Unpacking the U.S. Cybersecurity Executive Order

Amid the 2021 wave of frequent, high-profile ransomware attacks on U.S. organizations, the White House issued its “Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity.” Section 3 of the order states:

The federal government must adopt security best practices; advance toward Zero Trust Architecture; accelerate movement to secure cloud services, including Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS); centralize and streamline access to cybersecurity data to drive analytics for identifying and managing cybersecurity risks; and invest in both technology and personnel to match these modernization goals.”

There are several important implications in this section that will have lasting impact on the cybersecurity industry as a whole.

Zero Trust Architecture

The Zero Trust cybersecurity model implements the elusive concept of “never trust, always verify.” While the concept has been around for longer than most practitioners realize, the recent uptick in cybercrime and the responding push by various security analysts and vendors has put the idea back in the spotlight.

The executive order directs government agencies to move towards a Zero Trust model, but the effects will be much further reaching. As government agencies rush to implement Zero Trust, enterprises working with these agencies are expected to follow suit to protect both the government and their own infrastructure. This will accelerate the already-in-progress shift to Zero Trust security.

Unfortunately, malicious actors don’t discriminate between federal agencies and the private sector. Whether your organization is a small business trying to get off the ground or an established one with millions of dollars’ worth of federal government contracts, it’s essential for it to follow the best practices and implement Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA).

A Move Towards the Cloud

I remember when as-a-service cloud solutions were first introduced. Most vendors had two sets of offerings — one in the cloud and another in the form of an appliance for government agencies that were cloud averse. Those days are long gone: Today many cloud providers have their own government-sanctioned, FedRamp-compliant cloud solutions.

This executive order is asking the federal government to embrace and implement cloud XaaS solutions, be it SaaS, IaaS or PaaS. Due to federal regulations, government agencies were the last holdouts to cloud transformation, and this order is removing that hurdle.

Whether your organization is using cloud services like AWS, Azure or Google Cloud, or is running its own private cloud, it is important to plan and implement security guard rails in your architecture from the beginning.

Centralized Management

Note that the order is asking for a centralized and streamlined access to analytics. While this is not directly mandated in the order, this screams cloud delivered management services. After all, what better way to centralize and streamline access to a resource than by putting it on the cloud? However, there are many pitfalls associated with this approach.

IT Supply Chain: A Word of Caution

The recent pandemic has shown how interconnected the global supply chain really is. We are seeing delays and increased costs in everything from electronic chips to bicycle parts. Security admins should also consider the interdependencies of security in their IT supply chain.

Recent high-profile attacks like that on SolarWinds reiterated the old adage that any system is only as strong as its weakest link. Many multinational enterprises were impacted because they were using SolarWinds’ technology. Malicious actors infiltrated the supply chain of SolarWinds and inserted a backdoor into their product. When customers downloaded the Trojan Horse installation packages from SolarWinds, it gave hackers access to the partners’ environment. This was a sophisticated attack: the cybercriminals even randomized their code in order to bypass the traditional scanners looking for known indicators of compromise (IOC).

Unfortunately, one of the downsides of moving to the cloud is the dependency on other vendors’ infrastructure and security practices. This issue becomes even more relevant as the cloud infrastructure becomes more complex and interconnected.

Security admins would be wise to audit their partner infrastructure, especially XaaS ones, to ensure that they are not inadvertently integrating with a vulnerable environment.

Cybersecurity News & Trends

In industry news, a new business survey explores why employees violate cybersecurity policies designed to keep their businesses safe. Also, there’s a lot of reporting on how the US power grid has improved, but experts say they still need stronger cybersecurity. In other news, the International Red Cross organization suffered a breach, Crypto.com says hackers stole more than $30 million in Bitcoin and Ethereum, cryptocurrency values take a sharp dive as Russia explores a complete ban on crypto mining and trading, and the CISA is urging US organizations to prepare for data-wiping attacks similar with what hit Ukraine last week.


Industry News

Research: Why Employees Violate Cybersecurity Policies

Harvard Business Review: Many organizations have focused their security investments on technological solutions in the face of increasingly common (and costly) cyberattacks. However, as many consultants and experts know, attackers also rely on some insider (an employee or other member) knowingly or unknowingly allowing a bad actor into secure areas. What is behind these acts that can tear down even the most advanced security solutions? HBR published a recent study that suggests that most intentional policy breaches stem not from some malicious desire to cause harm but rather from the perception that following the rules would impede employees’ ability to get their work done effectively. Therefore, under heat for productivity, employees are more likely to violate security policies on days when they are more stressed out. The study they cite suggests that high-stress levels can reduce people’s tolerance for following rules that seem to get in the way of doing their jobs. In light of these findings, the authors suggest how organizations should rethink their approach to cybersecurity and implement policies that address the fundamental, underlying factors creating vulnerabilities.

Biden’s Cybersecurity Policies Praised Despite the Persistence Of Ransomware

NBC News: From Russian cyberespionage to attacks on crucial supply chains, the Biden administration has had no shortage of cybersecurity challenges to face. While ransomware was a rapidly escalating problem before Biden took office, it became undeniable last year. Hackers, often operating with seeming impunity within Russia, extorted US hospitals and schools, a major oil pipeline company and the country’s largest beef distributor. Experts say a year later, the Biden administration has done a decent job with cybersecurity policy, filling crucial roles and hardening the country’s infrastructure cybersecurity. But they also warn that ransomware hackers will likely continue to target Americans and that Congress hasn’t helped the country’s security as much as it could.

US Power Grids Need Stronger Cybersecurity

Bloomberg: According to the country’s top energy regulator, the US power grids need to boost their cyber defenses to find hackers faster to keep them from gaining control over operations. According to a notice issued Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is proposing to develop standards to monitor devices or equipment on bulk power systems. The proposed standards would seek to find hackers lurking within networks instead of current efforts that use a perimeter defense that focuses on trying to keep attackers out of sensitive networks. A massive breach using software from Texas-based SolarWinds Corp. in 2020 is one example of how attackers can bypass such defenses through trusted vendors.

Indonesia C.Bank Says Ransomware Attack Did Not Impact Services

Reuters: Indonesia’s central bank said on Thursday that it had been attacked last month by ransomware, but the risk from the attack had been mitigated and did not affect its public services.

Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) Resolves Effect of Ransomware Attack

APS News: The cyberattack that forced a two-day cancellation of classes last week at Albuquerque Public Schools was the victim of a ransomware event in which there was some extortion demand. But APS officials are not saying what was demanded nor whether they negotiated with the attackers.

International Red Cross: Supply Chain Data Breach Hit 500K People

InfoSecurity: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has revealed a significant data breach that compromised the personal details of over 515,000 “highly vulnerable” victims. The data was stolen from a Swiss contractor that stores the information on behalf of the global humanitarian organization headquartered in Geneva.

Data Breach Customer Relations: What NOT To Do

InformationWeek: Some companies try to keep a data breach relatively quiet by following only the minimum legal requirements and hoping it will blow over. From experience, say experts, it’s much more likely to blow up than blow over. This article looks at some “bad behaviors” that managers may want to avoid.

Top 3 Small-Business Cyber Threats That Many Businesses Still Haven’t Heard Of

Inc Magazine: A study released Wednesday from the San Diego-based CyberCatch, a cybersecurity platform provider focusing on small and mid-size businesses, reveals that more than 30 percent of US small businesses have weak points that bad actors can exploit. Moreover, fraudsters tend to set their sights on small businesses since smaller companies usually have weaker security safeguards than those at larger companies. Some of the vulnerabilities that the survey named as “unknown” to small businesses include “spoofing,” “clickjacking,” and “sniffing.”

