October 21 is Wonder Woman Day. It commemorates Wonder Woman’s first appearance in All Star Comics #8. With the upcoming release of Wonder Woman 1984, we took the opportunity to talk superheroes, superpowers and protecting data with our very own Briana Butler, Engineering Services Manager at Webroot.
Q: Wonder Woman got her powers from her divine mother, Queen Hippolyta. How did you get your data protection superpowers?
I had a reboot in life. I was previously a retail buyer then I went back to school for computer science and ended up switching to the business school. I was hired at Webroot to be a bridge between engineering and business – you have to have people that can speak both languages – and that’s exactly what I wanted to do and what I was trying to forge with my new career.
I first began as a data analyst, which meant working on privacy compliance, GDPR, CCPA, and data mapping, understanding where data is stored and processed, and who has access to it. My latest role is as an Engineering Services Manager, meaning I help engineering and product with personnel and hiring needs, ISO certification and making sure our development teams receive the training they need to stay up to date with the fast pace of tech.
Q: Wonder Woman had several superpowers, or super powerful gadgets, like indestructible bracelets and a lasso that forced people to tell the truth. Is cyber resilience a superpower?
Every superhero has different talents or powers. When we think of cyber resilience, it’s sort of like our own personal toolbox of powers that we can use against malicious actors who want to take our data and make money off it.
Our toolbox of cyber resilience includes basic best practices like knowing how to create a strong password, not clicking every link that comes into your email inbox and daily behaviors of how to navigate and defend yourself online. The goal is to live your best digital life confidently, without disruption.
Q: What about our data? Does that give us any powers that we wouldn’t have without it?
I think it’s more about understanding the power data has if we give it away. When we give people access to our data, that’s when it becomes powerful. Whether it’s corporations or malicious actors, when we willingly hand out our data, that gives it power because then, they know things about us. I talk a lot about privacy and why everyone should be more critical and cognizant of the data they’re sharing. We share a lot more than we realize. It’s time for all of us to understand what we’re sharing and then decide if we, personally, really want to share it.
Q: Wonder Woman encountered her fair share of comic strip villains, like the Duke of Deception, Doctor Psycho and Cheetah. Who are the villains in the digital world?
They’re the malicious actors and cybercriminals who would take your data and sell it on the open market. It could even be the person trying to get access to your Hulu account. There are also nation-state actors and the companies you buy things from. There’s a huge spectrum of villains, and they all want your data. There’s big money in data. So, it’s important that you’re aware of what’s being shared.
I’ve started reading privacy policies – those long, convoluted legal documents – to see if I can understand where I’m going to be sharing my information and make a more conscious decision.
For one large social platform, when I went through it, I started asking myself, am I really okay sharing this information? Do I really need this service or platform? Is it necessary in exchange for what I’m about to share with them? In the end, I didn’t sign up for it.
I’ve also gone through the frustrating and somewhat time-consuming act of cleaning up all my passwords and using a password manager. Most people say they have anywhere from 15 to 20 password-protected accounts. But when I went through all the places I’ve shared my password, it was upwards of 100!
One of my favorite topics is password strength. We recently did an analysis of password configurations with Maurice Schmidtler, our head data scientist, who created a Monte Carlo simulation. We took what you usually see when you’re told to create a password – like using uppercase and lowercase letters or special symbols – and applied those within the simulation. What we found was that the more constraints you put on a password, the fewer viable options you have for a strong password, meaning it decreases the number of good password options. Whereas if you focus on creating a strong password, where length is more important than the various character-type constraints, you’ll end up with a much stronger password. Length is strength because it takes more computing power to break.
Q: Wonder Woman was a founding member of the Justice League. So, even she needed the help of a squad to defeat the villains. Do we need help from a squad to be more cyber resilient?
We all need assistance because as humans, we are fallible. Inevitably, someone might click on a malicious link, or some unforeseen event might happen where you need a backup that’s going to allow you to recover data instead of losing it permanently.
When it comes to ransomware, or really any other attack, you need awareness. That’s why we encourage proactive education and regular security awareness training, so people truly understand the threat landscape and how to identify the most prevalent types of attacks.
Q: At one point in the story, Wonder Woman surrendered her superpowers and used fighting skills instead. In what ways do we surrender our powers when it comes to cyber resilience?
Oversharing content or data about yourself, your name or address are surefire ways to surrender power in the digital age. All these things identify you and allow criminals to gain insight that can be used against you through social engineering.
You’re also surrendering power when you practice poor cyber hygiene, like repeating passwords across multiple logins. Once a cybercriminal gains access to one login, they can discover more details about you and use it elsewhere. For example, you may not be worried about a criminal getting access to your Netflix account, but if you use the same password there as you do with your bank, then the situation just became much more serious.
You also surrender power by not protecting your home network and not using VPN when you’re on public Wi-Fi. People often think “it won’t happen to me,” until it’s too late. And recovery can be costly and time-consuming. That’s why implementing layers of protection up front strengthens cyber resilience and helps keep your digital life easy, secure and free of complications.
Q: Are you going to watch the new Wonder Woman movie?
Oh sure! I will because I’ve seen all the other ones. I’m a big fan of Guardians of the Galaxy. And, of course, I love Iron Man. And I was a big fan of Black Panther, too. Doctor Strange is also one of my faves.
Q: If cybercriminals were villains from Wonder Woman, who would they be?
The Duke of Deception! Hackers, cybercriminals and nation-state actors are constant antagonists, and that’s exactly who we defend our users against.
Fine-tuning privacy for any preference
A DNS filtering service that accommodates DNS over HTTPS (DoH) can strengthen an organization’s ability to control network traffic and turn away threats. DoH can offer businesses far greater control and flexibility over their privacy than the old system.
