Don’t get your wires crossed – The evolution of cyber risk and why more companies are considering captives

A captive is a licensed insurance company fully owned and controlled by the insured parties – a type of “self-insurance.”

Captives are essentially an alternative for organizations to retain and finance cyber risk via actuarial-determined premiums to be paid from the parent company to the captive. They’re becoming more popular due to an increasingly tough cyber insurance market.

Many thanks to Captive Insurance Times and to the amazing Rebecca Delaney for featuring me alongside other industry professionals on discussing this important topic.

The feature can be found on pages 18-22, and is now available to read in the latest online issue at this link: https://bit.ly/3KMnX8j

Ransomware has “changed the game” of cyber insurance

I recently made a presentation on ransomware and cyber insurance at the Barbados Risk and Insurance Management (BRIM) conference.

Many thanks to the Captive Insurance Times’ reporter Rebecca Delaney for so excellently capturing my session. In the intro section, she wrote:

“Cyber insurance is not an exhaustive replacement for robust security capabilities, warns Niel Harper […] He explained that ransomware is so disruptive because of the extensive network of paid services it has spawned, such as access brokers, malware packing, phishing kits, hosting and infrastructure, anonymity and encryption, and hardware for sale… In addition, distribution networks include social network spam, instant messaging spam, exploit kit development, spam email distribution, and traffic distribution systems.”

The full article can be found at: https://bit.ly/3MMs71t

12 CISO Resolutions for 2022

At the beginning of January, my peers and I shared our security and privacy resolutions for 2022 with CSO Online. The full article can be found here on their website.

However, I wanted to further elaborate here on my plans for privacy and security across the enterprise this year.

I have a couple of resolutions for the upcoming year. Firstly, I want to focus more energy and resources on privacy and data. My second resolution is to refine and enhance the control framework around third-party risk management. In third place, but definitely not of lesser importance, is improving my enterprise’s protection against ransomware. The next resolution on my list is continuing to advocate the importance of email security to every business leader I meet; I am specifically referring to Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Sender Policy Framework (SPF). Finally, I want to gain more control over ‘shadow IT.’

With regards to privacy and data, it’s not only about responding to growing demands from GDPR and other national and regional privacy regulations. It’s just good practice to get a solid handle on where business-critical data assets reside and how this data moves inside and outside of your organization, ensuring that you have adequate and effective controls to prevent data leakage and privacy rights violations (and of course avoid fines). Over 55% of data breaches are now caused by a third-party, so ensuring that I have an efficient, standardized approach for assessing third party risk will most definitely reduce privacy and security exposures from vendors, services providers and even contractors. Ransomware continues to increase in terms of prevalence and severity, so a strong prevention and response strategy is key to operational, financial, and reputation risk reduction. Email security in some form has been around since the early 2000s, and yet less than 35% of companies have implemented DMARC, DKIM and SPF. The value of these technologies in combating brand impersonation, reputation damage, and phishing attacks can’t be emphasized enough. Shadow IT in basic terms means that you’ve lost control and visibility into your IT environment, and if you can’t account for IT assets, you can’t protect them.

My approach to privacy and data governance is premised on user/cultural awareness, end-to-end risk assessment, detailed records of processing activities, effective incident response, strong security controls, and building capabilities to integrate ‘privacy by design’into the CI/CD. I plan to move away from using spreadsheets and manual processes to manage third-party risks, and instead leverage best-of-breed software tools that analyze, track, and minimize risks arising from supply chain exposures. With ransomware, my objective is to incorporate identity and access governance, multi-factor authentication (MFA), advanced honeypots, endpoint detection and response (EDR), and multi-tiered backups (3-2-1 strategy) into a cohesive ransomware prevention strategy. As it pertains to email security, my focus is less about my own shop (we’re already there) and more about assisting my peers and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in properly setting up DMARC, DKIM, and SPF. Preventing shadow IT begins with enhancing usability and eliminating risky workarounds by removing the hindrances that foster them (i.e., being more agile in addressing discrete stakeholder requirements in close collaboration with the IT function).

Comments on the National Identity Management Systems Act (2021)

Dr. Ronnie Yearwood and Niel Harper recently collaborated to provide expert comments on the National Identity Management System Act (2021) just passed by the Government of Barbados. Given that this piece of legislation was quickly passed with no opportunities for public debate or feedback, we felt it necessary to articulate and ventilate some of our key concerns with the statute in its current form.

GENERAL COMMENTS

Disability and Accessibility

  • In line with the obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, there are no provisions in the Act for mandatory accessibility features in the digital ID and related services. As such, persons with disabilities may be excluded.

