Ransomware: To Pay or Not to Pay? And… How Not to Pay!

I very much enjoyed this amazing panel discussion with the brilliant Larry Whiteside Jr. and the thoughtful and engaging Andrew Hay. I also have to mention the excellent moderation by James Coker.

We discussed a range of topics from ransomware trends to cyber insurance to holistic incident response/disaster recovery to public-private partnerships in support of better overall industry response to ransomware attacks.

I hope the audience participants had as great a time as I did.

Finally, I want to extend my humblest thanks to Infosecurity Magazine for inviting me to speak at their Online Summit!

The on-demand video of the session can be found here. Check it out!

Cloud Fundamentals Study Guide

The Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) just released the ‘Cloud Fundamentals Study Guide’ publication.

“The ‘Cloud Fundamentals Study Guide’ works through each aspect of cloud computing, its characteristics, common decision points, gaps and security vulnerabilities. It helps individuals prepare for the ISACA Fundamentals certificate exams, one of the components of the ISACA Certified in Emerging Technology certification program. I served as an Expert Reviewer on this project.

As a member of ISACA’s Emerging Technology Advisory Group, I served as an Expert Reviewer of this document.

I can’t fully explain the distinct pleasure that I derive from working with so many recognised and respected subject matter experts (SMEs) in the development of this type of content. We owe it to the next generation of IT risk management, audit & assurance, information security, and privacy professionals to provide them with the tools needed to aid their success. This is why we do what we do as ISACA volunteers!

You can access the ‘Cloud Fundamentals Study Guide’ through ISACA’s Bookstore.

Feature Address at the AFRALTI ‘Child Online Protection (COP) Virtual Workshop’

It was my distinct pleasure to be the featured speaker at today’s opening of AFRALTI’s ‘Child Online Protection (COP) Virtual Workshop.’

My presentation briefly touched on the importance of the following activities:

  1. Bringing multiple stakeholders together to create a safe and empowering online experience for children and young people
  2. Educating parents and educators to keep children safe online
  3. Ensuring that policymakers elaborate a legal framework that is adaptive, inclusive, and fit for purpose with regards to a fast-changing digital age to protect children online
  4. Ensuring that ICT and online industries understand their shared responsibility for securing cyberspace and commit to action

Based in Nairobi (Kenya), African Advanced Level Telecommunications Institute (AFRALTI) is an Inter-Governmental Institute established in 1991 to supplement and spearhead ICT development efforts mainly in English-speaking Africa. Currently the member States that have ratified the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) include Lesotho, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Kingdom of Eswatini, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe, out of the 23 eligible members.

Incoming ISACA Board Features Experienced Leaders, Diverse Backgrounds

Deeply humbled to have been elected to the incoming Board of Directors for the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA).

The organisation has been instrumental in my career development and success, and I am looking forward to collaborating with this brilliant group of professionals and serving the dynamic and diverse ISACA community.

You can view the official announcement here: https://bit.ly/2QkW5S6

No More Obscurity

With revenues of $36 billion in 2018, the global video surveillance market is growing exponentially, allowing for every mundane activity to be captured and made publicly accessible. Acclaimed artist Xu Bing reviewed thousands of hours of online surveillance videos and transformed this journey into a story about (in)visibility and today’s culture of permanent exposure.

I joined Xu Bing and Jennifer Lyn Morone in a panel discussion titled ‘No More Obscurity’ at the World Economic Forum 2019 Annual Meeting for New Champions (Summer Davos) in Dalian, China.

Using Xu Bing’s story as a backdrop, we discussed the impact of online surveillance on individual privacy and society as a whole in terms of pervasive monitoring.

What the Government of Barbados Needs to Do to Get Fintech Right

There’s a common misconception that IT governance, risk and control (GRC) professionals like myself impose unreasonable demands on those trying to innovate and deliver human, social and economic benefits to society. But this is the furthest thing from the truth – our role is to ensure that those who are delivering technological solutions understand the risks and impacts associated with their IT platforms, and mitigate them in an adequate, effective, and sustainable manner.

