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RSAC insights: How IABs — initial access brokers — help sustain, accelerate the ransomware plague

By Byron V. Acohido

Specialization continues to advance apace in the cybercriminal ecosystem.

Related: How cybercriminals leverage digital transformation

Initial access brokers, or IABs, are the latest specialists on the scene. IABs flashed to prominence on the heels of gaping vulnerabilities getting discovered and widely exploited in Windows servers deployed globally in enterprise networks.

I had the chance at RSA Conference 2022 to visit with John Shier, senior security advisor at Sophos, a security software and hardware company. We discussed how the ProxyLogon/Proxy Shell vulnerabilities that companies have been scrambling to patch for the past couple of years gave rise to threat actors who focus on a singular mission: locating and compromising cyber assets with known vulnerabilities.

For a drill down on IABs, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are the key takeaways:

Sequential specialists

IABs today jump into action anytime a newly discovered bug gets publicized, especially operating system coding flaws that can be remotely exploited. IABs gain unauthorized network access and then they often will conduct exploratory movements to get a sense of what the compromised asset is, Shier told me.

This is all part triangulating how much value the breached asset might have in the Darknet marketplace. “IABs specialize in one specific area of the cybercrime ecosystem where the victims are accumulated and then sold off to the highest bidder,” he says.

To assure persistent access to, say, a compromised web server, an IAB will implant a web shell – coding that functions as a back door through which additional malicious

RSAC insights: ‘CAASM’ tools and practices get into the nitty gritty of closing network security gaps

By Byron V. Acohido

Reducing the attack surface of a company’s network should, by now, be a top priority for all organizations.

Related: Why security teams ought to embrace complexity

As RSA Conference 2022 convenes this week (June 6 -9) in San Francisco, advanced systems to help companies comprehensively inventory their cyber assets for enhanced visibility to improve asset and cloud configurations and close security gaps will be in the spotlight.

As always, the devil is in the details. Connecting the dots and getting everyone on the same page remain daunting challenges. I visited with Erkang Zheng, founder and CEO of JupiterOne, to discuss how an emerging discipline — referred to as “cyber asset attack surface management,” or CAASM – can help with this heavy lifting.

Based in Morrisville, NC, JupiterOne launched in 2020 and last week announced that it has achieved a $1 billion valuation, with a $70 million Series C funding round.

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

RSAC insights: Security platforms arise to help companies discover, assess and mitigate cyber risks

By Byron V. Acohido

Pity the poor CISO at any enterprise you care to name.

Related: The rise of ‘XDR’

As their organizations migrate deeper into an intensively interconnected digital ecosystem, CISOs must deal with cyber attacks raining down on all fronts. Many are working with siloed security products from another era that serve as mere speed bumps. Meanwhile, security teams are stretched thin and on a fast track to burn out.

Help is on the way. At RSA Conference 2022, which takes place this week (June 6 – 9) in San Francisco, new security frameworks and advanced, cloud-centric security technologies will be in the spotlight. The overarching theme is to help CISOs gain a clear view of all cyber assets, be able to wisely triage exposures and then also become proficient at swiftly mitigating inevitable breaches.

Easier said than done, of course. I had the chance to discuss this with Lori Smith, director of product marketing at Trend Micro. With $1.7 billion in annual revenue and 7,000 employees, Trend Micro is a prominent leader in the unfolding shift towards a more holistic approach to enterprise security, one that’s a much better fit for the digital age. For a full drill down on our discussion, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are key takeaways.

Beyond silos

It was only a few short years ago that BYOD and Shadow IT exposures were the hot topics at RSA. Employees using their personally-owned smartphones to upload cool new apps presented a nightmare for security teams.

Fast forward to today. Enterprises are driving towards a dramatically scaled-up and increasingly interconnected digital ecosystem. The attack surface of company networks has expanded exponentially, and fresh security gaps are popping up everywhere.

RSAC insights: Malware is now spreading via weaponized files circulating in data lakes, file shares

By Byron V. Acohido

The zero trust approach to enterprise security is well on its way to mainstream adoption. This is a very good thing.

Related: Covid 19 ruses used in email attacks

At RSA Conference 2022, which takes place this week (June 6 – 9) in San Francisco, advanced technologies to help companies implement zero trust principals will be in the spotlight. Lots of innovation has come down the pike with respect to imbuing zero trust into two pillars of security operations: connectivity and authentication.

However, there’s a third pillar of zero trust that hasn’t gotten quite as much attention: directly defending data itself, whether it be at the coding level or in business files circulating in a highly interconnected digital ecosystem. I had a chance to discuss the latter with Ravi Srinivasan, CEO of  Tel Aviv-based Votiro which launched in 2010 and has grown to  .

