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NEW TECH: Trend Micro inserts ‘X’ factor into ‘EDR’ – endpoint detection and response

By Byron V. Acohido

With all the talk of escalating cyber warfare, the spread of counterfeit smartphones and new forms of self-replicating malware, I came away from Black Hat USA 2019 (my 15th) marveling, once more, at the panache of modern cyber criminals.

Related: Lessons learned from Capital One breach

Yet, I also had the chance to speak one-on-one with dozens of security vendors who are innovating like crazy to improve security. And I came away, once again, much encouraged. I met with Kevin Simzer, for instance, Trend Micro’s chief operating officer.

Trend Micro is among the top five endpoint security vendors who’ve been in the battle since the earliest iterations of antivirus software, more than three decades ago. The company has evolved far beyond those days. They came to Las Vegas prepared to push detection and response beyond the endpoint.

While endpoint detection and response (EDR) is one of the most significant advancements made by endpoint security vendors in the past six years, enterprises need more. Companies have silos of security data that need the same type of visibility that EDR brings to the end point.

Enter Trend Micro’s new answer to the change of much needed visibility and threat alert overload. I came away from my interview with Simzer with a strong sense that they have a very  comprehensive managed detection and response offering, and that even more innovation from Trend and others is assured, going forward.

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

Prevention vs. detection

In 2013, Gartner analyst Anton Chuvakin coined “EDR” to classify an emerging set of tools designed to go beyond signature-based antivirus software which was designed primarily to identify specific malicious binary files. Instead, EDR tools were tuned to recognize anomalous activities on endpoints, then trigger alerts that warranted further investigations. …more

NEW TECH: A couple of tools that deserve wide use — to preserve the integrity of U.S. elections

By Byron V. Acohido

As the presidential debate season ramps up, the specter of nation-state sponsored hackers wreaking havoc, once more, with U.S. elections, looms all too large.

It’s easy to get discouraged by developments such as  Sen. McConnell recently blocking a bi-partisan bill to fund better election security, as well as the disclosure that his wife, Transportation Security Elaine Chao, has accepted money from voting machine lobbyists.

Related: Why not train employees as phishing cops?

That’s why I was so encouraged to learn about two new tools that empower individual candidates – and local election officials – to take proactive steps to make election tampering much more difficult to successfully pull off. In the current geo-political environment, every forthright step can make a huge difference.

First, there’s a tool called the Rapid Cyber Risk Scorecard. NormShield, the Vienna, VA-based, cybersecurity firm that supplies this service, recently ran scores for all of the 26 declared presidential candidates —  and found the average cyber risk score to be B+.

What this tells me is that the presidential candidates, at least, actually appear to be heeding lessons learned from the hacking John Podesta’s email account – and all of the havoc Russia was able to foment in our 2016 elections. NormShield found that all of the 2020 presidential hopefuls, thus far,  are making sure their campaigns are current on software patching, as well as Domain Name System (DNS) security; and several are doing much more.

My takeaway: other candidates can use this scorecard, which runs assessments of 10 cyber risk categories, as a starting point to harden their campaigns.

Another such service that can do a ton of good was announced last week by Global Cyber Alliance (GCA), in partnership with Craig Newmark Philanthropies and the Center for Internet Security. It’s a free cybersecurity toolkit for elections that gives local election authorities actionable guidance on how to mitigate the most common risks to trustworthy elections.

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MY TAKE: Why locking down ‘firmware’ has now become the next big cybersecurity challenge

By Byron V. Acohido

Locking down firmware. This is fast becoming a profound new security challenge for all companies – one that can’t be pushed to a side burner.

Related: The rise of ‘memory attacks’

I’m making this assertion as federal authorities have just commenced steps to remove and replace switching gear supplied, on the cheap, to smaller U.S. telecoms by Chinese tech giant  Huawei. These are the carriers that provide Internet access to rural areas all across America.

Starks

Federal Communications Commission member Geoffrey Starks recently alluded to the possibility that China may have secretly coded the firmware in Huawei’s equipment to support cyber espionage and cyber infrastructure attacks.

