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Cybersecurity in Post-COVID Environment: Time for C-Level Executives to Devise New Strategy

As COVID-19 restrictions have started slackening, people are transitioning back to their offices and social calendar. Unfortunately, this shift is expected to introduce an increased threat of malicious activities. The risk is comparatively higher for those organizations who have not provided their remote employees with adequate VPN and regular software updates. Employees of such organizations exposed to a variety of threats as they were connected to their home network, which lacks required security measures.

Glance through some common risks that employees may have experienced while working from home. 

Risk of Dormant Malware

Threat actors have largely exploited the remote workforce during the lockdown with COVID-themed phishing emails containing malevolent URLs and attachments to get access to victim’s sensitive personal and corporate information. They have also infected systems with different strains of malware that have stayed dormant and may get active once those systems are reconnected to the office networks. Post successful execution, such malware may trigger dreadful cybersecurity incidents and cause massive loss to an organization, both financially and reputationally.

Improper Security Configuration

Lack of proper security configuration is another element that has fueled the growing momentum of cyber-attacks globally. For several organizations, the remote management of employees’ computer systems has been challenging so far. For instance, providing VPN to such a great extent was not feasible for every organization. Also, it cannot be overlooked that employees may not have given sufficient attention to update their work devices or install required security patches while working from home. Linking those devices back to the corporate network may permit malicious activists to exploit the security loopholes in the systems and bring an organization to its knees.

 

Ransomware, data breaches, social engineering, phishing and malware attacks have surged exponentially during COVID times and impacted organizations globally, irrespective of their vertical. Now, when the employees are returning to the offices, all the C-level executives and security teams must collaborate and work closely to define a new strategy to use technology, tools, people and processes smartly. Gartner has also predicted that cyber-physical security incidents will result in personal liability for 75% of CEOs by 2024. So, they need to remain more cautious than ever before while defending the digital assets of their organization.

Here, we will look at some important steps that can be employed to address potential cyber threats and reduce the chances for threat actors to infiltrate.

  • Security Assessment of IT Infrastructure

The first step towards resumption of work from offices should be a thorough assessment of the entire IT infrastructure. The C-level executives, including CISOs and CIOs, must have a clear understanding of the organization’s current cybersecurity posture as the prolonged inactivity may have surfaced some unpatched vulnerabilities.

 

  • Expand Cybersecurity Budget

Spending on information security and risk assessment will help organizations to create a robust and resilient infrastructure, repel complex cyber-attacks and minimize the chances of data breaches and leaks. Not long ago, Gartner has also predicted that information security spending is expected to grow 2.4% to reach $123.8 billion in 2020.

 

  • Examine Employees’ Devices for Vulnerabilities

A majority of organizations have provided their employees with laptops and desktops to continue work from home during the lockdown. It is possible that those systems may get infected with some virus or trojans since they were not connected to the office network. This could be potentially dangerous when those devices will be reconnected to the corporate network as threat actors might exploit the hidden vulnerabilities to cause damage to the organization. Ideally, all such devices should be submitted to the IT team for virus scan and security patches before usage.

 

  • Allow Sufficient Resources Only

Organizations can identify and allow resources that have privileged access to critical business data and are at increased risk of being exploited by the cybercriminals to resume work from offices. This can help in removing pressure from IT teams working to patch employees’ work devices and mitigating the risk of cybersecurity incidents.

 

  • Conduct Security Awareness Training

Security awareness training is supposed to be the most important practice towards ensuring cybersecurity as employees have been accustomed to certain habits while working from home, which may pose risks to an organization’s security. Such awareness programs will help in educating employees about the security obligations that they need to follow at the workplace and in staying aware of the new emerging cyber threats.

 

  • Implement a Zero Trust Model

Zero Trust model is based on the principle – Trust no one, verify all. Since the number of endpoints has continued to rise, it is increasingly becoming difficult to define a security perimeter. An ideal approach would be to adopt a Zero Trust model which ensures that the business-critical applications and information are accessible only to authenticated users and devices.

 

In the post-COVID environment, organizations, especially their C-level executives need to remain vigilant to different complex cyber threats and vulnerabilities that could arise when employees start working from the workplace. Security teams need to take the opportunity to recheck the efficacy of existing security controls and implement good cyber hygienic activities like virus scans and network traffic monitoring to prevent unauthorised users from accessing the company’s network. To redefine the cybersecurity infrastructure of your organization, connect with us at contactcs@tataadvancedsystems.com

 

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Awareness – Key To Protection Against Cyber Attacks

Are you aware that 99% of cyber-attacks require human interaction?

Nearly, all cybersecurity incidents start with the exploitation of the human tendency to make errors. Phishing and Social Engineering are the most common methods used by cybercriminals to lure victims and gain a foothold in the targeted system, network or infrastructure. As per the Phishing Activity Trends Report 2020, around 146,994 phishing sites were detected in the Q2 of the current year. This study is quite sufficient to explain the ever-evolving nature and techniques of cybercrimes. A people-centric cybersecurity approach encompassing effective Security Awareness Training is the need of the hour to overturn the growing spike of such cyber-attacks and make organizations more resilient than ever before.