The most visible use of DNS is typically the browser, which is why all the usual suspects are leading the charge in terms of DoH adoption. This movement has considerable steam behind it and has extended beyond just applications as Microsoft, Apple and Google have all announced their intent to support DoH.
Encrypting DNS requests is an indisputable win for privacy-minded consumers looking to prevent their ISPs from snooping on and monetizing their browsing habits. Businesses, on the other hand, should not easily surrender this visibility since managing these requests adds value, helping to keep users from navigating to sites known to host malware and other threats.
Here are three examples of how.
1. By enhancing DNS logging control
Businesses have varying motivations for tracking online behavior. For persistently troublesome users—those who continuously navigate to risky sites—it’s beneficial to exert some control over their network use or even provide some training on what it takes to stay safe online. It can also be useful in times of problematic productivity dips by helping to tell if users are spending inordinate amounts of time on social media, say.
On the other hand, for CEOs and other strategic business units, tracking online activity can be cause for privacy concerns. Too much detail into the network traffic of a unit tasked with investigating mergers and acquisitions may be unwanted, for example.
“If I’m the CEO of a company, I don’t want people paying attention to where I go on the internet,” says Webroot DNS expert Jonathan Barnett. “I don’t want people to know of potential deals I’m investigating before they become public.”
Logging too much user information can also be problematic from a data privacy perspective. Collecting or storing this information in areas with stricter laws, as in the European Union, can unnecessarily burden organizations with red tape.
“Essentially it exposes businesses to requirements concerning how they’re going to use that data, who has access to it and how long that data is preserved” says Barnett.
By optionally never logging user information and backing off DNS logging except when a request is deemed a security threat, companies maintain both privacy and security.
2. By allowing devices to echo locally
With DoH, visibility of DNS requests is challenging. The cumulative DNS requests made on a network help to enhance its security as tools such as SIEMs and firewalls leverage these requests by controlling access as well as corelating the requests with other logs and occurrences on the network.
“Let’s say I’m on my network at the office and I make a DNS request,” explains Barnett. “I may want my DNS request to be seen by the network as well as fielded by my DNS filtering service. The network gets value out of DNS. If I see inappropriate DNS requests I can go and address the user or fix the device.”
Continuing to expose these DNS requests through an echo to the local network provides this, while the actual requests are secure and encrypted by the DNS protection agent using DoH. This option achieves the best of both worlds by adding the security of DoH to the security of the local network.
3. By allowing agents to fail open
DNS is instrumental to the functionality of the internet. So, the question is, what do we do when a filtered answer is not available? By failing over to the local network, it’s assured that the internet continues to function. However, there are times when filtering and privacy are more important than connectivity. Being able to choose if DNS requests can leak out to the local network helps you stay in control by choosing which is a priority.
“Fail open functionality essentially allows admins to make a tradeoff between the protection offered by DNS filtering and the productivity hit that inevitably accompanies a lack of internet access,” says Barnett.
Privacy your way
The encryption of DoH enables options for fine-tuning privacy preferences while preserving the security benefits of DNS filtering. Those that must comply with the needs of privacy-centric users now have control over what is revealed and what is logged, while maintaining the benefits of communicating using DoH.
Click here to read related blogs covering the transition to DNS over HTTPS.
Backdoor Found in Children’s Smartwatch
Researchers have discovered that the X4, made by Norwegian smartwatch seller Xplora, contains a backdoor that could allow for information to be stolen. The X4 watch is designed specifically for children with a limited number of capabilities, mostly for children’s security. The backdoor, however, could allow attackers to take snapshots, view messages, call records, and access geolocational data from the wearer. The watches are designed and built in China and it remains unclear who has access to data created and stored on the devices.
Ransomware Strikes London Borough
The London borough of Hackney recently fell victim to a ransomware attack, taking several of the council’s primary services offline. While still little is known about the attack, it’s likely that encrypted files were also stolen for auctioning to the highest bidder. Council officials are working with law enforcement to determine the initial attack vector and information that may have been targeted.
Carnival Reveals Updates to Recent Cyberattack
Nearly two months after a ransomware attack compromised a third-party vendor for the Carnival Corporation, the company announced sensitive passenger information has indeed been exposed. An undetermined number of customers and employees may be affected across three Carnival cruise lines. With 150,000 employees worldwide, and upwards of 13 million customers, this data breach could be affect millions of individuals.
Ransomware Takes Aim at International Law Firm
International law firm Seyfarth Shaw has confirmed a ransomware attack targeted their systems over the weekend. While the extent of the attack remains unclear, several systems were forced offline after encryption was executed to stop additional spreading. Firm officials stated that no client information was stolen or illicitly accessed, but they are still operating without email or a live website. Some systems were saved from the attack but officials have yet to confirm if customers were affected by the breach.
Software AG Suffers Major Data Breach
German IoT specialist Software AG suffered a ransomware attack that was able to exfiltrate significant amounts of data. Officials have confirmed that, while they have been able to maintain online services throughout the attack, the malicious downloading of an unknown amount of sensitive data did take place. The attacking group has not yet been identified, but other attacks of similar scale have cost companies anywhere from $20 to $70 million in ransoms for the return of their data.
New Jersey Hospital Pays Massive Ransom
Officials have decided to pay roughly $670,000 in ransom following a ransomware attack on the University Hospital in New Jersey. The hospital was likely forced into this decision after being unable to restore from backups the 240GB of data stolen in the attack on their systems. It’s not entirely clear what information was stolen, but given the haste of payment it was likely highly sensitive patient data.
