Bottom Line: Cyberattacks enter a new era of lethal impact when threat actors are sophisticated enough to compromise SolarWind’s software supply chain with infected binary code while mimicking legitimate protocol traffic to avoid detection.
To gain greater insights into the SolarWinds breach, its implications on cybersecurity strategy in the future and what steps enterprises need to take today, I contacted Andy Smith, Cybersecurity Evangelist and an industry expert with Centrify. He explained the attack’s specifics, referencing the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) Alert AA20-352A, which details how sophisticated the attack is, citing the sobering fact that it is unknown if all attack vectors are identified. Active since at least March 2020, the advanced persistent threat (APT) has been identified by FireEye, SolarWinds, Microsoft and several other cybersecurity firms.
SolarWinds’ Security Advisory lists 18 known products that have been affected by the attack, including their Application Centric Monitor (ACM), Server Configuration Monitor (SCM) and Network Performance Monitor (NPM). Earlier this month, SolarWinds says the malicious code may have been delivered to nearly 18,000 customers.
Insights Into The SolarWinds Hack
Interested in dissecting the hack from a cybersecurity standpoint, I spent some time investigating the SolarWinds hack with Andy, a leading authority on Identity and Access Management (IAM), particularly around securing and managing privileged access credentials. The following is my interview with Andy:
Louis: There have been large-scale breaches before; why is this particular cybersecurity attack getting so much attention? Why is it so enormous?
Andy: What’s interesting about this particular attack is a couple of things. It follows a very traditional cyber-attack kill chain as many attacks, but the start of this one is impressive. Usually, there’s a vulnerability that allows threat actors to get into the network. What’s unique about this is the initial vulnerability is in vendor software, so it’s often now being referred to as a supply chain hack because the vulnerability was embedded as code.
The exposure to federal agencies and the attackers’ focus going after emails is especially troubling. It appears like it’s a nation/state-related incident that always heightens the exposure and is another reason it’s so large in scale. Some tools that FireEye uses for Red Team evaluation of people’s networks got exposed, so now those tools are in the hands of threat actors to do nefarious activities with them.
That’s one aspect of this hack that makes it remarkable, as sophisticated tools from FireEye are in nefarious actors’ hands. That’s one reason it’s enormous: you just gave something that was being used for good to threat actors intent on gathering as much intelligence across a supply chain of customers as they can.
Louis: How are the cyber-attack methods used in the SolarWinds hack particularly unique?
Andy: It follows a very common cyber-attack kill chain we’ve seen at Centrify for years. We ran the Anatomy of a Hack webinar earlier this year and it always starts with that initial vulnerability and getting in. What’s unique was this case is that the initial vulnerability wasn’t just, “Hey, I phished somebody’s password and logged in.” It was a vulnerability in the software build process for SolarWinds. So that’s a bit unique about how that initial vulnerability was there.
Still, once the attackers are in, the breach starts to look very traditional in the sense that they settle in, sit there for a while, scan the network, move laterally in that environment and hunt for privileged access.
All those things happened precisely by the people who investigated and then you find the data you’re going after. In some cases, it’s been software, as is the case with FireEye, or email servers, as is the case with government agencies. Attackers are patient and they wait to extract the data and then cover their tracks.
Louis: You and many others are an advocate of a layered approach to security. What is that and how would it have helped in the SolarWinds case?
Andy: For me, the biggest takeaway of this hack is that a layered approach to security is the way to go in the future in light of this hack’s sophistication. There’s no silver bullet to stop a hack this sophisticated, though. No one strategy or approach could have prevented it.
When you investigate this attack, it is pretty sophisticated and has multiple vectors to it and one has to assume there will be certain threat vectors compromised. That initial vulnerability will be there and you need those layers of security to prevent it, so you need to look at preventive controls, predictive controls and detective controls. All those need to be combined into a single, unified strategy.
For every organization looking at this hack and considering how future attacks of this sophistication will impact them, it’s a good idea to use this event as a way to get your board and executives thinking about a more resilient, hardened multilayer approach and not relying on a single solution to protect you. I see organizations using this opportunity to evaluate how a layered approach will work for their projects when it might not have been feasible to fund in the past.
It’s an extreme attack that shows how vulnerable the exposures are out there. It’s a good time to shore up your defenses. The Federal Information Processing Standard 200, or FIPS 200, the standard offers excellent guidance, including discussing the different types of layers and controls available today. Minimum Security Requirements for Federal Information and Information Systems defines the minimum security controls for federal information systems and the processes by which risk-based selection of security controls occurs.
If you dig into the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-53, that gets a little deeper into the particular cyber controls you have in place. There is guidance available. You’re not out there on your own about what the layers should be and you can evaluate yourself against these standards.
Louis: What are some layers specific to privileged access management? Are there any particular PAM best practices that enterprises should be thinking about right now?
Andy: Absolutely and I’ll start with Privileged Access Management (PAM), which is one of the core layers. Investigations into this hack found specific evidence where they got in and created new accounts with elevated privileges to access data. It’s all over this.
We typically state the Forrester stat that 80% of hacks involve compromised privileged access. This SolarWinds example is no exception: that’s what happened.
Additional points to keep in mind include the following:
Before our interview, we talked about how vulnerable passwords are and how using the company’s name, followed by 123, is not a good idea – that ties into going pro with preventive controls rather than just relying on a password. That’s a perfect example of what not to do. Organizations can design preventive privileged access controls and detective controls and both are typically provided in Privileged Access Management solutions. Best practices call for multiple preventive controls – strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, password rotation, maybe use a federated credential and have privileged users log in as themselves for better auditing and accountability.
Rethink enterprise cybersecurity from a preventive control perspective that includes least privileged access. Simplistic preventive controls aren’t enough, as the sophistication of this hack shows. Preventive controls need to be strengthened with least privilege. The account creation process needs to provide as little privilege as possible to the server level. Workflows to request additional access need to be used to provide resources for a predefined period. If these types of controls had been in place, malicious code disguised in executable files and dynamic linked libraries would not have traveled as far down the supply chain.
Lastly, even if threat actors get through or you don’t have enough of those layers in place, you want detective controls. PAM solutions should have audit capabilities that watch what privileged users do. In the financial markets, there are things like the “four-eye principle,” where people are watching what other people are doing and so you can watch a privileged session in real-time and verify what users are doing. Of course, all that’s audited in the recording. You can send that information off to a SIEM to be correlated with other data to look for compromise indicators. Recent articles I’ve read pointed out the attackers were in the FireEye network for months before being detected. FireEye detected that they had been attacked thanks to detective controls.
Louis: The SolarWinds attack seems to have rejuvenated the case for Zero Trust. How can companies adopt a Zero Trust mindset and take stock of their security layers today?
Andy: Definitely and I see organizations accelerate their Zero Trust initiatives today. Organizations can get started on their Zero Trust frameworks by reviewing the FIPS and NIST publications. Review the layers of your security stack with a Zero Trust mindset. Don’t configure your network to trust someone just because they gained access. That’s how these attackers got in, laying in the network for plenty of time. Zero Trust says, “Don’t trust that authenticated network access. That could still be a compromised credential or a threat actor,” and this is a perfect example of that. This is why Zero Trust is critical: just because they’re on your network doesn’t mean they’re trustworthy.
The concept of least privilege, of authenticating at each step, introduces segmentation. When I give access, it’s just to that machine or that service that I need access to and not broad access across the network a network segment. That’s how you prevent that lateral movement. A Zero Trust mindset that Zero Trust philosophy of security is critical in this case.
Louis: What do you think will happen from the perspective of micro-segmentation and how does this hack change the balance of security relative to ongoing operations of a business?
Andy: I think it’s another evidence of our current breach culture and brings forth more awareness. More and more, events like this will make cybersecurity a higher priority in an organization – one essential to excel at to keep a business operating. So from that perspective, it is a business enabler.