Oversight and Liability

  • There is no mention of a supervisory and oversight body that ensures the digital ID system is used for its intended purposes (to prevent abuse and misuse), to audit and certify the digital ID provider and third-party trust services, to address complaints, and ultimately provide redress.
  • There is no mention of the liability to be assumed by the government or trust services providers to ensure due diligence, transparency and accountability of their operations and services related to the digital ID. The digital ID service provider (Government) and trust services providers should be liable for damage caused to any natural or legal person due to failure to implement robust privacy and security controls or otherwise disadvantage individuals via the delivery of the digital ID system.

Breach notification

  • The Act does not speak to data breach notification and the relationship between this statute and the Data Protection Act (2019) which is critically important.  Furthermore, the Office of the Data Commissioner does not have the staffing or capabilities to oversee the various activities related to large scale data collection and processing.

Comprehensive digital ID ecosystem

  • The Act does not comprehensively cover electronic signatures, electronic seals, time stamps, electronic documents, and website authentication. The legal effect of the above needs to be clearly defined to avoid confusion. Existing practices, standards and legislation exist that can be built upon to address these matters which are integral to a functional digital ID system. Without those features, the Government will essentially be replacing the existing physical ID cards and not truly realizing the value of a digital ID ecosystem that delivers identity, authentication and trust services.

Interoperability

  • The Act does not speak to an interoperability framework that guarantees the digital ID system is built using open standards and can be seamlessly integrated into national and cross-border digital identity ecosystems.

SPECIFIC COMMENTS

Discrimination and equality before the law

Section 5 (9) “A person who is a visitor shall not be eligible for registration in the National Register unless that person is a person to whom subsection (1) applies.

(Section 5(1) covers persons, for example born in Barbados or citizens of Barbados who “shall be registered in the National Register.”)

  • The point is that a person who is a visitor to Barbados shall not be eligible for registration in the National Register unless section 5(1) applies.
  • Is it that only Barbadians and persons resident in Barbados must register to gain access to public services (see section 5(10)) regarding the fact that if you are not registered under the Act you cannot get a national registration number, cannot be added to the electoral register to vote, cannot obtain a permit to drive, or qualify to access any goods or services requiring presentation of the ID?
  • This looks somewhat discriminatory because the same requirement does not seem to be placed on foreigners for any access to services. I have not seen a reason for this proposed by the government.

(Also see section 12(1) reads: “A person who is issued an identification card may be required to produce his identification card (c) for the purpose of voting in an election in Barbados; (d) for the purpose of accessing goods or services provided by the Government or the private sector… and that identification card shall be prima facie evidence of the identity of the person shown on the identification card…”)

Voter’s rights, registration and identification

Section 5(10)(d) “A person who is not registered under this Act shall not qualify to be added to the register of electors or the revised register of electors prepared under the Representation of the People Act, Cap. 12

Section 34(1) An identification card authorised under section 25 of the Representation of the People Act, Cap. 12 or under the Statistics Act, Cap. 192 shall remain valid for a period of 12 months from the date of the commencement of this Act.

  • Therefore, section 34(1) provides that an ID card under the Representation of the People Act shall only remain valid for 12 months from the commencement of the new ID law. When has the Act been commenced?

Section 12(1)(c) “A person who is issued an identification card may be required to produce his identification card for the purpose of voting in an election in Barbados.”

  • This needs clarification as there should be more than one valid piece of identification to enable voters’ rights […]

To read the entire comments document, please click on this link.

You can also find a full copy of the ‘Barbados Identity Management Act’ here.

Cybersecurity pros are badly in need of MENTORS: And here’s why…

Finding and keeping cyber-talent is a top global concern for public- and private-sector organizations alike. Yet, the prevailing theory among industry analysts is that there is a talent crisis, with ‘experts’ predicting that by 2022 there will be more than 1.8 million unfilled jobs.

The above graphic highlights one of the industry’s most glaring shortcomings: Everyone wants to hire cybersecurity pros, but no one wants to develop, guide, instruct and enhance the career effectiveness of inexperienced/entry-level candidates. It’s a self-destructive, self-refuelling, self-fulfilling prophecy – And it NEEDS to STOP! We simply don’t have an assembly line of top-tier, experienced cyber pros to choose from.

So how do we develop the next generation of cybersecurity leaders? What are some of the individual actions veteran security leaders can take? How do we help those without the finances to obtain expensive security training and certifications? What role does the government have to play?

There are multiple dimensions to the institutionalisation of cyber capacity building. For example, there’s a national response and an enterprise response — and ideally the two should be coordinated (but most often are not).

There are established commercial training and certification programs, which can verify the capabilities of individuals. However, while these certifications can be used to get hired, organizations still have to continuously invest in their employees’ development. This is particular important given how rapidly the threat landscape changes.

From a national perspective, capabilities need to be developed to build trust in the online systems that underpin the digital economy. Part of building trust is creating a workforce of cyber pros to address key threats. Government should create a workforce development program as part of a national cybersecurity strategy, and it should address training at the college, university and professional certification levels.