COVID-Related Cyberattacks Target Canadian Companies
A recent survey revealed that over 25% of all Canadian business organizations had been targeted by a COVID-19-themed cyberattack since the beginning of the year. Most of the organizations surveyed also reported seeing a significant rise in overall cyberattacks since the pandemic began. Worrisome findings also revealed that 38% of organizations surveyed were unsure if they had fallen victim to any type of cyberattack, which could mean the amount of customer information for sale on black markets could be significantly higher.
Boom! Mobile Website Compromised
Major Ransomware Attacks Increase Through Q3
Researchers have reported a massive increase in ransomware attacks in Q3 of 2020, with the Maze group being responsible for 12% of all attacks. They also reported that Ryuk ransomware variants were responsible for an average of 20 attacks per week. With the ongoing neglect of cybersecurity in major corporations, ransomware attacks will likely continue as long as their authors find them profitable.
Chicago Food Delivery Service Stricken with Data Breach
Nearly 800,000 customer records were compromised following a data breach at ChowBus, a Chicago-based food delivery service. With roughly 440,000 unique email addresses exposed, many individuals are now more susceptible to additional phishing attacks or identity theft. Fortunately, however, ChowBus does not store payment card information on its site.
Like many of the technologies we discuss on this blog—think phishing scams or chatbots—deepfakes aren’t necessarily new. They’re just getting a whole lot better. And that has scary implications for both private citizens and businesses alike.
The term “deepfakes,” coined by a Reddit user in 2017, was initially most often associated with pornography. A once highly trafficked and now banned subreddit was largely responsible for developing deepfakes into easily created and highly believable adult videos.
“This is no longer rocket science,” an AI researcher told Vice’s Motherboard in an early story on the problem of AI-assisted deepfakes being used to splice celebrities into pornographic videos.
The increasing ease with which deepfakes can be created also troubles Kelvin Murray, a senior threat researcher at Webroot.
“The advancements in getting machines to recognize and mimic faces, voices, accents, speech patterns and even music are accelerating at an alarming rate,” he says. “Deepfakes started out as a subreddit, but now there are tools that allow you to manipulate faces available right there on your smartphone.”
While creating deepfakes used to require good hardware and a sophisticated skillset, app stores are now overflowing with options creating them. In terms of technology, they’re simply a specific application of machine learning technology, says Murray.
“The basics of any AI system is that if you throw enough information at it, itcan pick it up. It can mimic it. So, if you give it enough video, it can mimic a person’s face. If you give it enough recordings of a person, it can mimic that person’s voice.”
There are several ways deepfakes threaten to redefine the way we live and conduct business online.
Deepfakes as a threat to privacy
A stolen credit card can be cancelled. A stolen identity, especially when it’s a mimicked personal attribute, is much more difficult to recover. The hack of a firm dedicated to developing facial recognition technology, for instance, could be a devastating source of deepfakes.
“So many apps, sites and platforms host so many videos and recordings today. What happens when they get hacked? Will the breach of a social media platform allow a hacker to impersonate you,” asks Murray.
Businesses must be especially careful about the data they collect from customers or users, asking both if it’s necessary to collect and if it can be stored safely afterwards. If personal data must be collected, security must be a top priority, and not only for ethical reasons. Governments are starting to enact some strict regulations and doling out some stiff fines for data breaches.
Ultimately, Murray thinks those governments may need to weigh in more heavily on the threat of deepfakes as they become even more indistinguishable from reality.
“We’re not going to stop this technology. It’s here. But people need to have the discussion about where we’re heading. In the same way GDPR was created to protect people’s data, we’re going to need to have a similar conversation about deepfakes leading to a different kind of identity theft.”
Deepfakes as a cybersecurity threat to businesses
It’s important to note the ways in which deepfakes can be used to target businesses, not just to spoof individuals.
“These business-related instances aren’t too common yet,” says Murray. “But we’re at the beginning of a wave right now in terms of AI-enabled threats against businesses.
A late 2019 attack against a U.K. energy firm could be a sign of scary things to come. Rather than video, this attack took advantage of voice-spoofing technology to pose as an executive’s manager, insisting he wire nearly $250 thousand to a “supplier” immediately. In the aftermath of the scam, the victim reported being convinced by both the accent and the rhythm of the fake speech pattern.
To safeguard against what could be a rising attack method, Murray recommends businesses understand what deepfakes are capable of and follow best practices for avoiding fraud, no matter the technology.
“Have well-defined protocol for changing account details and signing off on any invoices,” he advises “Train financial and accounting teams especially rigorously on these protocols and encourage them to pick up the phone and double-check when anything seems strange or off. In these days of increased working from home it’s also tougher for financial staff to walk up to other finance or sales colleagues and make informal double checks.”
Deepfakes and misinformation campaigns
Soon after deepfakes went mainstream, implications for politics and the weaponization of misinformation became clear, prompting the U.S. Senate to address the issue in 2018.
While initially used to humiliate or extort people, mostly women, malicious actors began to see them as a way to sway public opinion or sow chaos. Deeptrace, a company dedicated to uncovering deepfakes, has noted instances where manipulated video was used to promote social discord and scandal across the globe.
“Deepfakes further undermine our ability to believe what we read, and now even watch, on the internet,” says Murray. This leads to widespread distrust, especially on issues where understanding is crucial, like the coronavirus pandemic, where misinformation is bountiful.
To combat misinformation, Murray advises to keep in mind how much of it is out there. Always consider the source of the information you’ve received before acting on it, especially if it makes you angry or elicits some other strong emotional response.
Deepfakes will likely make the internet even more difficult to rely on as a source of information in the years to come. But reducing their impact starts with understanding how far they’ve come and what they’re capable of.
To learn more on Deepfakes and misinformation, listen to the podcast.