Crypto.Com Says Hackers Stole More Than $30 Million In Bitcoin And Ethereum

CBS News: The cryptocurrency exchange Crypto.com, known for its viral commercial starring Matt Damon as well as its recent $700 million deal to rename the Staples Center in Los Angeles as Crypto.com Arena, said the hackers managed to bypass its two-factor authentication system and withdraw the funds from 483 customer accounts, according to a statement the Singapore-based crypto exchange posted Thursday on its corporate blog.

Crypto-Exposed Stocks Sink Amid Bitcoin’s Decline, Broader Market Rout

CoinDesk: Stock declines come as prices for Bitcoin have dropped almost 11% in the past 24 hours, trading below $40,000 for the first time in months. Crypto watchers note that as bitcoins, in general, are getting hammered, crypto miners are seeing their revenues fall sharply. They also point out the double-whammy as Bloomberg, and other outlets reported that Russia’s central bank is proposing a complete ban on crypto mining and trading.

CISA Urges US Orgs to Prepare For Data-Wiping Cyberattacks

Bleeping Computer: US organizations are getting another warning to strengthen their cybersecurity defenses. This time, the CISA is concerned about recent data-wiping attacks that targeted Ukrainian government agencies and corporate entities. Several major entities suffered coordinated cyberattacks where hackers defaced websites and distributed data-wiping malware that corrupted data and rendered Windows devices inoperable. Sources believe that the attackers likely conducted the website defacements using a vulnerability in the OctoberCMS platform. Ukrainian authorities are also investigating what role Log4j vulnerabilities and stolen credentials may have played in the attacks. The message: update your security and keep a watchful eye on all activity.


In Case You Missed It

Cybersecurity News & Trends

In today’s installment, SonicWall is still picking up outlets from last year’s Threat Reports. There was also a friendly nudge from Australia on our new line-up of Gen-7 NGFWs. Industry news shows that there’s no break for cybersecurity. Ukraine was hit today with a massive cyber-attack that took down almost the entire network of government websites. A ransomware attack on school districts in Albuquerque, NM, resulted in the cancellation of classes for 75,000 students. In two reports, we found that SMEs (small to medium-sized businesses) are not taking the risk of cyberattacks seriously. FSB, the Russian intelligence bureau, arrested most or all the REvil ransomware gang members. Ending with this eye-opener: Norton 360 is now shipping a program that allows customers to make money from cryptomining.


SonicWall in the News

SonicWall Answers the Call with New NGFWs

ARN-IDG (Australia): Filling an urgent need for greater cybersecurity, SonicWall gets 17 new Gen-7 firewalls ready in less than 18 months. With 70% of full-time workers working remotely in hybrid multi-cloud environments, there has been an unprecedented surge of malware and ransomware – and everyone is more vulnerable than ever.

Why File-borne Malware has Become the Weapon of Choice for Attackers

SC Media: The latest numbers on hidden malware are out, and there’s good news to report. The number of new malicious file attacks was down in 2020 for the first time in five years, and the decline continued for most of 2021. SonicWall Capture Labs recorded 2.5 billion malware attempts in the first six months of 2021, down from 3.2 billion at this time last year — a decrease of 22%. That’s a significant improvement from where we stood in 2018, when malware attacks peaked at 10.5 billion.

Top 5 Trends for Endpoint Security in 2022

Venture Beat: 2021 is the worst year on record for ransomware attacks, with schools, colleges, universities, and hospitals being among the most attacked organizations globally. Bad actors prioritize them first because they have the smallest cybersecurity budgets and weakest defense. In the first six months of 2021, global ransomware volume reached a record 304.7 million attempted attacks, surpassing the 304.6 million attempted attacks throughout all of 2020, according to the 2021 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report, Mid-Year Update.

Cybercrime Will Increase — And 9 Other Obvious Cybersecurity Predictions for 2022

HashOut: Last year, SonicWall reported that ransomware increased from 78.3 million attacks in Q3 2020 to 190.4 million attacks in Q3 2021. According to their report, at the end of Q3 2021, the year was “the most costly and dangerous year on record” regarding ransomware attacks. Suppose 2022 is anything like last year, and cybercriminals continue to profit on the backs of companies lacking solid defenses. In that case, it’s all but guaranteed this upward trend in ransomware will continue.

Industry News

Ukraine Hit with ‘Massive’ Cyber-attack on Government Websites

The Guardian: First to report the massive cyberattack today, the Guardian says that Russian-based attackers have repeatedly targeted Ukraine since 2014. Still, many observers note that this attack has a more ominous feel. The websites of several government departments, including the ministry of foreign affairs and the education ministry, were knocked out. Hackers left a message on the foreign ministry website, according to reports. It said: “Ukrainians! All information about you has become public. Be afraid and expect worse. It’s your past, present and future.” The message reproduced the Ukrainian flag and map crossed out. It mentioned the Ukrainian insurgent army, or UPA, which fought against the Soviet Union during the second world war. There was also a reference to “historical land.” The Guardian also reports that Ukrainian officials say it is too early to conclude that this attack is in any way related to the stalemated security talks between Moscow and the US and its allies this week. Nearly all major news organizations posted follow-up stories.

A Cyberattack in Albuquerque Forces Schools to Cancel Classes

NPR: When the superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools announced earlier this week that a cyberattack would lead to the cancellation of classes for around 75,000 students, he noted that the district’s technology department had been fending off attacks “for the last few weeks.” Albuquerque is not alone, as five school districts in the state have suffered major cyberattacks in the past two years, including one district that’s still wrestling with a cyberattack that hit just after Christmas. But it’s the first reporting of a cyberattack that required cancellation of classes, made all the more disruptive as schools try to keep in-person learning going during the pandemic.

Norwegian Media Company Amedia Suffered a Serious Cyber Attack That Left Newspapers Unprinted

Norwegian media company Amedia suffered a cyberattack that shut down its computer systems, preventing printing newspapers. According to the company, the incident also affected its advertising and subscription systems, preventing advertisers from ordering new ads and subscribers from enrolling or canceling their subscriptions. The company also said that the incident forced it to shut down systems administered by Amedia Teknologi.

Cyber-Attacks on SMEs: Risk Transference as Crucial as Risk Prevention

InfoSecurity: It’s a common misconception among small to medium enterprises (SMBs) that large businesses, with their sizable financial assets, are the sole target for ransomware attacks. But SMBs ought to note that the US Department of Homeland Security reports that upwards of 70% of ransomware attacks are aimed at small and medium-sized companies. And yet, a surprising number of small business owners do not seriously see themselves at risk. A recent study shows that 63% of small business owners think they are immune to a cyber-attack. Technically, however, they are anything but invulnerable as most businesses operate on connected data and cloud operations. The more connectivity the business uses, the greater their vulnerability to various cyber-attacks, from ransomware to social engineering and data breaches. So, the question is not if, but when, your small business will be subject to a cyber-attack.

