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Cyber Security

Interview With Ian Thornton-Trump – Cyjax




With many thanks to Ian Thornton-Trump, CISO at Cyjax, Aviva Zacks of Safety Detectives got to find out all about his company’s threat intelligence services.

Safety Detective: How has your experience in the Canadian Military and police helped shape your cybersecurity career?

Ian Thornton-Trump: It started off being in a culture of security and having the basic precepts of security drilled in. I evolved slowly in the cybersecurity realm: certainly, the basic ideas of segmentation of information, classification of information, and then forming the risk models around unauthorized disclosure of that information became important. My military career started around the time that data processing was almost a new thing. The fundamental understanding of the importance of security was ingrained in me from a very young age.

SD: What does your company do to help mitigate cyberthreats?

IT: I believe that the best cyberattack is the one that never happens to you. Working in the threat intelligence space, is a world-class Cyber Threat Intelligence firm that is excellent at predicting what may happen to an organization that has exposure on the internet, what might be targeted, and what the threat actor may be going after. So, when you take all of that information, and you apply it to the threat models of an organization, you can get a pretty good idea of how to defend your organization with the intelligence products we create. This offering makes the security spend more effective by directing it against the appropriate types of threats the organization is likely to face.

SD: What verticals use your services?

IT: We currently work with organizations in the financial services vertical, pharmaceuticals, public sector, and policing in the UK.

SD: How does your company stay ahead of the competition?

IT: We look at what our customers need. We actively work with our customers to improve areas that they think have value. So, in one sense we’re very customer-driven when it comes to development and responding to what their requests are. But I think overall, we look at what is happening both in geopolitics and in the cybersphere and provide context around threat actors and threats. As a result of this broad analysis, we often anticipate cyber activity stemming from those geopolitical movements. My belief is that what happens in the physical world impacts the cyber world – sometimes significantly. The situation works both ways, too: we can see cyber activity driving results in the geopolitical arena. We certainly see the relationships between the United States, China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia as the main points of global contention and competition, which, of course, plays out in cyber almost simultaneously. Sometimes we see a major news announcement or a major shift in policy that is rapidly echoed by nation state-sponsored cyber-forces and other cybercriminals. All of the attacks and scams related to the COVID-19 pandemic are a perfect example of that.

SD: What are the worst cyberthreats out there today?

IT: The interpretation of “the worst” case is always based on what your organization “has” and what it has potentially exposed. For the majority of businesses and organizations, therefore, the most likely attack now is ransomware. Recently, ransomware with the added twist of exfiltrating data and keeping it hostage to encourage a ransom payment so that the information that has been stolen is not publicly released, has taken this threat to a new level. But again, the definition of “the worst” is fluid, because some organizations are very brand sensitive. So, for instance, we’ve seen some law firms that have suffered massive data breaches, and as a result, had to cease operation. The data breach that is known as the “Panama Papers” is a really good example of “the worst” outcome possible in that space.

For all organizations, it is a broad spectrum of worst-case scenarios, but it tends to begin with some sort of technical attack involving entry to the organization’s systems. By and large, getting into the organization goes back to the easiest way of manipulating people – “social engineering” – to get them to click on a link or to install some compromised software on their infrastructure which provides unauthorized access. Social engineering attacks are not an exclusive scenario because some organizations suffer from what I like to call “IT sprawl”: tremendous amounts of growth in both cloud platform adoption and expansion of their own infrastructure through mergers and acquisitions. And if the partner in a merger has less than adequate security, you’ve now inherited a very risky situation indeed. Furthermore, you may not have proper visibility on what you have exposed to the internet through this partner leaving an easy point of entry through an unpatched system, or a service that has a vulnerability that’s exposed to the internet. The Marriott data breach, when two travel points programs were merged, is a classic example of this.