Ryuk Shuts Down Universal Health Services
Computer systems for all 400 Universal Health Services facilities around the globe have reportedly been shut down following an attack by the Ryuk ransomware group. Ryuk is known for targeting large organizations, but the healthcare industry has been gaining popularity among these groups due to high volumes of sensitive information and typically low levels of security. It’s unknown if the healthcare firm has paid ransoms for the encrypted data or if they are restoring systems from available backups.
Global Insurance Firm Targeted by Ransomware
The Fortune 500 insurance firm AJG was forced to take several computer systems offline over the weekend after identifying a cyber-attack. It’s still unclear which ransomware variant was responsible for the attack and officials with the firm haven’t revealed if customer or employee information was stolen. Third-party researchers confirmed multiple AJG servers, unpatched for a serious vulnerability, could have been the entry point for the attack.
French Shipping Company Knocked Offline by Ransomware
All computer systems and websites belonging to CMA CGM, a French shipping giant, were knocked offline by a crippling ransomware attack. This attack on CMA CGM makes them the fourth international shipping company to fall victim to a cyberattack, which have proven profitable, in as many years. The company has verified that the Ragnar Locker ransomware group was behind the attack, though they have not revealed the ransom asked.
Cyber Attack Forces Swatch to Disconnect Online Services
Though not confirmed by Swatch, the Swiss watchmaker was reportedly forced to take many of their systems offline after likely falling victim to a ransomware attack. While the company did not verify the type of attack, ransomware’s prevalence this year makes it a likely culprit. Swatch has announced they plan to seek legal action against the attackers.
DDoS Attacks See Substantial Rise in 2020
There were over 4.8 million DDoS attacks during the first half of 2020, a 15% rise over the same period last year. May alone saw more than 900,000 DDoS attacks, a record for most in a single month. Ninety percent of these attacks lasted for under an hour, marking another shift from previous years’ attacks. They have also increased in complexity, leaving victims and researchers with little time to defend themselves.
Have you ever met a person who thinks they know it all? Or maybe you’ve occasionally been that person in your own life? No shame and no shade intended – it’s great (and important) to be confident about your skills. And in cases where you know your stuff, we encourage you to keep using your knowledge to help enhance the lives and experiences of the people around you.
But there’s a big difference between being reasonably confident and having false confidence, as we saw in our recent global survey. Featured in the report COVID-19 Clicks: How Phishing Capitalized on a Global Crisis, the survey data shows that, all over the world, people are pretty confident about their ability to keep themselves and their data safe online. Unfortunately, people are also still getting phished and social engineering tactics aimed at employees are still a major way that cybercriminals successfully breach businesses. These data points strongly suggest that we aren’t all being quite as cyber-safe as we think.
Overconfidence by the Numbers
Approximately 3 in 5 people (59%) worldwide think they know enough to stay safe online.
You may think 59% doesn’t sound high enough to earn the label of “false confidence”. But there were two outliers in our survey who dragged the average down significantly (France and Japan, with only 44% and 26% confidence, respectively). If you only take the average of the five other countries surveyed (the US, UK, Australia/New Zealand, Germany and Italy), it’s a full ten percentage points higher at 69%. UK respondents had the highest level of confidence out of all seven regions surveyed with 75%.
8 in 10 people say they take steps to determine if an email message is malicious.
Yet 3 in 4 open emails and click links from unknown senders.
When so many of us claim to know what to do to stay safe online (and even say we take steps to determine the potential sketchiness of our emails), why are we still getting phished? We asked Dr. Prashanth Rajivan, assistant professor at the University of Washington and expert in human behavior and technology, for his take on the matter. He had two important points to make.
According to Dr. Rajivan, it’s important to note that Japan had the lowest level of confidence about their cybersecurity know-how (only 26%), but the survey showed they also had the lowest rate of falling victim to phishing (16%). He pointed out that countries with more individualistic cultures seem to align with countries who ranked themselves highly on their ability to keep themselves and their data safe.
“When people adopt a less individualistic mindset and, instead, perceive themselves to have a greater responsibility to others, their average level of willingness to take risks decreases. This is especially important to note for businesses that want to have a cyber-aware culture.”– Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect
Another factor Dr. Rajivan says may contribute to overconfidence in one’s ability to spot phishing attacks might be a psychological phenomenon called the “Dunning-Kruger Effect”. The Dunning-Kruger Effect refers to a cognitive bias in which people who are less skilled at a given task tend to be overconfident in their ability, i.e. we tend to overestimate our capabilities in areas where we are actually less capable.
How These Numbers Affect Businesses
Only 14% of workers feel that a company’s cyber resilience is a responsibility all employees share.
The correlations between overconfidence and individualism may also translate into a mentality that workers are not responsible for their own cybersecurity during work hours. While 63% of workers surveyed agree that a cyber resilience strategy that includes both security tools and employee education should be a top priority for any business, only 14% felt that cyber resilience was a shared responsibility for all employees.
How to Create a Cyber Aware Culture
The short answer: a strong combination of employee training and tools.
The long answer: when asked what would help them feel better prepared to avoid phishing and prevent cyberattacks, workers worldwide agreed that their employers need to invest more heavily in training and education, in addition to strong cybersecurity tools. Dr. Rajivan also agrees, stating that, if employers want to build cybersecurity awareness into their business culture, then they need to invest heavily in their people.
“By creating a feeling of personal investment in the individuals who make up a company, you encourage the employees to return that feeling of investment toward their workplace. That’s a huge part of ensuring that cybersecurity is part of the culture. Additionally, if we want to enable employees to assess risk properly, we need to cut down on uncertainty and blurring of context lines. That means both educating employees and ensuring we take steps to minimize the ways in which work and personal life get intertwined.”– Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.