Docs Refused to Pay the Cyber Attack Ransom — and Suffered

Medscape: Ransomware attacks are driving some small practices out of business. After a ransomware attack, Michigan-based Brookside ENT and Hearing Center, a two-physician practice, closed its doors in 2019. However, several large practices have also been attacked by ransomware, including Imperial Health in Louisiana in 2019, which may have compromised more than 110,000 records. The practice didn’t pay the ransom and had access to their backup files and the resources to rebuild their computer systems and stay in business. The author is offering the same advice that security managers make to all SMEs: take the threats and risks seriously and then act on a secure or backup systems plan.

REvil Ransomware Gang Arrested in Russia

BBC News: Authorities in Russia say they have dismantled the ransomware crime group REvil and charged several of its members. The United States had offered a reward of up to $10m (£7.3m) for information leading to the gang members following ransomware attacks. However, Russia’s intelligence bureau FSB said the group had “ceased to exist.” The agency said it had acted after being provided with information about the REvil gang by the US. Still, it does not appear that Russia will extradite gang members to the US.

What the Russian Crackdown on REvil Means for Ransomware

Wall Street Journal: The FSB operation is one of the first major publicly disclosed Russian law-enforcement actions against cybercriminal gangs. “It’s very surprising that the Russians started to play ball in the ransomware fight,” said Alexandru Cosoi, chief security strategist at cybersecurity company Bitdefender Inc., which tracks REvil activity. In September, Bitdefender released a tool to decrypt data locked up by REvil malware. The scale of the FSB’s operation may signal a more permanent end to REvil, said Raj Samani, a chief scientist at McAfee Corp. However, analysts say it is too early to tell whether this will discourage other gangs from launching attacks.

Google Disrupts Glupteba Cryptojacking Botnet With Removal of Hosted Ads, Documents and Accounts

CPO: Glupteba, a botnet used for cryptojacking, has taken a significant blow from Google, whose free cloud-based services it relied on to propagate. The company has identified and removed thousands of accounts, hosted files and ad accounts used to spread malicious files. Glupteba has been operating for months and is believed to have compromised thousands of people per day at its peak. The cryptojacking botnet spread via Google advertisements promising software cracks and phishing emails linking to malicious files hosted with Google Docs. Google cautions that though the Glupteba botnet’s operations have been disrupted, it is not out of commission.

Norton 360 Antivirus Users Introduced to Cryptomining

Krebs: Many readers were surprised to learn recently that the popular Norton 360 antivirus suite now ships with a program that lets customers make money mining virtual currency. But Norton 360 isn’t alone in this dubious endeavor. For example, Avira antivirus — with a base of 500 million users worldwide — was recently bought by the same company that owns Norton 360.


In Case You Missed It

Cybersecurity News & Trends

Happy New Year! December is always a time for a bit of retrospect. So, while taking stock of the previous year’s cybersecurity news, editors turned to reliable sources like SonicWall’s 2021 Cyber Threat reports to punctuate a scary year. In industry news, the former Uber security chief faces new charges in his attempted cover-up of a massive breach, the Discord hack is a big loss for NFT buyers and now we’re rethinking cybersecurity jobs.


SonicWall in the News

Breaches and Ransomware: A Look Back at 2021

The New Stack: Cyberattacks reached such a crescendo last year that network security vendor SonicWall even decided to name 2021 “the year of ransomware.” If you think that this is a bit of sensationalism, the company’s numbers appear to back it up. Using data gathered from more than 1 million security sensors in nearly 200 countries, SonicWall calculated an average of 1,748 ransomware attempts per customer by the end of September, along with a 33% rise in IoT malware. This added up to a whopping 495 million ransomware attempts by the end of September. And the researchers ultimately predicted 219 million more ransomware attempts for the last three months of 2021. So, by New Year’s Eve, the total number of 2021 ransomware attacks could reach 714 million.

Ransomware Attackers’ New Tactic: Double Extortion

SecurityIntelligence: SonicWall logged 470 million ransomware attacks through the third quarter of the year. That’s a 148% year-over-year increase. That company detected 190.4 million attacks in Q3 2021 alone, a figure which nearly overtook the 195.7 million ransomware attacks seen in the first three quarters of 2020. Looking ahead, the firm estimated that ransomware totals would reach 714 million attack attempts by the end of December, making 2021 the most prolific year on record.

6 Ways to Minimize Ransomware Damage

Security Boulevard: Ransomware is more pervasive than ever, and the number of attacks is mindboggling. With help from ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS), cybercriminals and organized “bad actors” continue to wreak havoc. Cybersecurity vendor SonicWall recorded more than 495 million ransomware attack attempts globally by the end of Q3 2021, a 148% increase from 2020. Despite efforts by enterprises to secure their IT infrastructure, the U.K. has seen a 233% increase in such attacks.

What Is Cybersecurity?

ToolBox: The primary purpose of ransomware is to extort money. SonicWall’s 2021 cyber threat report shows a 151% increase in ransomware attacks in the first half of 2021 compared to 2020. In fact, in March 2021, Taiwan-based PC manufacturer Acer faced a $50 million ransomware demand from a cybercrime group called REvil.

It Takes A Village To Fight Ransomware

Forbes: Ransomware is top of mind for every cybersecurity expert these days and for good reason. SonicWall reports (via Infosecurity Magazine) that between 2019 and 2020, ransomware attacks in North America increased by 158%. The FBI dealt with 20% more reports of ransomware attacks in 2020 over 2019, with collective costs of the attacks increasing more than 200% from the previous year.

Top 5 Trends for Endpoint Security in 2022

VentureBeat: 2021 is the worst year on record for ransomware attacks, with schools, colleges, universities, and hospitals being among the most attacked organizations globally. Bad actors prioritize them first because they have the smallest cybersecurity budgets and weakest defense. In the first six months of 2021, global ransomware volume reached a record 304.7 million attempted attacks, surpassing the 304.6 million attempted attacks throughout 2020, according to their Mid Year Update: 2021 Cyber Threat Report.

Your Security and Multi-Factor Resolutions

The Gazette: Looking forward into 2022, there are no signs that cybersecurity incidents will be slowing down any time soon. A mid-year Cyber Threat report update produced by SonicWall in July predicted a total of roughly 714 million attempted ransomware attacks in 2021. If these numbers are accurate, that means ransomware saw a 134% increase over the previous year.

Cyber Super-heroes Prepare for Battle

Red: In this case, the bad guys – cybercriminals – appear to be winning. Ransomware attacks have risen 62% worldwide since 2019 and by nearly 160% in North America, according to a 2021 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report. Last year’s attack on Colonial Pipeline was among those, which crippled energy infrastructure that delivers about 45% of fuel for the East Coast. As for the good guys: There aren’t enough of them.

Industry News

Prosecutors file additional charges against former Uber security chief over 2016 data breach ‘cover up’

The Daily Swig: Additional charges have been added to the indictment against a former Uber chief security officer over his alleged involvement in the cover-up of a hack against the ride-hailing app in 2016. Wire fraud has joined the list of charges pending against Joseph Sullivan, 52, of Palo Alto, CA, for his alleged concealment of a 2016 attack that exposed 57 million users and 600,000 driver records. The latest charges – handed down in a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury – add to previous charges of obstruction of justice and ‘misprision of a felony.

Thousands of Schools Impacted After IT Provider Hit by Ransomware

Info Security: A leading provider of school website infrastructure has been hit by a ransomware attack, potentially disrupting thousands of global customers. Finalsite claims to serve over 8000 schools worldwide, offering content management, communications, mobile and enrollment software. A message posted by the firm on Twitter yesterday apologized for the “prolonged outage” customers have been forced to endure due to the attack.

