This is the sixth in a series about the concept of Zero Trust, which means in the IT sense that you trust nothing and always verify everything surrounding and connected to your network. Today’s discussion will be on endpoint security.
Endpoint security is a fancy term used to describe how the computers on the network are protected. This used to be done by antivirus but due to the complexity of the attacks hackers are using to compromise networks these days, the definition has expanded greatly. This now includes things like Enhanced Detection & Response software, Security Operations Centers, DNS Filtering, employee train and more. Here are some questions that you should be asking yourself:
Are your endpoints protected by antivirus or enhanced detection & response?
Is website traffic being monitored? Restricted?
Are your employees being trained in cyber security?
Are computer logs being monitored for malicious activity?
Would unusual or suspicious activity on a computer be noticed? Alerted on?
Do you have security permissions set on all file shares?
Do you have least privileged access configured on those shares?
Do you keep track of what software is installed on all workstations?
Do you block access to unauthorized software?
Are files encrypted on servers and workstations?
Are your mobile devices managed? Can you wipe them remotely?
Are USB ports blocking removeable storage devices?
Are endpoints set to automatically log-out?
If your company is going to use full disk encryption or has compliance requirements that you need consulting for, then contact us for assistance.
We caught wind of two separate actions the US has taken against Cyber Threats from Russia over the weekend:
The first is news that the US Federal Communications Commission has added Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab to its list of entities that pose an “unacceptable risk to US national security,” according to a report from Bloomberg. This company has been banned from use by government agencies since 2017 when a bill was signed due to the companies ties to the Kremlin.
The second article was a press release from the FBI stating that:
“The Department of Justice unsealed two indictments today charging four defendants, all Russian nationals who worked for the Russian government, with attempting, supporting and conducting computer intrusions that together, in two separate conspiracies, targeted the global energy sector between 2012 and 2018. In total, these hacking campaigns targeted thousands of computers, at hundreds of companies and organizations, in approximately 135 countries.”
This hacking activity should be another wake-up call to American businesses to harden their defenses and remain vigilant against cyber security threats. These people are nationally sponsored criminals and we must protect ourselves.
If your company is currently using Kaspersky or any other Russian based vendors, then it is time to carefully consider whether to continue being connected with them and contact us for assistance migrating to a trusted source.
Security researchers performed penetration testing on the networks of 45 various mid-sized companies and found that in real life scenarios 93% of those networks were able to be compromised to the point of business disruption. Here are the details:
The 45 companies were polled to determine what would be an unacceptable business interruption. They decided that the following met that criteria:
Disruption of production processes
Disruption of service delivery processes
Compromise of the digital identity of top management
Theft of funds
Theft of sensitive information
Fraud against users
These became the target for the penetration testers.
In order for the penetration tester to achieve their target, they followed the following process:
Breach the network perimeter – This was done by the use of compromised passwords found on the Dark Web and know vulnerabilities on devices that were directly connected to the internet
Obtain maximum privileges – In 100% of the networks, once an attacker was inside the network
Gaining access to key systems – With maximum privileges, the testers are able to gain access to other areas of the network including databases, executives computers, and production servers
Develop attacks on target systems – Once key systems are compromised the testers then figured out how to create the unacceptable business interruption. Although they could have created these interruptions, they only gathered proof that they could to present the data to the companies.
How to Defend
There are a couple main ways to defend against these kinds of attacks:
Security Controls / Segmentation – Creating least privileged access to key systems and segmenting the network will keep hackers from traversing the network once inside
Enhanced Network Monitoring – Modern cyber security tools watch activity and traffic on the network to find indicators of compromise. They pool this information into an attack history that can be used to remediate and further protect.
Your company is not as safe as you think, so contact us for free initial cybersecurity evaluation and risk report. .
There has been a recent trend for companies to “negotiate” with the criminal terrorists behind wave of ransomware attacks across the world by paying the ransom. In a recent study some alarming statistics have been released:
Current Ransomware Stats
If Ransom is Paid: The global findings also show that only 8% of organizations manage to get back all of their data after paying a ransom, with 29% getting back no more than half of their data.
Cost of Ransom: The average ransom paid was $170,404. While $3.2 million was the highest payment out of those surveyed, the most common payment was $10,000. Ten organizations paid ransoms of $1 million or more.
Who is Paying the Ransom: The number of organizations that paid the ransom increased from 26% in 2020 to 32% in 2021.
The Brighter Side: While the number of organizations that experienced a ransomware attack fell from 51% of respondents surveyed in 2020 to 37% in 2021, and fewer organizations suffered data encryption as the result of a significant attack (54% in 2021 compared to 73% in 2020).
