While many institutions and businesses from various industries were still reeling from the WannaCry attack that took the world by storm back in May, cyber criminals launched another crippling ransomware attack earlier this week, catching a lot of cyber security professionals across 60 countries by surprise and bringing essential business operations to a halt.This latest high-profile attack, called Petya ransomware, bears many of the hallmarks of WannaCry, in that it is a typical ransomware scheme, paralyzing computers and spreading through internal networks after infecting one machine.
Another important similarity is that just like WannaCry, Petya exploited the same Microsoft Windows vulnerability – Eternal Blue, to spread within networks. On the other hand, there is one significant difference between the two attacks – Petya, unlike WannaCry, was not aimed at extorting money, but rather incurring serious damage to computer networks, with researchers saying that Petya was just disguised as ransomware, but its main goal was to spread throughout networks as fast as possible and cause the biggest infrastructural damages possible.
Containing the Damage
Petya ransomware was primarily designed to infect computers in order to prevent organizations from continuing their day-to-day operations, rather than gaining financial benefit, and the attack did affect business operations of many companies, inflicting severe financial and reputation damage upon them. Ransomware attacks are extremely difficult to prevent, and the best thing organizations can do to avoid serious long-term consequences in case they get hit by one, is to make sure they have the tools to respond to it and contain the damage as fast as possible.
That can be best done with the help of an incident response platform with automation and orchestration capabilities. These types of platforms can help security teams reduce their reaction time when responding to an incident, which is crucial when attacks such as Petya occur. With a set of playbook actions specific to ransomware attacks, an incident response platform will allow your team to detect and analyze the attack faster, and it will suggest a specific list of actions that can help contain the damage in the most effective way possible. When it comes to ransomware attacks, recommended containment actions include isolating compromised machines, blocking communication over ports, and disconnecting shared drives, among other things.
Once you have taken the suggested containment actions, the platform will help you accelerate the recovery and remediation processes, and perform the appropriate post-incident procedure. The post-incident reactions are particularly important when dealing with ransomware attacks, as they play a major role in ensuring compliance with breach notification rules covering these types of cybersecurity incidents, such as the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule in the US.
To conclude, even though preventing ransomware attacks is a major challenge and there is not much that organizations can do in that regard, there are a lot of things they can do to reduce the impact of such incidents and avoid long-lasting consequences, which are usually associated with these types of cybersecurity events.
In the context of cyber security, two of the most pressing concerns facing many organizations are the ever-rising number of cyber attacks and figuring out how to keep them at bay without having to increase manpower. The recent Cyber attacks are now more sophisticated and noticeably more common than they were even just a few years ago. Faced with this increased volume, private entities and government agencies are struggling to figure out how to help their security teams respond to cyber events in an effective and timely manner, while finding that most potential solutions require either substantial financial expense, or rely on the addition of specialized human resources.
Hiring skilled staff is a real challenge for most organizations amid an acute and global cyber security skills shortage. Unmet demand has led professionals in this field to command disproportionately high salaries and made it that much more difficult for businesses and governments to attract cyber security talent. Consequently, organizations are now also forced to seek out technical solutions that might actually help decrease their reliance on specialized and expensive human resources. This is where cyber security incident response platforms come in as arguably the most convenient, practical and cost-effective solution to the growing cyber security threat issue and specialized resource shortage.
Ease the Strain on Security Teams by Automating Time Consuming Incident Response Tasks
A security automation and orchestration platform is the economical solution to enable an organization to respond to cyber threats and eradicate them in the most effective and fastest way possible. It is also the best way to ease the strain on security teams which, in many organizations, are already overwhelmed with an uninterrupted incident response workload.
Analyzing and assessing the legitimacy, impact and scope of a cyber incident are some of the most time-consuming tasks undertaken by cyber security professionals today. It is exactly within those tasks that an orchestration and automation platform can be of most service. From an incident identification and analysis perspective, these platforms are force multipliers which greatly accelerate the incident triage process. They provide an organization with the ability to analyze the cause and effect of each incident and to assess the scope and impact to an organization from any number of incidents at any given time. From a response perspective, and beyond their ability to automate response activity on existing security infrastructure, they can generate automated incident reports for distribution to in-house security teams, providing response and recovery resources with key insights into the scope and severity of an incident, thereby often dramatically reducing reaction times.
