Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

9/24/2019
02:00 PM
Kayne McGladrey
Kayne McGladrey
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
50%
50%

4 Cybersecurity Best Practices for Electrical Engineers

Most electrical engineering firms are targeted by threat actors of opportunity because of two necessary ingredients: people and computers. These four tips will help keep you safer.

Threat actors have increased their focus on supply chain attacks since 2017, with 73% of engineering firms reporting a supply chain attack in 2018. In the first quarter of 2019, Operation Shadowhammer was revealed to have compromised the software update mechanism of a major PC manufacturer. According to eSentire, 44% of firms have suffered a significant supply chain breach through a vendor.

These high-profile breaches have either been used to deploy ransomware or steal the intellectual property produced by engineers. As engineers create and access intellectual property such as CAD designs or manufacturing data, achieving persistence in an engineering firm gives a threat actor unparalleled insight into upcoming product designs and manufacturing processes.

Much of the media focus has been on the financial damage from supply chain breaches, the nation-state actors behind the breaches, and the ill-defined "supply chain" itself. But surprisingly, despite the overheated media coverage, most electrical engineering (EE) firms are not the targets of a bear, kitten, or panda, which are frequently cited as advanced persistent threat groups behind the attacks. Most EE firms are targeted by threat actors of opportunity because they have two necessary ingredients: people and computers. This article lays out four best practices for individual EEs to help protect their firms.

1. Don't Click That Link NOW NOW NOW
Threat actors base phishing emails on two primary motivations: fear or wanting to be helpful. A staggering majority of breaches are traced back to someone who has clicked a link that arrived by email. Whether it was from the "IT Depirtment" about a password reset or an unexpected invoice that's suddenly due tomorrow, threat actors want you to panic and act irrationally. The best practice before replying to or clicking a link in an email is to take a minute. Get a coffee. That intentional pause will give you the ability to think clearly and unemotionally before responding or clicking. Because mobile screens make it difficult to determine where a link goes without clicking it, you might have to wait to take action until you get to a bigger screen. And if it is a suspicious email, send it to your security department so that it can spot larger trends.

2. Stop Using the Same Password
The second way that threat actors compromise EE firms is weak passwords. This goes beyond them guessing your Windows password; the password you're using to access your printed circuit board design software can be more of a risk because threat actors can then access your work. If you're not using a password manager, pick one and start using it. Then ask your management team to consider getting everyone in the firm a password manager. It's a minimal cost to reduce a massive threat.

3. Let Your IT Team Install Updates
The third way that threat actors break into companies is by attacking old and out-of-date software. This can be both run-of-the-mill software but also discipline-specific software. This is a particularly thorny issue because often the supply chain depends on everyone using the same version of a software package. However, the longer a piece of software has been around, the longer threat actors have had time to break it. So, if your IT team asks you to reboot your computer and you aren't working on a critical deadline, schedule the time to reboot. If you are working on a critical deadline, let them know and ask for a short exception.

4. Check in Your Work Regularly
Successful cyberattacks frequently depend on destroying or encrypting files on a user's workstation, hoping there are no backup systems in place. By checking in your work regularly, you'll make it easier for your project team to stay up to date, upgrades will be easier, and you'll be helping to defend your company against dangerous cyber weapons.

Following these best practices individually will help manage the risk of a cyberattack, and following these as a team will further reduce the risks. If you have an opportunity to talk to your security team or chief information security officer, ask them what else you can do to help. They'll appreciate your having asked as security is a team sport.

Related Content:

Check out The Edge, Dark Reading's new section for features, threat data, and in-depth perspectives. Today's top story: "'Playing Around' with Code Keeps Security, DevOps Skills Sharp."

Kayne McGladrey is a national cybersecurity expert, IEEE member, and the Director of Security & IT at Pensar Development. He has 20-plus years of experience blending information technology and management acumen to cultivate and build cybersecurity best practices. View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
NSA Appoints Rob Joyce as Cyber Director
Dark Reading Staff 1/15/2021
Vulnerability Management Has a Data Problem
Tal Morgenstern, Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer, Vulcan Cyber,  1/14/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This is not what I meant by "I would like to share some desk space"
Current Issue
2020: The Year in Security
Download this Tech Digest for a look at the biggest security stories that - so far - have shaped a very strange and stressful year.
Flash Poll
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
COVID-19 has created a new IT paradigm in the enterprise -- and a new level of cybersecurity risk. This report offers a look at how enterprises are assessing and managing cyber-risk under the new normal.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-27221
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-21
In Eclipse OpenJ9 up to version 0.23, there is potential for a stack-based buffer overflow when the virtual machine or JNI natives are converting from UTF-8 characters to platform encoding.
CVE-2021-1067
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-20
NVIDIA SHIELD TV, all versions prior to 8.2.2, contains a vulnerability in the implementation of the RPMB command status, in which an attacker can write to the Write Protect Configuration Block, which may lead to denial of service or escalation of privileges.
CVE-2021-1068
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-20
NVIDIA SHIELD TV, all versions prior to 8.2.2, contains a vulnerability in the NVDEC component, in which an attacker can read from or write to a memory location that is outside the intended boundary of the buffer, which may lead to denial of service or escalation of privileges.
CVE-2021-1069
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-20
NVIDIA SHIELD TV, all versions prior to 8.2.2, contains a vulnerability in the NVHost function, which may lead to abnormal reboot due to a null pointer reference, causing data loss.
CVE-2020-26252
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-20
OpenMage is a community-driven alternative to Magento CE. In OpenMage before versions 19.4.10 and 20.0.6, there is a vulnerability which enables remote code execution. In affected versions an administrator with permission to update product data to be able to store an executable file on the server ...