What is Being Done
There are now organizations trying to create a common framework to address this threat. The Institute for Security and Technology has created a Ransomware Task Force. This task force has been working to develop this framework and has published some guidance. Even though this is just the foundation work, it is good to see that efforts are being made.
If your company is worried about the threat of ransomware, then contact us for assistance setting up a multiple layer approach to security.
There has been information released by a security research firm called Eclypsium that there is a vulnerability dubbed Boothole in Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) Secure Boot that would allow an attacker to completely take over a workstation, laptop, or server and be nearly undetectable. All hardware vendors will have to send out updates in the near future to patch the UEFI code to secure it against this “BootHole” vulnerability. Due to the difficulty in designing and testing these types of updates it will be some time before they are released. We will keep you posted as to the release of these updates as they become available.
If your company is concerned about security, then contact us for assistance.
Many industries we serve are under some sort of compliance requirements – HIPAA, PCI, GDPR, etc. and several of these require some sort of vulnerability scans or penetration testing:
HIPAA Section 164.308(a)(1)(ii)(A) states:
RISK ANALYSIS (Required). Conduct an accurate and thorough assessment of the potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic protected health information held by the [organization].
PCI DSS Requirement 11.3:
The scope of a penetration test, as defined in PCI DSS Requirement 11.3, must include the entire CDE perimeter and any critical systems that may impact the security of the CDE as well as the environment in scope for PCI DSS. This includes both the external perimeter (public-facing attack surfaces) and the internal perimeter of the CDE (LAN-LAN attack surfaces).
GDPR Article 32 states:
A process for regularly testing, assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of technical and organisational measures for ensuring the security of the processing
Farmhouse Networking has begun offering both internal and external network vulnerability scans and penetration testing for clients who fall under compliance requirements. We also provide remediation planning and implementation for any issues found during the scans.
If your company is has compliance requirements for internal or external vulnerability scans or penetration testing, then contact us for assistance.
Got a call a couple weeks ago from a local church:
“we came in and open the computer and we have ransomware on there. We can’t even get to any of our stuff. It’s telling us to email somebody and so that they can free up the computer.”
How does this happen?
Generally these things happen because people click on things they shouldn’t. Whether in an attachment in email from someone they don’t recognize, a link in social media that sounds too good to pass up, or an advertisement for something they can’t live without. Once the user gives permission for something to open or run on their computer the game is over and the hacker wins.
What to do when it happen?
Stop using the computer.
Leave the computer alone! Do not carry out any further commands, including commands to Save data.
Do not close any of the computer’s windows or programs. Leave the computer alone.
Leave everything plugged in and do not turn off the computer or peripheral devices.
If possible, physically disconnect the computer from networks to which it is attached.
Call us immediately. Write down any unusual behavior of the computer (screen messages, unexpected disk access, unusual responses to commands) and the time when they were first noticed.
Write down any changes in hardware, software, or usage that preceded the malfunction.
Do not attempt to remove a suspected virus! Let the professionals do the dirty work.
How to prevent this from happening?
Layers of protection is the simple answer. A good antivirus installed to stop the bad programs from running, DNS filtering to keep users off of bad sites / advertisements, a good backup of all data to recover when this does happen, and most important of all EDUCATION – teaching users what safe internet usage looks like and having policies in effect to train them can mitigate 60-70% of infections.
If your company is would like to discuss the layers of security you have in place, then contact us for assistance.
NIST is the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It acts as the defacto baseline that all other security and compliance organizations use to construct their standards. Reading their publications is like reading any other government document – extremely long and not interesting. Farmhouse Networking recently became aware of one such document called NISTIR 7621 aka Small Business Information Security: The Fundamentals. We took the time to distill out the main points here:
The Fundamentals aka Best Practices
Identify: Who has access to the network, who has access to the data, and what do they have access to. This includes background checking employees during the hiring process, taking an inventory of data to see who needs access to what, requiring that each user have their own login, and company policy creation.
Protect: Protection starts with separating data into shares then giving access only to those who really need it. It also includes protecting hardware with uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and protecting software with regular updates. Protecting the network includes setting up a proper firewall, separate wireless for guest access, and VPN only access for remote users. Web filtering, SPAM filtering, file encryption, proper disposal of old equipment, and employee training are also mentioned.
Detect: Having a centrally managed antivirus software on each workstation is a must. This includes the ability to look back in time via log files or monitoring system to find the root of the security breach.
Respond: Have a disaster recovery plan and security incident response plan in place.
Recover: Need full backups of all important business data, invest in cyber insurance, and regularly access your technology to find timely improvements.
If your company does not meet these fundamentals, then contact us for assistance.