This isn’t an outlier exposure, by any means. Firmware is the coding that’s embedded below the software layer on all computing devices, ranging from printers to hard drives and motherboards to routers and switches. Firmware carries out the low-level input/output tasks, without which the hardware would be inoperable.

However, the security of firmware has been largely overlooked over the past two decades. It has only been in the past four years or so that white hat researchers and black hat hackers have gravitated over to this unguarded terrain – and begun making hay.

I recently had the chance to discuss this with John Loucaides, vice-president of engineering at Eclypsium, a Beaverton, OR-based security startup that is introducing technology to scan for firmware vulnerabilities. Here are the big takeaways:

Bypassing protection

Firmware exposures are in the early phases of an all too familiar cycle. Remember when, over the course of the 2000s and 2010s, the cybersecurity industry innovated like crazy to address software flaws in operating systems and business applications? Vulnerability research took on a life of its own.

As threat actors wreaked havoc, companies strove to ingrain security into code writing, and make it incrementally harder to exploit flaws that inevitably surfaced in a vast threat landscape. Then, much the same cycle unfolded as virtual computing came along and became popular; and then the cycle repeated itself, yet again, as web browsers took center stage in digital commerce. …more

NEW TECH: DataLocker extends products, services to encrypt data on portable storage devices

By Byron V. Acohido

No matter how reliant we ultimately become on cloud storage and streaming media, it’s hard to image consumers ever fully abandoning removable storage devices.

There’s just something about putting your own two hands on a physical device, whether it’s magnetic tape, or a floppy disk, or a CD. Today, it’s more likely to be an external drive, a thumb drive or a flash memory card.

Related: Marriott reports huge data breach

Ever thought about encrypting the data held on a portable storage device? Jay Kim, co-founder and CEO DataLocker, did.

Launched as a one-man operation in 2007, DataLocker has grown into a leading manufacturer of encrypted external drives, thumb drives, flash drives and self-encrypting, recordable CDs and DVDs.

DataLocker today has 40 employees and last year moved into a larger facility in Overland Park, Kansas, with room to grow. I had the chance at RSA 2019 to visit with Shauna Park, channel manager at DataLocker, to discuss what’s new in  the encrypted portable drive space. For a full drill down please listen to the accompanying podcast. Key takeaways:

Protected backup

Even with increased adoption of cloud computing, external storage devices, like USB thumb drives and external hard drives, still have a major role in organizations of all sizes. These drives still serve a purpose, such as transporting data from one computer to another, accessing presentations outside of the office, or as an additional backup solution. …more

NEW TECH: SlashNext dynamically inspects web page contents to detect latest phishing attacks

By Byron V. Acohido

Humans are fallible. Cyber criminals get this.

Human fallibility is the reason social engineering has proven to be so effective – and why phishing persists. Consider these metrics from messaging security firm Proofpoint:

•Email-based corporate credential phishing attacks quadrupled in Q3 2018 vs. the previous quarter.

•Web-based social engineering attacks jumped 233% vs. the previous quarter.

•99% of the most highly targeted email addresses in the quarter didn’t rank as such in the previous report, suggesting that attackers are constantly shifting targets.

What’s more, a study by antivirus vendor Webroot informs that more than 46,000 new phishing sites go live each day, with most disappearing in a few hours. And a recent survey conducted by SlashNext, a Pleasanton, CA-based supplier of advanced antiphishing systems, revealed that 95% of IT professionals underestimate phishing attack risks. This holds true even though nearly half the respondents reported their organizations experience 50 or more phishing attacks per month, with 14% experiencing 500 phishing attacks per month.

It’s not as if companies and cybersecurity vendors have been sitting on their hands. Vast resources have been directed at filtering emails – the traditional delivery vehicle for phishing campaigns – and at identifying and blacklisting webpages that serve as landing pages and payload delivery venues.

So quite naturally, cyber criminals have shifted their attack strategies. They are pursuing fresh vectors and honing innovative payload delivery tactics. The bad guys are taking full advantage of the fact that many companies continue to rely on legacy defenses geared to stop tactics elite phishing rings are no longer using.

