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NEW TECH: Devolutions’ ‘PAM’ solution helps SMBs deal with rising authentication risks

By Byron V. Acohido

The cybersecurity needs of small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) differ from those of large enterprises, but few solutions cater to them. A 2018 Cisco Cybersecurity Special Report found that 54 % of all cyber attacks cost the target company more than $0.5 million — damages that would crush most SMBs. However, smaller companies rarely have the IT talent, tools, or budget to prevent such attacks.

Related: SMBs are ill-equipped to deal with cyber threats

Without a cohesive cybersecurity framework, SMBs are falling further behind as digital transformation, or DX, ramps up.  Embracing digital transformation becomes even more of a challenge without a dedicated platform to address vulnerabilities.

I spoke with Maurice Côté, VP Business Solutions, and Martin Lemay, CISO,  of Devolutions, at the RSA 2020 Conference in San Francisco recently. Devolutions is a Montreal, Canada-based company that provides remote connection in addition to password and privileged access management (PAM) solutions to SMBs. You can get a full drill down on our discussion in the accompanying podcast. Here are some of the key takeaways:

PAM 101

PAM is crucial to all companies because it reduces opportunities for malicious users to penetrate networks and obtain privileged account access, while providing greater visibility of the environment. Current PAM solutions cater almost exclusively for large organizations.

Suppliers simply strip down their enterprise versions to sell to SMBs, with their solutions being prohibitively expensive for SMBs. Poorly implemented authentication can also lead to network breaches and compliance headaches.

SHARED INTEL: Former NSA director says cybersecurity solutions need to reflect societal values

By Byron V. Acohido

Is America’s working definition of “national security” too narrow for the digital age?

Yes, observes retired Admiral Michael Rogers, who served as a top White House cybersecurity advisor under both Presidents Obama and Trump. 

Related: The golden age of cyber espionage

The United States, at present, operates with a “nebulous” definition of what constitutes a cyber attack that rises to the level of threatening national security, asserts Rogers, who was   commander, U.S. Cyber Command, as well as director, National Security Agency, and chief, Central Security Service, from March 2014 until he retired from military service in May 2018.

“National security in the digital age, to me, is the confluence of the traditional ways we used to look at security issues as a nation-state, as well as taking into consideration how economic-competitiveness and long-term economic viability play in,” Rogers told an audience of cybersecurity executives, invited to attend the grand opening of Infosys’ state-of-the art Cyber Defense Center in Indianapolis earlier this week.

Rogers made his remarks as part of a panel discussion on securing digital transformation moderated by Infosys CISO Vishal Salvi. It was a wide-ranging, eye-opening discussion. Here are a few key takeaways I came away with:

Rising cyber exposures

Enterprises today are engaged in a struggle to balance security and agility. Leveraging cloud services and IoT systems to streamline workloads makes a ton of sense. Yet cyber exposures are multiplying. Compliance penalties, lawsuits, loss of intellectual property, theft of customer personal data and loss of reputation — due to poor cyber defenses — are now getting board level attention.

MY TAKE: PKI, digital certificates now ready to take on the task of securing digital transformation

By Byron V. Acohido

Just five years ago, the Public Key Infrastructure, or PKI, was seriously fraying at the edges and appeared to be tilting toward obsolescence. Things have since taken a turn for the better.

Related: Why PKI is well-suited to secure the Internet of Things

PKI is the authentication and encryption framework on which the Internet is built. The buckling of PKI a few years back was a very serious matter, especially since there was nothing waiting in the wings to replace PKI. Lacking a reliable way to authenticate identities during the data transfer process, and also keep data encrypted as it moves between endpoints, the Internet would surely atrophy – and digital transformation would grind to a halt.

The retooling of PKI may not be sexy to anyone, outside of tech geeks. Nonetheless, it is a pivotal chapter in the evolution of digital commerce. One of several notable contributors was DigiCert, the world’s leading provider of digital certificates and certificate management solutions.

I had a chance to interview Brian Trzupek, DigiCert’s senior vice president of emerging markets products, at the company’s Security Summit 2020 in San Diego recently. For a full drill down on our discussion, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are a few key takeaways:

PKI’s expanding role

PKI revolves around the creation, distribution and management of digital certificates issued by companies known as certificate authorities, or CAs. In the classic case of a human user clicking to a website, CAs, like DigiCert, verify the authenticity of the website and encrypt the data at both ends.

Today, a much larger and rapidly expanding role for PKI and digital certificates is to authenticate devices and encrypt all sensitive data transfers inside highly dynamic company networks. We’re not just talking about website clicks; PKI comes into play with respect to each of the millions of computing instances and devices continually connecting to each other – the … more

GUEST ESSAY: Cyber insurance 101 — for any business operating in today’s digital environment

By Cynthia Lopez Olson

Cyberattacks are becoming more prevalent, and their effects are becoming more disastrous. To help mitigate the risk of financial losses, more companies are turning to cyber insurance.

Related: Bots attack business logic

Cyber insurance, like other forms of business insurance, is a way for companies to transfer some of numerous potential liability hits associated specifically with IT infrastructure and IT activities.