Florida health care system Breached, exposing 1.3 million people

CNN: Hackers breached the computer networks of a southeast Florida health care system in October and may have accessed sensitive personal and financial information on over 1.3 million people, the health care system announced this week. Social Security numbers, patient medical history, and bank account information were exposed. According to a notice the health care provider filed with the Office of the Maine Attorney General, Broward Health has a network of over 30 health care facilities serving patients across roughly two million-person Broward County, Florida.

Flexbooker breach exposes 3.7 million users

Engadget: A group of hackers is trading a database of stolen information from FlexBooker, a cloud-based tool for scheduling appointments containing sensitive customer data. According to BleepingComputer, the company suffered a security breach just before the holidays and sent notifications to customers in an email. The company revealed that its Amazon AWS servers were compromised on December 23rd. It also admitted that its system data storage was accessed and downloaded.

Kronos outage latest: Attackers crippled back-up access

The Stack: The attackers who crippled widely used applications from global HR software company Kronos disabled the company’s “ability to communicate with our back-up environments.” Owners UKG has also confirmed that the company is restoring customer data after regaining access to its back-ups. Multiple Kronos platforms have been unavailable since December 11. The outage has left millions of users at tens of thousands of customers unable to check pay, arrange rotas, or request paid leave.

Counties in New Mexico, Arkansas begin 2022 with ransomware attacks

ZDNet: According to officials from both states, two counties in New Mexico and Arkansas are dealing with ransomware attacks affecting government services. On Wednesday evening, New Mexico’s Bernalillo County; which covers the state’s most populous cities of Albuquerque, Los Ranchos and Tijeras; officially reported that hackers began their attack between midnight and 5:30 a.m. on January 5. County officials have taken the affected systems offline and cut network connections, but most county buildings are now closed to the public. Emergency services are still available, and 911 is still operating, but a Sheriff’s Office customer service window was closed.

Portugal Media Giant Impresa Crippled by Ransomware Attack

Threat Post: Media giant Impresa, the largest television station and newspaper in Portugal, was crippled by a ransomware attack just hours into 2022. The suspected ransomware gang behind the attack goes by the name Lapsus$. The episode included Impresa-owned website Expresso newspaper and television station SIC. Both remain offline Tuesday morning as the media giant continued its recovery from a New Year’s weekend attack. Impacted is the server infrastructure critical to Impresa’s operations. Additionally compromised is one of Impresa’s verified Twitter accounts, which was hijacked and used to taunt the company publicly.

Discord Hacking Is the Newest Threat For NFT Buyers

The Verge: Two NFT projects fell victim to the same attack just in time for Christmas. Both projects were about to distribute rewards to their community members: Monkey Kingdom through an NFT presale on the 21st and Fractal through a token airdrop. Then, disaster struck. Posts appeared in each project’s official “announcements” channel claiming that a surprising mint would reward community members with a limited edition NFT. Hundreds jumped at the chance, but a costly surprise was waiting for those who followed the links and connected their crypto wallets. Rather than receiving an NFT, wallets were being drained of the Solana cryptocurrency, which both projects used for purchases. Within one hour, a Twitter post, first from Monkey Kingdom and then from Fractal, informed followers that their Discord servers had been hacked; news of the NFT mints was bogus, the links a phishing fraud. In the case of Fractal, the scammers got away with about $150,000 worth of cryptocurrency. For Monkey Kingdom, the estimated total was reported to be $1.3 million.

Cybersecurity training isn’t working. And hacking attacks are only getting worse

ZDNet: Cyberattacks are growing, and much more needs to be done to educate businesses and users about risks to prevent widespread damage and disruption resulting from cyber incidents. Attacks against utilities and infrastructure providers, production facilities and hospitals have demonstrated genuine consequences for businesses, government, and individuals. Disruptions can lead to interruptions in manufacturing, distribution, and services that can last for days, weeks and even months. Yet, despite the well-documented risks posed by attackers, many businesses and their boardrooms still don’t fully understand the threats they’re facing from cybercriminals and how to best defend their networks against them.

Poland’s Watergate: Ruling party leader admits country has Pegasus hacking software

Politico: Jarosław Kaczyński, chairman of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and the country’s de facto leader, confirmed that the government has the Pegasus hacking software system but denied they used it against opposition politicians in the 2019 parliamentary election campaign. “It would be bad if the Polish services did not have this type of tool,” Kaczyński said in an interview with the right-wing Sieci weekly, published Friday. This is the first time a high-level PiS politician has confirmed that the government has the software. However, party and government officials have downplayed or rejected such a possibility. Last month, Kaczyński denied knowing anything about the malware.

Don’t copy-paste commands from webpages — you can get hacked

Bleeping Computer: Programmers, sysadmins, security researchers, and tech hobbyists copying-pasting commands from web pages into a console or terminal are warned they risk having their system compromised. Recently, Gabriel Friedlander, founder of security awareness training platform Wizer, demonstrated an obvious yet surprising hack that’ll make you cautious of ever doing it again! Friedlander warns a webpage could covertly replace the contents of what goes on your clipboard, and what ends up being copied to your clipboard would be vastly different from what you had intended to copy. Worse, without the necessary due diligence, the developer may only realize their mistake after pasting the text, at which point it may be too late.

Going Back to Basics to Fix Our Broken Approach to Cybersecurity

CPO Magazine: The past year has been marked by a seemingly unending stream of major companies and organizations coming forward to admit they were the victim of a data breach or malware attack. When cybersecurity measures are working well, the end-users are never even aware of them. But when the word “ransomware” suddenly becomes a household term, you know something is seriously broken with our approach to cybersecurity.

Rethinking Cybersecurity Jobs as a Vocation Instead of a Profession

Dark Reading: Are cybersecurity jobs a profession or a vocation? When we consider the current workforce shortage in cybersecurity, our existing assumptions about the nature of cybersecurity jobs may be exacerbating the shortfall. For this reason, we may need to consider new ways of thinking about jobs within the cybersecurity field. For example, within the cybersecurity industry, the prevailing mindset is that security practitioners are professionals. Thus, a direct consequence of this mindset is that a college degree is required for many cybersecurity jobs. However, many cybersecurity practitioners argue that a college degree isn’t needed to do most jobs in cybersecurity, and strict adherence to this requirement disqualifies many deserving candidates. But removing the requirement for a college degree raises the question: Are these actually professional jobs, or should they be recast as vocational jobs?


In Case You Missed It

Everything Old Is New Again: Remote Access Comes Full Circle

The shift to Zero-Trust Network Architecture is recent — but not the ideas behind it.

As an old timer who’s been in the Remote Access (RA) space since the mid-’90s, I see the current wave of evolution in SASE/SDP/ZTA more of a devolution. It takes us back to providing RA as a service (RaaS), replacing dedicated i386 appliances with virtual images akin to the early days of micro services on Unix. For example, this is how Aventail, a pioneer in RaaS, launched — as a service; the appliance came some years later.

When the RaaS (again, service is right there in the name) revolution first hit — way before the SSL VPN reboot — I was building huge NT 3.51 clusters with a spaghetti of US Robotics Courier modems hanging out the back. This service was offered to customers as the Common Office environment bundle and built on the premise that we could not trust incoming user traffic.

Over the proceeding 25+ years, much has changed. But the core principle of distrust remains. One of my favorite vintage marketing tag lines simplifies this message of zero trust to “Detect – Protect – Connect.”