If you do it right, you can start to do things like moving to the cloud and start to do things that make you more agile. The more we can think of security as a business enabler instead of a business blocker, the better we are. Taking the lessons learned from this hack and using them to create a more resilient, hardened organization is a start.
80% of hacks involve the use of compromised privileged credentials and this one is no exception. An important layer of control is Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions such as Centrify, which typically involve predictive, preventive and detective controls.
In the end, it is security layers and vigilance that make the difference in minimizing the impact of a breach. NIST’s guidance can be constructive in cybersecurity planning, which can also be informed by Zero Trust’s principles. Remember, it’s not a question of if you will be hacked. It’s a matter of when and what you can do to limit the impact through layers.
Bottom Line: Cybersecurity CEOs’ lessons learned from navigating the pandemic provide a valuable framework for leading and growing a business through anxious, uncertain times.
How each cybersecurity CEO responds to the challenges of keeping employees safe, customers secure and product release cycles on schedule while still achieving customer success – all virtually – provide valuable insights into leading a company during difficult times. Simon Biddiscombe, former CEO of MobileIron (acquired by Ivanti), exemplifies the empathy all CEOs interviewed have for their employees’ welfare. “My first priority when the pandemic hit was to protect the health and safety of our employees, yet still maintain an “always-on business” for our customers,” Simon mentioned during a recent interview.
What made leading during the pandemic even more difficult was the exponentially increasing number of breaches and cyberattacks their customers are experiencing. McAfee Labs Covid-19 Threats Report found a 630% increase in cloud services cyberattacks between January and April of this year alone. The FBI estimates cyberattacks are up 400% due to the pandemic. As DevOps teams fast-track new features and releases, CEOs keep their virtual organizations cohesive and focused on the same goals.
The following cybersecurity CEOs provide their most valuable lessons learned leading through the pandemic:
Christy Wyatt, CEO of Absolute Software
Absolute is a leader in Endpoint Resilience solutions and the industry’s only undeletable defense platform embedded in over a half-billion devices. Enabling a permanent digital tether between the endpoint and the enterprise who distributed it, Absolute provides IT and Security organizations with always-connected visibility and Self-Healing Endpoint security.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
There was a clear moment for us where we said, “What is our objective? What is the best response to this?” And the phrase that came out was, “How can we help?” We knew our primary focus needed to be helping our customers solve a massive problem, instead of monetizing this opportunity. Making this decision to come together as a mission-driven organization… that was so incredibly powerful.
Even as life was changing drastically between breakfast and dinner every single day and employees were navigating their own work-from-home journeys and trying to care for their families, what we heard was that this ability to contribute was the thing that they were hanging onto. They were able to say, “Listen, I’m getting up every morning and I’m helping organizations with something that’s really scary and unfamiliar.” And, they did remarkable things… these teams put themselves through so much to help our customers stand up remote work and learning environments essentially overnight.
I always say you don’t win the race when you’re in the race. It’s the training and the practice, and the talking,and the drills and the teamwork… which we had been working on long before the pandemic hit. So I think my biggest takeaway is that if you put in the training upfront and you focus on doing the right things, the right things will happen. And you really can achieve more than you thought you could.
Flint Brenton – President and CEO of Centrify
Centrify is redefining the legacy approach to Privileged Access Management by delivering multi-cloud-architected Identity-Centric PAM to enable digital transformation at scale. Centrify Identity-Centric PAM establishes trust and then grants least privilege access just-in-time based on verifying who is requesting access, the context of the request and the risk of the access environment. Centrify centralizes and orchestrates fragmented identities, improves audit and compliance visibility and reduces risk, complexity and costs for the modern, hybrid enterprise.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
“Our customers and the people they serve are all going through rapid change. When you look at the concept of digital transformation, a lot of companies were struggling with that before the pandemic. Now we know that we can’t live without it. The role of the developer is more important than ever and they are driving innovation in a very different environment than they’ve ever experienced.
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned during the pandemic is that no matter what the obstacles are, people need connection. For a company like Centrify, that means we need to be connected to our customers intellectually, strategically, virtually and – eventually – physically.
An example of this was very clear recently, as we engaged in discussions with one of the world’s largest financial institutions to replace their existing password vaulting solution. They have a vision for where they want to be, how they are going to get there and how they are going to secure that transformation. But they need the right partner who not only has the technology capabilities and architecture for a cloud-focused, DevOps-drive, digitally-enabled enterprise, but also to understand their vision and be invested in their success.
So the CIO asked me to personally track the rollout of our product against their product enablement success and he was very interested in how our vision of Privileged Access Management will converge with cloud security, DevOps and other modern technologies and empower their vision and plan. Ultimately, he wanted connectedness. He wants a personal relationship built on understanding, honesty and accountability, even if that relationship can’t be forged and nurtured over a dinner or meeting in a conference room.
That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned leading this year: that customers, employees, partners and peers want to be connected any way possible, even if they can’t do so in close physical proximity yet.”
Steve Havas, CEO of Evernym
Evernym is a pioneer in the field of verifiable credential technology, which gives individuals control over their digital identity and organizations the ability to trust and verify their data. Evernym builds and deploys self-sovereign identity solutions, with the technology and go-to-market resources powering the largest implementations of digital credentials in production.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
The pandemic has been, to say the least, impactful on society and our business. The market changes have required ruthless listening to customer needs and absolute focus on delivering what’s needed today.
We’ve all anticipated a gradual convergence of the digital and physical worlds, but that timeline has been accelerated by the sudden rise in remote work/education and contactless identity verification. We’re fortunate that this is the future we’ve been building toward, although we would have never imagined many of the COVID-19 credential use cases that are now mission-critical for our customers. It’s certainly been a lesson in adaptability and prioritization.
Benji Markoff, CEO of Founder Shield
About Founder Shield
Founder Shield is a tech-enabled insurance brokerage, focusing on rapidly growing businesses that operate in emerging industries. As a broker, we have a unique perspective of protecting our clients against cyber threats and guiding them to recovery should their fall victim. We work with forward-thinking insurers using proprietary cyber risk management tools, while also offering the most innovative insurance coverage possible.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
People say that fortunes are won and lost in times like these and it certainly appears that hackers & social engineering fraudsters have gotten that memo. Over the past 6 months, we’ve seen an increase in both hacking and social engineering attacks on clients of all shape and size $5M Revenue to $500M revenue. The reports suggest that working from home has only increased vulnerabilities of company networks (or lack thereof as employees use home networks) and the ability to induce fraudulent payments from employees who might not be able to lean over to a coworker to fact check a fishy invoice. The valuable lesson? Do a cyber audit and make sure you’re training your team on spotting social engineering and phishing scams.
Anand S – CEO at Gramener: Insights as Data Stories
About Gramener: Insights as Data Stories
Gramener is a data science company that helps solve complex business problems with compelling data stories using insights and a low-code analytics platform. We help enterprises large and small with data insights and storytelling by leveraging Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Automated Analysis and Visual Intelligence using modern charts and narratives (NLG). Our Gramex platform is a low-code framework to rapidly build engaging data solutions across multiple business verticals and use cases. Our products have empowered CXOs, Chief Data Officers, Scientists, Business Analysts and others save millions of dollars by making an impact on revenue and decision making. Gramener was founded in 2010 and has over 325+ clients worldwide, 200+ employees and 5 offices globally including the United States and Singapore.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
As an SMB we leaned more towards cost optimization over premium cybersecurity tools and services, resulting in ring-fencing our office infrastructure more. Due to COVID-19, when we moved 100% remote, our cybersecurity controls fell short to defend us against external threats. We had to extend the security protocols like moving all work to Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), strengthen VPN tunnel security, implement 2FA for all logins, opt for more security services from our Cloud service provider.