While a system may be secure and patched and updated today: tomorrow a serious vulnerability may be revealed by a security researcher. Within a seven-to-ten-day timeline, it is quickly adopted by the cybercriminals looking to exploit that global weakness. And because almost everything is now connected to the internet, and cybercrime respects no national borders, it is immaterial what country you may be in or what systems you may have: financially driven threat actors will look for anything that can be compromised at a global scale by leveraging whatever horrendous vulnerability has been revealed.

SD: Where is cybersecurity headed now that we’re living through this pandemic?

IT: We’ve seen two major trends: first, massive infrastructure investment is going to be required. That includes, of course, security tools and services because many businesses were not properly set up to deal with mass work from home and the challenges of a pandemic, with aging technology and bandwidth constraints for remote users’ VPNs. So there’s a huge opportunity to make the right investment to deal with the ability of your employees to collaborate and work remotely. I think that’s going to drive a lot of the investment over the next couple of years as we attempt to undo what was hastily done in order to get our businesses working remotely.

The other big trend, of course, is part of the digital transformation that we’ve been going through for the last couple of years, which has culminated in the sudden realization that perhaps we don’t have the necessary security in place to facilitate digital transformation without increased organizational risk. We’ve seen this with organizations that have migrated very enthusiastically to cloud-based email services only to discover that not having multi-factor authentication activated has exposed them to account take overs and compromise – if the account that is compromised is a privileged user, the results can be devastating. As time goes on, we will see the response from both cybercriminals and Advanced Persistent Threat groups, backed by nation states, exploiting, exposed infrastructure and conducting relentless attacks against any organization with an internet presence.

So really, one of the key areas that we’re going to need to focus on is vulnerability management. That is making sure our exposed systems are safe and secure, but also limiting access to those systems. After all, if you have a limited geographic footprint when it comes to customers and your own staff accessing your systems, why have you exposed them to the entire internet? It doesn’t seem prudent.

I think one of the other trends will be to adopt a back-to-the-basics approach where we hope to structurally rework a lot of systems as a result of seeing IT supply-chain compromises like SolarWinds Orion. We need to focus on the systems architecture level, so that we can properly accommodate remote external users and external customers, do it in a safe manner, and also apply all the necessary security controls.


Cyber Security

Three of the Major Threats to Application Security and How to Mitigate Them




With the increased dependency of our lives on the internet and mobile apps, application security is important, now more than ever. 

The importance of applications in our lives cannot be overemphasized. We depend on them for everything from dating to banking and from bookkeeping to private messaging. 

To give you an idea of just how essential applications are in our lives, 105 billion applications were downloaded in 2018. The number has increased by more than 25 percent over the last two years.

That means one thing, applications are here to stay for quite a bit of time. And if they do have to be a part of our life, they better be secure.

You cannot make anything secure unless you don’t know what exactly you are securing it against. For that matter, we’ll have a look at some of the common security threats applications are facing. Then we’ll see how they can be mitigated.

Major Application Security Threats 

There are more application threats than can be covered in any blog post of reasonable dimensions. We’ve picked the most common threats to give you an idea of what you need to steer clear of as a developer or a user.

Brute Force Hacking 

This is the most primitive and perhaps the rawest method of hacking into a secure environment. As the name suggests, these attacks rely on the use of force to break into an application. 

The way this is done is simple. A hacker programs a computer to try all possible combinations of letters, symbols, and numerals to guess a password. 

Definitely, that takes the computer quite a bit of time to crack the password but given enough time it can do that every single time. 

As of now, there are no active defenses to stop or prevent such an attack. There are some measures that can minimize the possibility. 

How to Avoid Brute Force Hacking?

There are two things that can secure an application against a brute force attack: 

  • The use of a strong password that has a long combination of letters, numbers, and symbols in it. 
  • Limiting the number of login attempts allowed from an IP address within a certain period of time.

Injection Hacking

Another common form of attacks on applications is injection attacks. The target of such attacks is mostly the web-based applications that run on data provided by the user. 

The way these attacks work is by “injecting” data into the application that compromises the security of the system from within.

The most common types of injection hacking attacks include cross-site scripting, code injection, and SQL injection attacks.