Importance of Cybersecurity Awareness Program for Businesses

While being an important asset for an organization, humans are one of the most vulnerable resources as well. Threat actors target people, rather than systems because of the low levels of security awareness among them. As per the Cyber Risk Survey 2019, less than one-third (31%) of employees receive annual, companywide training from their organizations. Lack of knowledge and awareness concerning cybersecurity among the workforce could result in a major breach or cyber-attack. Cybersecurity Ventures has also predicted that the cost of cybercrimes will exceed $6 trillion annually by 2021. So, the best way to contain the cost and strengthen the defence is to create awareness among employees.

Cybersecurity awareness training helps organizations to inform their employees about how to maintain good cyber hygiene. This may include (but not limited to) propagating knowledge regarding the evolving cyber threat landscape, best practices to identify potential threats like malware and phishing emails, and adherence to applicable compliance and data protection regulations.

Creating such a culture reduces the possibility of a successful cybersecurity incident to a great extent. Also, it helps employees to understand the potential impact that a cyber-attack can make on the organization.

Recommendations for organizations to increase cybersecurity:

  • Perform a thorough audit and identify your valuable assets, which may include critical data like PII, financial information, intellectual property, etc. Figure out who has access to them and what functions they can perform.
  • Focus on high-risk users with escalated privileges. For example, CISO, CIO, CFO and CEO as they have access to high-value data.
  • Review the efficacy of existing security solutions and identify areas of weakness.
  • Automate repetitive tasks to reduce manual efforts, which minimizes the chances of errors.
  • Implement a data recovery strategy to back up data in case of a successful security incident.
  • Establish an incident response plan to take appropriate actions when security is breached.
  • Disseminate strong password policy to all the employees.

Benefits of Implementing Security Awareness Training

Security awareness training is one of the most preferred methods to tackle the growing concern of cyber-attacks. It yields multiple advantages for an organization, including:

  • Reduces the percentage of human errors & minimizes the likelihood of data breaches and cyber-attacks
  • Encourages employees’ to work in a security-focused atmosphere
  • Improves brand reputation and trustworthiness among clients and partners
  • Prevents downtime, which badly affects an organization’s workflow and targets
  • Demonstrates compliance with industry regulations

How Individual Users Can Ensure Cyber Safety?

Some useful security practices recommended for users to remain guarded against malicious activities include:

  • Keep systems and applications up-to-date as updates are designed to patch the existing vulnerabilities.
  • Pay sufficient attention while accessing emails from unidentified sources. Look for red flags and do not click on suspicious URLs, as well as download attachments from such emails.
  • Avoid using identical passwords for different applications.
  • Implement multi-factor authentication as it adds an additional layer of protection.
  • Always enable firewall protection to protect the network against incoming malicious web traffic.
  • Avoid using public wi-fi for internet banking, accessing corporate data, sending critical information, etc.
  • Always prepare a backup of your data at regular intervals to avoid data loss in case of a cyber-attack.

Remember, ensuring cybersecurity is not a one-time process. It is a continual activity that must be maintained and followed by each individual associated with the organization. Cyber awareness helps people to take accurate decisions while confronting an adverse situation, which ultimately strengthens the cyber defence of the company. Always engage yourself in safe online behaviour by implementing recommended security practices.

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Mobile Applications – Intensifying Risks to Data Security & Privacy

Mobile applications are now surfacing as a new feeble link when it comes to user’s information security and privacy. Threat actors are utilizing advanced techniques to evade detection while deploying malicious applications on official app stores. This constantly rising complexity of associated cyber threats, accompanied by growing data breach incidents is keeping CISOs up at night. We have also seen nations prohibiting several mobile applications for infringing data security and privacy regulations.

Impact of COVID-19

The risk of privacy breach has increased manifolds with the growing popularity of mobile applications in the current pandemic when people are asked to self-isolate and work remotely. Mobile devices have become a core tool to play down stress, manage daily tasks, access business-critical data, etc. Video conferencing and collaboration applications like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, etc. observed a massive surge in usage across the web and mobile platforms.  

As per App Annie, a trusted mobile data and analytics platform, users spent around 1.6 trillion hours on mobile devices in the first half of 2020 with a 220% increase in time spent on business applications.

Besides popularity, the COVID-19 outbreak has contributed phenomenally in letting threat actors capitalize the global disruptions through new cyber threat campaigns. They are distributing fake mobile applications embedded with trojans or virus, which upon execution steal host device’s information that may include (but not limited to) contact information, financial details, username and passwords, device details, etc.

Third-party App Stores

Google Play and App store are the two leading distribution channels for mobile applications. This fact is not concealed from cybercriminals. Hence, they have started focusing on third-party stores that lie outside the boundaries of official app stores. According to the Symantec’s report, third-party app stores host 99% of discovered mobile malware. There are more than 300 third-party app stores across the globe, and the number is still growing.