Additionally, he tells us, “Human behavior is shaped by past experiences, consequences and reinforcement. To see a real change in human behavior related to phishing and online risk-taking habits in general, people need frequent and varied experiences PLUS appropriate feedback that incentivizes good behavior.”
Ultimately, the importance of
training can’t be emphasized enough. According to real-world data from
customers using Webroot® Security Awareness Training, which provides both
training courses and easy-to-run, customizable phishing simulations, consistent
training can reduce click rates on phishing scams by up to 86.5%.
It’s clear a little training can go a long way. If you want to increase cyber resilience, you have to minimize dangerous false confidence. And to do that, you need to empower your workforce with the tools and training they need to confidently (and correctly) make strong, secure decisions about what they do and don’t click online.
DHS Announces Massive Increase in LokiBot Attacks
By monitoring and tracking of cyberattacks over 2020, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials have uncovered a significant increase in cyberattacks being carried out by LokiBot, a malicious info-stealer of stored passwords and cryptocurrency information. The increase in LokiBot attacks can likely be attributed to its ability to steal credentials from hundreds of applications, and its range of other features that make it appealing to a wide variety of cyber criminals.
Long Island Hospital Suffers Data Breach
Blackbaud, a third-party vendor for a Long Island hospital, may have exposed sensitive patient information after it suffered a data breach this summer. In a July statement, Blackbaud revealed personally identifiable information for a number of patients was stolen but claimed it was destroyed shortly afterwards. Affected patients have been contacted regarding the breach and stolen information.
Thousands of Customers Exposed in Town Sports Breach
A database containing highly sensitive information belonging to over 600,000 customers and employees of Town Sports International was found publicly exposed on the internet. Town Sports recently filed for bankruptcy and was notified of this breach roughly a week later. While the company did not publically respond to the findings, the information secured the following day included everything from physical addresses to payment card info and other billing data. Past clients of the fitness chain should be wary of any emails they receive regarding their Town Sports memberships.
Global Operation Takes Down Major Dark Web Drug Network
In a major collaboration between Europol and other global intelligence organizations, 179 individuals across six countries have been arrested in relation to drug trafficking through Dark Web markets. Officials also revealed that this bust allowed them to seize $6.5 million in cash and hundreds of kilograms of illicit drugs. The operation is another setback for anonymous marketplaces allowing for the buying and selling of illegal goods and services as law enforcement continues to target rogue online bazaars.
Data from Over 200 Merchants Leaked in Shopify Breach
Data from at least 200 merchants was compromised after an internal support employee for Shopify was found to be stealing data. While the data included only basic contact information on customers and no payment card or social security info was taken, officials for Shopify are still working to determine the extent of the theft and if it has further changed hands. The employees involved with this breach have since been fired and all access to Shopify systems has been revoked to prevent further incident.
“Ten years ago, you didn’t see state actors attacking [small businesses]. But it’s happening now,” warns George Anderson, product marketing director at Carbonite + Webroot, OpenText companies.
Sadly, many of today’s managed service providers who serve small and medium-sized businesses now have to concern themselves with these very threats. Independent and state-sponsored hacking groups use sophisticated hacking tools (advanced persistent threats or APTs), to gain unauthorized access to networks and computers, often going undetected for months or even years at a time. In fact, according to the 2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, cyber-espionage is among the top patterns associated with breaches targeting businesses worldwide.
These attacks can be difficult even for highly sophisticated enterprise security teams to detect, stop or recover from. But all businesses, no matter their size, must be ready for them. As such, MSPs, themselves ranging in size from a few techs to a few hundred professionals, may find they need help protecting their SMB customers from APTs; that’s on top of the consistent onslaught of threats from ordinary, profit-motivated cyberattackers. That’s where the concept of cyber resilience comes in.
What does cyber resilience look like?
“Being [cyber] resilient – knowing that even if you’re knocked offline you can recover quickly – is essential for today’s businesses,” George says.
The reality is that today’s organizations have to accept a breach is pretty much inevitable. Their level of cyber resilience is the measure of the organization’s ability to keep the business running and get back to normal quickly. “It’s being able to absorb punches and get back on your feet, no matter what threatens,” as George put it in a recent podcast with Joe Panettieri, co-founder MSSP Alert & ChannelE2E.
How can businesses and MSPs achieve cyber resilience?
Because cyber resilience is about both defending against attacks and preparing for their inescapability, a major component in a strong resilience strategy is the breadth of coverage a business has. In particular, having tested and proven backup and disaster recovery solutions in place is the first step in surviving a breach. If a business has reliable, real-time (or near real-time) recovery capabilities, then in the event of an attack, they could make it through barely skipping a beat.
Now, George has clarified that “no single solution can offer complete immunity against cyberattacks on its own.” To reduce the risk of events like data loss from accidental deletion, device theft or hardware failure, your clients need multiple layers of protection that secure their devices and data from multiple angles. Here are George’s top data protection tips:
- All data must be continuously backed up and available.
- Data stored within collaboration tools, such as Microsoft® Teams or SharePoint, should be backed up too.
- A full cyber resilience strategy should include cybersecurity and threat prevention features, network protection and end user education, in addition to backup and recovery solutions.
- Choose vendors who are known within the channel for their easy management, integrations with RMMs and/or their reputation with your fellow MSPs.
Ultimately, George says ensuring business continuity for MSPs and the businesses they serve through comprehensive cyber resilience solutions is the primary goal of the Carbonite + Webroot division of OpenText.
“We want to up the advocacy and stop attacks from happening as much as we possibly can. At the same time, when they inevitably do happen, we want to be able to help MSPs recover and limit lost time, reputation damage, and financial impact so businesses can keep functioning.”
To learn more about cyber resilience, click here.
Guest blog by Mit Patel, Managing Director of London based IT Support company, Netstar.
