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

6/25/2019
02:00 PM
Todd Weller
Todd Weller
Commentary
50%
50%

How to Avoid Becoming the Next Riviera Beach

Be prepared by following these five steps so you don't have to pay a ransom to get your data back.

On May 30, Dark Reading posted my column, "The Ransomware Dilemma: What if Your Local Government Is Next?" The article came on the heels of the ransomware attack on Baltimore's government and that city's decision not to pay the ransom. The article discussed the moral-versus-practical dilemma of paying ransoms. In short, the moral view is to not pay because it reinforces bad behavior. The practical view is that paying the ransom is the right move because this ultimately dwarfs the costs of not paying and is often the quickest path to restoring access to your data.

We get to revisit this debate again with the news that the city council for Riviera Beach, Florida, voted unanimously to pay the ransom of $600,000, or 65 bitcoin. In this case, it appears there was little debate about what to do because the city board voted unanimously to authorize its insurer to pay the ransom. According to The Palm Beach Post, "Without discussion on the merits, the board tackled the agenda item in two minutes, voted and moved on." Multiple media reports also indicated the city council believed it had no choice if it wanted to regain access to lost data.The city's outside security consultants recommended they pay the ransom and the city's insurance provider negotiated with the attackers.

In this case, it doesn't appear it's worth debating whether to pay or not to pay because the conclusion the city council and their advisers made was there wasn't a choice if they wanted to regain access to their data. So, let's shift the focus to what local government organizations can do to make sure they are in a position to have a choice.

Step 1: Ensure a Proper Cyber Mindset
If it's not clear by now, it should be: Attackers are focused on local governments as attractive ransomware targets. Local governments are viewed as soft targets because of constrained IT budgets and staff. This results in many government organizations operating on antiquated IT infrastructure, which has a higher risk profile than current technologies. Therefore, local government organizations must adopt a mindset of "it's not if, it's when" and to think in terms of cyber resilience. That is, "When I get attacked, how can I recover rapidly and with minimal disruption?"

Step 2: Do the Basics
We hear a lot about how local government organizations don't have the resources they need or want, and that's true. However, that isn't an excuse for not doing the basics. Patching your systems on a timely basis can reduce your attack surface. Please, please, please back up your data. There is no excuse for not backing up your data, and it's the only 100% effective mitigator against ransomware risk. In the case of Riviera Beach, if the city had no choice but to pay the ransom to get its data back, this suggests it didn't have a proper data backup strategy in place. An effective backup strategy includes identifying what data needs to be backed up and setting a backup frequency that makes sense based on the criticality of the data. Patching and backing up data should be at the top of your priority list.

Step 3: Use and Share Threat Intelligence
Today's threat landscape requires a broad view of threat actor activity. The days of relying on the intelligence in your exiting security controls are in the rearview mirror. There is a perception that threat intelligence is beyond the scope of local government organizations; however, this isn't the case anymore. An easy first step is to become part your industry threat sharing community, which in the case of local governments is the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) and the Elections Infrastructure ISAC.

Step 4: If You Don't Have Cyber Insurance, Get It
Cyberattacks are going to happen. Given that, there's no excuse not to have cyber insurance as a way to mitigate the financial costs of recovering from a cyberattack. Also, when you buy cyber insurance or if you already have it, make sure you take advantage of all the benefits you get with your policy. For example, many cyber insurance providers provide a range of complimentary cyber protection technologies and services as a component of their cyber insurance policies.

Step 5: Accelerate Your Move to the Cloud
In the private sector, there is no longer debate about the security of the cloud. Organizations are accelerating their move to the cloud, shifting IT infrastructure to cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google, and increasing their use of software-as-a-service. Cloud-based backup services are also heavily used today (hint, hint). Increasing the use of cloud computing is an excellent way for resource constrained government organizations to reduce cyber-risk, ensure your IT is operating on a modern infrastructure, and reduce costs. With the cloud, the cybersecurity responsibility for the infrastructure shifts to the cloud provider. I don't think it's a leap to suggest that cloud providers like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have more security resources than local government organizations do. It's important to note that moving to the cloud does not shift all of the security burden to the cloud providers. Security in the cloud is a shared model, so while infrastructure security is handled by the provider, it's still your responsibility to secure your applications and data.

Related Content:

Todd Weller, Chief Strategy Officer at Bandura Cyber, works with organizations of all sizes to improve their ability to use, operationalize, and take action with threat intelligence.  He brings over 20 years of cybersecurity industry experience with a unique blend ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
tdsan
50%
50%
tdsan,
User Rank: Ninja
6/29/2019 | 9:16:56 PM
Great points, I do agree
Quote - An easy first step is to become part your industry threat sharing community, which in the case of local governments is the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) and the Elections Infrastructure ISAC
  • I did not know this existed, very good. I will be reviewing this information found on the site, good to know.
It's important to note that moving to the cloud does not shift all of the security burden to the cloud providers. Security in the cloud is a shared model, so while infrastructure security is handled by the provider, it's still your responsibility to secure your applications and data.
  •  That's not entirely true, it depends on the model you are using and the contract agreement. If you are using a SaaS model (i.e. O365), then it is up to the vendor to secure the infrastructure and the data. If it is a IaaS, then yes you are correct, it is your responsibility to secure apps/data.
 There is no excuse for not backing up your data, and it's the only 100% effective mitigator against ransomware risk.
  •  Also, one that maybe missing is implementing a DR strategy and design methodology when it comes to data recovery, this can be set to 2hr RPO from the time of the incident to bring the data back to its normal state



But for the most part, this write-up covered a number of challenges most organizations will have to implement in order to have an effective recovery strategy.

Todd S
Enterprise Architect
ITOTS Networks, LLC
US Turning Up the Heat on North Korea's Cyber Threat Operations
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  9/16/2019
Preventing PTSD and Burnout for Cybersecurity Professionals
Craig Hinkley, CEO, WhiteHat Security,  9/16/2019
NetCAT Vulnerability Is Out of the Bag
Dark Reading Staff 9/12/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
7 Threats & Disruptive Forces Changing the Face of Cybersecurity
This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at the biggest emerging threats and disruptive forces that are changing the face of cybersecurity today.
Flash Poll
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
Your enterprise's cyber risk may depend upon the relationship between the IT team and the security team. Heres some insight on what's working and what isn't in the data center.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-16413
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-19
An issue was discovered in the Linux kernel before 5.0.4. The 9p filesystem did not protect i_size_write() properly, which causes an i_size_read() infinite loop and denial of service on SMP systems.
CVE-2019-3738
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-18
RSA BSAFE Crypto-J versions prior to 6.2.5 are vulnerable to an Improper Verification of Cryptographic Signature vulnerability. A malicious remote attacker could potentially exploit this vulnerability to coerce two parties into computing the same predictable shared key.
CVE-2019-3739
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-18
RSA BSAFE Crypto-J versions prior to 6.2.5 are vulnerable to Information Exposure Through Timing Discrepancy vulnerabilities during ECDSA key generation. A malicious remote attacker could potentially exploit those vulnerabilities to recover ECDSA keys.
CVE-2019-3740
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-18
RSA BSAFE Crypto-J versions prior to 6.2.5 are vulnerable to an Information Exposure Through Timing Discrepancy vulnerabilities during DSA key generation. A malicious remote attacker could potentially exploit those vulnerabilities to recover DSA keys.
CVE-2019-3756
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-18
RSA Archer, versions prior to 6.6 P3 (6.6.0.3), contain an information disclosure vulnerability. Information relating to the backend database gets disclosed to low-privileged RSA Archer users' UI under certain error conditions.