Users who download mobile apps from such stores face increased security risks as third-party stores do not have stringent application review processes in place like official app stores. According to the 2020 Mobile Threat Report by Wandera, 5.8% and 1.1% of iOS and Android devices, respectively, have at least one sideloaded apps installed. 

Increased Mobile Apps Usage – A Sign of Digital Transformation or Cyber Risk

Certainly, mobile apps have supported organizations to speed up their digital transformation and deliver a great experience to employees and customers. However, on the contrary, cybersecurity is still a major concern when it comes to mobile applications. We often see mobile applications asking for more than sufficient permissions, which are not required for them to function. These permissions pose a huge risk to users’ privacy as they allow an application to access users’ sensitive information.

Let’s go through both dimensions of mobile applications usage i.e. the digital transformation and cybersecurity risk.

 Digital Transformation

Cybersecurity Risk

  1. Strengthen customer engagement for businesses
  2. Quick access to corporate resources/emails/social media accounts
  3. Growth of e-commerce industry
  4. Increase brand reputation and awareness
  5. Enables geo-targeting marketing
  6. Increase in digital payments
  7. Medium of entertainment
  1. Lack of secure data storage
  2. Insufficient data layer protection
  3. Client-side code injection
  4. Improper session handling
  5. Reverse Engineering
  6. Insufficient encryption
  7. Lack of multi-factor authentication

                   

 

Some recent findings highlighting the risks related to mobile applications:

  • High-risk vulnerabilities were found in 38% of iOS applications and 43% of Android applications. (Source: Positive Technologies)
  • The percentage of fraudulent transactions originating from a mobile application increased from 13% in Q4 2019 to 26% in Q1 2020. (Source: RSA Fraud Report Q1 2020)
  • Rogue mobile apps were accounted for 15% of fraud attacks in Q1 2020. (Source: RSA Fraud Report Q1 2020)
  • The average value of a fraudulent payment transaction in the mobile channel has increased by 60% (from USD 480 to 767) in Q1 2020. (Source: RSA Fraud Report Q1 2020)

Need For Stringent Obligations

As the world is constantly updating its digital footprints, the need for data protection has become more crucial than ever. For developing countries, the growing volume of personal data and adoption of smartphones is continually increasing the demand for a strict and firm data protection obligations that can regulate the use of data collected by mobile applications and give users a sense of security.

As a user, we need to be more vigilant while installing applications and granting permissions keeping in mind the task for which the app is downloaded. We can follow the practice of reading terms and conditions before logging onto any mobile applications to reduce the chances of getting compromised.

 

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Data Protection Officer (DPO): A Guide to Foster Data Security Culture in Organizations

Need for DPOs is gaining momentum with the rising spike of data breaches globally. As per the Internation Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), around half-million organizations registered data protection officers across Europe in 2019. Businesses are experiencing the necessity to secure their corporate data, revamp security approaches, and align themselves with different data protection laws governing the collection, utilization and disclosure of personal data.

Data Protection Officer (DPO) is an expert responsible for ensuring compliance with data protection laws, like GDPR and PDPA, and nurturing the tradition of data protection within an organization. The DPO works together with other functional units engrossed in the processing of personal data as it helps in attaining detailed visibility into the regulatory and data segment of an organization.

Explore more about the responsibilities, challenges and other important aspects of a DPO.

What functions does a DPO perform?

A DPO executes a myriad of tasks to ensure that the organization fulfils all the requirements of protecting business-critical data. Following are some primary functions of a DPO that will help you understand the importance of its role:

  • Designing and implementing policies and processes for managing personal data to ensure compliance with data protection laws such as GDPR and PDPA.
  • Guiding organizations and their employees on data protection obligations.
  • Reviewing organizations’ internal data security strategies, which may include (but not limited to) allocation of responsibilities, internet audits, training of individuals engaged in the processing of personal information, etc.
  • Handling issues (raised by data subjects, public authorities or relevant supervisory authorities) related to data protection, data breach, Data Subject Access Requests (DSARs), etc.
  • Regular evaluation of data processing activities to monitor compliance with data protection laws.
  • Reporting to concerned authorities in case of security risks that might occur concerning sensitive personal information.

Who Needs to Appoint DPO?

An organization is required to hire a DPO if:

  • It is a public institution or body (except for courts).
  • Its core activities require large scale, regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects (such as employees and customers).
  • Its core activities include processing of sensitive, personal information that may include (but not limited to) health information, criminal records, etc.

Besides above-mentioned factors, an organization can voluntarily hire a DPO as a matter of good practice. Also, the DPO doesn't need to be hired internally. Organizations can also outsource the role of a DPO to address the compliance demands of the data protection laws.

What challenges does a DPO face?

While addressing the requirements for an organization to achieve compliance with data protection laws and create a safe environment for data processing, a DPO has to go through several challenges including (but not limited to):

  • Cooperation from other organizational units
  • Finding the right talent to prepare the privacy team
  • Insufficient privacy budget of the organizations
  • Lack of support from principal actors of the organizations
  • Conflict of interest between DPO responsibilities and other duties
  • Unavailability of DPO tools

Why choose us?