We accelerated digitization across operations and increased spending in Cloud security and production application security. We are revisiting our current approach and playbooks for cybersecurity.
– We are evaluating the current 3rd party service providers offering and reevaluating if they still have same level security controls in place at their end
We are conducting an accelerated implementation of Data Security protocols across the organization and not just on client specific projects. This includes updates to Information Security Policy around Data classification, Data tracking and protection.
With 100% remote operations, we are moving to VDI for all production and critical services. This means access to all data is through dedicated VPN Tunnels only. This is to mitigate any exposure to data from folks working at home.
– Our Virtual Desktop Infrastructure allows our IT teams to protect client sensitive data to a restricted cloud environment. All the tools and 3rd party cloud services required by our team members to perform their tasks are provided in the VDI. No data can be extracted or moved from VDI instances.
– All internal company data around operations, team members, Intellectual Property are a prime target for cyberattacks and ransomware. We have moved to a secure VPN tunnel architecture for all our team members to access company internal systems. Earlier this was restricted to a small group of functions. By mandating access via secure VPN tunnel our IT team has centralized visibility of all traffic across the network and can intervene quickly against any potential threats.
We are mandating 2FA. Earlier employee convenience led to not mandating 2FA for all our services. Now 2FA has been made mandatory across all services.
In order to optimize costs, we are consolidating tools used in the organization to identify overlapping functionalities and getting rid of those which are no longer required.
Apu Pavithran, founder and CEO of Hexnode
Hexnode MDM is the award-winning Unified Endpoint Management platform from Mitsogo Inc. The company has been helping organizations in over 100 countries to stay agile and competitive in an increasingly mobile world. Mitsogo Inc. is a leading provider of Endpoint Management and security solutions. From SMBs to Fortune 500s, enterprises of all sizes have leveraged Mitsogo’s prowess in device management to drive business productivity and compliance. Mitsogo’s solutions adapt to the most complex of business environments.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
Navigate the path, trust your crew
Being a CEO, as lucrative as it may seem has its own little big challenges, for example, they don’t tell you that there are no off days. There are always thousands of choices to be made and tons of pathways to be chosen, but the absolute worst thing comes when we face an uncertainty that was never on the radar.
And when the pandemic hit, the team needed support more than ever, I had to switch through the roles of commander in chief, therapist, cheerleader and even at times a babysitter. After all, you have to be the rock for your employees, or else it shows. But fortunately, I was so lucky to be surrounded by like-minded people who are as passionate as the founder about our business and customers.
We had to establish a fully remote work landscape and it was not what we would have expected, it was at a time when everyone was very insecure about COVID-19. People were worried about their safety, the safety of their families and work started to slip into second gear, some of us were even having mental breakdowns. It was time to be the person that the team could look up to.
“Customer is king”, is a tired old saying but that is what Hexnode live by, we had a commitment towards our clients, so we had to provide uninterrupted service for them rain or shine. So, we made a decision that would be deemed “mad “from a financial standpoint.
We rented out hotel rooms and made guesthouses for each of our employees around the globe and ran security and screening protocols equivalent to that of hospitals. Soon the stress levels were back to normal and the team started to enjoy the atmosphere. Productivity became better than pre-COVID levels.
As a leader, your team should be able to trust that you’re going to do everything in your power to navigate them through this tough time. The greatest asset for every business is said to be “finding the right staff”, but I would say it is “how you create the right staff”. The most valuable lesson l learned during this pandemic is “When the crew is great you just have to navigate, they will pull through all the tides and storms coming your way. They always do”.
Brad Wiskirchen, CEO, Kount
Kount’s Identity Trust Global Network delivers real-time fraud prevention and account protection and enables personalized customer experiences for more than 9,000 leading brands and payment providers. Linked by Kount’s award-winning AI, the Identity Trust Global Network analyzes signals from 32 billion annual interactions to personalize user experiences across the spectrum of trust—from frictionless experiences to blocking fraud. Quick and accurate identity trust decisions deliver safe payment, account creation and login events while reducing digital fraud, chargebacks, false positives and manual reviews.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
Open, honest, fearless communication. The Kount team has lived by this motto for more than a decade and never before has it been more tested and more relevant than in navigating the events of 2020. From moving our entire team to remote work to quickly pivoting to help our eCommerce businesses handle dramatic changes in transaction volume, it’s essential that our team communicate at the highest levels. As the impacts of the pandemic are often deeply personal, open, honest, fearless communication has empowered us to balance individual needs, customer needs and company needs while uniting us in our mission to do whatever it takes to stop digital fraud for our customers.
Simon Biddiscombe, former CEO of MobileIron (acquired by Ivanti)
MobileIron is redefining enterprise security with the industry’s first mobile-centric security platform for the Everywhere Enterprise. MobileIron’s platform combines award-winning and industry-leading unified endpoint management (UEM) capabilities with passwordless MFA (Zero Sign-On) and mobile threat defense (MTD) to validate the device, establish user context, verify the network and detect and remediate threats to ensure that only authorized users, devices, apps and services can access business resources in a “work from everywhere” world.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
As a leader during a pandemic, you must go above and beyond to provide your employees and customers with world-class service and support. My first priority when the pandemic hit was to protect the health and safety of our employees, yet still maintain an “always on business” for our customers. At MobileIron, we quickly enabled our employees around the world to work remotely. We also made it as easy as possible for our customers to issue more corporate-owned devices or enable a BYOD program to keep their employees secure and connected – whether they were working on the frontlines or at home. And we continued to innovate to meet the changing security needs of our customers and communities.
Overall, the pandemic has crammed years’ worth of change into a few short months and it will have long-lasting effects on how, when and where we work in the future. Work in the future will be very different to work in the past, which will present leaders with some challenges. However, it will also offer some significant opportunities to overhaul working practices and support employees who work from home with better collaboration and more intuitive access. The “Everywhere Enterprise” is not a passing phase, it’s the current reality and will continue to grow and expand as workers find new ways to be productive from anywhere.
Ward Osborne, CEO of Osborne Global Security
About Osborne Global Security
Osborne Global Security is a new player in the security space. They are challenging the stereotypes that come to mind when you originally think of security and replacing them with the ideas of trust, care and a shift in general security culture. This is a fascinating company to watch in the future.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
As CISO’s for multiple companies through this pandemic, we have seen so much shift and change. There’s been borderline chaos in many companies – and chaos ALWAYS brings opportunity. For our clients, the ones we’ve worked with and developed mature, risk and capabilities based models for just this situation, they are thriving.
It’s interesting to see the world adapt to a virtual delivery model which we’ve been creating, living, evangelizing for 25 years. Our clients who may not have had the time or prioritization to develop those models and capabilities have taken a hit, but we continue to do what we do, which is develop and provide resilience and growth to our customers.
In a virtual and distributed world, Trust becomes a major factor in every conversation. If a customer can’t Trust that we are there to solve problems when things get tough, then they aren’t able to operate effectively knowing that someone has their back.
Our world has become physically disconnected, but the people and companies that deal with that challenge in a proactive and positive way will always thrive. We are here. Growing our tribe. Doing the next right thing and leading customers to success in the midst of all of this chaos and challenge.