In this article, Webroot sits down with Mit Patel, Managing Director of London-based MSP partner, Netstar, to discuss the topic of remote work during a pandemic and tips to stay cyber resilient.
Why is it important to be cyber resilient, specifically when working remote?
It’s always important to be cyber resilient, but a lot has changed since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown that needs to be taken into consideration.
Remote work has posed new problems for businesses when it comes to keeping data secure. Since the start of lockdown, there has been a significant increase in phishing scams, ransomware attacks and malicious activity. Scammers now have more time to innovate and are using the widespread anxiety of coronavirus to target vulnerable people and businesses.
Moreover, the sudden shift in working practices makes the pandemic a prime time for cyber-attacks. Employees can no longer lean over to ask a colleague if they are unsure about the legitimacy of an email or web page. Instead, they need to be confident in their ability to spot and avoid potential security breaches without assistance.
Remote work represents a significant change that can’t be ignored when it comes to the security of your business. Instead, businesses need to be extra vigilant and prioritise their cyber resilience.
What does cyber resilience mean to you?
It’s important to differentiate between cyber resilience and cyber security. Cyber security is a component of cyber resilience, referring to the technologies and processes designed to prevent cyber-attacks. Whereas, I believe cyber resilience goes a step further, referring to the ability to prevent, manage and respond to cyber threats. Cyber resilience recognises that breaches can and do happen, finding effective solutions that mean businesses recover quickly and maintain functionality. The main components of cyber resilience include, training, blocking, protecting, backing up and recovering. When all these components are optimised, your cyber resilience will be strong, and your business will be protected and prepared for any potential cyber threats.
Can you share some proactive methods for staying cyber resilient when working remote?
Absolutely. But it’s important to note that no solution is 100% safe and that a layered approach to IT security is necessary to maximise protection and futureproof your business.
Get the right antivirus software. Standard antivirus software often isn’t enough to fully protect against viruses. Businesses need to consider more meticulous and comprehensive methods. One of our clients, a licensed insolvency practitioner, emphasized their need for software that will ensure data is protected and cyber security is maximised. As such, we implemented Webroot SecureAnywhere AnitVirus, receiving excellent client feedback, whereby the client stressed that they can now operate safe in the knowledge that their data is secure.
Protect your network. DNS Protection is a critical layer for your cyber resilience strategy. DNS will protect you against threats such as malicious links, hacked legitimate websites, phishing attacks, CryptoLocker and other ransomware attacks. We have implemented DNS Protection for many of our clients, including an asset management company that wanted to achieve secure networks with remote working capability. In light of the current remote working situation, DNS Protection should be a key consideration for any financial business looking to enhance their cyber resilience.
Ensure that you have a strong password policy. Keeping your passwords safe is fundamental for effective cyber resilience, but it may not be as simple as you think. Start by making sure that you and your team know what constitutes a strong password. At Netstar, we recommend having a password that:
- Is over 10 characters long
- Contains a combination of numbers, letters and symbols
- Is unpredictable with no identifiable words (even if numbers or symbols are substituted for letters)
You should also have different passwords for different logins, so that if your security is compromised for any reason, hackers can only access one platform. To fully optimise your password policy, you need to consider multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication goes a step further than the traditional username-password login. It requires multiple forms of identification in order to access a certain email account, website, CRM etc. This will include at least two of the following:
- Something you know (e.g. a password)
- Something you have (e.g. an ID badge)
- Something you are (e.g. a fingerprint)
Ensure that you have secure tools for communication. Collaboration tools, like Microsoft Teams, are essential for remote working. They allow you to communicate with individuals, within teams and company-wide via audio calls, video calls and chat.
When it comes to cyber resilience, it’s essential that your team know what is expected of them. You should utilise collaboration tools to outline clear remote working guidance to all employees. For example, we would recommend discouraging employees from using personal devices for work purposes. The antivirus software installed on these devices is unlikely to be of the same quality as the software installed on work devices, so it could put your business at risk.
Furthermore, you need to be confident that your employees can recognise and deal with potential security threats without assistance. Individuals can no longer lean across to ask a colleague if they’re unsure of the legitimacy of something. They need to be able to do this alone. Security awareness training is a great solution for this. It will teach your team about the potential breaches to look out for and how to deal with them. This will cover a range of topics including, email phishing, social media scams, remote working risks and much more. Moreover, courses are often added and updated, meaning that your staff will be up to date with the latest scams and cyber threats.
Implement an effective backup and disaster recovery strategy
Even with every preventive measure in place, things can go wrong, and preparing for disaster is crucial for effective cyber resilience.
In fact, a lot of companies that lose data because of an unexpected disaster go out of business within just two years, which is why implementing an effective backup and disaster recovery strategy is a vital layer for your cyber resilience strategy.
First, we advise storing and backing up data using an online cloud-based system. When files are stored on the cloud, they are accessible from any device at any time. This is particularly important for remote working; it means that employees can collaborate on projects and access necessary information quickly and easily. It also means that, if your device is wiped or you lose your data, you can simply log in to your cloud computing platform and access anything you might need. Thus, data can easily be restored, and you’re protected from potential data loss.
Overall, disaster recovery plans should focus on keeping irreplaceable data safe. Consider what would happen to your data in the event of a disaster. If your office burned down, would you be confident that all your data would be protected?
You should be working with an IT support partner that can devise an effective and efficient disaster recovery plan for your business. This should set out realistic expectations for recovery time and align with your insurance policy to protect any loss of income. Their goal should be to get your business back up and running as quickly as possible, and to a high standard (you don’t want an IT support partner that cuts corners). Lastly, your IT support provider should regularly test your strategy, making sure that if disaster did occur, they could quickly and effectively restore the functionality of your business.