  • Vast array of working experience with different sectors
  • Result-oriented and customer-centric approach to data protection
  • Pool of professionals having extensive experience in data security and privacy

 

To start your data protection journey, connect with us at contactcs@tataadvancedsystems.com

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Ensuring Data Protection in times of COVID-19 using DLP Solutions

Data security and privacy are no longer viewed as just a part of compliance or regulations. Remote working has shattered the situation as organizations are facing unusual hindrances in restricting malicious insiders and outsiders from exfiltrating company’s data. Accordingly, businesses are compelled to adopt advanced security controls to prevent critical information from going outside the corporate perimeter. Data Leakage Prevention (DLP) solutions are one of those controls that are growing in popularity as organisations are looking to minimize the risk of data leaks. It can deal with problems, which fall out of the perimeter of conventional security measures like firewalls, intrusion detection systems, anti-viruses, etc. that aims at external threats only.

Let’s inspect how DLP solutions help organisations to ensure the security and confidentiality of business-critical data.

  • Identify & Manage Critical Data

DLP solutions allow users/administrators to establish specific policies that help in identifying confidential information residing at different locations such as databases, repositories and endpoints throughout the organization. Then, customised policies can be applied against which identified data can be evaluated to detect and prevent data leaks.

  • Provide Improved Visibility

DLP solutions provide a comprehensive insight into how sensitive information within the organization is stored, utilized and shared. It helps in monitoring how the company’s internal members deal with confidential information, which further allows administrators/privileged users to identify suspicious behaviour patterns (malicious insiders) that could put the organization’s data security at risk.

  • Monitor Data Leakage Vectors

Emails are the most common channels of data leakage and widely exposed by threat actors to compromise legitimate accounts and gain access to sensitive information. DLP solutions apply specific policies (like content-aware policies) to identify and alert users while entering sensitive information in the mail body or attachments. Based on the configuration of policies, multiple actions can be taken to prevent data from leaving the organization, including creating alerts for risky behaviour, blocking such emails and quarantine email messages for further review. These solutions also allow users/administrators to apply controls to prevent other data leakage vectors such as portable storage devices and web communications (like file upload and Web mails).

  • Reporting

DLP solutions also provide reports to meet internal or external auditing requirements and determine areas of improvement, which further helps in taking corrective measures. These solutions can also be triggered to provide real-time incident reports in case of a suspicious event.

  • Achieve Compliance with Emerging Data Protection Regulations

Growing data breach incidents are getting the attention of regulatory bodies, pushing them to encourage organizations to embrace required data security controls. Organizations that store customers’ data, including Personally Identifiable Information (PII), Protected Health Information and Payment Card Information (PCI) need to redefine policies and create a framework that secures the information being stored and processed throughout its lifecycle. DLP solutions assist enterprises to review and administer their compliance risks for multiple regulations including (but not limited to) GDPR, PCI, HIPAA, PDPA, etc.

DLP Solutions Getting Attention Globally

According to Mordor Intelligence report, the DLP solution market was estimated at USD 1.21 billion in 2019 and is likely to reach USD 3.75 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 23.59% during the forecasted period. The contributing factors behind this tremendous growth rate include the rising crest of data breaches amid COVID-19 outbreak, sharing of data across cloud platforms, increasing volumes of data, etc. Asia-Pacific region is expected to receive the highest market share during the forecast period. Explore Image 1 for more details about other regions.

    

Image 1: DLP Solution Market Growth Rate by Region

Conclusion

Embracing data protection is not a one-time activity. Threats originating from malicious insiders, nation-backed and independent cybercriminals groups will continue to evolve and target global businesses. Organizations need to remain vigilant and keep updating to advanced security practices, just like DLP, to ensure that their crown jewels (sensitive information and critical assets) are safe.

For more information on DLP solution, connect with our cybersecurity experts at contactcs@tataadvancedsystems.com

 

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Digging Out the Most Common Ransomware Vectors in 2020
“How” is probably the first thing that comes to our mind when we witness our systems getting infected with ransomware. Cybercriminals make use of a variety of techniques to inject malicious code into targeted systems and encrypt/exfiltrate sensitive data. Watch out the most common ransomware vectors utilized by hackers in 2020 so far.
 
Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) Compromise: RDP is a network communication protocol designed by Microsoft that allows users to remotely access the other computers. It has now become a very popular means of infecting networks and deploying ransomware. Nearly 60% of all ransomware attacks are a result of poorly secured RDP access points/ports. SamSam, GandCrab, CryptON and CrySIS are some examples of ransomware variants that spread via RDP. The security of the RDP is majorly impacted due to the poor password practice among users, making it easy for attackers to intrude and harvest credentials. Hackers utilise credential stuffing and brute-force attacks to crack the login credentials and gain access to the target machine. But now, attackers can also purchase RDP credentials for a very low cost on the dark web. Post getting the credentials, an attacker can easily circumvent existing security controls and start causing damage, including deleting/encrypting data backups, deploying ransomware, leaving a backdoor for future attacks, etc.
 