Rodrigo Tumaián, CEO and Co-Founder of Prometeo
Prometeo provides a single point of access to banking information, transactions and payments across multiple financial institutions in Latam. Inspired by PSD2 and with high security standards, Prometeo brings easy plug & play access to open banking, the future of financial services. Currently, Prometeo is connected with more than 30 financial institutions across 9 countries of Latam (including México & Brazil) and provides access to more than 45 APIs.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
Prometeo was born with a very strong focus on cyber-security, so the pandemic had no effect on our operation. Our company grew up with the foundation of mobility and work flexibility, this forced us from the beginning to think about the best way to transmit data and protect mobile assets. So when the pandemic arrived, we were already providing remote access (VPN) to all our employees, limiting access by profile. We were already using two-factor authentication to access our services. We already had user nomination and record of the operations generated by our employees on our assets. I think if I had to mention what was the most valuable thing we learned from the pandemic, it’s that the direction we took from the beginning was worth it. We didn’t have to deal with operational issues to handle the high demand for digital products from customers, we just did it. So the pandemic for us strengthened another of our fundamental values, not to make security to be compliance, but to make integral security, both within our company and for our customers.
Jean Le Bouthillier, CEO of Qohash
Qohash delivers advanced data classification and monitoring capabilities to protect your personal, health, corporate and financial data using transformational technologies such as machine learning and analytics.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
2020 has accelerated digital transformation efforts and highlighted the need for advanced, lightweight data security capabilities. With enterprise employees working increasingly remote, data is flowing faster and in previously unimagined ways. Businesses realize that to keep up with the demands of clients and a digital workforce, data risk models need an update or risk jeopardizing the enterprise.
Qohash clients recognize that the employee Risk Score, a quantifiable measure of trust, mitigates the impact both of bad actors as well as busy, distracted employees.
Remote, digital work will be a part of enterprise operations for the foreseeable future. Organizations need to enable governance risk and compliance teams to better support this transition to Work From Anywhere [WFA] models where talent and business thrive.
Jean-Paul Smets, Founder and CEO RapidSpace
Rapid.Space is a cloud provider whose “approach is based exclusively on the use of free, fully auditable and reversible software, hardware and management procedures under open licenses. Thanks to a network of 228 points of presence, Rapid.Space has global presence including in mainland China. It covers similar features as the most sophisticated public cloud provider and introduces exclusive innovations such as industrial edge computing and private 4G/5G vRAN.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
“Rapid.Space learned during the pandemic how to formalize its management procedures and remotely setup points of presence. Thanks to Augmented Reality and smart glasses, Rapid.Space team in Europe and Americas could setup remotely its points of presence in mainland China and Taiwan without having to travel by air plane”.
73% of enterprises (over 500 employees) accelerated their cloud migration plans to support the shift to remote working across their organizations due to the pandemic.
81% of enterprises accelerated their IT modernization processes due to the pandemic.
48% of all companies surveyed have accelerated their cloud migration plans, 49% have sped up their IT modernization plans because of Covid-19.
32% of large-scale enterprises, over 500 employees, are implementing more automation using artificial intelligence-based tools this year.
These and many other insights are from a recent survey of IT leaders completed by CensusWide and sponsored by Centrify. The survey’s objectives on understanding how the dynamics of IT investments, operations and spending have shifted over the last six months. The study finds that the larger the enterprise, the more important it is to secure remote access to critical infrastructure to IT admin teams. Remote access and updating privacy policies and notices are two of the highest priorities for mid-size organizations to enterprises today. The methodology is based on interviews with 215 IT leaders located in the U.S.
Key insights from the survey include the following:
The overwhelming majority of enterprises have transformed their cybersecurity approach over the last six months, with 83% of large-scale enterprises leading all organizations. It’s encouraging to see small and medium-sized businesses adjusting and improving their approach to cybersecurity. Reflecting how digitally-driven many small and medium businesses are, cybersecurity adjustments begin in organizations with 10 to 49 employees. 60% adjusted their cloud security postures as a result of distributed workforces.
48% of all organizations had to accelerate cloud migration due to the pandemic, with larger enterprises leading the way. Enterprises with over 500 employees are the most likely to accelerate cloud migration plans due to the pandemic. 73.5% of enterprises with more than 500 employees accelerated cloud migration plans to support their employees’ remote working arrangements, leading all organization categories. This finding reflects how cloud-first the largest enterprises have become this year. It’s also consistent with many other surveys completed in 2020, reflecting how much the cloud has solidly won the enterprise.
49% of all organizations and 81% of large-scale enterprises had to accelerate their IT modernization process due to the pandemic. For the largest enterprises, IT modernization equates to digitizing more processes using cloud-native services (59%), maintaining flexibility and security for a partially remote workforce (57%) and revisiting and adjusting their cybersecurity stacks (40%).
51% of enterprises with 500 employees or more are making remote, secure access their highest internal priority. In contrast, 27% of all organizations’ IT leaders say that providing secure, granular access to IT admin teams, outsourced IT and third-party vendors is a leading priority. The larger the enterprise, the more important remote access becomes. The survey also found organizations with 250 – 500 employees are most likely to purchase specific cybersecurity tools and applications to meet compliance requirements.
Conclusion & Wrap-Up
IT leaders are quickly using the lessons learned from the pandemic as a crucible to strengthen cloud transformation and IT modernization strategies. One of every three IT leaders interviewed, 34%, say their budgets have increased during the pandemic. In large-scale enterprises with over 500 employees, 59% of IT leaders have seen their budgets increase.
All organizations are also keeping their IT staff in place. 63% saw little to no impact on their teams, indicating that the majority of organizations will have both the budget and resources to maintain or grow their cybersecurity programs. 25% of IT leaders indicated that their company plans to keep their entire workforce 100% remote.
It’s encouraging to see IT leaders getting the support they need to achieve their cloud transformation and IT modernization initiatives going into next year. With every size of organization spending on cybersecurity tools, protecting cloud infrastructures needs to be a priority. Controlling administrative access risk in the cloud and DevOps is an excellent place to start with a comprehensive, modern Privileged Access Management solution. Leaders in this field, including Centrify, whose cloud-native architecture and flexible deployment and management options, deliver deep expertise in securing cloud environments.
Bottom Line: Shattering the false sense of security in tech, the recent Twitter hack blended altruism, fame, greed, social engineering via SIM swapping and insider threats to steal $120,000 from victims when the economic and political damage could have been far worse.
Targeting the most influential celebrities on Twitter, hackers orchestrated a social engineering-based attack Wednesday promoting a cryptocurrency scam. Business leaders, celebrities, politicians and billionaires’ accounts were hacked using Twitter’s administrative tools. Personal Twitter accounts hacked include those of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Joe Biden, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and others. Apple and Uber’s Twitter accounts were also hacked.
Using SIM swapping, in which threat actors trick, coerce or bribe employees of their victims to gain access to privileged account credentials and administrative tools, hackers were able first to change the email address of each targeted account. Next, two-factor authentication was turned off so when an alert was sent of the account change it went to the hacker’s email address. With the targeted accounts under their control, hackers began promoting their cryptocurrency scam. While not all details of the attack have surfaced Motherboard’s story of how hackers convinced a Twitter employee to help them the hijack accounts makes for fascinating reading.
Dissecting The Hack
Interested in dissecting the hack from a cybersecurity standpoint, I contacted Dr. Torsten George, Cybersecurity Evangelist and industry expert from Centrify. Torsten is also a leading authority on privileged access management and how to thwart breaches involving privileged access credentials.
Louis: What was your initial impression upon breaking news of the hack and what did you believe would cause such a massive hack of celebrity and leading political figures accounts this past week?
Torsten: When the news broke, the media probably polled other security experts and the first initial reaction was, ‘Oh, that’s a massive attack, most likely a credential-based attack,’ because 80% of today’s data breaches go back to privilege access abuse. They are typically first triggered by phishing attacks, the precursor to many attacks where the attackers tried to capture these credentials and then leverage them to attack their victim’s organizations.
So, the breaking news indicated that most likely, somebody was able to leverage a compromised credential to enter into the Twitter environment and take over accounts. However, more and more information became available, with screenshots being shared of internal Twitter tools. For me, that raised a red flag, because in a typical attack pattern we’re seeing three distinct phases in the cyber-attack lifecycle: the compromise, the exploration phase and the exfiltration of sensitive data, which includes covering up tracks and potentially creating a backdoor for future attacks.