With the 2000s came the SSL VPN revolution, which at its heart messaged “VPN is dead” and “clientless remote access rules.” We’re seeing this again today with SASE/SDP messaging, but what does it really mean?

It comes down to crypto, packet encapsulation and routing — aka “when do I route direct,” “when do I proxy” and “when do I backhaul tunnel.” These are all questions of trust. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this; thus, to build a highly resilient and scalable service, you must do all three and often together within a single session using JIT logic.

Injecting a bit of humor, let’s look at this piece of Aventail marketing I pulled from the web. (The internet forgets nothing!)

Image Describing A new Reference Architecture – The Inverted Network

FYI: Aventail lives on today — it is the SSL VPN startup company SonicWall purchased in 2007, which has evolved into today’s SonicWall SMA 1000 series.

With no change to the core of the slide, just updating the terminology buzzwords to current standard, we can see ZTA ideals have been around for a lot longer than you may think.

So why, then, if solution architects like me have been singing the praises of a Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) approach for 20 years, has there been such a slow adoption? Well, unpicking a flat network is hard work, and often in a large enterprise, you just don’t know who needs access to exactly which apps and data. However, you have to start somewhere — and with many years of experience, we’ve learned a thing or two about the best way to peel that particular onion.

COVID has changed this landscape, and today I see what was considered a “good enough” remote access implementation no longer cutting it. RA overhaul projects are again in the CIO’s Top 3, the common driver being ZTA to support the home worker revolution. So the chickens have finally come home to roost, and my years of banging the drum of inverted networks and shrunken perimeters becoming the mainstay have paid off.

Image Describing Access Control Engine

A final thought: A modern RAS needs more than just a complex ACL table to be a robust, reliable ZTA service. The ACE (Access Control Engine) at the core of the SonicWall SMA 1000 may be what your security team is pushing for, but as a CIO, that alone will not help you appease the business or provide a highly reliable, most critical service.

Business continuity thinking has replaced disaster recovery thinking to achieve service uptimes of nearly 100%. This needs consideration for parallel live infra demarcations with a roll forward N+1 strategy, SPOG central configuration change scheduling, mix-mode physical and virtual termination nodes salt-and-peppered between private and public datacenters, redundant app-data paths … which all come from experience.

Cybersecurity News & Trends

There’s a lot of Industry News to report this week. First, the brief AWS outage almost felt like the one that Amazon suffered earlier this month. Then there’s the Log4j vulnerability that has the full attention of the entire cyber news community. Then, back to breaches and ransomware reporting, the big HR firm Kronos was hit by ransomware which may affect paycheck and timecard processing for several weeks. Plus, the declaration that 2021 is the year when cybersecurity was everyone’s business and analysis on America’s answer to the Russians to stop cyberattacks.


Industry News

AWS Runs into IT Problems. Briefly This Time.

The Register (UK): Amazon Web Services gave everyone a scare earlier in the week as it once again suffered a partial IT breakdown, briefly taking down a chunk of the web with it. If you found you could not use your favorite website or app during that time, this may have been why. Many feared another full-on AWS outage, as we saw earlier this month. After some delay, Amazon posted that its US-West-2 region was experiencing connectivity problems, then the outage appeared to move to other regions. But only ten minutes after the initial report, Amazon said they had worked out the root cause of the loss of connectivity to the regions, made some fixes, and was expecting a fast recovery. Complete recovery was reported within 30 minutes from the first sign of trouble.

Why The Web Is Losing Sleep Over the Log4j Vulnerability.

The Federal (India): Security pros say it’s one of the worst computer vulnerabilities they’ve ever seen. Others report that state-backed Chinese and Iranian hackers and rogue cryptocurrency miners have already seized on it. The Department of Homeland Security is sounding a dire alarm, ordering federal agencies to urgently eliminate the bug because it’s so easily exploitable — and telling those with public-facing networks to put up firewalls if they can’t be sure. The affected software is small and often undocumented. Detected in an extensively used utility called Log4j developed by Apache Software, it is a logging utility used by millions of apps, enterprises and other vital software. Logging is what allows developers to view the activities of an app. The flaw lets internet-based attackers quickly seize control of everything from industrial control systems to web servers and consumer electronics. Simply identifying which systems use the utility is a challenge; it is often hidden under other software layers.

Kronos Hit with Ransomware, Warns Paychecks Delayed ‘Several Weeks’.

ZD Net: HR management platform Kronos has been hit with a ransomware attack. The company revealed that hackers may have accessed information from many of its high-profile customers. UKG, Kronos’ parent company, said the vital service will be out for “several weeks” and urged customers to “evaluate and implement alternative business continuity protocols related to the affected UKG solutions.” In a statement to ZDNet, UKG said it “recently became aware of a ransomware incident that has disrupted the Kronos Private Cloud,” which they said, “houses solutions used by a limited number of our customers.” In other reporting by NPR and CNN, Kronos admitted that the attack could impact employee paychecks and timesheet processing for weeks.

Cox Discloses Data Breach After Hacker Impersonates Support Agent.

Bleeping Computer: Cox Communications has disclosed a data breach after a hacker impersonated a support agent to gain access to customers’ personal information. The company is a digital cable provider and telecommunication company that provides internet, television, and phone services throughout several regions in the US. This week, customers began receiving letters in the mail disclosing that Cox Communications learned on October 11th, 2021, that “unknown person(s)” impersonated a Cox support agent to access customer information.

Gravatar “Breach” Exposes Data of 100+ Million Users.

Search Engine Journal: A security site emailed notices of a data breach affecting over 100 million users of Gravatar. Gravatar denies that it was hacked, but the security alert company, named “HaveIBeenPwned,” notified users that hackers leaked the profile information of 114 million Gravatar users. They also reported that the leak was characterized as a data breach.

2021 Was the Year Cybersecurity Became Everyone’s Business.

Axios: We do not have to go very far to find evidence that cybersecurity has gone center stage. Diplomats, presidents and premiers have devoted quite a lot of time lately to quickly drafted mutual cybersecurity arrangements. In addition, the J.P. Morgan International Council identified cybersecurity as the most significant threat facing businesses and government. Many advisors and experts say that it will be challenging to reach a point where we can proclaim a permanent “win” in the battle against malicious attacks. The worry this year was that the world was on the losing end. Earlier this year, it clearly felt like the attackers had the upper hand. The combination of cryptocurrency and ransomware proved to be especially difficult. For one thing, victims tended to want to pay up rather than take the risk of data loss and disruption of their business. The rise in cyberattacks also made complex foreign relations far more complicated as the boundaries of interests blurred rules of engagement. In contrast, there are clear lines when allies are physically attacked. But in cyberspace, the divisions are no longer binary. Cyberattacks are personal – some deal with very private information – but they also expose liabilities such as who is responsible for investigation and recovery, and who is on tab for damages. But these attacks also eroded the trust that people have in markets, governments, resources and even national power. The cyberattacks prey on our weakest points; they sow distrust in information while they create confusion and exacerbate anxiety.

Six Months Later: Biden’s Warning to Russia About Cyber Attacks.