In short, the dual challenge of addressing a growing number of cyber attacks while maintaining an ability to mount an effective response within an existing cyber security team, is best tackled by employing an automation and orchestration platform. Deploying this tool as a force multiplier for both existing security infrastructure and human resources, allows security teams to offload the most intensive tasks and frees these professionals to focus on the more high-value areas of a cyber security threat response.
The greatest challenge for every organization that deals with cyber security threats is how to reduce its reaction time when responding to an incident and recover as soon as possible in order to minimize the consequences and contain the damage.
A new study that was recently published by the University of Portsmouth states that the fact that it takes a long time for organizations to recover from an incident makes them that much more vulnerable to future attacks soon thereafter. The study was conducted by researchers with the University of Portsmouth’s School of Computing, who have found that many organizations across different industries are faced with a serious issue threatening their cyber security, caused by long recovery times from cyber attacks and data breaches they had already suffered. The researchers call the recovery time between two cyber attacks increases an organization’s susceptibility to more attacks, dubbing that period “mean blind spot”.
After analyzing the VERIS Community Database – a dataset of cyber incident reports collected through various information sharing initiatives, researchers found that organizations often take days to recover from an attack, rather than hours, which increases the risk of getting breached between attacks. This suggests that reducing reaction times when responding to an incident can play an important role in preventing future cyber attacks.
Available Solutions for Reducing Reaction Times
The results of the University of Portsmouth’s study unequivocally point to the need for organizations to adopt a solution that would allow them to recover from cyber attacks much faster than today’s current speeds. Considering that there are a lot of actions that should be taken simultaneously by cyber security teams after their organization is breached, as they try to resolve the incident, a solution that would take care of some of those actions for them would be of great help to them and would accelerate the recovery process.
There are various solutions that can provide this type of help, and automation-and-orchestration cyber incident response platforms are what cyber security professionals need in their efforts for resolving incidents quickly and effectively. Those types of platforms allow you to execute a previously devised incident response plan in the most effective manner and save precious time while working on recovery.
One capability that these platforms provide that can be crucial for the mitigation of the problem at hand, is the fact that they allow you to analyze and respond to incidents in real time. They can automatically perform time-consuming tasks such as analysis of the reasons and origin of an incident, allowing you to quickly figure out where an attack is originating from and understand the methods and channels that were used by the attackers. Through automated playbooks, an incident response platform helps cyber security teams to prioritize their response, providing them with the key risk indicators so that they will know the current status of an incident and react accordingly.
Also, these platforms have the capability to create automated incident reports, run predictive analysis, and collect digital evidence for forensics purposes, which reduces reaction times even further.
In summation, the “mean blind spot” issue pointed out by the University of Portsmouth study could be best addressed by organizations by employing an incident response platform that is capable of automating some of the key processes that are part of a typical incident response plan.
The healthcare industry is under a constant threat of cyber attacks, mostly due to the fact that organizations within this sector keep a variety of confidential and pertinent information, such as credit card information, social security numbers, insurance-related information, and some believe most importantly personal medical records.
A recent report states that healthcare entities have been under increased risk of targeted attacks lately, including phishing attacks, ransomware attacks, and network hacking attacks. The heightened risk for cyber attacks points to a growing need for enhanced protection, in addition to raising awareness of the different types of cyber attacks that many healthcare organizations are facing.
Healthcare Surpasses Financial Sector as the Most Frequently Attacked Industry
According to data provided by Advisen and Hiscox, the average cost of a cyber incident in the healthcare industry cost $150,000. A recent report published by IBM states that the healthcare industry was attacked more frequently than any other sector last year, replacing the financial services sector at the top. According to the report, over 100 million healthcare records were compromised in 2015, which is a staggering figure by all standards.
