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CISO/Management

COVID-19 Has Created Cybersecurity Issues for My Company; HELP!!

By CISO/Management, Cyber Security, Defensive Tactics, Risk Management One Comment

Cybersecurity is always a balancing act.  Good security personnel find ways in which to implement security controls that enable business users and the business.  Good Security leaders make decisions based on quality risk management techniques, ensuring that costs are managed.  What happens when we identify risk that cannot be appropriately mitigated?

With COVID-19, our world has changed, and we have been forced to make decisions.  I have heard from security professionals who say that they are ready to quit their jobs because COVID-19 has opened up a world of insecurity and that “the execs don’t care”.  I submit to you that the executive teams DO care, these professionals simply have not presented the information in a manner that allows for an appropriate decision.

This article is not one that is designed to have people migrate from any specific device or to create stir in the Android community, it is one of finding ways in which to balance risk.  The Android platform is a great example.

Before I get into the risk management part, let’s use an example that you are likely facing;

Some years back, we (the company I worked for and myself) implemented a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution.  We then allowed select users (a small test group) to connect their (company owned) devices to segregated parts of the network.  My SIEM quickly lit up, telling me that many (almost all) of the Androids were compromised and communicating with nefarious servers.  I also began to receive complaints from end users that ranged from data being overwritten, to their phones not ringing, after the MDM encrypted the company data on the phones.  Needless to say, we began to investigate and identify problems.  We had to conduct a large amount of research and ultimately concluded that we could not use the MDM solution if our users could not receive great service.  We also could not allow these devices to connect to our network as the data we were accountable for would be placed at risk.

We discovered that applications (apps) were being downloaded from the App store that were wrought with malware.  We also found that the devices were almost all different with different parts, different versions of Android, and a variety of problems.  Here is an example story about hacked apps; https://www.forbes.com/sites/kateoflahertyuk/2019/10/30/new-google-android-threat-malicious-app-installed-by-40-million-play-store-users/#759b0b50511e

This morning, I read a Wired article about Qualcomm releasing a fix that will affect around 90% of US user’s Android devices.  The article presents the idea that “A BILLION OR more Android devices are vulnerable to hacks that can turn them into spying tools by exploiting more than 400 vulnerabilities in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chip, researchers reported this week.”  The article can be found here;  https://www.wired.com/story/over-a-billion-android-devices-are-at-risk-of-data-theft/

Risk Management

In this situation, we have some choices that MUST be made;

  1. We can ignore the issue, citing the fact that users have to be able to perform their jobs.
  2. We can ban the devices.
  3. We can add compensating controls (which must be tested and validated).
  4. We can limit the user experience and lock the devices down.
  5. We can elevate our concerns to management and ask for guidance.

What is the correct answer?  Often, we make assumptions about what other people think that are wrong.  Those Cybersecurity people who are ready to quit can breathe a sigh of relief; so can your executives!

As we deal with this situation, or any other situation, it is critical that we follow basic risk management techniques because the answer is going to depend upon the company, culture, type of data, and a variety of other factors.

As security professionals, we have an obligation to ensure that the company is successful and that the business is enabled through the use of cybersecurity.  With COVID-19, this becomes a widespread concern.  I hear this from customers and other decision makers daily.  They ask me about how they should build secure home environments as their users are working from home.  My answer is ALWAYS, “Consult your risk assessment!”  If your risk assessment does not help you with an answer, I would recommend that you conduct a more mature risk assessment.

Proper risk management begins with discussions about the definitions of risk; each company is different.  This flows into a process of understanding the risk tolerance of the organization.  We then look at the business and determine the risks (this is a lengthy process that should be pages, not lines).  We identify the likelihood and criticality of the risk being realized (I like to score the areas of Compliance Risk, Confidentiality Risk, Integrity Risk, Availability Risk, AND Company Image Risk).  We then calculate the effectiveness of the controls we have in place that mitigate the risk to determine the residual risk.

Here is where it gets fun.  We now must put together a comprehensive plan to address the risks.  This should include multiple options for treating the risk, including the acceptance of risk.  As security professionals, we are accountable to treat the risks we identify when they are within our ability to treat them.  When they fall outside of our reach, we escalate them to management; not with a story of how we will be hacked, but with a discussion about the true concerns surrounding the risk.  We then allow them to make an informed decision.  We document their decision and move on; readdressing the risk when changes occur or upon agreed upon intervals.  This is a cyclical process that must be done anytime something changes and at least annually.