These risks are normally not covered by a general liability policy, which includes coverage only for injuries and property damage. In general, cyber insurance covers things like:

•Legal fees and expenses to deal with a cybersecurity incident

•Regular security audit

•Post-attack public relations

•Breach notifications

•Credit monitoring

•Expenses involved in investigating the attack

•Bounties for cyber criminals

In short, cyber insurance covers many of the expenses that you’d typically face in the wake of cybersecurity event.

MY TAKE: Why it’s now crucial to preserve PKI, digital certificates as the core of Internet security

By Byron V. Acohido

For decades, the cornerstone of IT security has been Public Key Infrastructure, or PKI, a system that allows you to encrypt and sign data, issuing digital certificates that authenticate the identity of users.

Related: How PKI could secure the Internet of Things

If that sounds too complicated to grasp, take a look at the web address for the home page of this website. Take note of how the URL begins with HTTPS.  The ‘S’ in HTTPS stands for ‘secure.’ Your web browser checked the security certificate for this website, and verified that the certificate was issued by a legitimate certificate authority. That’s PKI in action.

As privacy comes into sharp focus as a priority and challenge for cybersecurity, it’s important to understand this fundamental underlying standard.

Because it functions at the infrastructure level, PKI is not as well known as it should be by senior corporate management, much less the public. However, you can be sure cybercriminals grasp  the nuances about PKI, as they’ve continued to exploit them to invade privacy and steal data.

Here’s the bottom line: PKI is the best we’ve got. As digital transformation accelerates, business leaders and even individual consumers are going to have to familiarize themselves with PKI and proactively participate in preserving it. The good news is that the global cybersecurity community understands how crucial it has become to not just preserve, but also reinforce, PKI. Google, thus far, is leading the way.

Last Watchdog’s IoT and ‘zero trust’ coverage win MVP awards from Information Management Today

By Byron V. Acohido

I’m privileged to share news that two Last Watchdog articles were recognized in the 2019 Information Management Today MVP Awards. My primer on the going forward privacy and security implications of IoT — What Everyone Should Know About the Promise and Pitfalls of the Internet of Things — won second place in the contest’s IoT Security category.

In addition, my coverage of how the zero trust authentication movement is improving privacy and security at a fundamental level — Early Adopters Find Smart ‘Zero Trust’ Access Improves Security Without Stifling Innovation — won third place in the contest’s Hardware and Software Security category. I’ve been paying close attention to privacy and cybersecurity since 2004, first as a technology reporter at USA TODAY, then as Editor-In-Chief of ThirdCertainty.com, a corporate-underwritten news analysis blog.

Since 2017, I’ve been fully focused on independently producing original editorial content for LastWatchdog.com, my signature blog, which serves an audience of non-technical company decision makers striving to address emerging cyber risks.

I’ve never done stories to win awards. I find gratification communicating intelligible insights that foster understanding about topics that affect the way we live. That usually  happens every time I publish a story under my byline. That said, it is always nice to be recognized by my peers. Many thanks to Eve Lyons-Berg, editor of Information Management Today, for including my work in the contest – and for this recognition.

Cyber threats to privacy and security will continue to be a seminal issue that affects us all for the foreseeable future. I plan to continue illuminating the work being done in the trenches to make digital commerce as private and secure as it ought to be. So keep reading and sharing. And thanks for your support.

Acohido

Pulitzer Prize-winning business journalist Byron V. Acohido is dedicated to fostering public awareness about how to make the Internet as private and secure as it ought to be.

SHARED INTEL: How ‘memory attacks’ and ‘firmware spoilage’ circumvent perimeter defenses

By Byron V. Acohido

What does Chinese tech giant Huawei have in common with the precocious kid next door who knows how to hack his favorite video game?

Related: Ransomware remains a scourge

The former has been accused of placing hidden backdoors in the firmware of equipment distributed to smaller telecom companies all across the U.S. The latter knows how to carry out a  DLL injection hack — to cheat the game score. These happen to represent two prime examples of cyber attack vectors that continue to get largely overlooked by traditional cybersecurity defenses.

Tech consultancy IDC tells us that global spending on security hardware, software and services is on course to top $103 billion in 2019, up 9.4 percent from 2018. Much of that will be spent on subscriptions for legacy systems designed to defend network perimeters or detect and deter malicious traffic circulating in network logs.

However, the threat actors on the leading edge are innovating at deeper layers. One security vendor that happens to focus on this activity is Virsec, a San Jose-based supplier of advanced application security and memory protection technologies. I had the chance to visit with Willy Leichter, Virsec’s vice president of marketing, at Black Hat 2019.

“There are multiple vectors, lots of different ways people can inject code directly into an application,” Leichter told me. “And now we’re hearing about new threats, throughout the whole supply chain, where there might be malware deeply embedded at the firmware level, or at the processor level,  that can provide ways to get into the applications, and get into the data.”

For a full drill down of our discussion, give a listen to the accompanying podcast. Here are a few key takeways:

Firmware exposures

Firmware is the coding built into computing devices and components that carry out the low-level input/output tasks necessary to enable software applications to run. Firmware is on everything from hard drives, motherboards and routers … more