The Advisen and Hiscox report also notes that there has been a 1.6-times increase in Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violations in the last five years. This statistic suggests that entities such as hospitals and clinics, need to ramp up their efforts for ensuring HIPAA compliance because it is one of the key steps toward achieving improved protection against cyber attacks.
Detecting Ransomware and Phishing Attacks
Currently, the most common cyber threats faced by healthcare entities include phishing attacks and ransomware. These are the most commonly used techniques by hackers trying to retrieve confidential patient information that is critical to protect. The best practices for preventing such threats involve data encryption tools, which are recommended for all covered entities.
Another solution that can be useful to healthcare organizations is a software that can create rules and can be integrated with different tools that can be adjusted in a way that allows them to automatically detect and report problems. Platforms with such capabilities should be a crucial part of each entity’s cyber defense efforts.
How to React in Case You Are Attacked
Even though there are tools designed to detect and prevent ransomware and phishing attacks, hackers often manage to find a way to go around all sorts of defenses and breach even the most sophisticated security armors. When that happens, organizations must be prepared to react as quickly and as effectively as possible with a proven solution.
To that end, all covered entities, including healthcare organizations, need to have a Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) in place. In order to help their CSIRT resolve cyber incidents, entities are advised to acquire platforms that have the ability to automatically notify CSIRTs when a cyber attack occurs, be it via e-mail or SMS, and gather a team of investigators to do the forensics on a given incident.
Incident Response platforms featuring specialized playbooks are also necessary for tackling healthcare-related incidents. They are the most indicated tool for resolving cyber incidents fast and efficiently, through their ability to accelerate the incident triage process, integrate with forensics and response systems, and predict similar events in the future. Some of those platforms (SIRPs) are also able to provide playbooks for vertical regulation, such as HIPAA and similar.
This past summer, many cyber security experts expressed their concerns that certain Russian groups were involved in the hacking attack on the U.S. Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) computer network, leaking 20,000 emails from various Democratic Party officials. The DNC hack made the headlines around the globe, and for good reason.
No matter who the perpetrator was, one thing is clear: the hack of the DNC servers inflicted serious harm to both the Democratic Party as an institution, as well as many of its members, mainly related to the public image of the party and of various individuals.
However, it could have had further, more wide-ranging implications, including an impact on the upcoming U.S. presidential election, which is why it is very important to understand what could have been done to prevent it, and what kind of response and management process for the incident should have been chosen.
Was the Hack Avoidable?
Even though it’s difficult to confidently say whether the DNC hack could have been avoided, without knowing the confidential specifics of the incident, there are a lot of things that could have been done that would have probably protected the DNC’s computer server much better.
The consensus among leading analysts familiar with this incidents is that the DNC hack was most likely conducted through spear phishing, which is one of the most common methods for initiating a cyber attack.
With that in mind, one of the easiest ways to avoid falling victim to such a fraud is to train people within your organization on how to recognize and react to such threats. People should be familiarized with the spear phishing technique and how it works, making them more aware of the difference between legitimate emails and links and malicious ones, with the latter being the basis of all phishing scams.
What’s the Appropriate Response to These Types of Incidents?
Sometimes, no matter how well every person within an organization is trained and educated on cyber security threats, attacks on a company or an institution server or network occurs, and that is when you need to be able to react as fast and as efficiently as possible to prevent the loss of confidential information, and avoid a major blow to your organization’s reputation, and consequently, your bottom line.
To that end, having a cyber incident response plan in place is key to bringing cyber incidents under control and minimizing or completely avoiding the potential consequences of a breach.
According to statistics from a recent AT&T report, 62% of organizations admitted to being breached in 2015, but only 34% of organizations polled had an incident response plan. These statistics inevitably point to the need for increasing awareness of the fact that every organization is highly vulnerable to cyberattacks, and the necessity of devising a plan and having the right tools that would help them mitigate the impact of any breach and go about their business as soon as possible.