But in the absence of such actions by corporations or countries, we cybersecurity leaders need to take up the charge. We need to commit to mentoring as many young professionals as we humanly can. It’s not only incumbent upon us to support their career progress, but also to give back to the profession as well as contribute to the overall trust model that underpins the global Internet. Let’s do our part!

6 Tips for Protecting Against Ransomware

The Internet Society has been closely monitoring the ransomware cyber-attacks that have been occurring over the last couple of days. The malware, which has gone by multiple names, including WannaCry, WannaDecryptor, and WannaCrypt, exploits a flaw in Microsoft Windows that was first reportedly discovered by the National Security Agency (NSA). A group of hackers leaked the code for exploiting this vulnerability earlier this year, and a fix or patch was available as far back as March 2017. Since Friday, 200,000 computers in 150 countries have been compromised using this exploit. The numbers are expected to grow exponentially as people settle back into their work routines and regular use of computer systems this week. As part of our continuing work in online trust and security, there are some key takeaways from this incident that we want to leave with our community.

Firstly, we want to highlight the extremely negative effects which government stockpiling of vulnerabilities and zero day attacks has on the overall security of the Internet. With over 60 countries known to be developing growing arsenals of cyber weapons, and with many of these exploits leaking into the public domain, the potential for widespread damage is a massive cause for concern. The impact is not only economic in terms of financial loss, but social in terms of how it impacts end user trust, and most importantly human in terms of loss of life (especially given that ransomware attacks have been focusing on hospitals). And with critical infrastructure like power plants, dams, and transportation systems being targeted in nation state cyber offensives, the threat to human life increases exponentially.

Secondly, it would appear that some hospitals are easy targets for ransomware attackers. Their systems house data that is critical to patient care and management, and many of these institutions don’t have the IT resources to support critical process areas like vulnerability management, patch management, business continuity management, etc. In general, hospitals are also now adapting to digital realities and a number of them are playing catchup with regards to cyber readiness. However, the aforementioned challenges are not unique to hospitals, and are faced by many small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and in several instances, large corporations. Individual users are also targeted based on their generally poor Internet hygiene or lack of security awareness.

We want to take this opportunity to emphasize the importance of good online security practices when accessing the Internet. So here are 6 basic tips for protecting against ransomware:

1. Employ strong, multi-layered endpoint security – Using endpoint security that can protect web browsing, control outbound traffic, protect system settings, proactively stop phishing attacks and continuously monitor for anomalous system behavior will allow for better protection of servers, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices.

2. Maintain regular backups of your critical data – Backups can help you to protect your data from more than just ransomware. Other risk events such as malware, theft, fire, flood or accidental deletion can all render your data unavailable. Be certain to encrypt your backed-up data so it can be effectively restored. Backups should also be stored at an offsite location isolated from the local network.

3. Do not open unsolicited emails or messages from unknown senders – Many ransomware variants are distributed through phishing attacks or email attachments. Increased mindfulness when handling ‘suspect’ emails can be effective in combating ransomware.

4. Patch your systems regularly – Patching your systems for vulnerabilities reduces the opportunities for hackers to infect you with ransomware. The fact that a patch was available for the WannaCrypt vulnerability since March highlights the somewhat lax attitude by organizations and individuals to keeping their system patches up to date. That being said, patch management is a complex activity and can impact the availability of key systems. Hence, thorough testing must be conducted to avoid unplanned downtime.

5. Disable macros if possible – Many forms of ransomware are distributed in Microsoft Office documents that attempt to trick users into enabling macros. There are a number of tools available that can limit to functionality of macros my preventing them from being enabled on files downloaded from the Internet.

6. Be aware and vigilant – For individuals, don’t assume that only techies need to know about all the recent malware and trends in online attacks. Subscribe to mailing lists that provide information on common vulnerabilities and exposures. In the case of organizations, developing an information security awareness program is an integral part of improving overall security posture.

Finally, we want to touch on the important work being done by the Online Trust Alliance (OTA), the Internet Society’s newest initiative. The OTA’s mission is to enhance online trust, user empowerment and innovation through convening multi-stakeholder initiatives, developing and promoting best practices, ethical privacy practices and data stewardship. With regards to preventing ransomware attacks, OTA has developed a number of industry best practices that address key threat areas such as email authentication and incident response. These are as follows:

Email Authentication: https://otalliance.org/resources/email-security

Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC):https://otalliance.org/dmarc

Cyber Incident & Breach Response: https://otalliance.org/resources/cyber-incident-breach-response

Additional OTA best practices, resources and guidance to help enhance online safety, data security, privacy and brand protection can be found here.

The Spam Toolkit developed by the Internet Society also provides some guidance on addressing online threats.

The Internet Society is committed to the enhancement of online trust, and our work along this vein spans multiple areas. Our goal is to continue to provide our individual members, organizational members, chapters, partners, and other constituents with timely and relevant information and resources that equip and empower them to act.

My original blog article was published on the Internet Society website at: http://bit.ly/2qMuQ4U