When performing reconnaissance, hackers commonly try to identify regular IT schedules, security measures, network traffic flows and scan the entire IT environment to gain an accurate picture of the network resources, privileged accounts and services. Domain controllers, Active Directory and servers are prime reconnaissance targets to hunt for additional privileged credentials and privileged access.
They wouldn’t necessarily look for administrative tools that could be leveraged for their attack unless they have intimate knowledge that those tools exist in the victim’s environment — be it by having worked for the company in the past or representing an insider threat.
Louis: What’s the anatomy of an insider attack, based on your experience?
Torsten: As was later confirmed by Twitter, it became very apparent that this is a case of insider threats, where you have an insider that has been leveraged for this attack. The most common insider threats can be defined by the intent and motivation of the individuals involved. The 2019 Verizon Insider Threat Report defines five distinct insider threats based on data breach scenarios and they all have excellent, accurate names: the Careless Worker, the Inside (often recruited) Agent, the Disgruntled Employee, the Malicious Insider and the Feckless Third-Party.
Considering the global environment we’re facing right now, with Covid-19 and other related economic hardships, the risk of insider threats is exacerbated, as pending furloughs or pay cuts may tempt employees to exfiltrate data to secure a new job or make up for income losses.
So a privileged administrator might be more open to people that approach them and say, ‘Would you be willing to share with us your access credentials, or would you do something on our behalf to exfiltrate data or to manipulate data?’ That risk has increased dramatically across all industries.
So it turned out the first suspicion was phishing attacks, followed by compromised credentials. It turns out to be an insider threat. Organizations need to be prepared for that.
Louis: What can companies do to reduce the likelihood a malicious insider will hack them?
Torsten: It becomes a little bit trickier when you deal with a malicious insider because they most likely know your environment, they might know your defense mechanisms and they might know the security tools that your likely using. So they can bypass these security controls and try to gain the control of data that they can then profit from.
Organizations have to rethink the way that they’ve structured their defense controls and truly take an approach of an in-depth strategy with a different layer of defenses. The first layer that comes to mind in this particular case is multi-factor authentication (MFA) which is still low-hanging fruit. There are still many organizations out there that are not taking advantage of implementing MFA.
While MFA is highly recommended, it isn’t as effective against insider threats because they have that second factor of authentication and can pass those challenges. Organizations need to go beyond MFA if they want to have a layered security strategy.
Louis: What are some of the ways they can go beyond MFA to avoid being the victim of an insider threat?
Torsten: A very important component of your defense strategy should be the approach of zero standing privileges, which is something Gartner recommends to its clients. That means that I have normal privileges and entitlements to do my job, like answering emails and using the Internet, but that’s probably all I need. If I need more access, I’ll have to elevate my privilege for the time needed to do that particular task but then rescind that privilege once it’s done.
If I have zero standing privileges – even if somebody compromises my credential, even if I’m an insider – I don’t have immediate access to the keys to the kingdoms to do whatever I want.
And before privilege elevation, organizations should require context through a formal request. For example, require the user to submit a ticket through ServiceNow or any other IT Service Management platform to detail what they need to access, for how long and to do what. That way, there is an auditing trail and an approval process. If the threat actor – whether insider or not – doesn’t do this they don’t get privileged access to that target system.
Louis: Besides those perhaps expected controls, what other controls might have helped in this particular scenario?
Torsten: Organizations should also take advantage of modern tools to leverage machine learning technology, so that looks at user behavior and risk factors to also get a hold of these insider attacks. All the other security controls are more tailored towards external preparation at first. Still, once you implement machine learning technology and user behavior analytics that’s where you also can capture insider threats.
Machine learning can look for suspicious activity, such as a target being accessed outside of a typical maintenance window, or is the administrator logging in from a different location or device than usual. It can then trigger an MFA request and also issue a real-time alert, regardless of whether the MFA challenge is successfully resolved.
Furthermore, in the case of Twitter, there are privacy and regulatory concerns that could also be additional triggers for real-time alerts and to shut down this activity automatically. Regulations like the CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) mean that platforms like Twitter have to be very careful with any access to or manipulation of a customer’s feed. That could – and should have – instantly triggered a real-time alert when an administrator was posting on behalf of a user.
Louis: Do you think this is going to be the start of an entirely new era of hacks where hackers will pay off internal employees for promotional messages?
Torsten: Quite frankly, we have seen an uptick since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. And I believe now that this Twitter attack has been covered in the press so much, you will have copycats that will try to do the same. Some of them will also target social media platforms, but others that might be a little bit smarter because social media is easily detectable if something goes wrong. An industry like healthcare could be a prime target and there is already news that Russian hackers are attacking healthcare providers and research labs to try to gain access to vaccine research.
Louis: Given how significant this hack is in terms of the progression or the growing sophistication of threats, what are the top three predictions you have for the rest of 2020?
Torsten: Ransomware is an example of a technique that has changed quite significantly in two ways. First, they are no longer only delivered via an email, but also via social media platforms, SMS messages and more. Second, ransomware is no longer only focused on shutting down business operations. The most recent example with EDP Renewables North American, a subsidiary of an European-based electric utilities company, showed that hackers leveraged ransomware to exfiltrate data. Not to lock it down, but to exfiltrate data and then ask for ransom from their victim to not publish the data on the Dark Web.
Second, as I’ve already covered, the current economic hardships of the pandemic will cause more people to jump on the bandwagon and become cybercriminals. And these aren’t the people you see in movies – dark characters in hoodies using sophisticated hacking techniques to breach the government. These are your neighbors, the little boys next door. For them it’s not a big deal to become a cyber-criminal.
Third, as you’d expect, the number of cyber-attacks will increase as a result and they will continue to find new and innovative ways to find the easiest way in. The Twitter incident taught us that there was no technology “breach” required. It was just finding the right person with the right privileges and paying them to do 25 Tweets. That’s an easy payday.
I think this whole crisis that we’re going through will see a major uptick in attacks from the traditional cyber hackers, but also from a whole bunch of newbies and greenhorns that will try out their luck and see if they can make a buck. Either by ransomware attacks, phishing attacks, social engineering or any combination thereof.
Bottom Line: Excelling at compliance doesn’t protect any business from being hacked, yet pursuing a continuous risk management strategy helps.
With a few exceptions (such as spearphishing), cyberattacks are, by nature, brutally opportunistic and random. They are driven to disrupt operations at best and steal funds, records, and privileged access credentials at worst. Conversely, the most important compliance event of all, audits, are planned for, often months in advance. Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) teams go to Herculean efforts to meet and exceed audit prep timelines working evenings and weekends.
Wanting to learn more about the relationship between GRC and cybersecurity strategy, I searched for webinars on the topic. I found Improve Your Compliance Posture with Identity-Centric PAM, a recent webinar-on-demand offered by Centrify. The webinar brought up several interesting insights, including shared pains companies experience with compliance and cybersecurity, yet require drastically different approaches to solving them.
Rationalizing Compliance Spending with Cybersecurity
The truth is organizations are attempting to rationalize the high costs of compliance by looking for how GRC spend can also improve cybersecurity. This is a dangerous assumption, as Marriott’s third breach indicates. Marriott is an excellently managed business and sets standards in compliance. Unfortunately, that hasn’t thwarted three breaches they’ve experienced.