I recently had an eye-opening discussion about this with Jan Liband, SlashNext’s chief marketing officer. Here are the key takeaways from that interview:

Unguarded vectors

By now, most mid-sized and large enterprises have a secure email gateway that’s highly effective at filtering out 80%-95% of phishing emails. So phishers have moved on to comparatively unguarded vectors: social media channels, SMS (text), ads, pop-ups, chat apps, IM, malvertising and rogue browser extensions, Liband told me.

Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are wide open for intelligence gathering. With knowledge of our friends, families and preferences, phishers are able to craft postings and messages targeting groups of victims, or specific individuals. The end game is to funnel victims to landing pages. …more

NEW TECH: How Semperis came to close a huge gap in Active Directory disaster preparedness

By Byron V. Acohido

In today’s complex IT environments, a million things can go wrong, though only a few systems touch everything.

Related: Why Active Directory is so heavily targeted

For companies running Microsoft Windows, one such touch-all system is Active Directory, or AD, the software that organizes and provides access to information across the breadth of Windows systems. Over 80 percent of recent headline-grabbing attacks have involved breaking into  AD — the “keys to the kingdom” if you will.

Semperis is a security company, launched in 2014, that is entirely focused on AD – or, to put it more precisely, on delivering state-of-art AD cyber resilience, threat mitigation and rapid recovery from cyber breaches.

I had the chance at RSA 2019 to visit with Semperis CEO Mickey Bresman. He filled me in on how the company, based in the new World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, got started; and I learned more about why Semperis is thriving. To hear our full conversation, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are a few key takeaways:

The beginning

Active Directory is a critical part of a vast majority of enterprise networks; some 90 percent of all companies rely on AD. It holds the keys to pretty much everything in your company, as it stores all of the company’s user information. Downtime can result in loss of access to line-of-business applications, lost revenue and, in some cases, a complete organizational shutdown.

With so much at stake, it’s a marvel that AD disaster recovery protocol traditionally has been based on a 60-page white paper that needs to be manually followed. This clunky solution to a potentially catastrophic failure, typically has required bringing in a specialist troubleshooter to get the company up and running again.

This, in fact, was the service Semperis set out to provide when it launched in 2014. At the time, most AD attacks were the work of a malicious insider. In one situation, prior to forming Semperis, Semperis co-founders  parachuted into a live, unfolding disaster recovery assignment: …more

NEW TECH: Alcide introduces a “microservices firewall” as a dynamic ‘IaaS’ market takes shape

By Byron V. Acohido

As a tech reporter at USA TODAY, I wrote stories about how Google fractured Microsoft’s Office monopoly, and then how Google clawed ahead of Apple to dominate the global smartphone market.

Related: A path to fruition of ‘SecOps’

And now for Act 3, Google has thrown down the gauntlet at Amazon, challenging the dominant position of Amazon Web Services in the fast-emerging cloud infrastructure global market.

I recently sat down with Gadi Naor, CTO and co-founder of Alcide, to learn more about the “microservices firewall” this Tel Aviv-based security start-up is pioneering. However, in diving into what Alcide is up to, Gadi and I segued into a stimulating discussion about this latest clash of tech titans. Here are key takeaways:

Google’s Kubernetes play

First some context. Just about every large enterprise today relies on software written by far-flung  third-party developers, who specialize in creating modular “microservices” that can get mixed and matched and reused inside of software “containers.” This is how companies have begun to  scale the delivery of cool new digital services — at high velocity.

The legacy ‘on-premises’ data centers enterprises installed 10 to 20 years ago are inadequate to  support this new approach. Thus, digital infrastructure is being shifted to “serverless” cloud computing services, with AWS blazing the trail and Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud in hot pursuit.

Microservices and containers have been around for a long while, to be sure. Google, for instance, has long made use of the equivalent of microservices and containers, internally, to scale the development and deployment of the leading-edge software it uses to run its businesses. …more