Faced with a growing threat landscape, a shortage of skilled cyber security professionals, and non-technical employees who lack awareness of cyber security best practices, to name a few, CISOs are continuously confronted with a number of existing and new challenges. To mitigate some of these challenges by eliminating security threats and minimizing security gaps, they must make some critical strategic decisions within their organizations.
Even though we are only at the beginning of April, 2018 is already proving to be a year of increasing cyber incidents, with security threats spanning across a range of industry sectors, impacting both the private and public sectors alike. We have seen many data breaches including Uber, Facebook and Experian that have made it clear that no organization, not even the corporate giants, are safe from these cyber threats and attacks. We are now also seeing newly evolving threats affecting the popular and latest smart devices including products such as Alexa and Goоgle Home. New technology not fully tested, or security vulnerabilities from IoT devices being brought into the workplace, now bring additional concerns for CISOs and their security teams, as they try to proactively defend and protect their corporate networks.
This problem seems quite simple to identify in that corporate policies are not being updated fast enough to keep up with dynamic changes and advancements in technology, as well as to cope with the increasing sophistication of advancing threats, but managing this problem is seemingly more difficult. This generates an additional set of challenges for CISOs to enforce policies that still need to be written, while conquering internal corporate bureaucracy to get them created, modified or updated. This is just one challenge. Let’s now discuss a few more and some suggested actions to manage them.
How CISOs Can Overcome Their Challenges
CISOs in international corporations need to focus on global compliance and regulations to abide with a range of privacy laws, including the upcoming European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This new regulation due to come into force on May 25th, 2018 has set the stage for protection of consumer data privacy and in time we expect to see other regulations closely follow suite. International companies that hold EU personal identifiable information inside or outside of the EU will need to abide by the regulation and establish a formalized incident response procedure, implement an internal breach notification process, communicate the personal data breach to the data subject without delay, as well as notify the Supervisory Authority within 72 hours, regardless of where the breach occurred. Organizations need to report all breaches and inform their affected customers, or face fines of up to 20 million Euros or four percent of annual turnover (whichever is higher). A new law called the Data Security and Breach Notification Act is also being worked on presently by the U.S. Senate to promote this protection for customers affected. This new legislation will impose up to a five year prison sentence on any individual that conceals a new data breach, without notifying the customers that had been impacted.
So how can CISOs proactively stay ahead of the growing number of cyber security threats, notify affected customers as soon as possible and respond within 72 hrs of a breach? The key is to carry out security risk assessments, implement the necessary procedures, as well as utilize tools that can help facilitate Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR), such as the IncMan SOAR platform from DLFabs. IncMan has capabilities to automate and prioritize incident response and related enrichment and containment tasks, distribute appropriate notifications and implement an incident response plan in case of a potential data breach. IncMan handles different stages of the incident response and breach notification process including providing advanced reporting capabilities with appropriate metrics and the ability to gather or share intelligence with 3rd parties. This timely collection of enriched threat intelligence helps expedite the incident response time and contribute to better management of the corporate landscape.
The Need to Harden New Technology Policies
Endpoint protection has also become a heightened concern for security departments in recent months, with an increasing number of organizations facing multiple ransomware and zero days attacks. New technologies used by employees within the organization, not covered by corporate policies, such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the Internet of things (IoT) have brought new challenges to the CISOs threat landscape. One example as we mentioned earlier are gadgets such as Alexa or Google Home, where users bring them into the office and connect them to the corporate WIFI or network without prior approval. When connected to the network, they can immediately introduce vulnerabilities and access gaps in the security network that can be easily exploited by hackers.
Devices that are not managed under corporate policies need to be restricted to a guest network that cannot exploit vulnerabilities and should not be allowed to use Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). CISOs need to ensure that stricter corporate policies are implemented to restrict and manage new technologies, as well as utilizing tools such as an Endpoint Protection Product (EPP) or Next-Generation Anti Virus (NGAV) solution to help prevent malware from executing when found on a user machine. NAGV tools can learn the behaviors of the endpoint devices and query a signature database of vaccines for exploits and other malware on real time to help expedite containment and remediation to minimize threats.