Why are organizations assuming GRC spending will improve cybersecurity? It’s because both areas share a common series of pains that require different solutions, according to the webinar. These pains include:
Updates to regulations are exponentially increasing today, averaging 200 or more per day from approximately 900 oversight agencies worldwide, leading to a quickly changing, heterogeneous landscape. Dr. Torsten George, Cybersecurity Evangelist at Centrify, said that when he worked in the GRC space, the midsize clients he worked with had to deal with 17 different regulations. Larger organizations that operate on a global basis are dealing with, on average, 70 or more regulations they need to stay in compliance with. Dr. George provided an overview of the compliance landscape, differentiating between the levels compliance requirements every organization needs to abide by, which is shown below:
Compliance is, by nature, reactive to a known event (audit), while cybersecurity is also entirely reactive to random events (cyberattacks). GRC teams need to ramp up their staff and equip them with the apps and tools they need at least six months before an audit. For cybersecurity, the threat is random and will most likely be more severe in terms of financial loss. Preparing for each takes entirely different strategies.
The lack of continuous risk monitoring by GRC teams and identity management by IT cybersecurity leads to systemic failures in achieving compliance and securing an organization. The webinar makes an excellent point that for compliance to succeed, it needs to be based on continuous risk management, not just checking off the boxes or categories of a given GRC approach. The same holds for cybersecurity. Identity-Centric Privileged Access Management (PAM) provides GRC and IT professionals mutual benefits when it comes to achieving the mission of being and staying compliant, and shows how securing enterprises drive better compliance, not vice versa.
Manually updating compliance mapping tables showing the interrelationships of requirements by industry is not scaling – and leaving gaps in GRC coverage. The more regulated a business is, for example manufacturing medical products, the more important it is to automate every aspect of compliance. A great place to start is automating the process of creating mapping tables. Taking a manual approach to creating mapping tables comparing standards often leads to errors and gaps. And in highly regulated industries like medical products manufacturing, the accuracy, speed, and scale of staying compliant can be turned into a competitive advantage, leading to more sales.
How To Resolve The Conflict Between GRC and Cybersecurity Spending
According to the webinar, 80% of today’s data breaches are caused by default, weak, stolen, or otherwise compromised credentials. GRC and cybersecurity strategies’ best efforts need to be put on securing privileged access first. The webinar makes a strong argument for prioritizing privileged access security as the initiative that can unify GRC and cybersecurity strategies.
Key insights from the webinar include the following:
Industry standards and government regulations are calling for identity and access management as a requirement, with several specifically naming privilege access controls.
Identity-Centric Privileged Access Management (PAM) approaches help meet compliance mandates, while at the same time hardening cybersecurity to the threat surface level.
Attaining greater compliance by taking an Identity-Centric PAM approach ensures machines have secured identities as well, and the use of anonymous access accounts is limited to break-glass scenarios only, while organizations should otherwise be leveraging enterprise directory identities for the authentication and authorization process.
Improving accountability and segmentation by establishing granular security controls and auditing everything helps bridge the gap between GRC and cybersecurity initiatives.
Continuous risk management is key to excelling at compliance, just as securing privileged access credentials is foundational to an effective cybersecurity strategy. Dr. Torsten George ended the webinar saying, “In the long term, I believe that the current situation that we’re dealing with and its associated spike of cyber-attacks will lead to even stricter compliance mandates; especially when it comes to secure remote access by key IT stakeholders and outsourced IT.” The bottom line is that compliance and cybersecurity must share the common goal of protecting their organizations’ privileged access credentials using adaptive approaches and technologies if both are going to succeed.
Bottom Line: Every organization needs to digitally reinvent their business, starting at the system level to safely sell and serve customers with minimal physical interaction.
The hard reset every business is going through creates a strong sense of urgency to increase the agility, speed, and scale of selling, as well as customer service options that protect the health of employees, customers, and partners. Customer experience needs to be the cornerstone of digital transformation, with the customers’ health and welfare being the highest priority. Businesses need to realize that digitally reinventing themselves is no longer optional. Every customer-facing system is going to need the best infrastructure, security, and stability for any business to survive and grow.
Securing Infrastructure Needs To Come First
COVID-19 was a wake-up call that companies need to operate as multi-channel players, allowing for physical but, more importantly, virtual presence. For instance, in retail, only those that will step up their efforts in building on-line ordering and associated nation-wide logistics networks will survive in the longer-term. If the cloud was considered an option in the past, it now is mandatory. In turn, the need for security has increased.
Starting with infrastructure, hybrid- and multi-cloud environments need to be augmented with additional system support, new apps, and greater security to support the always-on nature of competing in a virtual world. Providing self-service sales and support across any device at any time and keeping all systems synchronized is going to take more real-time integration, better security, more precise pricing, and so much more.
Consumer electronics manufacturers’ biggest challenge is reinventing their infrastructure while selling and serving customers at the same time. Part of their biggest challenge is protecting privileged access credentials that have become fragmented across hybrid- and multi-cloud environments. Everyone I’ve spoken with is balancing the urgent need for new revenue through new channels on the one hand with intensity to secure infrastructure and the most valuable security assets of all, privileged access credentials.
According to a 2019 study by Centrify among 1,000 IT decision-makers, 74% of respondents whose organizations have been breached acknowledged that it involved access to a privileged account. These are typically used by a small set of technical personnel to access the most critical systems in the IT estate, including modern technologies such as cloud, DevOps, microservices, and more. The CIO of a local financial services and insurance company, who is a former student and friend, told me that “it’s often said that privileged access credentials are the keys to the kingdom, and in these turbulent times they’re the keys to keeping any business running.”
CIOs, CISOs, and their teams are focusing on four key areas today while digitally reinventing themselves to provide more flexible options for customers:
Secure every new self-service selling and service channel from breaches.
Fast-track cloud projects to become 100% virtual and available.
Simplify infrastructure management by integrating IT and Operations Management across hybrid and multi-cloud environments.
Improve compliance reporting as well as reduce audit costs and associated fines.
Legacy Privileged Access Management (PAM) Can’t Scale For Today’s Threats
Sophisticated social engineering and breach attempts are succeeding in misdirecting human responses to cyber threats, gaining access to valuable privileged access credentials in the process. Legacy PAM systems based on vaulting away shared and root passwords aren’t designed to protect hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments. These DevOps systems include containers and microservices, APIs, machines, or services. Furthermore, multi-cloud environments create additional challenges because access management tools used for one vendor cannot be used with another.
Switching from in-person to self-service selling and service creates new challenges and an entirely new series of requirements for identity and access management. These requirements include securing a continually-increasing number of workloads that cause the amount of data in the cloud to grow exponentially. There’s also the need to centralize identities for consistent access controls across hybrid and multi-cloud environments – all happening while a business is busy digitally reinventing itself. Compounding all of these challenges is the need to excel at delivering an excellent user experience without sacrificing security in an increasingly self-service, always-on, 24/7 world.
Securing Privileged Access In A Post-COVID-19 World
If you’re looking for a sure sign any business will be around and growing in twelve months, look at how fast they are digitally reinventing themselves at the infrastructure level and protecting privileged access credentials first. Digital-first businesses are taking a more adaptive approach to consistently controlling access to hybrid infrastructure for both on-premises and remote users now.
Centrify and others are making rapid progress in this area, with Centrify’s Identity-Centric PAM taking a “never trust, always verify, enforce least privilege” approach to securing privileged identities. Centrify’s approach to Identity-Centric PAM establishes per-machine trust so it can defend itself from illegitimate users – whether human or machine – or those without the right entitlements. It then grants least privilege access just-in-time based on verifying who is requesting access, the context of the request, and the risk of the access environment as is illustrated in the graphic below:
Improving customer experiences needs to be at the center of any digital transformation effort. As every business digitally transforms itself to survive and grow in a post-COVID-19 world out of necessity, they must also improve how they secure access to their cloud and on-premises infrastructure. Legacy PAM was designed for a time when all privileged access was constrained to resources inside the network, accessed by humans, using shared/root accounts.
Legacy PAM was not designed for cloud environments, DevOps, containers, or microservices. Furthermore, privileged access requesters are no longer limited to just humans, but also include machines, services, and APIs.