Washington Post: Six months ago, President Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in a face-to-face meeting that he must rein in criminal ransomware hackers operating on Russian territory or face consequences. Since then, though, most researchers indicate that there’s been no reduction in the overall pace of ransomware attacks from Russia. This point is also supported by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). In that one proclamation, President Biden’s stern challenge to Russia was intended to punctuate international concern about attacks that have threatened gas and meat supplies and stoked global fear. But, six months later, is there any hope that behavior changed at all? Like everything else in these complicated times, the analysis depends on how you look at things. The US has launched several covert counter-cyber operations, and these alone may have been enough to taper the activities of some groups. The Justice Department recently clawed back more than $8 million in ransomware payments from hackers’ cryptocurrency accounts. DOJ was also successful in netting a few high-profile arrests and even caused one group to shut down their operations. The real and honest answer is that it’ll take much longer than we can see in six months. In the meantime, better security technology and improved user behavior, maybe there’s reason for hope in 2022.


In Case You Missed It

How SonicWall ZTNA protects against Log4j (Log4Shell)

The Log4j vulnerability likely affects millions of devices. But it (and vulnerabilities like it) can be stopped.

IMPORTANT: For the latest information regarding SonicWall products and Apache Log4j, please see PSIRT Advisory ID SNWLID-2021-0032, which will be continually updated. The SonicWall Product Security and Incident Response Team (PSIRT) is always researching and providing up-to-date information about the latest vulnerabilities. 

Last week’s disclosure of the Apache Log4j (CVE-2021-44228) vulnerability put the internet on fire and set cybersecurity teams scrambling to provide a fix. The issue lies in Log4j, an open-source Apache logging framework that developers have been using for years to keep track of activities within an application. CVE-2021-44228 allows remote attackers, who actively scan the internet for systems affected by the vulnerability, to easily take control of vulnerable systems

What is the Log4j vulnerability?

Log4j is a Java library broadly used in enterprise and web applications. The problem is that the Log4j framework is unrestrained and follows requests without any vetting or verifications. This “implicit trust” approach allows an attacker to conduct a completely unauthenticated remote code execution (RCE) by submitting a specially crafted request to the vulnerable system. An attacker needs to strategically send a malicious code string that eventually gets logged by Log4j version 2.0 or higher to allow them to take control.

To make matters worse, Log4j is not easy to patch in production systems. If something goes wrong, an organization’s logging capability could be compromised precisely when it’s needed most — to watch for attempted exploitation.

Most tech vendors, including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Google Cloud, IBM and Cisco, have reported that some of their services were vulnerable. These vendors and others have been quickly working to fix any issues, release software updates where applicable and advise customers on the next steps. SonicWall has also been working to provide necessary patches, investigate the impact and provide necessary updates to customers.

What is the scope of the impact for Log4j?

The discovery of this zero-day vulnerability has created a virtual earthquake because it affects anything that uses Java. Any servers that are exposed to the internet and run Java applications with the affected Log4j library are at risk.

Attempts to exploit this vulnerability are particularly hard to detect because any string that might get logged by Log4j could trigger the vulnerability — it could be anything from user-agent or system-generated strings to email subject lines.

The Microsoft Security Response Center has reported that most Log4Shell activities have been mass scanning and fingerprinting by hackers, probably for future attacks, as well as scanning by security companies and researchers. Other observed activities have included installing coin miners, running Cobalt Strike to enable credential theft and lateral movement, and exfiltrating data from the compromised systems.

How ZTNA adoption minimizes Log4j risk

SonicWall Cloud Edge is built on zero-trust architecture that enables access and network connectivity to internal and external resources. By combining Cloud Edge Zero Trust Network Architecture (ZTNA) and tightly defined policies, admins can ensure servers are not publicly exposed to the internet, but only to users who meet certain criteria and are allowed to pass through network firewall or Stateful FWaaS.

Using ZTNA and SDP architecture to protect and hide all of the underlying services from public access, we can mitigate the Log4Shell vulnerability by only passing activity logs within the internal network. SonicWall Cloud Edge ZTNA by default will not allow them to be sent outside the local network over a public internet connection.

SonicWall Cloud Edge significantly reduces the attack surface and potential damage to the internal network by allowing admins to precisely control and limit any traffic generated from inside or outside the network. By segmenting your cloud, on-prem or hybrid network with ZTNA, you can also contain the spread of malicious code or activity within your defined network perimeter.

The Rise and Growth of Malware-as-a-Service

A deep dive into the minds of the hackers and their new and profitable business model.

Imagine you’re part of a group of hackers, and you spend hours upon hours coding the perfect malware package. Then, you and your team successfully hit a few companies with ransomware. Of course, once you collect your ransom, other groups would get their hands on your hard work and try to replicate your success — but your work is done.

But imagine if you could offer your hard work as a service to those other groups for a fee? You’ve now tipped into the world of malware-as-a-service (MaaS).

To understand the present malware crisis, we must get into the minds of the hackers who do the hard work of creating the tools of their trade. The first part of that journey is to recognize that malware is software and software is business. Some of it is brilliant, albeit misguided. And hack-as-a-service? Well, that’s just next-level genius.

The Proof is in the Numbers

As many of us have only just begun our education in cybersecurity, people are still reasonably astonished that hackers came up with a business model to support their “industry.” Why be surprised? After all, this is the same community that figured out how to hack our networks and devices and generate a global security crisis. And proof of their effectiveness is in the numbers.

Four months ago, SonicWall released its widely quoted Mid-Year Update on the 2021 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report with alarming news of the sharp rise in ransomware and other malicious attacks. Unfortunately, news from the third quarter was not much better: ransomware’s rise has not slowed.

Image that explains the rise of ransomware in Europe and North America

This year was already proving to be the most active year for ransomware on record. According to the latest data, activity continues to climb with no sign of slowing down. After posting a groundbreaking 188.9 million ransomware attacks in the second quarter, attacks continued and broke another record of 190.4 million in the third quarter. The total 495.1 million attacks represent a 148% increase over 2020, making 2021 the most costly and dangerous year on record.

Maas Is a Demonstrative Business Model

Many other corporate software companies — Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, Salesforce, to name a few — are available to consumers as a software service; thus, software-as-a-services (SaaS). The business model puts creators in the development and maintenance side of the equation of customizable applications that manage all sorts of tasks.

The arrangement is a big help to organizations that do not have the software skills or willingness to develop their own applications. Similarly, hacker groups with expertise can offer their malware-as-a-service (MaaS) to people who want to make money from hacking, which leads us to “ransomware-as-a-service.” Both labels are apt descriptions of the activities taken by well-known hacker gangs such as Circus Spider, Conti, DarkSide, REvil.

There are dozens of other groups that have franchised their skills to other gangs that have complementary expertise and capabilities in such areas as phishing, social engineering, encryption tools, server power, ransom collection — and they do it all under agreements to share revenues generated from their joint activities.

The fact we can call it a business model at all spells out how lethal the situation has become. With the ransomware crisis still raging on, wannabe attackers of all skill levels can now rise as major global cyberthreat gangs. Anyone with a grudge and enough time on their hands can chase after government agencies, major enterprise networks – and even smaller players like the average home office user.

Maas As a Turnkey Threat Asset

In effect, MaaS is a turnkey threat. And within SonicWall’s latest threat data is another sign of what that could mean: a 73% increase in unique malware variants.

SonicWall used its patented RTDMI™ (Real-Time Deep Memory Inspection) technology embedded in its cloud-based Capture Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) sandbox service to uncover 307,516 never-before-seen malware variants during the first three quarters of 2021. This unsettling discovery means that cybercriminals are releasing an average of 1,126 new malware versions per day.

