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GUEST ESSAY: 5 tips for ‘de-risking’ work scenarios that require accessing personal data

By Alexey Kessenikh

Working with personal data in today’s cyber threat landscape is inherently risky.

Related: The dangers of normalizing encryption for government use

It’s possible to de-risk work scenarios involving personal data by carrying out a classic risk assessment of an organization’s internal and external infrastructure. This can include:

Security contours. Setting up security contours for certain types of personal data can be useful for:

•Nullifying threats and risks applicable to general infrastructural components and their environment.

•Planning required processes and security components when initially building your architecture.

•Helping ensure data privacy.

Unique IDs. It is also possible to obfuscate personal data by replacing it with unique identifiers (UID). This de-risks personal data that does not fit in a separate security contour.

Implementing a UID system can reduce risk when accessing personal data for use in analytical reports, statistical analysis, or for client support.

MY TAKE: Why companies had better start taking the security pitfalls of API proliferation seriously

By Byron V. Acohido

APIs are putting business networks at an acute, unprecedented level of risk – a dynamic that has yet to be fully acknowledged by businesses.

Related: ‘SASE’ framework extends security to the network edge

That said, APIs are certain to get a lot more attention by security teams — and board members concerned about cyber risk mitigation — in 2022. This is so because a confluence of developments in 2021 has put API security in the spotlight, where it needs to be.

APIs have emerged as a go-to tool used by threat actors in the early phases of sophisticated, multi-stage network attacks. Upon gaining a toehold on a targeted device or server, attackers now quickly turn their attention to locating and manipulating available APIs.

“Threat actors have become aware that APIs represent a ton of exposed opportunity,” says Mike Spanbauer, security evangelist at Juniper Networks, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based supplier of networking technology.

Over the past year, I’ve had several deep conversations parsing how APIs have emerged as a two-edged sword: APIs accelerate digital transformation, but they also vastly expand the attack surface of modern business networks.

ROUNDTABLE: What happened in privacy and cybersecurity in 2021 — and what’s coming in 2022

By Byron V. Acohido

In 2021, we endured the fallout of a seemingly endless parade of privacy controversies and milestone cyber attacks.

Related: The dire need to security-proof APIs

The Solar Winds hack demonstrated supply chain exposures; the attempted poisoning of a Tampa suburb’s water supply highlighted public utilities at risk; and the Colonial Winds ransomware attack signaled cyber extortionist rings continuing to run rampant.

On the privacy front, California beefed up its consumer data privacy regulations even as Facebook and Apple publicly feuded over how each of these tech giants abuse of consumer privacy and loosey handle sensitive data.

Meanwhile, President Biden issued a cybersecurity executive order finally putting the federal government’s regulatory stamp on foundational cyber hygiene practices many organizations should have already been doing, yet continue to gift short shrift.

Last Watchdog sought commentary from technology thought leaders about lessons learned in 2021– and any guidance they might have to offer heading into 2022.

GUEST ESSAY: Why Microsoft Exchange users ‘must have’ robust data recovery policies, practices

By Bharat Bhushan

Cloud hosted email services have come into wide use as the go-to communication and collaboration work tools for businesses far and wide.

Related: Weaponized email endures as top threat

Digital native companies start from day one relying entirely on Microsoft Office 365 or Google’s G Suite and most established companies are in some stage of migrating to, or adjusting for, Office 365 or G Suite.

That said, Microsoft Exchange on-premises email servers – technology that once, not too long ago, dominated this space – remain in pervasive business use today.

In 2021, on-premises Microsoft Exchange Server mailboxes commanded a 43 percent global market share as compared to 57 percent for cloud Exchange mailboxes, according to this report from Statista. Some 11,800 computer software companies, 10,000 IT services vendors, 5,500 health care organizations and 3,200 financial services firms continue to maintain on-premises Exchange email servers, according to this report from Enlyft

What’s more, many of the organizations migrating to cloud IT infrastructure services are patching together hybrid email systems, part on-premises and part cloud-hosted.

GUEST ESSAY: Introducing ‘killware’ — malware designed to contaminate, disrupt critical services

By Jack Chapman

Within the past year, we have seen a glut of ransomware attacks that made global news as they stymied the operations of many. In May, the infamous Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack disrupted nationwide fuel supply to most of the U.S. East Coast for six days.

Related: Using mobile apps to radicalize youth

But the danger has moved up a notch with a new, grave threat: killware.

Killware is a type of malware deployed to cause physical harm: contaminate community water supplies, exploit and obstruct networks used by hospitals and healthcare facilities, jam air traffic control networks, contaminate gasoline supplies, and, in some instances, deliberately cause death where and when it is least expected.

Earlier in the year, there was an attempted hack of a water treatment facility in Oldsmar, Florida. This attack, however, was not for financial gain; it was intended to inflict harm.

Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas, the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, told USA Today that the attack “was intended to distribute contaminated water to residents, and that should have gripped our entire country.”

GUEST ESSAY: Why the arrests of cyber criminals in 2021 will incentize attackers in 2022

By Wade Lance

In 2021, law enforcement continued making a tremendous effort to track down, capture and arrest ransomware operators, to take down ransomware infrastructure, and to claw back ransomware payments.

Related: The targeting of supply chains

While some of these efforts have been successful, and may prevent more damage from being done, it is important to realize that headline news is a lightning rod for more attacks. Successful attacks breed copycats, and their arrests make room for replacements. Malicious actors are opportunistic.

Of course they don’t want to get busted and they don’t want authorities taking down their infrastructure, but these arrests are an incentive to get into the ransomware market and a learning experience on how to adapt their tactics.

I expect a new wave of ransomware operators that use cryptocurrency to avoid tracking, remotely-located operations to avoid extradition and arrest, and the hardening of operational security to avoid infrastructure take down.

SHARED INTEL: Log4j vulnerability presents a gaping attack vector companies must heed in 2022

By Byron V. Acohido

As we close out 2021, a gargantuan open-source vulnerability has reared its ugly head.

Related: The case for ‘SBOM’

This flaw in the Apache Log4J logging library is already being aggressively probed and exploited by threat actors — and it is sure to become a major headache for security teams in 2022.

“This vulnerability is so dangerous because of its massive scale. Java is used on over 3 billion devices, and a large number of those use Log4j,” says Forrester cybersecurity analyst Allie Mellen, adding that crypto miners and botnet operators are already making hay.

“We can expect more devastating attacks, like ransomware, leveraging this vulnerability in the future,” Mellen adds. “This vulnerability will be used for months if not years to attack enterprises, which is why security teams must strike while the iron is hot.”

This Log4j vulnerability was disclosed to Apache on Nov. 24 by the Alibaba Cloud Security team. Then on Dec. 9, the vulnerability, formally designated CVE-2021-44228, was disclosed on Twitter; meanwhile a  proof-of-concept exploit got posted on GitHub.

This flaw in an open-source web server software used far and wide  puts open-source risks in the spotlight – yet again. Companies will have to deal with Log4J in much the same manner as they were compelled to react to the open source flaws Heartbleed and Shellshock in 2014.