Privileged access requesters need greater agility, adaptability, and speed to support DevOps’ growing roadmap of self-service and increasingly safer apps and platforms. While privileged identities must be protected, DevOps teams need as much agility and speed as possible to innovate at the rapidly changing pace of how customers choose to buy in a post-COVID-19 world.
60% of security and IT professionals state that security is the leading challenge with cloud migrations, despite not being clear about who is responsible for securing cloud environments.
71% understand that controlling privileged access to cloud service administrative accounts is a critical concern, yet only 53% cite secure access to cloud workloads as a key objective of their cloud Privileged Access Management (PAM) strategies.
What makes this study noteworthy is how it provides a candid, honest assessment of how enterprises can make cloud migrations more secure by a better understanding of who is responsible for securing privileged access to cloud administrative accounts and workloads.
Key insights from the study include the following:
Improved speed of IT services delivery (65%) and lowered total cost of ownership (54%) are the two top factors driving cloud migrations today. Additional factors include greater flexibility in responding to market changes (40%), outsourcing IT functions that don’t create competitive differentiation (22%), and increased competitiveness (17%). Reducing time-to-market for new systems and applications is one of the primary catalysts driving cloud migrations today, making it imperative for every organization to build security policies and systems into their cloud initiatives.
Security is the greatest challenge to cloud migration by a wide margin. 60% of organizations define security as the most significant challenge they face with cloud migrations today. One in three sees the cost of migration (35%) and lack of expertise (30%) being the second and third greatest impediments to cloud migration project succeeding. Organizations are facing constant financial and time constraints to achieve cloud migrations on schedule to support time-to-market initiatives. No organization can afford the lost time and expense of an attempted or successful breach impeding cloud migration progress.
71% of organizations are implementing privileged access controls to manage their cloud services. However, as the privilege becomes more task-, role-, or access-specific, there is a diminishing interest of securing these levels of privileged access as a goal, evidenced by only 53% of organizations securing access to the workloads and containers they have moved to the cloud. The following graphic reflects the results.
An alarmingly high 60% of organizations incorrectly view the cloud provider as being responsible for securing privileged access to cloud workloads. It’s shocking how many customers of AWS and other public cloud providers are falling for the myth that cloud service providers can completely protect their customized, highly individualized cloud instances. The native Identity and Access Management (IAM) capabilities offered by AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and others provide enough functionality to help an organization get up and running to control access in their respective homogeneous cloud environments. Often they lack the scale to adequately address the more challenging, complex areas of IAM and Privileged Access Management (PAM) in hybrid or multi-cloud environments, however. For an expanded discussion of the Shared Responsibility Model, please see The Truth About Privileged Access Security On AWS and Other Public Clouds. The following is a graphic from the survey and Amazon Web Services’ interpretation of the Shared Responsibility Model.
Implementing a common security model in the cloud, on-premises, and in hybrid environments is the most proven approach to making cloud migrations more secure. Migrating cloud instances securely needs to start with Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), deploying a common privileged access security model equivalent to on-premises and cloud systems, and utilizing enterprise directory accounts for privileged access. These three initial steps set the foundation for implementing least privilege access. It’s been a major challenge for organizations to do this, particularly in cloud environments, as 68% are not eliminating local privilege accounts in favor of federated access controls and are still using root accounts outside of “break glass” scenarios. Even more concerning, 57% are not implementing least privilege access to limit lateral movement and enforce just-enough, just-in-time-access.
When it comes to securing access to cloud environments, organizations don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Best practices from securing on-premises data centers and workloads can often be successful in securing privileged access in cloud and hybrid environments as well.
The study provides four key takeaways for anyone working to make cloud migrations more secure. First, all organizations need to understand that privileged access to cloud environments is your responsibility, not your cloud providers’. Second, adopt a modern approach to Privileged Access Management that enforces least privilege, prioritizing “just enough, just-in-time” access. Third, employ a common security model across on-premises, cloud, and hybrid environments. Fourth and most important, modernize your security approach by considering how cloud-based PAM systems can help to make cloud migrations more secure.
Enterprises Need Greater Urgency Around Zero Trust
The escalating severity of cyberattacks and their success rates are proving that traditional approaches to cybersecurity based on “trust but verify” aren’t working anymore. What’s needed is more of a Zero Trust-based approach to managing every aspect of cybersecurity. By definition, Zero Trust is predicated on a “never trust, always verify” approach to access, from inside or outside the network. Enterprises need to begin with a Zero Trust Privilege-based strategy that verifies who is requesting access, the context of the request, and the risk of the access environment.
How urgent is it for enterprises to adopt Zero Trust? A recent survey of 2,000 full-time UK workers, completed by Censuswide in collaboration with Centrify, provides seven signs it’s time for enterprises to get a greater sense of urgency regarding their Zero Trust frameworks and initiatives. The seven signs are as follows:
77% of organizations’ workers admit that they have never received any form of cybersecurity skills training from their employer. In this day and age, it’s mind-blowing that three of every four organizations aren’t providing at least basic cybersecurity training, whether they intend to adopt Zero Trust or not. It’s like freely handing out driver’s licenses to anyone who wants one so they can drive the freeways of Los Angeles or San Francisco. The greater the training, the safer the driver. Likewise, the greater the cybersecurity training, the safer the worker, company and customers they serve.
69% of employees doubt the cybersecurity processes in place in their organizations today. When the majority of employees don’t trust the security processes in place in an organization, they invent their own, often bringing their favorite security solutions into an enterprise. Shadow IT proliferates, productivity often slows down, and enterprise is more at risk of a breach than ever before. When there’s no governance or structure to managing data, cybercriminals flourish.
63% of British workers interviewed do not realize that unauthorized access to an email account without the owner’s permission is a criminal offense. It’s astounding that nearly two-thirds of the workers in an organization aren’t aware that unauthorized access to another person’s email account without their permission is a crime. The UK passed into law 30 years ago the Computer Misuse Act. The law was created to protect individuals’ and organizations’ electronic data. The Act makes it a crime to access or modify data stored on a computer without authorization to do so. The penalties are steep for anyone found guilty of gaining access to a computer without permission, starting with up to two years in prison and a £5,000 fine. It’s alarming how high the lack of awareness is of this law, and an urgent call to action to prioritize organization-wide cybersecurity training.
27% of workers use the same password for multiple accounts. The Consensus survey finds that workers are using identical passwords for their work systems, social media accounts, and both personal and professional e-mail accounts. Cybersecurity training can help reduce this practice, but Zero Trust is badly needed to protect privileged access credentials that may have identical passwords to someone’s Facebook account, for example.
14% of employees admitted to keeping their passwords recorded in an unsecured handwritten notebook or on their desk in the office. Organizations need to make it as difficult as possible for bad actors and cybercriminals to gain access to passwords instead of sharing them in handwritten notebooks and on Post-It notes. Any organization with this problem needs to immediately adopt Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) as an additional security measure to ensure compromised passwords don’t lead to unauthorized access. For privileged accounts, use a password vault, which can make handwritten password notes (and shared passwords altogether) obsolete.
14% do not use multi-factor authentication for apps or services unless forced to do so. Centrify also found that 58% of organizations do not use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for privileged administrative access to servers, leaving their IT systems and infrastructure unsecured. Not securing privileged access credentials with MFA or, at the very least, vaulting them is like handing the keys to the kingdom to cybercriminals going after privileged account access. Securing privileged credentials needs to begin with a Zero Trust-based approach that verifies who is requesting access, the context of the request, and the risk of the access environment.
