Sunday, May 14, 2017

"Nearly All Information, Communications Networks and Systems will be at Risk for Years"

  • Last Friday, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coat’s comments to the Senate Committee on Intelligence included “Our adversaries are becoming more adept at using cyberspace to threaten our interests and advance their own, and despite improving cyber defenses, nearly all information, communication networks, and systems will be at risk for years … Cyber threats are already challenging public trust and confidence in global institutions, governance, and norms, while imposing costs on the US and global economies. Cyber threats also pose an increasing risk to public health, safety, and prosperity as cyber technologies are integrated with critical infrastructure in key sectors. These threats are amplified by our ongoing delegation of decisionmaking, sensing, and authentication roles to potentially vulnerable automated systems. This delegation increases the likely physical, economic, and psychological consequences of cyber attack and exploitation events when they do occur. Many countries view cyber capabilities as a viable tool for projecting their influence and will continue developing cyber capabilities. Some adversaries also remain undeterred from conducting reconnaissance, espionage, influence, and even attacks in cyberspace.”
  • In addition to potential threats from RussiaChinaIranNorth Korea and terrorist organizations, Coats noted that "Criminals are also developing and using sophisticated cyber tools for a variety of purposes including theft, extortion, and facilitation of other criminal activities. “Ransomware,” malware that employs deception and encryption to block users from accessing their own data, has become a particularly popular tool of extortion. In 2016, criminals employing ransomware turned their focus to the medical sector, disrupting patient care and undermining public confidence in some medical institutions.  
  • On Friday, the U.S Department of Homeland Security said it was “aware of reports of ransomware known as WannaCry affecting multiple global entities. Ransomware is a type of malicious software that infects a computer and restricts users’ access to it until a ransom is paid to unlock it.  Microsoft released a patch in March that addresses this specific vulnerability, and installing this patch will help secure your systems from the threat ...  we encourage all Americans to update your operating systems and implement vigorous cybersecurity practices at home, work, and school.” 
  • Also, Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee said "This is big: around the world, doctors and nurses are scrambling to treat patients without their digital records or prescription dosages, ambulances are being rerouted, and millions of people's data is potentially exposed. Cybersecurity isn't a hypothetical problem – today shows it can be life or death. We'll likely look back at this as a watershed moment."
  • Note: Reports suggest that over 125,000 computers in +100 countries were impacted by the WannaCry ransomware last week, which included over twenty British hospitalsFedExRenault, Nissan, Telefonic,and Deutsche Bahn.  
MY TAKE
  • As technology firms introduce new operating systems, applications and distributed solutions,  the slow pace of customer adoption along with reduced support for "legacy" systems creates security risks. For example, Microsoft stopped providing security updates for it Windows XP operating systems on April 8, 2014. However, in the case of WannaCry, Microsoft took an "highly unusual" step and provided patches for Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003
  • Minimizing the impact of cyber-attacks will continue to require many approaches including 1) installing security patches and software updates, 2) avoiding links and attached files in unfamiliar emails, 3) backing up data, 4) using encrypted services and 5) incorporating data security into the design of new technology solutions.  


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