The aforementioned point is key as I will go on to explore the privacy, security, and socio-economic implications of two recent announcements by the Government of Barbados pertaining to the implementation of Blockchain-related technology in the country. In a September 19th article titled ‘E-currency pilot coming’, it was stated that Prime Minister Mia Mottley “did not give details of the planned mobile wallet pilot project or when it would begin but gave the assurance that it would not be done in a reckless manner.” Barbados Today published an article on September 25th which stated ‘BSE to begin crypto-trading’, essentially heralding the decision of the Barbados Stock Exchange to trade in security tokens or crypto assets.

Given my intimate knowledge of privacy and security weaknesses in both the public and private sectors, the PM’s words do not instill in me any great confidence around the robustness of the security controls that will accompany these projects. The implementation of e-currency is a complex undertaking, that if not done correctly, can have a material impact on the country’s already weakened economic position. Security tokens are an extremely nascent solution with a lot of potential, but that doesn’t exempt them from security and privacy deficiencies. As such, I want to delve into some of the key areas that must be addressed before these solutions are widely deployed across our beloved nation.

Contract management and due diligence

Before any contracts are signed to commence these projects, the government must understand where personal data of Barbadian citizens will be stored. To provision users onto these platforms, personal data will need to be collected for AML and KYC purposes such as name, address, phone number, driver’s license, passport details, etc.

If the data is stored outside of Barbados, the privacy of Bajans may not be safeguarded as it will be subject to the laws and regulations of the jurisdiction in which the data resides (meaning that the legislation of a foreign country could permit them access to any and all data kept on Barbadian citizens). This is particularly concerning given the absence of data protection legislation in Barbados that would force any fintech company to ensure that transnational data flows must only occur where the destination country has an adequate legal framework in place to protect the rights of data subjects.

The lack of data protection legislation presents another problem in terms of imposing strict obligations on fintech providers to uphold the rights of data subjects. This includes setting requirements and fines for both data controllers and data processors as it pertains to protecting personal and sensitive data, obtaining consent to share personal/sensitive data, reporting data breaches to government and data subjects, among other rules. Hence, it would be in the best interests of Barbados citizens and foreign nationals if the 2018 Data Protection Bill was enacted into law before the launch of the new platforms.

In an ideal situation, the government should obtain 2-3 references from previous instances where the contracted parties have deployed solutions of this kind for other customers. However, it appears that Barbados will be the first country where the vendor will be deploying a ‘true’ e-currency platform, thus making the need for strong controls even more critical. As it pertains to tokenized securities, similar due diligence must be undertaken to protect our citizens.

The government must ensure that a qualified and independent security professional conducts a site visit to the vendors’ IT facilities to undertake a thorough assessment of their security controls. If this cannot be done, the vendor should be required to furnish government with a signed attestation from an independent and qualified third party that the IT facilities meet all the necessary best practice security requirements (e.g. physical security, grounding and lightning protection, environment monitoring, generators, etc.). Additionally, there should be a “right to audit” clause in the contract that allows the government to turn up at the vendors’ IT facilities at any time to conduct a security assessment.

The vendors’ financial statements should be reviewed by an independent auditing firm such as PwC, EY or Deloitte to ensure that they are in good standing and that they are able to remain going concerns for the foreseeable future. The viability of their business models should also be assessed as ‘feasible’. This would protect the country and its citizens from being left at the mercy of fintech service providers whose platforms enjoy massive uptake and integration into the socio-economic fabric of the country, and then they are quickly no longer in business.

With regards to PwC, EY, Deloitte, and other accounting firms (or any qualified professional services firm as a matter of fact), government should enlist one of them to have experienced IT auditors assigned full-time to both projects. This would ensure that IT governance, risk and control processes are embedded throughout the project lifecycles and don’t become an afterthought.

Another area of due diligence is assessment of the team who will be delivering and supporting the solutions. The government must obtain assurance that the right mix of skills is available to deliver and provide ongoing support for high performance, scalable and secure fintech platforms. Along with the technical positions, key roles that should be in place are Internal Audit (assurance), Privacy (compliance) and Information Security (availability, integrity and confidentiality).