When this process is followed, your risk assessment will guide you.  Security practitioners will be relieved to know that they are not accountable with risk outside their control and executives will know that the security program is not just a money pit, it is a tool for the successful enablement of the business.

NIST 800-171 is being enforced!

By CISO-as-a-Service, CISO/Management, Cyber Security, Risk Management No Comments

In October 2017 I wrote how the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) Clause 252.204-7012 required contractors to implement NIST Special Publication 800-171 by December 31, 2017 regarding data protections and safeguards around Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI).

Similar to the first implementation of the Healthcare HIPAA regulations, we did not see an immediate attempt to audit and enforce the requirements of the mandate.  I stated then that failure to follow the requirements would result in breach of contract with the government (Department of Defense).  After the publication of NIST 800-171, there were many questions around what constituted CUI. Furthermore, if you read the language in government contracts, you will see how ambiguous the definitions of data protection requirements really are.  We’ve discovered that most contracts do not always follow the requirements of the rule; see 252.204-7012 (a);

1) Marked or otherwise identified in the contract, task order, or delivery order and provided to the contractor by or on behalf of DoD in support of the performance of the contract; or

(2) Collected, developed, received, transmitted, used, or stored by or on behalf of the contractor in support of the performance of the contract.

Many prime contractors have told us that they are waiting to see what enforcement steps would be implemented and/or until the regulations were fully ratified (The latest version, as of today’s date, can be found at; https://csrc.nist.gov/publications/detail/sp/800-171/rev-1/final and Revisions 2 will be published soon).  These “wait and see” companies felt their partial implementation of the regulation was “good enough.”  We have pushed existing and prospective customers on the fact that there are many risks beyond simply the contractual requirements to achieve compliance and that doing so early on could save them headaches, costs, fines, etc. in the long-term.  At Cyber Self-Defense, we’ve responded to many actual data breaches across many industries which were highly preventable, and we continue to encourage customers to become compliant as soon as possible.  We encourage our customers to get ahead of the curve and develop a risk-based cybersecurity program for the sake of enabling the business’ success; noting that compliance becomes easier and less expensive when done according to the needs of the business and implemented in a manner that is compliant with regulations and contractual requirements.

Well my friends, this discussion has just turned another corner!

In January of this year, the Under Secretary of Defense, Ellen M. Lord, sent a memorandum to a large number of organizations directing them to enforce the provisions of the contracts.  (Found here, https://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/pdi/cyber/docs/USA000140-19%20TAB%20A%20USD(AS)%20Signed%20Memo.pdf

Lord asks these agencies to begin to audit ensuring compliance with the requirements.  Specifically;

To effectively implement the cybersecurity requirements addressed in DFARS Clause 252.204-7012 and NIST SP 800-171, I have asked the Director, Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) to validate, for contracts for which they provide contract administration and oversight, contractor compliance with the requirements of DFARS clause 252.204-7012. Specifically, DCMA will leverage its review of a contractor’s purchasing system in accordance with DFARS Clause 252.244-7001, Contractor Purchasing System Administration, in order to:

  • Review Contractor procedures to ensure contractual DoD requirements for marking and distribution statements on DoD CUI flow down appropriately to their Tier 1 Level Suppliers.
  • Review Contractor procedures to assess compliance of their Tier 1 Level Suppliers with DFARS Clause 252.204-7012 and NIST SP 800-171.

To ensure that a similar approach may be taken at companies for which DCMA does not administer contracts (such as the Secretary of the Navy’s ship building contracts), we will work with representatives of those communities to implement a similar solution.

So, what does this all mean?  We believe this will be similar to what happened with the implementation and enforcement of the HIPAA regulations.  Companies will wait for enforcement to begin, and there will be a mad rush to become compliant.  In the meantime, these companies will be the targets of cybercriminals, they will be the new “low hanging fruit,” and ultimately suffer the negative impact of a breach compounded by the heavy fines or contract cancellations.  We encourage you, if you are not following a cyber security plan which truly enables the business, to prioritize building a comprehensive program.  EVERYONE is an unfortunate target of criminals!

Please don’t delay. The longer you wait the greater the risk of non-compliance becomes. Let us help you solve the mystery of cybersecurity by assessing your current state program and designing and implementing compliance and data protection. Contact us today!