Some best practices to boost the security of the RDP include:
    • Use strong password
    • Change the default RDP port from 3389 to any other
    • Implement two-factor authentication
    • Conduct regular vulnerability scans
    • Maintaining logs and monitoring RDP
 
Phishing Emails: Transmitting emails containing malicious URLs and attachments has been the most preferred attack vector of ransomware operators for years. So far, in 2020, threat actors have remained successful in tempting victims to click on a malicious link redirecting to an infected website or download a malicious attachment after which ransomware automatically begins downloading. Attackers have improvised email subjects to catch the victims’ attention and make them believe that the mail is genuine. For instance, some common strains of ransomware have found using email subjects like overdue invoices, account discontinuation, and undelivered packages. In addition to email subjects, some ransomware operators have also noticed using geography-specific language in their emails to target the victims.
 
Glance through some preventive tips that may help you avoid falling victim to phishing:
    • Conduct a security awareness program to educate employees about evolving cyber threats and attack vectors
    • Follow good cyber hygiene
    • Open attachments from trusted users
    • Hover over the embedded link before clicking
    • Check sender’s email address first, if found anything suspicious
 
Software Vulnerabilities: Software vulnerabilities are the third most common vector used by attackers to deploy ransomware. Unpatched software is similar to a door without security that welcomes hackers and allows them to inject malware into the connected applications and network. They can easily exfiltrate data and cause maximum damage to the targeted systems. Regular vulnerability and threat scans are the best methods to discover and eliminate the known and unknown vulnerabilities in the applications/software.
 
Along with these three most common ransomware vectors, there are some other methods as well through which cybercriminals target victims. These methods include Drive-by Downloads, Malvertisements, Exploit Kits, Infected Mobile Applications, etc. Threat actors are making huge benefits by targeting industries across all verticals while implementing these above-mentioned methods. So, to minimise the risk of infection and safeguard your organization from growing ransomware attacks, it is essential to understand how ransomware commonly propagates. This will also help you identify the best security controls that can be placed to prevent ransomware attacks.
 
For comprehensive information about ransomware protection, connect with us at contactcs@tataadvancedsystems.com
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How Ransomware has Marked its Presence in 2020?

Are you aware that ransomware attacks1 have increased by 25% in the first quarter of 2020, as compared to Q4 2019? Financial institutions, followed by healthcare and manufacturing sectors, reported the maximum number of incidents during the period. From Travelex to Garmin, we have witnessed companies falling victim to ransomware attacks and paying a million-dollar ransom to attackers. A recent report2 revealed significant growth of 72% in new samples of file-encrypting malware in the first six months of 2020. It shows that threat actors are discovering new methods to execute cyber-attacks and extort entities for their sensitive data. Consequently, the global average cost3 to remediate a ransomware attack has also increased to USD 761,106.

Contributing Factors
Some of the key factors that have influenced the amplification of ransomware attacks across the world include:
  • Remote Working: The tide of ransomware rose when a majority of organizations globally opted for remote working (work from home) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This transition brought new vulnerabilities and risks, along with continued business productivity. Lack of appropriate security controls like VPN, web-application firewall and anti-phishing solutions accompanied by the use of weak passwords have provided cybercriminals with an array of opportunities to penetrate the network and steal business-critical information. 
  • Ransomware-as-a-Service: Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) is another major factor that has taken ransomware attacks to a whole new level. In this new ransomware delivery model, malware developers offer their tools and services to help novice cybercriminals (with little or no technical expertise) launch their ransomware attacks at a wide scale without much difficulty. Satan RaaS Platform is a perfect example of this new delivery model that is available over the dark web and offering services to allow its customers to initiate customizable ransomware attacks.
  • Cryptocurrency Revolution: Cryptocurrency revolution has shifted hackers’ focus from relying on bank accounts or credit cards for ransom collection to mine cryptocurrencies directly as they are untraceable and make incident difficult to resolve for security professionals. Some of the prominent cryptocurrencies available across the world include Bitcoin, Monero, Zcash, Ether, Litecoin etc. These digital currencies are increasing in number as well as value, making them a profitable target for cybercriminals.
  • Lack of Regular Security Assessment: Known and unknown vulnerabilities lurking in the organization’s networks, workstations or applications enables threats actors to inject malware and damage business-critical data and resources. Also, the lack of security awareness among employees aids threat actors to exploit human vulnerability and get access to sensitive data.

Are SMBs Isolated from Ransomware?
The answer is No. Ransomware attacks are targeting small- to large-scale enterprises globally. A recent survey3 uncovers that ransomware is no longer an unusual activity in the SMB community. It indicates that 46% of such businesses have already been hit by ransomware attacks, and 73% of those have paid the ransom to recover their data. Among those who had suffered a ransomware attack, 43% of SMBs have paid ransom between $10,000 and $50,000 while 13% were forced to pay more than $100,000.
For SMBs, it is imperative to implement effective security measures in place to mitigate the chances and implications of ransomware as a successful attack might end up in devasting loss to such organizations. Also, recovering from ransomware attacks becomes difficult especially when a company has no safeguards like proper data backup.