Finally, a software escrow agreement that allows government access to the vendor’s proprietary code in the event they go out of business should be put into place […]

To view the remaining guidance on Technical Architecture, Deployment & Support, and Monitoring & Evaluation, you can read the entire blog here.

ICT PULSE: Cyber Threats and Security in the Caribbean 2016 Update – Interview with Niel Harper

cyber security

ICT Pulse: Niel, it has been two years since our last Expert Insights Series, give us a quick recap of what have been the most prevalent incidents in Barbados and/or in the Caribbean region since 2014?

Niel Harper: Over the last 2 years, various government web sites in Barbados have been compromised and defaced by hackers. Websites included the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS), Barbados Stock Exchange (BSE), Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), Royal Barbados Police Force, and the Barbados Supreme Court, to name a few. Private websites such as the Barbados Advocate were hacked as well. There are still no data protection laws in the country, so due to absence of mandatory breach notifications, the few reported incidents are only the tip of the iceberg.

The prevalence of ATM skimming attacks have also increased. However, because the marketplace is dominated by mostly Canadian banks, Sarbanes-Oxley regulatory requirements have led to stronger controls, and many of the skimming attacks have resulted in arrests.

In the wider Caribbean, there have been similar trends of government websites being compromised. A number of organizations in St. Vincent, Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis and other countries have been subject to malicious online attacks. One of the major commonalities across the region is that organizations with limited resources and untrained personnel have been the targets of successful attacks. This is a key reason why capacity building is critical to improving the region’s overall cyber response capabilities.

ICTP: How has the threat landscape changed over the past two years? Are there any particular areas of concern that you have for Caribbean organizations?

NH: The smartphone footprint continues to grow and with it the attack surface of mobile devices. That being said, many device manufacturers are focusing their efforts on enhanced security as a product differentiator. Still, end user education is necessary as an additional layer of protection against malicious threats.

Given the increased hardening of operating systems and applications, attackers are focusing on areas lower down the ‘stack’ such as BIOS, firmware, and graphics chipsets. Controls such as boot security, trusted execution, and active memory protecting are making these attacks more difficult, but I expect these types of threat vectors to increase.

Newer technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things), M2M (machine-to-machine) communication, Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), and Software Defined Networks (SDN) are growing in terms of their deployment base. But this also introduces significant challenges in terms of security: single points of failure, open source software, and complexity. The fact that commonly used items such as televisions, refrigerators, and even automobiles, are now accessible through the Internet has vastly changed the threat landscape, and should force manufacturers and end users alike to focus more on cybersecurity.

The explosion of cloud computing, the increasing popularity of crypto-currencies, and the emergence of mobile payments (e.g. Apple Pay, Google Wallet, etc.) are also areas for concern with regard to an expanding threat surface.

All of these areas are of particular concerns for Caribbean organizations, especially those who are seeking to be on the cutting edge […]

The entire interview can be found on the ICT Pulse website at: http://bit.ly/1T9iMQv

Navigating the cloud: SMEs and cloud services

Cloud-Computing-cap
More and more small businesses are migrating to the cloud and reaping significant benefits like never before. With cloud services, small businesses no longer need to install physical infrastructure like e-mail servers and storage systems, or purchase software applications with exorbitant annual license fees. The “on-demand” availability of cloud solutions means seamless and simple collaboration with customers, business partners, and staff members using nothing more than a web browser. Cloud services also provide entrepreneurs and home-based businesses with access to advanced technology without the requirement to hire a full-time IT specialist.

But what exactly is this “cloud”?

Cloud computing is an overarching term which encompasses a number of different categories. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is where a particular application or service is provided to a business or individual as a subscription. Google Drive, QuickBooks Online Plus, and BaseCamp are all popular examples of SaaS.

Using Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), businesses are provided with a platform on which they can build, install, and maintain customized apps, databases and integrated business unit services. Widely used PaaS include Windows Azure, SharePoint Online, and Google App Engine.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) allows businesses to outsource infrastructure in the form of virtual resources. Components include servers, storage, networking and more. IaaS providers include Rackspace, HP Converged Infrastructure, and Amazon Web Services.

