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Cyber Security

5 Questions with CIO Herman Brown




Herman Brown is the Chief Information Officer at SF District Attorney’s Office where he also holds the function of CISO. He’s got private sector experience to match his public sector experience. He recently sat down with us for 5 questions.

How has your mindset changed over the past 3 months?

Quite frankly, my mindset hasn’t changed over the last three months. Having a military background and having prior security experience I came into the organization thinking that security is the foundation in which we built everything upon. So I’ve always been security minded and focused.

I would say what has changed though in the last three months has been that the organization as a whole has now seen the importance of security. There is an understanding that we now have to take a bigger step as we go from having a handful of people working remotely where our risk is minimal- to now having an entire organization working remotely. So now there’s a much larger footprint of exposure and risk and a greater understanding of that risk.

What does that do to your strategy?

The biggest key for strategy moving forward is actually understanding the risks that are involved, where those potential risks lie and with whom, and then properly training and educating. You’re only as strong as the weakest link.

As the CIO and CISO, I’ve always said that security is not just an IT function- it’s an organizational function and it’s everyone’s responsibility. Our responsibility is to make sure that the staff understands the security risks and what to do and how to respond to a security risk appropriately.

What is your primary focus?

Your primary focus is prevention. That is the primary focus. It’s always about prevention and trying to prevent that threat from even happening, so that you don’t have to initiate that incident response plan. But you need endpoint protection; you need your antivirus solutions; you need your firewalls, you need your multifactor authentication. I mean, there are so many tools and technologies out there, and it’s not just one. We have security appliances in places, in the firewalls, looking at the North, South traffic. The traffic that’s entering and exiting your network, but you also want look East, West and see what’s going across your network and transgressing the network. So we have tools in place to be able to do that.

Having your security dashboard that can quickly notify you, or give you a easy, visible view into what’s happening on your network, I think is very important. And being able to monitor that and have alarms set up to automatically notify you, but these are all just tools that you have in your tool belt that you have to utilize and you have to implement, and they have to integrate with one another. It’s a huge task, it’s a daunting task, but it’s a necessary evil for fighting, the threat actors that are out there, both externally and internally.

We always talk about the external threats and the bad guys that are outside, but there are sometimes disgruntled employees that are within your organization and/or just employees that are, I don’t want to say naive, but they make a mistake. They don’t purposely, compromise the system or their accounts, but it happens.

How do you ensure a focus on both compliance and security?

Having compliance helps to drive that security initiative. It’s easier to get things through the executive team and the board, when you can say, “Hey, because of compliance reasons, regulatory reasons, we have to do these things because a lot of the times the business wants to have the least amount of impact onto the business and the staff and how they operate, which isn’t necessarily best practice or puts the organization at a higher risk. So I do like compliance. Compliance though, is not always correct or easy and that can also be a struggle for the IT organization to have to support and implement in, making sure that they’re meeting all of those touch points that are necessary.

What will be the same/different in 12 months?

I think what will remain the same is pretty much everything. I personally think that we could be in this remote new norm for the next year. You get into the winter, the flu and cold season, which some of those symptoms are very similar to COVID-19, how’s the workforce? It’s going to be, “Well, you know what? If you have a fever, you have runny nose, you have to work from home,” I think. So you’re going to see a lot of people that are going to be home because their kids are sick, or their spouse is sick, or they’re sick and they just don’t know whether or not they’re positive or not for COVID, regardless of the vaccine.

But I think that we’re going to be the better off for it from a security technology standpoint. I think we, especially in government, have proven that we’re capable of still sustaining government business and being remote. Government has been very resistant to staff working remotely because they feel like there’s such this need to be physically in the office because of that physical presence with the public, the constituents and the people in which you serve. But the truth of the matter is, is that there’s not really a lot of that face-to-face with the constituents. There’s definitely certain departments within a city and county, that has that direct public interface but we’re seeing that overall across the board, whether you’re government or private sector organizations, that people can be productive while working remote and the business can still be profitable and still accomplish its mission. So I do think this is going to be the new norm.


Cyber Security

6 Crucial password security tips for everyone




[ This article was originally published here ]

This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.
These days, everyone has passwords. Lots and lots of passwords! When I think of how many user accounts with passwords that I have, I probably have dozens. A few for social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, a few for my favorite media streaming services, one for Nintendo Switch and another for the PlayStation Network, a few for my utilities including electricity and my ISP, a few with Amazon and other online retailers, one with the government to file my personal income taxes, my home WiFi password, a Gmail account for all of my Google and YouTube stuff, accounts to authenticate into a couple of different web browsers, an account for my bank’s website, and there are probably at least a dozen more. And I’m a pretty typical technology user. So chances are, you have many similar…

Kim Crawley Posted by:

Kim Crawley




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Cyber Security

Deadly Ransomware Story Continues to Unfold




A ransomware attack with fatal consequences is attracting notice and comment from around the world.