Dcorativ Imag

The rise in variants points coupled with the increase in activity shows that the “hacker industry” has learned how to rapidly diversify the software they use to attack networks and computers. The result is that businesses, governments and individuals will find it increasingly difficult to protect themselves. Clearly, the combination of security weaknesses demonstrated by previous attacks and the rise of MaaS/RaaS has excited a whole new threat level.

Learning the New Threat Landscape

Considering how quickly the threat landscape has grown this year, network operators of all sizes are in a race against time to get ahead of the crisis with better cybersecurity. Therefore, effective vulnerability management and is the essential core of everyone’s mission.

Here’s your invitation to find out what thought leaders in cybersecurity know about this emerging threat. Explore how cybercriminals are leveraging the software-as-a-service business model to establish a rapidly growing ‘hacker economy.’ This webcast will include insights on new trends, define the MaaS/RaaS business model, and what you can do to protect your business.

Presented by Simon Wikberg, SonicWall Cybersecurity Expert, the webcast will also dive into deep business data behind MaaS and known examples that have been uncovered.

10 Tips for a Safe and Happy Holiday

They’re not interested in peace on earth, a hippopotamus or their two front teeth. You won’t find them decking the halls, dashing through the snow or even up on the housetop. But that doesn’t mean cybercriminals aren’t out in force this time of year — and they’re relying on you being too wrapped up in your holiday preparations to see them coming.

They’re successful far too often: The last quarter of 2020 saw by far the most ransomware, with attacks in November reaching an all-time high in an already record-breaking year. If 2021 follows suit, this could be the worst holiday season for ransomware SonicWall has ever recorded — but fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize your risk:

It’s the Most Wander-ful Time of the Year: Travel Tips

Roughly 63% of American adults plan to travel for the holidays this year — a nearly 40% jump over last year, and within 5% of 2019 levels. While it’s easy to become preoccupied by traffic jams, flight delays and severe weather, don’t forget that attackers love to leverage this sort of chaos. Follow these five travel best practices to keep cybercriminals grounded this holiday season.

1. Free Wi-Fi =/= Risk-Free Wi-Fi

When you stop for a coffee during your layover, or stumble into a greasy spoon on hour nine of your road trip back home, you might be tempted to log on to the free Wi-Fi. But unless your organization has implemented zero-trust security, beware. Try bringing a novel and coloring books to keep everyone occupied on the road, and if you must connect, use a VPN to access employer networks and avoid logging in to your bank, email or other sensitive accounts. Because some devices may try to connect to these networks automatically, you may need to disable auto-connect to fully protect against man-in-the-middle and other attacks.

2. Put Your Devices on Lockdown

Due to border restrictions finally beginning to ease in countries such as Canada, Australia, India and South Korea, and the United States, international travel is expected to be robust. In the U.S., roughly 2 million travelers are expected to pass through airports each day over the Christmas holiday. In crowds like this, it’s easy for a device to be misplaced, left behind or stolen. To limit potential damage from smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc. falling into the wrong hands, ensure they’re protected with facial recognition, fingerprint ID or a PIN. (This doesn’t just protect against data theft, it can also help combat regular theft: One study found that locked devices were three times more likely to be returned to their owners.)

3. Don’t Let Criminals Track You

Nearly 43% of Americans and 42% of Brits feel more comfortable traveling this year — but this doesn’t mean they should be comfortable with everyone knowing they’re traveling. Any location data you share on social media can be tempting to those wanting to break into homes or hotel rooms — whether to steal and exfiltrate data, or steal gaming consoles, jewelry, medications or even gifts under the tree.

4. Use Only Your Own Cords/Power Adapters

In our mobile-dependent society, it’s no surprise that cybercriminals have learned how to install malware in airport kiosks, USB charging stations and more. And while that “forgotten” iPhone charge cable might look tempting when your device is running on empty, even those can harbor malware. If you can’t find a secure charging area, ensure your device is powered off before plugging it in.

‘Tis the Season for Giving: Online Safety Tips

Even if you’re not traveling this year, chances are you’re buying gifts. While supply-chain challenges, pandemic considerations and more have made for a unique holiday shopping season, it’s important to put safety first when shopping online. Here are six things to look out for:

1. Holiday Phishing Emails

Perhaps you’ve received an invite to the Jones’ holiday party, a gift card or coupon, or an email from HR with details of an unexpected holiday bonus. If there’s an attachment, exercise extreme caution: It may harbor malware.

2. Spoofed Websites

Unfortunately for your wallet, emails boasting huge discounts at popular retailers are likely bogus. Walmart isn’t offering 70% off, and nobody is selling PlayStations for $100, not even during the holidays. If you enter your info into one of these lookalike retail (or charity) sites, the only thing you’re likely to get is your credentials stolen.

3. Fake Shipping Invoices

You’ve finished your shopping, and your gifts are on their way! But now FedEx is emailing to say your packages may not arrive in time and referring you to updated tracking information. Or your retailer is sending you a shipping label for returns, or verifying your gifts are being sent … to a completely different address. Look closely before you click: These emails usually aren’t from who they say they are.

4. Counterfeit Apps

Is that really the Target app or just a lookalike? Better double-check before you download and enter your payment information. Apple’s App Store and Google Play have safeguards in place to stop counterfeit apps, but some still occasionally get through.

5. Gift Card Scams

These originally took the form of “You’ve won a free gift card! Click here to claim!” In recent years, however, they’ve become more targeted, and may appear to offer gift cards as a bonus from your employer or a holiday gift from a friend. The easiest way to avoid being scammed? If you weren’t expecting a gift card from someone, ask them about it.

6. Santa’s Little Helpers

There are many services designed to send your child a letter from Santa for a small fee. But many times, these so-called “Santas” are really cybercriminals attempting to get you to click on a link and enter your payment information. A recent variation has scammers offering kits designed to take the stress and mess out of your elf’s holiday shenanigans (just move your elf and call it good!)

While the holiday season offers more than its share of scams, many can be put on ice with a little extra due diligence. Keep these holiday best practices in mind, and have a safe and happy holiday!

Cybersecurity News & Trends

As the year winds down, SonicWall’s threat reports stand out as reliable sources for US and European news organizations wanting to show the scope of attacks this year. Industry News proves that the crisis continues, and IT managers worldwide are on alert. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and ten countries conducted a simulated global attack on the global financial system (and the results were awful). In other news, a post-attack assessment reveals that the hackers saved the Irish Health System, Chinese hackers almost shut down power for three million Australians, and Lloyds of London quits cybersecurity insurance policies.


SonicWall in the News

Why Cybersecurity Must Be First

ARN Net (Australia): Why cybersecurity first should resonate with everyone is all over the news. Ransomware attacks rose to 304.6 million during the first six months in 2020, up 62% over 2019, according to our own widely quoted Mid-Year Update on the 2021 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report.

Retail’s Looming Holiday Threat: Ransomware

Politico: Part of a trend: Malware has long been a Black Friday and Cyber Monday concern. In 2019, security threat researchers at SonicWall estimated that cybergangs and individuals deployed 129.3 million malware attacks during the week of Thanksgiving, a 63 percent increase from the year before.

At EvCC, ‘The Wall’ Teaches Students How to Thwart Cybercrime

Herald NET: Everett college is the first in the nation to have a tool that can model cyber attacks aimed at vital infrastructure. During the first six months of 2021, there were more than 305 million attempted ransomware attacks compared to 306 million attempts in all of 2020, according to a mid-year 2021 SonicWall Cyber Threat report. Some three-quarters of those attempts targeted US organizations, the report said. “It’s gotten so bad that insurance companies are raising their rates on cyber liability coverage or dropping coverage altogether,” Hellyer said. “This sort of training is very important to our national and local security and economic interests.”