Threat actors are utilizing different attack vectors including social engineering and phishing attacks at a broad scale to inject malware into targeted systems and get hold of the underlying data. They are found using a variety of ransomware strains such as Maze, Sodinokibi, DoppelPaymer, Nemty, CLOP, Sekhmet, etc. to execute attacks. Thus, organizations need to keep assessing the effectiveness of their security ecosystem at regular intervals. Moreover, they should archive data at different but secured locations to successfully recover data in the event of a ransomware attack.

The Cyber Security Practice of Tata Advanced Systems Limited is dedicated to providing advanced and industry-best security solutions to safeguard organizations from disastrous ransomware attacks. We help you quickly detect and remediate the loopholes within your organization’s security posture and mitigate the likelihood of experiencing a cyber-attack.
 
For more details, connect with us at contactcs@tataadvancedsystems.com 
 
References:
1 - Beazley Breach Insight Report
2 - Skybox Security 2020 Vulnerability and Threat Trends Report
3 - The State of Ransomware 2020, Sophos
4 - Infrascale Survey
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Why Organizations are Concerned about the Security of Critical Infrastructures?

The moment since Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) have fused, new doors to possibilities have opened. This convergence has added new capabilities to industrial control systems (ICS) and brought several benefits including enhanced productivity, improved system performance, and reduced costs. Along with numerous advantages, it has also generated a new set of vulnerabilities and expanded the attack surface of the critical infrastructures like power generation plants, water treatment plants, oil & gas refining plants, transport systems, etc. As per a recent report1, 74% of IT security professionals globally are more concerned about a cyber-attack on critical infrastructure compared to an enterprise data breach.

Growing Attacks on Critical Infrastructures

The world has witnessed a lot of devastating cyber-attacks on industrial control systems right from the year 1903 when hackers compromised the Marconi’s secure wireless telegraph presentation with Morse code. One of the famous cyber-attacks that holds a special place in the books of history took place in 2010 at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility, where the Stuxnet worm reportedly destroyed numerous centrifuges.

The primary factor behind this rising frequency is the growing reliance on Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and distributed control systems for controlling physical devices and monitoring processes.

Now, let’s glance through some recent cyber-attacks on critical infrastructures in India and across the globe:

  • In May 2020, Taiwan’s state-owned energy company, CPC Corp., hit by a massive ransomware attack. Later, in the same month, Israel also reported an attempted cyber-attack on control systems at water facilities.
  • In March 2020, the ransomware attack targeted a US-based natural gas compression facility.
  • In November 2019, Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu experienced a major malware attack.
  • In May 2019, the computer systems of power distribution companies (Discoms) of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh were hit by a ransomware attack.
  • In December 2018, Italian oil firm Saipem suffered from Shamoon malware attack that erased data residing on the company’s computers.
  • In March 2018, Haryana Power Discom suffered a cyber-attack on its Automatic Meter Reading System (AMR) that encrypted billing data of about 4000 industrial consumers.
  • In November 2017, a huge malware attack disrupted operations of THDC Ltd’s Tehri dam in Uttarakhand.

Challenges to the Security of Critical Infrastructures

  • Increased Connectivity: The increasing infiltration of internet-connected devices in OT networks and industrial control systems have provided threat actors with a multitude of entry points to critical infrastructures. Since the OT networks were not primarily designed for exposure to the Internet, the likelihood of cyber-attacks in such environments is constantly growing.  
  • Skill Shortage: Lack of skilled cybersecurity resources is a major challenge faced by organizations across the globe. When it comes to the security of critical infrastructures, businesses need some talent that understands both IT & OT systems and can determine and remediate potential vulnerabilities in both environments. This is why a majority2 (93%) of cybersecurity professionals believe that OT security should be encompassed into the education and training of IT security practitioners. 
  • Lack of Visibility into the Attack Surface: Lack of detailed visibility does not let security teams to completely defend valuable assets against sophisticated cyber-attacks. It creates blind spots that help attackers to circumvent security controls and breach unsecured elements including IT & OT systems. Thus, it is imperative for security teams to have a clear picture of incoming and outgoing IT traffic and existing anomalies. In a recent survey3, it was found that only 36% of critical infrastructures have a high level of cyber resilience.

Apart from the above-mentioned major challenges, there are some other factors as well that impact the security of critical infrastructures.

  • Growing rate of automation in industrial processes
  • Increasing complexity of industrial control systems
  • Evolution of cyber threats

Recommendations to Ensure the Security of Critical Infrastructures

Let’s go through some useful tips that can help organizations to optimize the security of their critical infrastructures.