What else should fellow MSPs keep in mind during this trying time?
In the last four years, cyber resilience has become increasingly important; there are so many more threats out there, and so much valuable information that needs protecting.
We have happy clients because their machines run quickly, they experience less IT downtime, and they rarely encounter viruses or malicious activity. We know that we need to fix customers’ problems quickly, while also ensuring that problems don’t happen in the first place. Innovation is incredibly important to us, which is why we’ve placed a real focus on proactive client advisory over the last 24 months.
That’s where a strong cyber resilience strategy comes into play. MSPs need to be able to manage day-to-day IT queries, while also focusing on how technology can help their clients grow and succeed in the future.There is plenty of advice around the nuts and bolts of IT but it’s the advisory that gives clients the most value. As such, MSPs should ensure they think like a customer and make technological suggestions that facilitate overall business success for their clients.
Phishing has been around for ages and continues to be one of the most common threats that businesses and home users face today. But it’s not like we haven’t all been hearing about the dangers of phishing for years. So why do people still click?
That’s what we wanted to find out when we conducted our most recent survey. We checked in with thousands of office workers across seven different countries to get a global perspective on phishing and people’s individual click habits. Then we partnered with Dr. Prashanth Rajivan, assistant professor at the University of Washington, to gain a deeper understanding of phishing and those habits, as well as how things have shifted during COVID-19 in our new report: COVID-19 Clicks: How Phishing Capitalized on a Global Crisis.
In this blog post, we’ve summarized this comprehensive report and included tips for how to stay safe, but we strongly encourage you to check out the full writeup.
Why do people still click?
3 in 10 people worldwide clicked a phishing link in the past year. Among Americans, it’s 1 in 3.
According to Dr. Rajivan, what we need to consider is that human beings aren’t necessarily good at dealing with uncertainty, which is part of why cybercriminals capitalize on upheaval (such as a global pandemic) to launch attacks.
“People aren’t great at handling uncertainty. Even those of us who know we shouldn’t click on emails from unknown senders may feel uncertain and click anyway. That’s because we’ve likely all clicked these kinds of emails in the past and gotten a positive reward. The probability of long-term risk vs. short-term reward, coupled with uncertainty, is a recipe for poor decision-making, or, in this case, clicking what you shouldn’t.”– Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.
Tip # 1
- For businesses: Ensure workers have clear distinctions between work and personal time, devices, and obligations. This helps reduce the amount of uncertainty that can ultimately lead to phishing-related breaches.
- For individuals: Hackers often exploit security holes in older software versions and operating systems. Update software and systems regularly to help shut the door on malware.
Has phishing increased since COVID-19 began
At least one in five people have received a phishing email related to COVID-19.
There’s no doubt that the global COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot about how we live and work. According to our survey, 54% of workers spend more time working from home than they did before the pandemic. With more people connecting to the internet outside of corporate networks and away from the watchful eyes of IT teams, it’s to be expected that cybercriminals would take advantage.
“[We’ve seen] massive spikes […] in phishing URLs targeting COVID-related topics. For example, with more people spending time at home, use of streaming services has gone up. In March alone, we saw a 3000% increase in phishing URLs with ‘youtube’ in the name.– Grayson Milbourne, security intelligence director, Carbonite + Webroot, OpenText Companies
Regardless, the majority of people surveyed still think they are at least the same level of prepared or more prepared to spot phishing email attempts, now that they’ve spent more time working from home
“People are taking increased physical safety measures in the pandemic, including mask wearing, social distancing, more frequent hand-washing, etc. I think this heightened level of precaution and awareness could cause people to slightly overestimate their overall safety, including their safety regarding online threats.”– Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.
- For businesses: Know your risk factors and over prepare. Once you’ve assessed the risks, you can create a stronger data breach response plan.
- For individuals: Stay on your toes. By being vigilant and maintaining a healthy dose of suspicion about all links and attachments in messages, you can significantly decrease your phishing risk.
People say they know better. Do they really?
81% of people say they take steps to determine if an email message is malicious. Yet 76% open emails and click links from unknown senders.
When we asked Dr. Rajivan why these numbers don’t line up, he said the difference is between knowing what you should do and actually doing it
“There are huge differences between knowing what to do and actually operationalizing that knowledge in appropriate scenarios. I suspect many people don’t really take the actions they reported, at least not on a regular basis, when they receive suspicious emails.”– Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.
- For businesses: Back up data and ensure employees can access and retrieve data no matter where they are. Accidents happen; what matters most is being able to recover quickly and effectively. Don’t forget to back up collaboration tools too, such as Microsoft® Teams and the Microsoft® 365 suite.
- For individuals: Make sure important data and files are backed up to secure cloud storage or an external hard drive. In the case of a hard drive, make sure it’s only connected while backing up, so you don’t risk backing up infected or encrypted files. If it’s a cloud back up, use the kind that lets you to restore to a specific file version or point in time.
What’s the way forward?
All over the world, workers say that in order to be better prepared to handle cyberattacks, they need more education.
According to global respondents, more knowledge and better understanding is key for stronger cyber resilience. The top three things people everywhere said would help them better prepare themselves to handle cyber threats like phishing were: knowing which tools could help prevent an attack, knowing what to do if you fall victim to an attack, and understanding the most common types of attacks.
Dr. Rajivan points out that, if businesses are asking individuals to make changes to their own behavior for the greater safety of all, then they need to make it clear they are willing to invest in their people.
“By creating a feeling of personal investment in the individuals who make up a company, you encourage the employees to return that feeling of investment toward their workplace. That’s a huge part of ensuring that cybersecurity is part of the culture. Additionally, if we want to enable employees to assess risk properly, we need to cut down on uncertainty and blurring of context lines. That means both educating employees and ensuring we take steps to minimize the ways in which work and personal life get intertwined.”– Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.