Most small businesses generally don’t need much more than SaaS to meet their operational needs. SaaS provides them with the capabilities to deliver a myriad of IT services that would otherwise be expensive and resource intensive to administer as localized, on-site solutions.

It must however be emphasized that cloud services bring with them a number of security, stability, and data control issues. That is why it is critically important that small businesses stay informed and strictly require that cloud providers furnish them with detailed business continuity plans and security controls to remediate outages and protect sensitive data.

What to do when your cloud brings the rain?

There are a plethora of reasons why cloud computing is popular. It gives small businesses the technology that enables them to be lean, agile, and competitive. But as is quite evident, trusting your information assets to a single entity whose equipment is stored in a centralized location, means that you’re extremely vulnerable to whatever outages, security compromises, or natural disasters that they are exposed to.

So what are small business owners to do? Here are some recommendations that can allow you to better manage the risks associated with cloud providers.

Fine Tune Your SLA: Service level agreements (SLA) should codify the exact parameters and minimum levels of service required by the business, as well as compensation when those service levels are not met. It should assert the ownership of the business’ data stored on the cloud platform, and outline all rights to retaining ownership. It should include the infrastructure and security standards to be adhered to, along with a right to audit for compliance. It should also specify the cost and rights around continuing/discontinuing use of the cloud service.

Keep Critical Data Local: Decide which business processes require maximum uptime, and keep them on-site. Avoiding the cloud totally for specific mission-critical applications, small businesses can minimize data unavailability as well as security and privacy issues. Most definitely some businesses have regulatory requirements to meet, and this ought to be a key consideration when deciding not to ship your data offshore.

Two-Factor Authentication: More and more providers are offering two-factor authentication (2FA) as a means of securing access to cloud services. Two-factor authentication adds a second layer of authentication to user logon credentials. When you have to enter only your username and one password, that’s considered as single-factor authentication. 2FA mandates that users have 2 out of 3 types of credentials before access to cloud resources are granted.

Deploy A Hybrid Configuration: Maintaining a hybrid implementation of cloud and local services is a best practice approach for protecting company data. Replication or archiving solutions often deliver a service with both a local appliance at the customer’s premises and cloud storage too. This type of on-premise-to-cloud replication strategy ensures that you have local copies of the data you transmit to the cloud. Actively seek out cloud providers that can configure this kind of scenario.

Availability, integrity and confidentiality issues will always exist when using IT systems. And when a business employs cloud-based computing, these challenges are even more pronounced. Be extremely meticulous when searching for cloud providers, and question them about their security controls and disaster recovery options. Even though you outsource the processing of your business data; there’s no reason why you should lose control.

The Real Privacy Problem

As more and more corporations and governments collect and analyze ever increasing amounts of data about our lives and our activities, it’s appealing to react by creating more privacy-related legislation or arrangements that pay individuals for use of their personal data sets. Instead, this article by Evgeny Morozov (the author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom) suggests that what is needed is a civic-minded response, because democracy is at risk.

http://tinyurl.com/kszqg4k

Locked Up for Linking? US Journalist Faces Prosecution

I have watched with great interest the developments over the course of the last 3-6 months as it pertains to widespread surveillance of Internet users by government agencies. While the NSA surveillance program has been the most publicized, there are reasons to believe that China, India, Pakistan, Russia, Australia and others are conducting similar activities.

One of the things that concerns me most is the double talk coming from most of these countries about “promoting the values and importance of online privacy in the context of basic human rights”. A bad precedent has been set. Let’s just accept this as the reality of things. And unfortunately, this precedent is eating away at some of the basic precepts of Internet growth — trust, openness and user-focused development.

And as you can see from this article, the government actions over the last couple of months has opened a Pandora’s Box in terms of the individual’s right to information, freedom of the press, personal privacy, etc. The implications for the future of the Internet are grave. Let’s just hope that the system is as resilient to political and ideological threats as it is to technological ones.

http://tinyurl.com/pldvwuw