Friday, March 28, 2014

Ransomware Challenges Posed by Cyber Criminals

Ransomware dates back to 1989 with the AIDS Trojan, which would modify the autoexec.bat file and once a computer booted 90 times the malware would begin to hide directories and encrypt the names of all files. It would then prompt the user to renew their license and contact PC Cyborg Corporation for $189.00 payment. This had to be sent to a P.O. Box in Panama (Smith, 2002). Today the number of unique new samples of ransomware malware is almost 250,000 in the first three months of 2013. This has doubled from the first quarter of 2012. Even more troubling is the reported number of infections. The visibility on infection data is limited because client machines share detection only with McAfee. There are two main reasons for the increased popularity of Ransomware: (1) Cybercriminals have easy access to anonymous payment systems, such as bitcoin; (2) There is a thriving underground market that helps with pay-per-install services on pre-infected computers, such as Citadel. Cyber criminals can also easily purchase ransomware kits, such as Lyposit, from the underground markets (McAfee Labs, 2013a, p. 12).

Friday, March 14, 2014

Was Edward Snowden Duped (Socially Engineered) By Russia?

I was recently talking to a high level executive who does a lot of work with the 3 letter agencies and he made some interesting comments. He said, and I paraphrase, "I feel sorry for Snowden." I asked why is that and he replied, "Because Russia tricked him into thinking he has done the right thing."

This got me to thinking about some other remarks I have heard, most recently in an NBC Meet the Press Interview..

Mike Rogers, The House Intelligence Chairman, said Snowden was “a thief whom we believe had some help”.

Mr. Rogers (not funny!) went on to say, "...the vast majority had nothing to do with privacy. Our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines have been incredibly harmed by the data that he has taken with him and we believe now is in the hands of nation states.”

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Key Features of U.K. approach to Cyber Security

    The U.K. internet economy accounts for 5.7% of the total U.K. GDP. Looking at the two major sectors of the U.K. internet economy, the value chain is 2.6% and e-commerce is 3.1% of the GDP. The monetary total is estimated to be at £82 billion. Every £1 spent on internet connectivity supports another £5 spent in other channels as part of the U.K. ecosystem (Page, 2012).  Given these factors it is clear the nation's overall economy is now reliant on the internet economy.

The U.K. Department of Business, Information and Skills (BIS) commissioned a survey in 2013 with PricewaterhouseCoopers to determine the impact cyber attacks may be having on businesses. The survey found 93% of large businesses (250+ employees) have had a breach in the last year. Of the Small businesses (1-49 employees) surveyed, 87% reported breaches. Even more frightening was the large businesses averaged 133 breaches and the small businesses 17. The worst breaches cost £450,000 - £850,000 per attack on large businesses and £35,000 to £65,000 per attack on small businesses. However, the survey also shows that 36% of breaches were human error related and lack of security training and awareness was often to be at fault (Charlton, 2013).

Key Features of U.S. approach to Cyber Security

Cyber Security has become a focal point of national economic and security concern. On February 12th, 2013 President Obama signed Executive Order (EO) 13636: Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity. The EO sets the foundation for developing a framework in which private sector companies of critical infrastructures and the government share information and work together to prevent cyber attacks (White House, 2013). Even before this executive order there has been work done by various national agencies to help define and strengthen the nation’s cyber security, a few of which are discussed in this paper.