Cross-Site Scripting 

These are the attacks where the attackers inject malicious scripts into a trusted application. This causes the application to execute these scripts and behave in a way that exposes sensitive information about the users. 

Code Injection Attacks 

In these attacks, the hackers compromise the application by injecting malicious code into it. When executed, these codes can prevent the application from properly working.

SQL injection 

These attacks involve injecting the application with malicious SQL codes. This makes it possible for the hackers to remotely control the application and access the sensitive data in its databases.

How to Prevent Injection Hacking? 

Unlike brute force hacking, injection hacking can be prevented. Here are some precautionary measures that can secure applications against such attacks:

  • Enforce strict access criteria for getting into the app.
  • Put in place strong screening measures for all the data entered by the users into the app.

Malware Attacks 

Malware is probably the single largest threat not only to application security but to the computer systems as a whole.

This is mainly because of the sheer amount of new malware coming to the market every year. It is estimated that as many as 317 million new computer viruses and malware were created in 2018 alone.

The effects of malware differ from one to another but once they have infected an application they can: 

  • Allow the cybercriminals to make illegal backdoors into the application. 
  • Give unauthorized access to the application.
  • Result in massive data breaches and privacy compromise. 

How to Prevent Malware Attacks

As new malware is coming to the scene every day, there cannot be a singular solution to this problem. However, application security against malware can be improved by: 

  • Putting strong antivirus and firewalls in place.
  • Releasing security patches for the application as and when a new threat is revealed. 
  • Scanning the app for vulnerabilities and fixing them.

While all these measures are to secure applications against specific attacks, there are some things that need to be made a part of the app development process in order to make the apps safer.

Making the Development Environment Secure 

It goes without saying that it is of paramount importance for the developers to make the applications secure. However, just like it is very difficult to proofread what you have written, it is an ego-shattering thing to enforce application security measures. 

A recent study has shown that as much as 83% of developers globally release their apps without implementing proper security measures.

Here are some things that every developer needs to do to ensure application security: 

  • Applications must be developed in accordance with the security standards of the industry leaders and regulators. 
  • Updates and patches must regularly be released to cope with the ever-lurking threat of malware.
  • All the open-source components of the application must be regulated and made at par with the application security standards being followed.

However, it is not just up to the developers to ensure application security. Application users also need to play their part to make sure that the applications they use and the data they have are safe. The things that the users can do include:

  • The use of long and mixed passwords that are hard to guess even for a computer. 
  • Install a firewall on their devices.
  • Don’t download any application from an untrusted source.
  • Keep their credentials safe. 

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Cyber Security

Fintechs are ransomware targets. Here are 9 ways to prevent it.




Cybercriminals are clever, and they often target fintechs for two reasons. They know fintechs handle a lot of sensitive and financial information on a daily basis, and that they probably have the means to meet hackers’ demands and get back to business as usual.

Ransomware attacks are one of the most common fintech cybersecurity risks, and falling victim to one can be devastating — or disruptive at the very least. So, we asked the experts at ESET to explain how to prevent ransomware, and secure your business from the inside out.

Firstly, what is ransomware and how does it work?

With a ransomware attack, a cybercriminal hacks into their victim’s systems and essentially holds their data “hostage” until they pay a ransom. Since hackers know how valuable data is to a business, they tend to set ransoms in the thousands or even millions of dollars.

There are two types of attacks: crypto ransomware encrypts all the files, folders and hard drives on the infected computer, while locker ransomware locks users out of their devices. For cybercriminals, the goal is to get you to pay up so you can retrieve your files and mitigate any damage to your business.

What to do after a ransomware attack

Unfortunately, you don’t have too many options if you fall victim to a ransomware attack. You’ll need to decide to pay the ransom or not, and that involves weighing up how much your data is worth. Just keep in mind that giving in to a cybercriminal’s demands may encourage them to attack you again — and there’s no guarantee that your data will be restored.