Cybersecurity Leadership (CISO): A Modern Approach to Cybersecurity

By CISO-as-a-Service, CISO/Management, Cyber Crime, Cyber Security, Defensive Tactics, Risk Management No Comments

Businesses have a corporate responsibility to secure their own and the information they have been entrusted with. Many companies believe that this is expensive, not their responsibility, etc. They also assume (usually incorrectly) that the IT department is handling cybersecurity. Most companies lack the talent necessary to build a security  program that is cost-effective, enables the business for success, and has the necessary depth. When the Cyber Self-Defense team speaks with companies, they tell us they do not know where to begin. Our answer to this issue is always the same; start by hiring the right talent to make you successful. CISO-as-a-Service® might be your answer!

Talent

At Cyber Self Defense, we often hear that cybersecurity talent is becoming harder and harder to come by. With the increasing level and complexity of cyber attacks, companies are looking for cybersecurity teams to help them to build their programs, yet job requisitions remain unfilled.

Trends

This is what we know;

  • Cybersecurity professionals are demanding more money.
  • Companies are creating positions that are vague, all-encompassing, and that fail to help them to build a comprehensive cybersecurity program.
  • Companies are electing to hire junior professionals who are unqualified to lead the program; with no strategic or leadership experience.
  • Companies are compromising on experience, qualifications, and other critical knowledge factors, just to get someone in the role.
  • Companies are over-spending on technology because they do not have the strategic outlook and risk-based approach which is so critical to any cybersecurity program.
  • Audit Pleasing- many companies build their cybersecurity programs to please auditors; they fail to see the need for true security. They also fail to see that a properly built program can be done at about the same cost of program meant only to “check the box”.
  • Companies add technologies that are just sitting in the racks.; we have seen situations where systems are installed with less than 10% of the features configured and used. Please see my article on “Blinky Light Syndrome”.
Common fears of hiring a CISO-as-a-Service®

1. Is the CISO-as-a-Service® a group of professional consultants who have no real-world experience?

  • The one thing we hear from our customers, when wanting to hire a CISO-as-a-Service® is that they tend to get “professional consultants”. It is important to hire companies who hire individuals with real leadership level experience building cyber security programs, while an employee of the company.
  • Professional consultants are great, but unless they have the practical experience of managing a program for an organization, they will struggle finding the correct balance between security and operations. They will also struggle with the political aspects of building a program.
  •  Any leader can tell you that there is a huge gap between the professional consultant and someone with full-time experience.
  • You should interview YOUR CISO and determine if he/she has the requisite knowledge and skills to make you successful. We enjoy having people interview us, as they would an internal employee. We would be glad to provide you with a resume of your CISO to show their qualifications.

2. Is there a conflict of interest, when a company comes in as a CISO and then sells us their other products and other non-related services?

  • It can be a conflict of interest if your CISO-as-a-Service® professional is a part of a large firm that sells products and other services; occasionally, they tend to push you to purchase their products, meaning the CISO might have not have your best interest at heart. Instead of being fully vested to ensure a purpose fit program for the company, he/she might be forced to push product and services.

3. How can a part time company build a program faster and cheaper than our internal employee?

  • A CISO-as-a-Service® professional hits the ground running with the tools, tricks of the trade, and other pieces of information that can make a huge difference in the overall successful delivery.
  • We have discovered that being a third party, your professional opinions are more likely to be considered. Many times, an internal person must deal with too many internal politics.
  • With a professional company, you do get the collective knowledge of the team. This benefit is critical to your success.

4. I am the acting CISO or want that job; I am the CIO and do not want to look bad; or I have other fears that this company will displace me, my team, or others and or damage my reputation.

  • As a consultant with experience performing in this capacity, it is our job to make you successful, based on your definition of success. Your CISO should ensure that your company is highly successful in all aspects of the process.
  • It is also our responsibility, as it would be in a full-time CISO, to ensure that we mentor staff and prepare them to take over for us.
  • We should be a core part of the TEAM that is designed to enable the company to succeed.

5. Is a CISO-as-a-Service® just going to come in, drop templates on my desk and have me implement them?

  • No unless they don’t want to succeed! This person should be YOUR CISO and perform is the SAME capacity, just on a part time basis.
  • Any templates or other tools that are brought in should be used as a starting point, above ground level, to allow a faster (controlled) implementation; No template is a one size fits all, it must be molded to your company. It must have an implementation strategy. It must be your company’s established program that is implemented through a formal process that follows your company’s normal flows.
Conclusion

A responsible company knows that to run their company correctly, they must have the correct leadership! Most companies would never ask corporate attorney to lead the IT department. At the same time, most companies would never place a paralegal into the corporate counsel position.

