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Multiparty Encryption Allows Companies to Solve Security-Data Conundrum

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An interdisciplinary research team constructs a way for companies to share breach data without revealing specific details that could exposes businesses to legal risk.

A system that allows companies to submit breach data anonymously and then benefit from the aggregate statistics for their industries could give executives and policymakers a more accurate understanding of how breaches impact businesses and give companies the timely threat intelligence they need to prepare for attacks.

The Secure Cyber Risk Aggregation and Measurement (SCRAM) system — created by an interdisciplinary team of policy, financial, and computer-science researchers at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) — uses a special type of encryption to allow various calculations to be performed on protected data in the context of a multiparty computation (MPC) system. An initial proof-of-concept trial not only delivered aggregate breach data for a group of six companies, but it also collected information about the adoption rate of security controls and the controls blamed for the greatest loss. 

The researchers plan to next conduct a larger trial of the technology with 60 to 70 companies in several industries to gather sector-specific data, says Taylor Reynolds, technology policy director of MIT’s Internet Policy Research Initiative.

“We have shown that firms are willing to share this really sensitive data as long as they know it is going to be protected,” he says. “And what that does is it opens up a whole new set of data and statistics for us that will allow us better to better defend our networks.”

The research could solve one of the most enduring problems of cybersecurity: the lack of good data on breaches and information on what controls are working. While several industries — most notably healthcare — are required to disclose information on cybersecurity incidents, the practice remains relatively uncommon and minor cybersecurity events have always been underreported. 

A privacy-preserving system could solve the major hurdle preventing such sharing of data, says Darren Van Booven, lead principal consultant at security-services firm Trustwave.

“One of the things that I’ve always noticed over the course of my career is the difficulty in being able to get quality information on what works and what doesn’t, what have other organizations found to be more effective in the way of controls, and what exactly are the losses that have been occurred,” he says. “This impacts the job of every CISO because they are trying to report to their executive leadership on what exactly the real risk to their company is right now.”

The idea for the system came out of interviews with executives in critical-infrastructure industries, such as financial, oil and gas, and the electric industries. Each industry wanted data, but no executive wanted to put their business at risk by acknowledging breaches, says MIT’s Reynolds

“One of the messages that kept coming out was they needed a better way to share data and share information because the current methods are not working,” he says. “We put our minds together and knew we had the pieces … let’s get together and devise a way that firms can share data securely without having to reveal it or disclose it to anyone else.”

The group of researchers created an MPC system that preserves privacy. The system is enabled by a special type of encryption that allows some types of math to be performed on the encrypted values. Known as threshold homomorphic encryption, the technique is a special way of protecting data by allowing each party to encrypt the information and then decrypt the results of any aggregate calculation. 

The technique solves two problems with other methods of aggregation. Take, for example, a gathering of people who wants to share information on salaries. They could give all the information to a trusted third party, which could then do the calculations and provide an average income for the group. The third party, however, could be compromised or, in the end, found untrustworthy, resulting in a leak of information on a specific person’s salary — a violation of privacy. Alternatively, the group could put all the information into a hat and then aggregate the data, but participants could potentially be identified from just knowing the details of any single incident.

However, if each participant added a large random number to their salary, then passed along the total to the next person, no individual salary would be compromised. In a second round of calculation, each person could subtract the large random amount they had previously added, resulting in the exact sum of their incomes.

“Nowhere along that path did anyone have to reveal their own salary in order for us to run that computation,” Reynolds says. “It is that type of mathematical modeling that allows us to run those computations on the platform.”

The SCRAM system uses a similar approach with homomorphic encryption, a type of privacy-preserving cryptography that allows calculations on encrypted data. 

The pilot project collected data on more than 49 security incidents from the six large private-sector firms and the specific security-control failures that the companies blamed for each incident. Centralized log management was the top control failure linked to breaches, associated with almost $6 million in aggregate losses over the 49 security incidents.

Future trials will attempt to structure the questions and answers to reveal stronger links between controls and breach damages, says Reynolds.

“The Holy Grail here is trying to understand return on investment of security controls,” he says. “If I spend the money on X, what will be the return on investment that I get on that when I do risk modeling?”

With the privacy-preserving system, such data may no longer be out of reach.

Veteran technology journalist of more than 20 years. Former research engineer. Written for more than two dozen publications, including CNET News.com, Dark Reading, MIT’s Technology Review, Popular Science, and Wired News. Five awards for journalism, including Best Deadline … View Full Bio

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Source: https://www.darkreading.com/threat-intelligence/multiparty-encryption-allows-companies-to-solve-security-data-conundrum/d/d-id/1338867?_mc=rss_x_drr_edt_aud_dr_x_x-rss-simple

Cyber Security

6 Crucial password security tips for everyone

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[ 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…

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Source: https://www.cybersecurity-insiders.com/6-crucial-password-security-tips-for-everyone/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=6-crucial-password-security-tips-for-everyone

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Cyber Security

Deadly Ransomware Story Continues to Unfold

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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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Source: https://www.darkreading.com/threat-intelligence/deadly-ransomware-story-continues-to-unfold/d/d-id/1338957?_mc=rss_x_drr_edt_aud_dr_x_x-rss-simple

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Cyber Security

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

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[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

Source: https://www.cshub.com/attacks/articles/incident-of-the-week-equinix-is-the-latest-in-a-long-line-of-ransomware-victims

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