digital transformation.

For instance, IAM supplier Optimal IdM recently  announced that it is partnering with TypingDNA to add “typing behavior analysis” as an added feature to its core MFA services. I asked Chris Curcio, vice-president of channel sales at Optimal IdM to set the wider context. Here are excerpts of the interview, edited for clarity and length. …more

Q&A: Crypto jackers redirect illicit mining ops to bigger targets — company servers

By Byron V. Acohido

Illicit crypto mining is advancing apace.

It was easy to see this coming. It began when threat actors began stealthily embedding crypto mining functionality into the web browsers of unwitting individuals. Cryptojacking was born. And now, the next-level shift is underway.

Related article: Illicit crypto mining hits cloud services

Cybercriminals have shifted their focus to burrowing onto company servers and then redirecting those corporate computing resources to crypto mining chores. They are doing this using both tried-and-true, as well as leading-edge, hacking techniques.

I recently unwrapped these developments in a discussion with Liviu Arsene, senior security analyst at Bitdefender, which has been closely monitoring this trend. One key bit of intelligence Bitdefender shares in a whitepaper is a breakdown of how EternalBlue has come into play, once again.

You may recall EternalBlue was one of the cyber weapons stolen from the NSA and used in the milestone WannaCry ransomware attack in the spring of 2017. WannaCry used EternalBlue to deploy a self-spreading worm to help rapidly spread a globe-spanning ransomware campaign. It also used PowerShell and Windows Management Instrumentation script to infect the victim, followed by Mimikatz to pull logins and passwords from a computer’s memory in order to move laterally across the infrastructure.

And now in 2018 EternalBlue is propagating a very similar worm, dubbed WannaMine, that has been seeking company servers to infect – and redirect to crypto mining chores – in 150 countries.

This is part of a rising number of advanced attacks designed to penetrate data centers of private and public cloud infrastructures which have the computing resources coveted by crypto miners.

The criminals aren’t asking for any ransom. They’re just taking – or more precisely, consuming — what they want: …more

NEW TECH: DataLocker introduces encrypted flash drive — with key pad

One sliver of the $90 billion, or so, companies are expected to spend this year on cybersecurity products and services is an estimated $85 million they will shell out for encrypted flash drives.

One of more fascinating innovators in this space is 11-year-old DataLocker, based in Overland Park, Kansas.

Related: How DataLocker got its starth

Co-founder Jay took a business trip to South Korea in the fall of 2007. A chance meeting – in an elevator, no less – led to Kim veering over to the cybersecurity industry.

DataLocker honed its patented approach to manufacturing encrypted portable drives and landed some key military and government clients early on; the company has continued branching out ever since. DataLocker has grown to 40 employees and this summer moved it’s headquarters to a larger office, with room to grow.

I recently had the chance to visit with Shauna Park, channel manager at DataLocker. We discussed why encrypted flash drives have become established as a must-have portable business tool in the digital age. For a full drill down please listen to the accompanying podcast. Here are excerpts edited for clarity and length.

LW: With all the wonders of the digital age, it’s fascinating how important it can be to have an encrypted drive in the palm of your hand when you really need one.

Park: Exactly. The encryption in our products is handled by a chip inside the actual hardware itself. So it’s easy to use for anybody; you don’t have to know how to do encryption. The hardware itself takes care of it for you. All the user needs is a strong password to access to the data.

LW: Where do encrypted drives typically come into play in a business setting? …more

GUEST ESSAY: A case for moving beyond SIEMS, UEBAs to ‘real-time threat hunting’

By Rick Costanzo

Understanding today’s cybersecurity landscape is complex. The amount of threats aimed at enterprises is staggering. More than 230,000 new malware samples are launched every day. The average small and medium-size business experiences a cyber attack 44 times every day. And the cost of damage directly related to cybercrime is adding up, expected to reach $6 trillion by 2021, according to Cybersecurity Ventures.

Related article: SIEMs strive for a comeback


The painful impact of cyber attacks on businesses is worsening despite advances in technology aimed at protecting enterprises from malicious network traffic, insider threats, malware, denial of service attacks and phishing campaigns.

This has left many CISOs questioning if today’s incumbent cybersecurity solutions are enough.

Categorizing solutions

Over the past decade, cyber security solutions have evolved into specific categories of solutions.  Grouping similar items into categories serve a particular purpose. They help compartmentalize.  They help rank. They help compare.

For example, sports cars represent an entirely different category of vehicles than luxury vehicles. It is easier to compare features and capabilities of one sports car with another sports car than it is to compare a sports car with a luxury vehicle.

Categories of cybersecurity solutions, like many categories in IT, have been defined by third parties. Many vendors devote significant resources to be highly positioned in coveted reports issued by these third parties. However, the reality is many of these third parties are interested observers. They are not on the front lines fighting the cybersecurity battle. …more

MY TAKE: Here’s why identities are the true firewalls, especially as digital transformation unfolds

By Byron V. Acohido

Was it really that long ago that company networks were comprised of a straightforward cluster of servers, data bases, applications and user devices corralled largely on premises?

Related article: Taking a ‘zero-trust’ approach to authentication

In today’s digitally transformed environment, companies must monitor and defend systems housed on-premises and in overlapping public and private clouds. And they must account for employees, partners and customers using their smartphones to log in from Timbuktu.

This presents a convoluted matrix to access the company network —  and an acute exposure going largely unaddressed in many organizations. Massive data breaches continue to occur because companies caught up in the swirl of digital transformation continue to unwittingly authenticate threat actors — and allow them to take a dive deep into mission-critical systems.

The good news is that the identity management space is chock full of strong vendors innovating at a furious pace. I sat down with Mark Foust, Chief Product Evangelist at Optimal IdM, a leading supplier of Identity Access Management (IAM) systems, to get a better sense of what’s unfolding.

We discussed the leading-edge solutions being designed to help companies make much more precise judgements about each and every user trying to access sensitive assets. For a full drill down, please listen to the accompanying podcast. Here are the key takeaways:

Fresh vectors

Here’s the rub: accelerated use of cloud services, DevOps, software containers and microservices may be giving companies amazing agility and scalability; but they’ve also created a vast new attack surface, rife with fresh attack vectors. …more