Maximizing Resources With Technology as a Solution
With the significant increase in the number of and advancing sophistication of potential cyber security threats and security alerts, combined with a shortage of cyber security staff with the required skill set and knowledge, CISOs are under even more pressure to protect their organizations and ask themselves questions such as: How do I effectively investigate incidents coming in from so many data points? How can I quickly prioritize incidents that present the greatest threat to my organization? How can I reduce the amount of time necessary to resolve an incident and give staff more time hunting emerging threats?
They will need to assess their current organization security landscape and available resources, while assessing their skill level and maturity. Based on the company size it may even make business sense to outsource some aspects, for example by hiring a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) to manage alert monitoring, threat detection and incident response. CISOs should also evaluate the range of tools available to them and make the decision whether they can benefit from utilizing Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) technology to increase their security program efficiency and effectiveness within their current structure.
Security Infrastructure and Employee Training Are Paramount
In summary, CISOs will be faced with more advancing challenges and increasing threats and these are only set to continue over the coming months. They should ensure that their security infrastructures follow sufficient frameworks such as NIST, ISO, SANS, PCI/DSS, as well as best practices for application security, cloud computing and encryption.
They should prepare to resource their security teams with adequate technology and tools to respond to threats and alerts and to minimize the impact as much as feasibly possible, with set policies and procedures in place. To enforce security best practices across all departments of the company, it is important that security decisions are fully understood and supported by the leadership team as well as human resources, with a range of corporate policies to meet the challenges of ever changing technologies.
CISOs need to promote security best practices and corporate policies, industry laws regulations and compliance by educating and training relevant stakeholders, starting with employees. The use of workshops, seminars, websites, banners, posters and training in all areas of the company will heighten people’s awareness to threats and exploits, increasing their knowledge, while also teaching them the best way to respond or to raise the alarm if there is a potential threat. The initial investment in education and training may be a burden on time and resources but in the long run will prove beneficial and could potentially prevent the company from experiencing a serious threat or penalty from non-compliance.
Completing a full analysis of current resources, skill sets and security tools and platforms will all play a part when deciding whether in-house or outsourced security operations is the best approach, but the benefits of using SOAR technology to leverage existing security products to dramatically reduce the response and remediation gap caused by limited resources and the increasing volume of threats and incidents, as well as to assist with important breach notification requirements, should not be overlooked.
Companies across different industries around the globe, along with government institutions, cite cyber attacks as one of the biggest security threats to their existence. As a matter of fact, in a recent Forbes survey of over 700 companies from 79 countries, 88 percent of respondents said that they are “extremely concerned” or “concerned” by the risk of getting attacked by hackers.
This fact is a clear indication that organizations have to ramp up efforts for enhancing their cyber resilience, but to do that successfully and in the most effective manner, they need to have a clear understanding of where the biggest cyber threats come from nowadays so that they can shape their cyber defenses accordingly. We take a look at the most common cybersecurity threats today, ranging from internal threats, cyber criminals looking for financial gains, and nation states.
When talking about cyber security, some of the first things that usually come to mind are freelance hackers and state-sponsored attacks between hostile nations. But, many cyber security incidents actually come from within organizations, or to be more specific, from their own employees.
Pretty much all experts agree that employees are some of the weakest links in the cyber defense of every organization, in part due to low cyber security awareness, and sometimes due to criminal intent.
Employees often put their companies at risk of getting hacked without meaning to, by opening phishing emails or sharing confidential files through insecure channels, which is why organizations should make sure their staff knows the basics of cyber security and how to avoid the common cyber scams and protect data.
With so many devices connected to the Internet nowadays, including video cameras, smart phones, tablets, sensors, POS terminals, medical devices, printers, scanners, among others, organizations are at an increased risk of falling victim of a data breach. The Internet of Things is a real and ever-increasing cyber threat to businesses and institutions, deteriorating their vulnerability to cyber attacks by adding more endpoints that hackers can use to gain access to networks, and by making it easier for hackers to spread malicious software throughout networks at a faster rate.