  • Identify all available critical assets
  • Enhance visibility into the IT & OT networks
  • Search proactively for abnormal activities that may cause severe damage
  • Maintain backup of system data and configurations
  • Disable unnecessary ports and services
  • Implement a risk-based approach that incorporates detection, response, and recovery plans as well
  • Meet necessary compliance with industry regulations
  • Improve collaboration with government bodies, corporate entities, and other institutions
  • Conduct OT security training for IT security professionals

 

Protecting critical infrastructures from the growing threat of cyber-attacks has now become a topic of boardroom discussion for CISOs, CIOs and business stakeholders. Organizations must adopt a proactive and predictive approach to bridge the widening gap in the security of IT and OT networks.

The Cyber Security Practice of Tata Advanced Systems provides an advanced and comprehensive set of security services for quick threat detection and incident response across IT and OT environments. We help you design an effective OT security program to determine and eliminate potential risks while ensuring business continuity without interruptions.

For more information, connect with us at contactcs@tataadvancedsystems.com

References:

1,2 – Global State of Industrial Cybersecurity Report

3 – Greenbone Networks Research

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Why SMBs Need MSSPs & What Benefits Can They Reap?

One of the most common misinterpretations among SMBs is that they are less likely to be targeted by cybercriminals. Most of them believe that large scale enterprises are the center of attraction for threat actors. Unfortunately, this belief is completely overruled by the attackers. They have realized that a majority of small businesses possess a large attack surface, do not have sufficient security controls in place, and lack dedicated in-house IT & cybersecurity professionals. This makes SMBs more prone and an easy target to cyber-attacks. Moreover, the growing implementation of advanced technologies like Cloud & IoT creates ample opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit the vulnerabilities in the security posture and cause financial and reputational damage to the enterprises.

Recent findings indicate that:

  • 28% of data breaches in 2019 involved small businesses.
  • The global average cost of a data breach is $3.9 million across SMBs.
  • Only 28% of small businesses rate their ability to mitigate cyber risks and attacks as highly effective.
  • Phishing and Social Engineering are the most prevalent cyber attacks against SMBs.

Sources: Verizon 2020 DBIR, 2018 State of Cybersecurity in Small & Medium Size Businesses, Cybint – 15 Cyber Security Facts and Stats

Why MSSPs?

SMBs can optimize their security ecosystem, fill the existing gaps in cybersecurity and meet the compliance and regulatory requirements by employing a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP). One can define an MSSP as a third-party vendor who helps organizations in monitoring and management of IT networks, security devices and systems, and keeping security infrastructure up-to-date. It delivers a multitude of services including managed firewall, virtual private networks, intrusion detection, network threat detection, managed UEBA, vulnerability scanning, etc. using their 24/7 available Security Operations Centers (SOCs).

Some of the key security services offered by MSSPs include (but not limited to):

  • Continuous Log Monitoring & Management
  • Continuous Vulnerability Monitoring
  • Web Content Filtering
  • Threat Intelligence
  • Endpoint Security
  • Data Loss Prevention
  • Patch Management
  • Incident Response
  • Reporting, Auditing and Compliance

An MSSP assists businesses to proactively detect, respond and eliminate threats, and transform the overall cyber defence. By outsourcing an MSSP, SMBs can effectively cut down costs on hiring and training of new cybersecurity professionals.

Let’s have a look at some other benefits that SMBs can reap by outsourcing an MSSP:

  • Improved Security: MSSPs come with experienced cybersecurity experts and best-in-class security systems to 24/7 monitor the security posture of an organization. They put in advanced security controls along with the existing measures in order to protect business-critical data against growing cyber-attacks and help organizations to prepare risk mitigation strategies, as well as incident response and disaster recovery plans.  
  • Quick Response to Threats: Since MSSPs remain functional 24x7x365, the cybersecurity threats can be discovered and handled very quickly. On getting a security alert, the dedicated team can immediately react to neutralize the threat and take necessary actions to minimize the chances of its occurrence in future.
  • Focus on Business: Security threats often distract SMBs from their core functions. The ability of MSSPs to operate from an off-site location helps companies to continue business operations with minimal cyber intrusions. MSSPs maintain constant communication and provide timely reports containing the status of security issues, audits and maintenance to their clients.
  • Reduced Cost: Setting up new security controls like advanced firewalls, intrusion detection systems and threat detection tools require a large investment in manpower and technology. Due to the budget limitation, SMBs either ignore or deprioritize such requirements. One time investment in MSSP can help small businesses to eliminate extra costs on the security infrastructure.
  • No Need to Find Talent: Cybersecurity skill shortage is a major concern for all businesses of all sizes across the globe. As predicted by the Cybersecurity Ventures, there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally by 2021. With such a shortage of talent, it becomes even more difficult for SMBs to find, hire and retain cybersecurity professionals. Outsourcing an MSSP is a better option for SMBs as the MSSPs comprise experienced cybersecurity professionals. 
  • Improved Compliance: With time, data regulations are increasingly becoming popular with growing volumes of data. It has become imperative for businesses (of all sizes) to maintain compliance with industry regulations. An MSSP guides organizations on how to comply with mandatory security standards and ensure the security of sensitive business data.