- For businesses: Invest in your people. Empower your people with regular training to help them successfully avoid scams and exercise appropriate caution online.
- For individuals: Educate yourself. Even if your company provides training, Dr. Rajivan recommends we all subscribe to cybersecurity-related content in the form of podcasts, social media, blogs, and reputable information sources to help keep strong, cyber resilient behavior top-of-mind.
Want more details on click habits and shifting risks during COVID-19?
Read our full report, COVID-19 Clicks: How Phishing Capitalized on a Global Crisis, to start building out your cybersecurity education today. And be sure to check back here on the Webroot blog for the latest in news in phishing prevention.
People’s fears and fantasies about artificial intelligence predate even computers. Before the term was coined in 1956, computing pioneer Alan Turing was already speculating about whether machines could think.
By 1997 IBM’s Deep Blue had beaten chess champion Gary Kasparov at his own game, prompting hysterical headlines and the game Go to replace chess as the symbolic bar for human vs. machine intelligence. At least until 2017 when Google’s AI platform AlphaGo ended human supremacy in that game too.
This brief run through major milestones in AI helps illustrate how the technology has progressed from miraculous to mundane. AI now has applications for nearly every imaginable industry including marketing, finance, gaming, infrastructure, education, space exploration, medicine and more. It’s gone from unseating Jeopardy! champions to helping us do our taxes.
In fact, imagine the most unexciting interactions that fill your day. Those to-dos you put off until it’s impossible to any longer. I’m talking about contacting customer support. AI now helps companies do this increasingly in the form of chatbots. The research firm Gartner tells us consumers appreciate AI for its ability to save them time and for providing them with easier access to information.
Companies, on the other hand, appreciate chatbots for their potential to reduce operating costs. Why staff a call center of 100 people when ten, supplemented by chatbots, can handle a similar workload? According to Forrester, companies including Nike, Apple, Uber and Target “have moved away from actively supporting email as a customer service contact channel” in favor of chatbots.
So, what could go wrong, from a cybersecurity perspective, with widespread AI in the form of customer service chatbots? Webroot principal software engineer Chahm An has a couple of concerns.
Consider our current situation: the COVID-19 crisis has forced the healthcare industry to drastically amplify its capabilities without a corresponding rise in resources. Chatbots can help, but first they need to be trained.
“The most successful chatbots have typically seen the data that most closely matches their application,” says An. Chatbots aren’t designed like “if-then” programs. Their creators don’t direct them. They feed them data that mirrors the tasks they will expected to perform.
“In healthcare, that could mean medical charts and other information protected under HIPAA.” A bot can learn the basics of English by scanning almost anything on the English-language web. But to handle medical diagnostics, it will need to how real-world doctor-patient interactions unfold.
“Normally, medical staff are trained on data privacy laws, rules against sharing personally identifiable information and how to confirm someone’s identity. But you can’t train chatbots that way. Chatbots have no ethics. They don’t learn right from wrong.”
This concern is wider than just healthcare, too. All the data you’ve ever entered on the web could be used to train a chatbot: social media posts, home addresses, chats with human customer service reps…in unscrupulous or data-hungry hands, it’s all fair game.
Finally in terms of privacy, chatbots can also be gamed into giving away information. A cybercriminal probing for SSNs can tell a chatbot, ‘I forgot my social security. Can you tell it to me?’ and sometimes be successful because the chatbot succeeds by coming up with an answer.
“You can game people into giving up sensitive information, but chatbots may be even more susceptible to doing so,” warns An.
Until recently chatbot responses were obviously potted, and the conversations directed. But they’re getting better. And this raises concerns about knowing who you’re really talking to online.
“Chatbots have increased in popularity because they’ve become so good you could mistake them for a person,” says An. “Someone who is cautious should still have no problem identifying one, by taking the conversation wildly off course, for instance. But if you’re not paying attention, they can be deceptive.”
An likens this to improvements in phishing attempts over the past decade. As phishing filters have improved—by blocking known malicious IP addresses or subject lines commonly used by scammers, for example—the attacks have gotten more subtle. Chatbots are experiencing a similar arms-race type of development as they improve at passing themselves off as real people. This may benefit the user experience, but it also makes them more difficult to detect. In the wrong hands, that seeming authenticity can be dangerously applied.
Because chatbots are also expensive and difficult to create, organizations may take shortcuts to catch up. Rather than starting from scratch, they’ll look for chatbots from third-party vendors. While more reputable institutions will have thought through chatbot privacy concerns, not all of them do.
“It’s not directly obvious that chatbots could leak sensitive or personally identifiable information that they are indirectly learning,” An says.
Chatbot security and you – what can be done?
1. Exercise caution in conversations
“It used be any time you saw a web form or dialogue box, that heightened our caution. But nowadays people are publishing so much online that our collective guard is kind of down. People should be cautious even if they know they’re not speaking directly to a chatbot,” An advises.
In general, don’t put anything on the internet you wouldn’t want all over the internet.
2. Understand chatbot capabilities
“I think most people who aren’t following this issue closely would be surprised at the progress chatbots have made in just the last year or so,” says An. “The conversational ability of chatbots is pretty impressive today.”
GPT-3 by OpenAI is “the largest language model ever created and can generate amazing human-like text on demand,” according to MIT’s Technology Review and you can see what it can do here. Just knowing what it’s capable of can help internet users decide whether they’re dealing with a bot, says An.
“Both sides will get better at this. Cybersecurity is always trying to get better and cybercriminals are trying to keep pace. This technology is no different. Chatbots will continue to develop.”