The Internet of Things is one of the factors that make DDoS attacks more possible and more easily conducted, and these types of attacks can have a significant and long-lasting impact on organizations, both in terms of financial losses and reputation damage.
Private entities and government institutions that are part of the critical infrastructure in their countries are under a constant threat of different types of attacks by hostile nations. As the number of channels and methods that stand at the disposal of hackers aiming to gain access to computer networks grows, organizations in the public and private sector are facing a growing risk of cyber attacks sponsored by nation-states that might have an interest in damaging the critical infrastructure of other countries, hurting their economies, obtaining top-secret information, or getting the upper hand in diplomatic disputes.
Most commonly, nation-state-sponsored cyber attacks use malware, such as ransomware and spyware, to access computer networks of organizations, as a means of gaining control over certain aspects of the critical infrastructure of another country.
No matter what types of attacks are common today, the number and level of sophistication of cyber threats to organizations are certainly going to grow in the future, which is why they have to constantly update and adjust their cyber defenses accordingly.
I can remember sometime around late 2001 or early 2002, GREPing Snort logs for that needle in a haystack until I thought I was going to go blind. I further recall around the same time cheering the release of the Analysis Console for Intrusion Databases (ACID) tool which helped to organize the information into something that I could start using to correlate events by way of analysis of traffic patterns.
Skip ahead and the issues we faced while correlating data subtly changed from a one-off analysis to a lack of standardization for the alert formats that were available in the EDR marketplace. Each vendor was producing significant amounts of what was arguably critical information, but unfortunately all in their own proprietary format. This rendered log analysis and information tools constantly behind the 8-ball when trying to ingest all of these critical pieces of disparate event information.
We have since evolved to the point that log file information sharing can be easily facilitated through a number of industry standards, i.e., RFC 6872. Unfortunately, with the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), we have also created new challenges that must be addressed in order to make the most effective use of data during event correlation. Specifically, how do we quickly correlate and review:
a. Large amounts of data;
b. Data delivered from a number of different resources (IoT);
c. Data which may be trickling in over an extended period of time and,
d. Data segments that, when evaluated separately, will not give insight into the “Big Picture”
How can we now ingest these large amounts of data from disparate devices and rapidly draw conclusions that allow us to make educated decisions during the incident response life cycle? I can envision success coming through the intersection of 4 coordinated activities, all facilitated through event automation:
1. Event filtering – This consists of discarding events that are deemed to be irrelevant by the event correlator. This is also important when we seek to avoid alarm fatigue due to a proliferation of nuisance alarms.
2. Event aggregation – This is a technique where a collection of many similar events (not necessarily identical) are combined into an aggregate that represents the underlying event data.
3. Event Masking – This consists of ignoring events pertaining to systems that are downstream of a failed system.
4. Root cause analysis – This is the last and quite possibly the most complex step of event correlation. Through root cause analysis, we can visualize data juxtapositions to identify similarities or matches between events to detect, determine whether some events can be explained by others, or identify causational factors between security events.
The results of these 4 event activities will promote the identification and correlation of similar cyber security incidents, events and epidemiologies.
According to psychology experts, up to 90% of information is transmitted to the human brain visually. Taking that into consideration, when we are seeking to construct an associational link between large amounts of data we, therefore, must be able to process the information utilizing a visual model. DFLabs IncMan™ provides a feature rich correlation engine that is able to extrapolate information from cyber incidents in order to present the analyst with a contextualized representation of current and historical cyber incident data.
As we can see from the correlation graph above, IncMan has helped simplify and speed up a comprehensive response to identifying the original infection point of entry into the network and then visual representing the network nodes that were subsequently affected, denoted by their associational links.
The ability to ingest large amounts of data and conduct associational link analysis and correlation, while critical, does not have to be overly complicated, provided of course that you have the right tools. If you’re interested in seeing additional capabilities available to simplify your cyber incident response processes, please contact us for a demo at [email protected]