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GUEST ESSAY: Australia’s move compelling VPNs to cooperate with law enforcement is all wrong

By Bogdan Patru

The moment we’ve all feared has finally come to pass. When government agencies and international intelligence groups pooled together resources to gather user data, the VPN’s encryption seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel.

Related: California enacts pioneering privacy law

However, it looks like things are starting to break apart now that Australia has passed the “Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018”. On the 6th of December 2018, a law that is a direct attack on internet users’ privacy was agreed to by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The amendment forces all companies, even VPN providers, to collect and give away confidential user data if the police demand it. All telecoms companies will have to build tools in order to bypass their own encryption.

If suspicions appear that a crime has been or will be committed by one of their users, the law enforcement agencies are in their right to demand access to user messages and private data.

This Orwellian Thought Police is to be the judge, jury, and executioner in a digital world that shelters our personal lives and secrets. All the things we’d like to keep hidden from others. You know, this revolutionary idea called “privacy” Anyone?

Tech companies all over the world are unsure how this can be achieved without installing backdoors into their own security systems. These vulnerabilities are just like a stack of powder kegs ready to blow up at any moment. This is because anyone with knowledge of their existence could theoretically use those security holes to gain access to the user data. …more

MY TAKE: Why Satya Nadella is wise to align with privacy advocates on regulating facial recognition

By Byron V. Acohido

We’re just a month and change into the new year, and already there have been two notable developments underscoring the fact that some big privacy and civil liberties questions need to be addressed before continuing the wide-scale deployment of advanced facial recognition systems.

This week civil liberties groups in Europe won the right to challenge the UK’s bulk surveillance activities in the The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.

Related: Snowden on unrestrained surveillance

“The surveillance regime the UK government has built seriously undermines our freedom,” Megan Golding, a lawyer speaking for privacy advocates, stated. “Spying on vast numbers of people without suspicion of wrongdoing violates everyone’s right to privacy and can never be lawful.”

That development followed bold remarks made by none other than Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella just a few weeks earlier at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Nadella expressed deep concern about facial recognition, or FR, being used for intrusive surveillance and said he welcomed any regulation that helps the marketplace “not be a race to the bottom.”

Ubiquitous surveillance

You may not have noticed, but there has been a flurry of breakthroughs in biometric technology, led by some leapfrog advances in facial recognition systems over the past couple of years. Now facial recognition appears to be on the verge of blossoming commercially, with security use-cases paving the way.

Last November,  SureID, a fingerprint services vendor based in Portland, Ore., announced a partnership with Robbie.AI, a Boston-based developer of a facial recognition system designed to be widely deployed on low-end cameras.

The partners aim to combine fingerprint and facial data to more effectively authenticate employees in workplace settings. And their grander vision is to help establish a nationwide biometric database in which a hybrid facial ID/fingerprint can be used for things such as fraud-proofing retail transactions, or, say, taking a self-driving vehicle for a spin.

However, the push back by European privacy advocates and Nadella’s call for regulation highlights the privacy and civil liberties conundrums advanced surveillance technologies poses. It’s a healthy thing that a captain of industry can see this. These are weighty issues …more

MY TAKE: 3 privacy and security habits each individual has a responsibility to embrace

By Byron V. Acohido

Would you back out of a driveway without first buckling up, checking the rear view mirror and glancing behind to double check that the way is clear?

Consider that most of us spend more time navigating the Internet on our laptops and smartphones than we do behind the wheel of a car. Yet it’s my experience that most people don’t fully appreciate the profound risks they face online and all too many still do not practice simple behaviors that can dramatically reduce their chances of being victimized by malicious parties.

Related: Long run damage of 35-day government shutdown

Why we’re in the ‘Golden Age’ of cyber espionageThe fact is cyber criminals are expert at refining and carrying out phishing, malvertising and other tried-and-true ruses that gain them access to a targeted victim’s Internet-connected computing device. And the malware that subsequently gets installed continues to get more stealthy and capable with each advancing iteration.

This has become an engrained pattern in our modern digital world. A vivid illustration comes from Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42 forensics team. Researchers recently flushed out a new variety of the Xbash family of malware tuned to seek out administrators’ rights and take control of Linux servers. This variant of Xbash is equipped to quietly uninstall any one of five popular types of cloud security protection and monitoring products used on such servers.

Targeting one device

The end game for this particular hacking ring is to install crypto currency mining routines on compromised Linux servers. But the larger point is that Xbash is just one of dozens of malware families circulating far and wide across the Internet. Xbash gets rolling by infecting one device, which then serves as the launch pad for deeper hacking forays limited only by the attacker’s initiative.

To be sure, it’s not as if the good guys aren’t also innovating. Worldwide spending on information security products and services rose to $114 billion in 2018, up from $102 billion in 2017, an increase of 12.4 percent, according to tech consultancy Gartner. …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: 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

GUEST ESSAY: California pioneers privacy law at state level; VA, VT, CO, NJ take steps to follow

By Matt Dumiak

Privacy regulations and legislation are topics that continue to be of concern for consumers and businesses alike.  News of data breaches, data vulnerabilities and compromised private information is released almost daily from businesses both small and large.

Related: Europe’s GDPR ushers in new privacy era

Legislation has recently been proposed for individual states, addressing data privacy regulations head-on.  Several states including Virginia, Vermont, Colorado, and New Jersey have all introduced related privacy regulations recently. California recently set themselves apart in the privacy space with the adoption of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which gave citizens the rights to not only protect their own data, but to obligate businesses to disclose exactly which information has been collected about them.…more

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