In the age of rising cyber threat landscape, security is the topmost concern for every business across the globe. No industry is left untouched from growing cyber-attacks including ransomware, phishing, DDoS, etc. A proactive approach to cybersecurity using managed security services can help SMBs to reduce the exposure to cyber threats and strengthen their cyber defence.

Being a managed security service provider, the Cyber Security Practice of Tata Advanced Systems is dedicated to offering reliable and robust cybersecurity services to business of all sizes across verticals. From fraud management, security device management to security monitoring and threat intelligence services, we have a wide spectrum of services to protect your organization from cybercriminals looking to damage your brand reputation.

For more information, connect with us at contactcs@tataadvancedsystems.com

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Web Application Firewall: Don’t Let Attackers Damage Your Web Presence

The prevalence of web applications has exponentially increased as companies are focusing on interactive websites and web applications to streamline interaction with customers, collaboration with employees and make data 24/7 available to the users. Many of these applications hold a vast amount of data, making them a profitable target for cybercriminals.

In recent times, web-based attacks have increased at a rapid rate and become the major cause of data breaches. According to Verizon 2020 Data Breach Investigation Report, attacks on web apps have increased to 43% this year, more than double the results from 2019. Moreover, NTT’s 2020 Global Threat Intelligence Report also says that 55% of cyber-attacks in 2019 were a combination of web application and application-specific attacks.

Let’s have a close look at the key points regarding websites and web apps.

  • Over 25% of web applications have at least one high-severity vulnerability.
  • 24% of websites have WordPress vulnerabilities.
  • Hackers can attack users in 9 out of 10 web applications.
  • 82% of the web application vulnerabilities are found in the source code.

Source: Acunetix 2020 Web Application Vulnerability Report, Positive Technologies Report

In view of the above-mentioned points, it seems imperative for businesses to implement an effective security solution like Web Application Firewall (WAF) to mitigate the risks of cyber threats and provide users with a smooth digital experience.

What is a WAF?

WAF monitors and filters the HTTP traffic between a web application and the Internet. It applies a set of rules known as policies to every HTTP request in order to filter out and block the malicious web requests. These policies define what to look for and what actions to take if suspicious behaviour, vulnerability or malicious traffic is found. It also allows you to customize the rules and write specifically for your application if it is hosted on a platform that has a known vulnerability. This will prevent malicious traffic from exploiting the vulnerability until you apply a patch to it.

Unlike a regular firewall, WAF protects Network, Transport, Session, Presentation & Application layers of OSI (Open System Interconnection) model from common to sophisticated cyber-attacks. It is deployed in front of the web applications and analyses the bi-directional HTTP traffic between the web application and the Internet.

Some of the specific tasks performed by WAF include:

  • Scan & filter out unauthorized traffic: WAF assesses all the incoming traffic before it reaches to the target application. It looks at the GET & POST HTTP requests, which are responsible for retrieving and transmitting information to/from the server. Then, it applies the set of rules to identify whether there is anything malicious or suspicious that might exploit the vulnerabilities. It analyzes all the content of the data packet, along with the header and blocks the requests if found illegitimate. A few WAFs also challenge requests to verify whether it’s a bot or human. 
  • Examine access to sensitive pages: WAF protects the access to the critical sections of your web application by re-verifying the credentials of users. It uses IP whitelists and blacklists, along with other specific rules to filter out illicit identities.
  • Bad bot identification: WAFs also checks for bad bots that interact with applications and often imitate human interaction to break into user accounts, illicitly scrape data from websites, exploit hidden vulnerabilities, etc.

Why WAF is Imperative for Organizations?

The ongoing digital innovation has undoubtedly increased the speed of business operations globally. But, this phenomenal transformation has also left web applications at risk. Basic security controls like anti-virus, regular firewalls and intrusion detection systems (IDS) are not sufficient enough to prevent hackers from breaking into websites and web applications. Organizations require an advanced and comprehensive WAF to block incoming malicious HTTP traffic and safeguard business-critical applications from a variety of cyber-attacks.

Let’s explore different cyber attacks a WAF can prevent.

  • DDoS
  • Zero-Day Exploit
  • Man-in-the-Middle
  • Injection
  • Broken Access Control
  • Insufficient Logging & Monitoring
  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
  • XML External Entity (XXE)
  • Insecure Deserialization
  • Security Misconfiguration
  • Broken Authentication
  • Sensitive Data Exposure
  • Using Components with Known Vulnerabilities

What are the benefits of having a WAF?

Some of the key advantages of implementing a WAF include:

  • Reduces the risk of downtime and data breaches
  • Monitor, control and analyse the web traffic
  • Provides real-time visibility into security events
  • Meet compliance with regulatory standards
  • Provides environmental security to deploy & deliver applications

The Cyber Security Practice of Tata Advanced Systems provides effective and unconventional WAF solution to help organizations protect sensitive business information and intellectual property from growing cyber-attacks.

For more information, connect with us at contactcs@tataadvancedsystems.com

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