Votiro has established itself as a leading supplier of advanced technology to cleanse weaponized files. It started with cleansing attachments and weblinks sent via email and has expanded to sanitizing files flowing into data lakes and circulating in file shares. For a full drill down on our discussion, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are key takeaways.

RSAC insights: Software tampering escalates as bad actors take advantage of ‘dependency confusion’

By Byron V. Acohido

It’s not difficult to visualize how companies interconnecting to cloud resources at a breakneck pace contribute to the outward expansion of their networks’ attack surface.

Related: Why ‘SBOM’ is gaining traction

If that wasn’t bad enough, the attack surface companies must defend is expanding inwardly, as well – as software tampering at a deep level escalates.

The Solar Winds breach and the disclosure of the massive Log4J vulnerability have put company decision makers on high alert with respect to this freshly-minted exposure. Findings released this week by ReversingLabs show 87 percent of security and technology professionals view software tampering as a new breach vector of concern, yet only 37 percent say they have a way to detect it across their software supply chain.

I had a chance to discuss software tampering with Tomislav Pericin, co-founder and chief software architect of ReversingLabs, a Cambridge, MA-based vendor that helps companies granularly analyze their software code. For a full drill down on our discussion please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are the big takeaways:

‘Dependency confusion’

Much of the discussion at RSA Conference 2022, which convenes this week (June 6 – 9) in San Francisco, will boil down to slowing attack surface expansion. This now includes paying much closer attention to the elite threat actors who are moving inwardly to carve out fresh vectors taking them deep inside software coding.

The perpetrators of the Solar Winds breach, for instance, tampered with a build system of the widely-used Orion network management tool.

RSAC insights: How ‘TPRM’ can help shrink security skills gap — while protecting supply chains

By Byron V. Acohido

Third-Party Risk Management (TPRM) has been around since the mid-1990s – and has become something of an auditing nightmare.

Related: A call to share risk assessments

Big banks and insurance companies instilled the practice of requesting their third-party vendors to fill out increasingly bloated questionnaires, called bespoke assessments, which they then used as their sole basis for assessing third-party risk.

TPRM will be in the spotlight at the RSA Conference 2022 this week (June 6 -9) in San Francisco. This is because third-party risk has become a huge problem for enterprises in the digital age. More so than ever, enterprises need to move beyond check-the-box risk assessments; there’s a clear and present need to proactively mitigate third-party risks.

The good news is that TPRM solution providers are innovating to meet this need, as will be showcased at RSA. One leading provider is Denver, Colo.-based CyberGRX. I had the chance to sit down with their CISO, Dave Stapleton, to learn more about the latest advancements in TPRM security solutions. For a full drill down of our discussion, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are key takeaways:

Smoothing audits

CyberGRX launched in 2016 precisely because bespoke assessments had become untenable. Questionnaires weren’t standardized, filling them out and collecting them had become a huge burden, and any truly useful analytics just never happened.

“Sometimes you’d get a 500-question questionnaire and that would be one out of 5,000 you’d get over the course of a year,” Stapleton says, referring to a scenario that a large payroll processing company had to deal with.

RSAC insights: ‘SaaS security posture management’ — SSPM — has emerged as a networking must-have

By Byron V. Acohido

Companies have come to depend on Software as a Service – SaaS — like never before.

Related: Managed security services catch on

From Office 365 to Zoom to Salesforce.com, cloud-hosted software applications have come to make up the nerve center of daily business activity. Companies now reach for SaaS apps for clerical chores, conferencing, customer relationship management, human resources, salesforce automation, supply chain management, web content creation and much more, even security.

This development has intensified the pressure on companies to fully engage in the “shared responsibility” model of cybersecurity, a topic in that will be in the limelight at RSA Conference 2022 this week (June 6 -9) in San Francisco.

I visited with Maor Bin, co-founder and CEO of Tel Aviv-based Adaptive Shield, a pioneer in a new security discipline referred to as SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM.) SSPM is part of emerging class of security tools that are being ramped up to help companies dial-in SaaS security settings as they should have started doing long ago.

This fix is just getting under way. For a full drill down, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are the key takeaways:

Shrugging off security

A sharp line got drawn in the sand, some years ago, when Amazon Web Services (AWS) took the lead in championing the shared responsibility security model.

To accelerate cloud migration, AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud guaranteed that the hosted IT infrastructure they sought to rent to enterprises would be security-hardened – at least on their end.