Do You Know Who is Responsible for Disaster Recovery in the Cloud?

MeriTalk: Ransomware is a disaster that isn’t rare. The 2021 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report found a 158% increase in ransomware attacks in North America in 2020. As a result, agencies that may have been slow to migrate to the cloud are now looking to the cloud as a cost-effective backup and disaster recovery solution to protect Federal systems against cyberattacks and data loss.

Ransomware Set To Break Records This Black Friday 2021

Information Security Buzz (Australia): Dmitriy Ayrapetov, Vice President Platform Architecture for SonicWall, offered expert commentary on cybercrime activity. He cited data from SonicWall’s recent threat reports, including 495 million global ransomware attacks logged this year to date, an increase of 148%.

12 Days of Phish-mas: A Festive Look at Phishing

Hashed Out: Experimenting with phishing examples using Microsoft products, the author received a fake request for a quote that contains a potentially malicious Microsoft Office file attachment. Office files, including Word docs and Excel spreadsheets, commonly spread malware and embedded phishing links via email. The author notes that SonicWall’s research shows that weaponized Microsoft Office files increased 67% in 2020.

Cybersecurity Terms & Definitions Integrators Should Know

CEPro: In the first six months of 2021, globally, the education sector saw a 615% spike in ransomware incidents compared to 151% across all industries, according to a study from SonicWall.

700M Attacks in 2021 and Counting: Can Businesses Fight the Ransomware Tsunami?

Toolbox: Asking whether businesses are investing enough into technology or “organizational culture” is to blame, the writer observes surprise at the enormous rise in breaches this year. They also cite SonicWall’s recently released Q3 Threat Report. From the scale of the attacks, we get a peek into how cybercriminals leverage ransomware as their weapon of choice to hit anyone.

SonicWall Applauded by Frost & Sullivan

Business Chief: SonicWall is recognized for delivering excellent and reliable cybersecurity tools to worldwide organizations. The publication also mentions that Frost & Sullivan recognized SonicWall’s industry-leading network firewall solutions that enhance organizational security, efficiency, and reliability.

The True Cost Of Rising Cyber Threats

Forbes: The actual cost of ignoring rising cyber threats and ‘being too late’ is not lost on today’s business leaders, and cybersecurity is annually rated as a top priority for company IT budgets. SonicWall predicted that by the end of 2021, the ransomware attack total would be near 714 million, a 134% year-on-year increase.

How to Cut Down on Data Breach Stress and Fatigue

Security Intelligence: If you’re tired of hearing the words’ data breach’, you’re not alone. It’s looking like 2021 might end up becoming the year with the most ransomware attacks on record. In August, SonicWall reported that the global ransomware attack volume had increased 151% during the first six months compared to 2020.


Industry News

IMF, 10 Countries Simulate Cyberattack on Global Financial System

Reuters: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) along with the national banks from 10-countries simulated a major cyberattack on the global financial system. The program, called “Collective Strength,” was intended to increase global cooperation that could help minimize any potential damage to financial markets and banks. The simulated “war game,” as Israel’s Finance Ministry called it, was planned over the past year and evolved over ten days. The simulation result ended with sensitive financial data emerging on the Dark Web and resulted in fake news reports that caused chaos in global markets and a run on banks. Participants in the initiative included treasury officials from Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Thailand, as well as representatives from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Bank of International Settlements.

New Policy Gives Some Federal Agencies 24 Hours to Assess Major Cyberattacks

The Hill: A new policy recently rolled out by the White House gives certain federal agencies as little as 24 hours to assess the impact of a cyberattack and report the attack if it rises to a significant level of concern. According to a copy of the memo issued by the White House National Security Council (NSC), the policy applies to national security and intelligence agencies, including the FBI. The new policy gives agencies only 24 hours to report a cyberattack they assess as “a national security concern” to the White House.

The Irish Health System Was Saved By The Hackers

BBC: In March, someone working in the offices of the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) opened a spreadsheet that had been sent to them by email two days earlier. The file was compromised with malware, and the gang behind it spent the next two months hacking their way through the networks and laying out data traps. There were multiple warning signs at work, but no investigation was launched, which meant IT managers missed a crucial opportunity to intervene. So, when the criminals unleashed their ransomware, the impact was devastatingly total. However, three months later, the attackers posted a link to a key so that the department managers could decrypt their files. The hackers gave no reasons, nor did they make any statements. Maybe the hackers had a change of heart; perhaps it was a test for something much worse. Nevertheless, this one act of mercy by the hackers allowed Irish health to embark on the road to recovery. According to an independent assessment report, without the decryption key, “it is unknown whether systems could have been recovered fully, or how long it would have taken to recover systems from back-ups, but it is highly likely that the recovery timeframe would have been considerably longer.”

Krebs: Cyberattacks Could Be Used To “Disrupt” Decision-Making

Axios: Former Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs told Axios at an event Thursday that America’s adversaries could use cyberattacks in the future to “disrupt” US decision-making. The big picture: Krebs, using China as an example, said that future cyber attacks could be part of “a larger, more complex approach by an adversary.” What he’s saying: “If things get hot in Taiwan, there’s a possibility that the Chinese government could use some sort of cyber capability to make us focus here rather than over there.”

Chinese Cyberattack Almost Shut Off Power for THREE MILLION Australians

Daily Mail: Chinese hackers came within minutes of shutting off power to three million Australian homes but were thwarted at the final hurdle. The Communist regime launched a ‘sustained’ ransomware attack on CS Energy’s two thermal coal plants in Queensland on November 27 – showing what Beijing could be capable of in a wartime scenario. There were panic stations within the energy firm as employees lost access to their emails and other critical internal data. IT specialists came up with a brilliant last-minute move to stop Beijing from gaining access by separating its corporate and operational computer systems. Once IT managers cut the network in half, hackers had no way of seizing control of the generators. Sources with knowledge of the hack attempt said the cyber-attackers were less than 30 minutes away from shutting down power.

Lloyd’s of London Calls it Quits for Cyber Insurance

CPO Magazine: Major insurance firm Lloyd’s of London has issued a bulletin indicating that its cyber insurance products will no longer cover the fallout of cyberattacks exchanged between nation-states. The insurer said last week that they would no longer cover damages from “cyber war” between countries and that this definition extends to operations that have a “major detrimental impact on the functioning of a state.” So, the looming question, if the cyber insurance firm no longer covers the fallout of digital war, do attacks infrastructure count? Quick to answer from Lloyd’s: No. The firm says that it no longer wants to deal in losses that result from “cyber war,” which the firm includes attacks that have a “major detrimental impact” on a state’s function, implying attacks on critical infrastructure.

The Top Data Breaches Of 2021

Security Magazine: A list of 2021’s top 10 data breaches and exposures and a few other noteworthy mentions. Particularly important is how the manufacturing and utilities sector was deeply impacted, with 48 compromises and a total of 48,294,629 victims. The healthcare sector followed, with 78 compromises resulting in more than 7 million victims. Other sectors that were hit resulted in 3.5 million victims, including financial services (1.6 million victims), government (1.4 million victims) and professional services (1.5 million victims). As SonicWall threat data has also shown, this is the year of the ransomware, and we still have four weeks to go!


In Case You Missed It