Either way, it’s important to go into disaster recovery mode right away. Follow these steps for what to do if you get ransomware:

1. Alert your IT department. If your company has IT professionals or a Chief Information Security Officer, notify them about the attack. Hopefully, they’ll have a plan of actions for situations like these and be able to guide your team through these steps.

2. Trace the source of the attack. Most ransomware attacks have a countdown clock before all your files are deleted forever, so the sooner you find the source, the faster you can act. Typically, ransomware sneaks its way into your system through a malicious link or email attachment. The best-case scenario is the ransomware only attacks that one device, and the worst-case is it infects your entire system. Once you’ve found the culprit, ask the user if they’ve opened other suspicious emails or noticed anything weird about their computer.

3. Remove that device from your network. To stop the ransomware from spreading through your network, you’ll need to unplug the infected device.

4. Let your employees and clients know about the breach. While it’s important not to cause panic, you do need to be transparent. The truth is, most cyber breaches are the result of human error, so your employees need to know what happened and what’s expected of them. As for your clients or customers, contact them if you have proof their data has been compromised. In other words, avoid putting out a statement until you have all the information.

5. Invest in better security systems. When you’ve gotten through the aftermath, look into more sophisticated cybersecurity in fintech practices.

9 ways to prevent ransomware attacks

Ransomware is incredibly common, and as you now know, there are limited ways to deal with an attack. You need to be proactive and prepared, and implement measures to prevent an attack.

As you might have guessed, fintech cybersecurity should be a priority. These are our tips for how to protect against ransomware: 

Set up sophisticated email filters. The majority of ransomware is delivered by spam or phishing emails. To stop ransomware before it has a chance to infect your systems, employ email filters that scan all email content for spam, viruses and other forms of malware.

Run regular security audits. It’s worth assessing your security systems to identify any gaps or weaknesses. If you can, consider outsourcing your cybersecurity, reallocating resources or hiring in-house professionals to give your fintech peace of mind.

Use an up-to-date antivirus and anti-ransomware software. To protect your company devices from ransomware, malware, identity theft and more, install a third-party antivirus software designed for businesses. ESET Digital Security for Business offers the best ransomware protection and defence against a range of advanced cyber threats, and can be tailored to the size and scope of your fintech. Along with blocking persistent threats, it secures your devices with endpoint protection, which is especially handy if you have employees who work remotely.

Accept all software updates. Cybersecurity companies often release new patches to fix bugs and address vulnerabilities, which is why it’s essential to stay on top of any updates. In other words, you could have the most sophisticated antivirus ransomware software in the world, but that won’t do you any good if you ignore every notification that pops up! Updates usually take a few minutes to download and require you to restart your computer, but they make your company much less vulnerable to ransomware.

Implement multi-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication is good, but multi-factor authentication is better. This means employees will need to enter their username, password and one more piece of additional information — usually a code sent to their phone or email — before they can log into the system. It also makes it harder for hackers to break in.

Create a whitelisting program. This is effective in preventing ransomware, and it involves restricting the applications that can run within your company’s system. Think of it as the opposite of blacklisting — only applications that have passed the approval process will work.

Encrypt your company files. Ideally, all of your data should be end-to-end encrypted, and access limited to the people who need that information to do their jobs. The good news is, most computers and phones have built-in operating systems that encrypt stored data and prevent unauthorised users.

Tighten your cloud security. Speaking of the cloud, some cloud services don’t offer secure encryption and can’t distinguish between authorised users and other people trying to access the cloud. ESET Cloud Office Security will configure your cloud security so hackers can’t bypass your company’s policies and tap into sensitive information.

Routinely back up your data and systems. By backing up your data regularly, you’ll be able to recover any lost or corrupted data if your server crashes or if you fall victim to a ransomware attack. We recommend always having two encrypted backups: one on the cloud, and one an external hard drive.

Get in touch with ESET today!

Ready to protect your business from the inside out? With ransomware, prevention is always better than cure, so head to ESET’s site to learn more about their top-rated cybersecurity systems.