1 out of every 25 employees hacks into a colleague’s email account without permission. In the UK, this would be considered a violation of the Computer Misuse Act, which has some unfortunate outcomes for those found guilty of violating it. The Censuswide survey also found that one in 20 workers have logged into friend’s Facebook accounts without permission. If you work in an organization of over 1,000 people, for example, 40 people in your company have most likely hacked into a colleague’s email account, opening up your entire company to legal liability.
Leaving cybersecurity to chance and hoping employees will do the right thing isn’t a strategy; it’s an open invitation to get hacked. The Censuswide survey and many others like it reflect a fundamental truth that cybersecurity needs to become part of the muscle memory of any organization to be effective. As traditional IT network perimeters dissolve, enterprises need to replace “trust but verify” with a Zero Trust-based framework. Zero Trust Privilege mandates a “never trust, always verify, enforce least privilege” approach to privileged access, from inside or outside the network. Leaders in this area include Centrify, who combines password vaulting with brokering of identities, multi-factor authentication enforcement, and “just enough” privilege, all while securing remote access and monitoring of all privileged sessions.
According to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, manufacturing has been experiencing an increase in financially motivated breaches in the past couple of years, whereby most breaches involve Phishing and the use of stolen credentials.
50% of manufacturers report experiencing a breach over the last 12 months, 11% of which were severe according to Sikich’s 5th Manufacturing and Distribution Survey, 2019.
Manufacturers’ supply chains and logistics partners targeted by ransomware which have either had to cease operations temporarily to restore operations from backup or have chosen to pay the ransom include Aebi Schmidt, ASCO Industries, and COSCO Shipping Lines.
Small Suppliers Are A Favorite Target, Ask A.P. Møller-Maersk
Supply chains are renowned for how unsecured and porous they are multiple layers deep. That’s because manufacturers often only password-protect administrator access privileges for trusted versus untrusted domains at the operating system level of Windows NT Server, haven’t implemented multi-factor authentication (MFA), and apply a trust but verify mindset only for their top suppliers. Many manufacturers don’t define, and much less enforce, supplier security past the first tier of their supply chains, leaving the most vulnerable attack vectors unprotected.
CargoSmart provided a Vessel Monitoring Dashboard to monitor vessels during this time of recovery from the cyber attack.
Supply Chains Need To Treat Every Supplier In Their Network As A New Security Perimeter
The more integrated a supply chain, the more the potential for breaches and ransomware attacks. And in supply chains that rely on privileged access credentials, it’s a certainty that hackers outside the organization and even those inside will use compromised credentials for financial gain or disrupt operations. Treating every supplier and their integration points in the network as a new security perimeter is critical if manufacturers want to be able to maintain operations in an era of accelerating cybersecurity threats.
Taking a Zero Trust Privilege approach to securing privileged access credentials will help alleviate the leading cause of breaches in manufacturing today, which is privileged access abuse. By taking a “never trust, always verify, and enforce least privilege” approach, manufacturers can protect the “keys to the kingdom,” which are the credentials hackers exploit to take control over an entire supply chain network.
Instead of relying on trust but verify or trusted versus untrusted domains at the operating system level, manufacturers need to have a consistent security strategy that scales from their largest to smallest suppliers. Zero Trust Privilege could have saved A.P. Møller-Maersk from being crippled by a ransomware attack by making it a prerequisite that every supplier must have ZTP-based security guardrails in place to do business with them.
Among the most porous and easily compromised areas of manufacturing, supply chains are the lifeblood of any production business, yet also the most vulnerable. As hackers become more brazen in their ransomware attempts with manufacturers and privileged access credentials are increasingly sold on the Dark Web, manufacturers need a sense of urgency to combat these threats. Taking a Zero Trust approach to securing their supply chains and operations, helps manufacturers to implement least privilege access based on verifying who is requesting access, the context of the request, and the risk of the access environment. By implementing least privilege access, manufacturers can minimize the attack surface, improve audit and compliance visibility, and reduce risk, complexity, and costs for the modern, hybrid manufacturing enterprise.
The average cost of a data breach has risen 12% over the past 5 years and is now $3.92M.
U.S.-based breaches average $8.19M in losses, leading all nations.
Not integrating mobile phone platforms and protecting them with a Zero Trust Security framework can add up to $240K to the cost of a breach.
Companies that fully deploy security automation technologies experience around half the cost of a breach ($2.65M on average) compared to those that do not deploy these technologies ($5.16M on average).
These and many other fascinating insights are from the 14th annual IBM Security Cost of a Data Breach Report, 2019. IBM is making a copy of the report available here for download (76 pp., PDF, opt-in). IBM and Ponemon Institute collaborated on the report, recruiting 507 organizations that have experienced a breach in the last year and interviewing more than 3,211 individuals who are knowledgeable about the data breach incident in their organizations. A total of 16 countries and 17 industries were included in the scope of the study. For additional details regarding the methodology, please see pages 71 – 75 of the report.
Key insights from the report include the following:
Lost business costs are 36.2% of the total cost of an average breach, making it the single largest loss component of all. Detection and escalation costs are second at 31.1%, as it can take up to 206 days to first identify a breach after it occurs and an additional 73 days to contain the breach. IBM found the average breach lasts 279 days. Breaches take a heavy toll on the time resources of any organization as well, eating up 76% of an entire year before being discovered and contained.
U.S.-based breaches average $8.19M in losses, leading all nations with the highest country average. The cost of U.S.-based breaches far outdistance all other countries and regions of the world due to the value and volume of data exfiltrated from enterprise IT systems based in North America. North American enterprises are also often the most likely to rely on mobile devices to enable greater communication and collaboration, further exposing that threat surface. The Middle East has the second-highest average breach loss of $5.97M. In contrast, Indian and Brazilian organizations had the lowest total average cost at $1.83M and $1.35M, respectively.
Data breach costs increase quickly in integration-intensive corporate IT environments, especially where there is a proliferation of disconnected mobile platforms. The study found the highest contributing costs associated with a data breach are caused by third parties, compliance failures, extensive cloud migration, system complexity, and extensive IoT, mobile and OT environments. This reinforces that organizations need to adopt a Zero Trust Security (ZTS) framework to secure the multiple endpoints, apps, networks, clouds, and operating systems across perimeter-less enterprises. Mobile devices are enterprises’ fasting growing threat surfaces, making them one of the highest priorities for implementing ZTS frameworks. Companies to watch in this area include MobileIron, which has created a mobile-centric, zero-trust enterprise security framework. The framework is built on the foundation of unified endpoint management (UEM) and additional zero trust-enabling technologies, including zero sign-on (ZSO), multi-factor authentication (MFA), and mobile threat detection (MTD). This approach to securing access and protect data across the perimeter-less enterprise is helping to alleviate the high cost of data breaches, as shown in the graphic below.
Accidental, inadvertent breaches from human error and system glitches are still the root cause for nearly half (49%) of the data breaches. And phishing attacks on mobile devices that are lost, stolen or comprised in workplaces are a leading cause of breaches due to human error. While less expensive than malicious attacks, which cost an average of $4.45M, system glitches and the human error still result in costly breaches, with an average loss of $3.24M and $3.5M respectively. To establish complete control over data, wherever it lives, organizations need to adopt Zero Trust Security (ZTS) frameworks that are determined by “never trust, always verify.”. For example, MobileIron’s mobile-centric zero-trust approach validates the device, establishes user context, checks app authorization, verifies the network, and detects and remediates threats before granting secure access to a device or user. This zero-trust security framework is designed to stop accidental, inadvertent and maliciously-driven, intentional breaches. The following graphic compares the total cost for three data breach root causes:
Lost business is the single largest cost component of any breach, and it takes years to fully recover from one. IBM found that 67% of the costs of a breach accrue in the first year, 22% accrue in the second year and 11% in the third. The more regulated a company’s business, the longer a breach will accrue costs and impact operations. Compounding this is the need for a more Zero Trust-based approach to securing every endpoint across an organization.