We believe that the same is true for companies who make the Chief Information Officer (CIO) in direct charge of cybersecurity. Most Chief Information Officers (CIOs) will tell you that they are not comfortable managing cyber security and IT at the same time; these can be conflicting. We’ve also found that companies who place a Security Analyst into the position of strategically building a cybersecurity program will fail to recognize a comprehensive, risk-based, and cost-effective solution that truly enables the business to succeed. Hire the right person for the job and you will reap the rewards of your decision.

We look forward to your feedback on our website; www.cyberselfdefense.org

CISO-as-a-Service®

Cyber Self-Defense was built as a result of a growing demand in the marketplace seeking out knowledge, expertise, and leadership in cybersecurity and risk management.  Our clients wanted us to bring in our templates, processes, experiences, and our collective knowledge and put it to work for them.  They wanted people who had built programs from the organically — from the ground-up. They wanted people who were known for enabling the business through cybersecurity efforts, not people who shut the business down with high costs and inappropriate rules. This is how we grew into a full-time business which has positively and directly contributed to the success of our clients.

Cyber Self-Defense has years of experience in reducing your cybersecurity risk and we would love to work with you on all your cyber risk needs. We make cybersecurity attainable for all organizations, without inhibiting your ability to work and make a profit. Cyber Self-Defense can be reached at: (866) CYBER-96 or on our website: www.cyberselfdefense.org

Blinky Light Syndrome

By CISO/Management, Cyber Crime, Cyber Security, Defensive Tactics, Risk Management, Tutorials No Comments

Far too often, I meet companies who are excited when I arrive. They pull me into their data center and show me their new KYZ 5000 and go on to explain that it has ended all of their cyber security concerns. I review the device and find out that it is plugged in and has a flashing light somewhere in the front and that is the end of the story. Other times, I go to a site and find that the company has just purchased an ABC 1000; plugged it in, turned it on, and perhaps even configured it.

In both cases, I tend to ask what problem(s) the piece of equipment is solving. Most of the time, I hear a story like; “Mike, you don’t understand, Joe down the street just bought one and it has solved all of his problems!”

Unfortunately, I find that these are simply impulse buys or worse, auditor pleasers. When we actually take a look, they are not working the way the purchasing company believes they are working. I frequently ask the company’s representative how this purchase has helped to lower the company’s risk. They usually give me a blank stare and asked what I mean. I usually ask to see the company’s risk assessment. The person then goes into panic mode and begins a hunt for the risk assessment. After finding the risk assessment (and knocking a year’s worth of dust buildup off), I ask how the purchase has reduced the risks listed in the assessment.

Risk Assessment

It is usually at this point that I must explain that the risk assessment is designed to help organizations manage their security spend, the effects of security on the end user, and the true need for security. After reviewing the risk assessment together, we usually agree that had the organization used the assessment as it was intended, the same spend would have reduced risk a great deal more than the purchase of the equipment; perhaps the piece of equipment reduced the risk by .5% and spending the money wisely would have reduced risk by 30%.

Cybersecurity experts MUST be risk managers. They MUST ensure that the security program is being managed to enable the success of the business. When we do not use our risk assessment to perform our duties, we run the risk of over spending, over protecting, or simply wasting time, money, and resources. It is also crucial for us to understand that our roles require that we understand all methods of treating risk. Many, in our community, believe that we must throw technology at everything and that it will solve all. Even the vendors (at least the honest ones) will tell you that their technology is one part of an overall strategy.

Many would agree that their technology must be fully implemented from a technology configuration, policy, procedure, and corporate strategy standpoint; having the equipment plugged in, whether configured or not, is only one piece. On that same note, the technology MUST work in harmony with all other security strategies. I have yet to find a tool that will solve all Information security problems; as cybersecurity experts we must layer our approach to cybersecurity. Our approach MUST include training, risk management, policy procedure, company buy-in, and technology. Note that technology is last; without the first pieces, you have (BLS) Blinky Light Syndrome.

Blinky Light Syndrome (BLS) describes a device that is plugged in, turned on, but not doing what the owner thinks it is doing or what the owner wants it to do. It can be used to describe either of the scenarios I covered at the beginning of this article.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a risk assessment is not just used once a year, to show auditors that you have it. It is a tool that takes on a living role in your success as a cybersecurity expert. It grows with you, as you add new processes, technologies, or the business changes; the risk assessment grows. As your company divests, the risk assessment should be consulted and adjusted to reflect the changes. When you purchase new security tools, your risk assessment should aid you in determining exactly how the solution will need to be set up and configured. At Cyber Self-Defense, we make it our business to help your organization to steer clear of Blinky Light Syndrome and equip you to truly be secure!