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Cyber Security

What are Insecure Direct Object References (IDOR)?




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HackerOne empowers the world to build a safer internet.

Insecure Direct Object References (or IDOR) is a simple bug that packs a punch. When exploited, it can provide attackers with access to sensitive data or passwords or give them the ability to modify information. On HackerOne, over 200 are found and safely reported to customers every month. 

What is an IDOR?

There are several types of IDOR attacks, including:

  • Body Manipulation, in which attackers modify the value of a checkbox, radio buttons, APIs, and form fields to access information from other users with ease.
  • URL Tampering, in which the URL is modified at the client’s end by tweaking the parameters in the HTTP request. 
  • HTTP Requests in which IDOR vulnerabilities are typically found in GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE verbs.
  • Mass Assignment, where a record pattern can be abused to modify data that the user should not be able to access. While not always a result of IDOR vulnerabilities, there are many powerful examples of this being the result of it. 

In its simplest and most common form, an IDOR vulnerability arises when the only input required to access or replace content is from the user. This vulnerability submitted to Shopify by California-based hacker Rojan Rijal (a.k.a. @rijalrojan) in 2018 is the perfect example.

By observing how file attachments were labeled when sending a query to Shopify’s Exchange Marketplace application, Rojan was able to replace documents by leveraging the same file name from different accounts. 

Figure 1: IDOR vulnerability reported by @rijalrojan to Shopify on the HackerOne platform.

For retail and ecommerce companies, IDOR vulnerabilities represent 15% of what organizations pay bounties for and represent the top vulnerability for programs across government (18%), medical technology (36%), and professional services (31%) industries. 

If they’re so simple, why are they so common? 

In short, IDORs can not be detected by tools alone. 

IDORs require creativity and manual security testing to identify them. They require you to understand the business context of the target application. While some scanners might detect activity, it takes a human eye to analyze, evaluate, and interpret. Understanding the deeper context is an innately human skill that machines cannot replicate. In traditional pentests, unless a pentester tests every possible parameter in every request endpoint, these vulnerabilities can go undetected. 

What are the implications of an IDOR vulnerability? 

Perhaps the most infamous IDOR vulnerability as of late is that found in alt-tech social media platform Parler. The company ordered their posts by number in the URL, a telltale sign of IDOR. If you add a sequential digit to a Parler post URL, you could access the next post on the platform indefinitely. Without authentication or access limits, an attacker could easily build a program to download every post, photo, video, and data from the entire site. While this was just public posts (not necessarily IDs used to verify accounts), geolocation data from posts was also downloaded, which could reveal GPS coordinates of users’ homes.  

How can you prevent IDORs from cropping up?

“Avoiding IDOR is only possible by building a robust access control mechanism, choosing the best fit methodology for your scenario, log all access and if possible do an audit with a post authorization check,” said HackerOne hacker Manoel Abreu Netto, better known online as @manoelt.

“However, if you want to reduce the impact of an IDOR, avoid using a simple pattern to reference objects in the backend, thus not using a sequential integer value but something like uuid or even a MAC (hashed ID) with a salt per user session.

This does not eliminate the IDOR, but reduces the overall impact and the ability to enumerate objects.”

To remediate IDOR vulnerabilities, below are a few best practices. 

  1. Developers should avoid displaying private object references such as keys or file names.
  2. Validation of parameters should be properly implemented.
  3. Verification of all the referenced objects should be checked.
  4. Tokens should be generated in such a way that it can only be mapped to the user and is not public.
  5. Ensure that queries are scoped to the owner of the resource. 
  6. Avoid things like using UUIDs (Universally unique identifier) over Sequential IDs as UUIDs often let IDOR vulnerabilities go undetected.

For more information about reducing risk and getting started with hacker-powered security, check out our CISOs Guide to Deriving Value from Hacker-Powered Security.


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Cyber Security

80% of Global Enterprises Report Firmware Cyberattacks




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