Security roundup: March 2019

We round up interesting research and reporting about security and privacy from around the web. This month: ransomware repercussions, reporting cybercrime, vulnerability volume, everyone’s noticing privacy, and feeling GDPR’s impact.

Ransom vs ruin

Hypothetical question: how long would your business hold out before paying to make a ransomware infection go away? For Apex Human Capital Management, a US payroll software company with hundreds of customers, it was less than three days. Apex confirmed the incident, but didn’t say how much it paid or reveal which strain of ransomware was involved.

Interestingly, the story suggests that the decision to pay was a consensus between the company and two external security firms. This could be because the ransomware also encrypted data at Apex’s newly minted external disaster recovery site. Most security experts strongly advise against paying extortionists to remove ransomware. With that in mind, here’s our guide to preventing ransomware. We also recommend visiting NoMoreRansom.org, which has information about infections and free decryption tools.

Bonus extra salutary security lesson: while we’re on the subject of backup failure, a “catastrophic” attack wiped the primary and backup systems of the secure email provider VFE Systems. Effectively, the lack of backup put the company out of business. As Brian Honan noted in the SANS newsletter, this case shows the impact of badly designed disaster recovery procedures.

Ready to report

If you’ve had a genuine security incident – neat segue alert! – you’ll probably need to report it to someone. That entity might be your local CERT (computer emergency response team), to a regulator, or even law enforcement. (It’s called cybercrime for a reason, after all). Security researcher Bart Blaze has developed a template for reporting a cybercrime incident which you might find useful. It’s free to download at Peerlyst (sign-in required).

By definition, a security incident will involve someone deliberately or accidentally taking advantage of a gap in an organisation’s defences. Help Net Security recently carried an op-ed arguing that it’s worth accepting that your network will be infiltrated or compromised. The key to recovering faster involves a shift in mindset and strategy from focusing on prevention to resilience. You can read the piece here. At BH Consulting, we’re big believers in the concept of resilience in security. We’ve blogged about it several times over the past year, including posts like this.

In incident response and in many aspects of security, communication will play a key role. So another helpful resource is this primer on communicating security subjects with non-experts, courtesy of SANS’ Lenny Zeltser. It takes a “plain English” approach to the subject and includes other links to help security professionals improve their messaging. Similarly, this post from Raconteur looks at language as the key to improving collaboration between a CISO and the board.

Old flaws in not-so-new bottles

More than 80 per cent of enterprise IT systems have at least one flaw listed on the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) list. One in five systems have more than ten such unpatched vulnerabilities. Those are some of the headline findings in the 2019 Vulnerability Statistics Report from Irish security company Edgescan.

Edgescan concluded that the average window of exposure for critical web application vulnerabilities is 69 days. Per the report, an average enterprise takes around 69 days to patch a critical vulnerability in its applications and 65 days to patch the same in its infrastructure layers. High-risk and medium-risk vulnerabilities in enterprise applications take up to 83 days and 74 days respectively to patch.

SC Magazine’s take was that many of the problems in the report come from companies lacking full visibility of all their IT assets. The full Edgescan report has even more data and conclusions and is free to download here.

From a shrug to a shun

Privacy practitioners take note: consumer attitudes to security breaches appear to be shifting at last. PCI Pal, a payment security company, found that 62 per cent of Americans and 44 per cent of Britons claim they will stop spending with a brand for several months following a hack or breach. The reputational hit from a security incident could be greater than the cost of repair. In a related story, security journalist Zack Whittaker has taken issue with the hollow promise of websites everywhere. You know the one: “We take your privacy seriously.”

If you notice this notice…

Notifications of data breaches have increased since GDPR came into force. The European Commission has revealed that companies made more than 41,000 data breach notifications in the six-month period since May 25. Individuals or organisations made more than 95,000 complaints, mostly relating to telemarketing, promotional emails and video surveillance. Help Net Security has a good writeup of the findings here.

It was a similar story in Ireland, where the Data Protection Commission saw a 70 per cent increase in reported valid data security breaches, and a 56 per cent increase in public complaints compared to 2017. The summary data is here and the full 104-page report is free to download.

Meanwhile, Brave, the privacy-focused browser developer, argues that GDPR doesn’t make doing business harder for a small company. “In fact, if purpose limitation is enforced, GDPR levels the playing field versus large digital players,” said chief policy officer Johnny Ryan.

Interesting footnote: a US insurance company, Coalition, has begun offering GDPR-specific coverage. Dark Reading’s quotes a lawyer who said insurance might be effective for risk transference but it’s untested. Much will depend on the policy’s wording, the lawyer said.

Things we liked

Lisa Forte’s excellent post draws parallels between online radicalisation and cybercrime. MORE

Want to do some malware analysis? Here’s how to set up a Windows VM for it. MORE

You give apps personal information. Then they tell Facebook (PAYWALL). MORE

Ever wondered how cybercriminals turn their digital gains into cold, hard cash? MORE

This 190-second video explains cybercrime to a layperson without using computers. MORE

Blaming the user for security failings is a dereliction of responsibility, argues Ira Winkler. MORE

Tips for improving cyber risk management. MORE

Here’s what happens when you set up an IoT camera as a honeypot. MORE

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