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s story breaking the news of fatal consequences in a German ransomware attack.

Reaction is continuing to the story of what Reuters says may be the world’s first human fatality directly attributed to a cyberattack. According to the news service’s reporting, the attack, which began on Sept. 10, utilized a known vulnerability in a Citrix VPN as its point of entry. As of today, The University Clinic in Duesseldorf remained unable to admit new patients brought in by ambulance.

Because a woman died after being redirected to another hospital, German authorities are investigating possible manslaughter charges against the still-unknown attackers. “If homicide charges are combined with computer crime charges, it could be a sound idea to attempt imposing a lengthy prison sentence for the attackers, and, potentially, to get more international cooperation in the investigation,” says Ilia Kolochenko, founder and CEO of ImmuniWeb. She warns, though, that “the causation element will likely be extremely burdensome to prove within the context: defense attorneys will likely shift the entire blame on other parties spanning from hospital personnel and its IT contractors in charge of network management and security.”

Terence Jackson, CISO at Thycotic, notes: “According to a recent Check Point report, 80% of observed ransomware attacks in the first half of 2020 used vulnerabilities reported and registered in 2017 and earlier — and more than 20% of the attacks used vulnerabilities that are at least 7 years old.”

The pre-existing vulnerability means that “there was time to mitigate the threat in theory, but it illustrates the importance of running vulnerability scans and acting on findings at least every 30 days if not more frequently,” says Mark Kedgley, CTO of New Net Technologies. The potential disruption of those scans, he says, must be weighed against the operational requirements of 24 x 7 organizations like hospitals.

Dark Reading will continue to follow this story.

For more, read here.

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and … View Full Bio

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Cyber Security

Incident Of The Week: Equinix Is The Latest In A Long Line Of Ransomware Victims




[Records Exposed: Undisclosed  |  Industry: Internet  |  Type Of Attack: Ransomware]

Equinix is the latest victim in a long line of ransomware targets. The data center and colocation service provider released a short statement on September 9 that read,

“Equinix is currently investigating a security incident we detected that involves ransomware on some of our internal systems. Our teams took immediate and decisive action to address the incident, notified law enforcement and are continuing to investigate. Our data centers and our service offerings, including managed services, remain fully operational, and the incident has not affected our ability to support our customers. Note that as most customers operate their own equipment within Equinix data centers, this incident has had no impact on their operations or the data on their equipment at Equinix. The security of the data in our systems is always a top priority and we intend to take all necessary actions, as appropriate, based on the results of our investigation.”

The threat actors are demanding $4.5 million in exchange for a decryptor and the promise that they won’t release stolen data. However, Equinix updated their statement on September 14 to reiterate that customers’ data and operations remain safe.

Related: Cyber Security Standards and Frameworks

It appears the guilty party is the young cybercriminal group known as NetWalker who first burst on the scene in August of 2019. Their success lies in their ability to automate ransomware attacks, including a countdown clock and prefab ransom note that populates at just the right time during the operation. Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) poses an increasing threat across the cyber security landscape, as it allows inexperienced or less technical hackers purchase the automation software needed to execute such a hack.

With NetWalker acting as the gatekeeper, hacker groups go through a screening process before gaining access to a web portal that holds NetWalker’s ransomware, which can then be customized to fit their specific needs. NetWalker’s commission of 20% has earned the group $25 million between March 1 and July 27.

Lessons Learned:

If it seems like ransomware attacks have been in the news a lot lately, it’s because they have. In fact, a report by Coalition discovered that in the first half of 2020, 41% of cyber insurance claims were ransomware incidents. It was also reported that, while ransomware attacks are becoming slightly less frequent, their rate of success and size of target are growing. In other words, the increasingly sophisticated strategies of these threat actors poses real risks to even the most developed enterprise.

Related: How To Preemptively Track Phishing Campaigns

While ransomware attacks are specific in their execution, the vulnerabilities exploited to make them possible are the same as most other cyber threats. Specifically, 54% of cyber attacks are achieved through email (malware) and phishing schemes.

Quick Tips:  

Ransomware attacks rely in part on lax cyber protocols. In order to best safeguard your enterprise from this growing threat, consider the following:

  1. Back up data smartly – One of the ways cyber criminals convince corporations to pay ransoms is by holding their data hostage by encrypting it. While most enterprises back up their data, it is often located in the same compromised infrastructure the original data. Consider backing up data to external drives or a second cloud service provider.
  2. Choose a reputable security suite – Standard antivirus software and basic firewalls may be sufficient for the layperson, but enterprises should invest in a security suite that uses smart tools and sophisticated algorithms to spot and, if possible, remove ransomware. The tool must be able to run in the background 24/7.
  3. Install Software Updates – Cyber criminals look for the path of least resistance. Such a path is usually found in outdated software that hasn’t downloaded the most up-to-date patches, bug fixes, and other newly designed features. Remember to keep all apps, plug-ins, and third-party software up to date as well.

Read More: Incident Of The Week


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