Daily Tech Digest - January 25, 2021

DDoS Attackers Revive Old Campaigns to Extort Ransom

Radware's researchers say the tactics recently observed with the attacks launched by this particular group indicate a fundamental change in how it operates. Previously, the operators would target a company or industry for a few weeks and then move on. The 2020-2021 global ransom DDoS campaign represents a strategic shift from these tactics. DDoS extortion has now become an integral part of the threat landscape for organizations across nearly every industry since the middle of 2020," the report states. The other major change spotted is this threat group is no longer shy about returning to targets that initially ignored their attack or threat, with Radware saying companies that were targeted last year could expect another letter and attack in the coming months. "We asked for 10 bitcoin to be paid at (bitcoin address) to avoid getting your whole network DDoSed. It's a long time overdue and we did not receive payment. Why? What is wrong? Do you think you can mitigate our attacks? Do you think that it was a prank or that we will just give up? In any case, you are wrong," the second letter says, according to Radware. "The perseverance, size and duration of the attack makes us believe that this group has either been successful in receiving payments or they have extensive financial resources to continue their attacks," the report states.

Five Reasons You Shouldn't Reproduce Issues in Remote Environments

When attempting to reproduce an issue across multiple environments, one area that teams must have solid processes around is test data management. Test data can be critical in the reproduction of bugs in that if you don’t have the right test data in your environment, the bug may not be reproducible. Due to the sheer size of production data sets, teams must often work with subsets of that data across test environments. The holy grail of test data management processes is to allow teams to easily quickly subset production data based on the data needed to reproduce an issue. In practice, things don’t always work out so easily. It’s hard to know what attributes of your test data may be influencing a specific bug. In addition, data security when dealing with PII data can be a major challenge when subsets of data are used across environments. Teams need to ensure that they are in compliance with corporate data privacy standards by masking or generating new relevant data sets. Many times it takes lots of logging and hands on investigation to uncover how data discrepancies can cause those hard to find bugs. If you cannot easily manage and set up test data on demand, teams will suffer the consequences when it comes to trying to reproduce bugs in remote environments.

AI ethics: Learn the basics in this free online course

If you are interested, an excellent place to start might be the free online course The Ethics of AI, offered by the University of Helsinki in partnership with "public sector authorities" in Finland, the Netherlands, and the UK. Anna-Mari Rusanen, a university lecturer in cognitive science at the University of Helsinki and course coordinator, explains why the group developed the course: "In recent years, algorithms have profoundly impacted societies, businesses, and us as individuals. This raises ethical and legal concerns. Although there is a consensus on the importance of ethical evaluation, it is often the case that people do not know what the ethical aspects are, or what questions to ask." Rusanen continues, "These questions include how our data is used, who is responsible for decisions made by computers, and whether, say, facial recognition systems are used in a way that acknowledges human rights. In a broader sense, it's also about how we wish to utilize advancing technical solutions." The course, according to Rusanen, provides basic concepts and cognitive tools for people interested in learning more about the societal and ethical aspects of AI. "Given the interdisciplinary background of the team, we were able to handle many of the topics in a multidisciplinary way," explains Rusanen.

Zero trust: A solution to many cybersecurity problems

CISOs of organizations that have been hit by the attackers are now mulling over how to make sure that they’ve eradicated the attackers’ presence from their networks, and those with very little risk tolerance may decide to “burn down” their network and rebuild it. Whichever decision they end up making, Touhill believes that implementing a zero trust security model across their enterprise is essential to better protect their data, their reputation, and their mission against all types of attackers. And, though a good start, this should be followed by the implementation of the best modern security technologies, such as software defined perimeter (SDP), single packet authorization (SPA), microsegmentation, DMARC (for email), identity and access management (IDAM), and others. SDP, for example, is an effective, efficient, and secure technology for secure remote access, which became one of the top challenges organizations have been faced with due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive pivot from the traditional office environment to a work-from-anywhere environment. Virtual private network (VPN) technology, which was the initial go-to tech for secure remote access for many organizations, is over twenty years old and, from a security standpoint, very brittle, he says.

Comparing Different AI Approaches to Email Security

Supervised machine learning involves harnessing an extremely large data set with thousands or millions of emails. Once these emails have come through, an AI is trained to look for common patterns in malicious emails. The system then updates its models, rules set, and blacklists based on that data. This method certainly represents an improvement to traditional rules and signatures, but it does not escape the fact that it is still reactive and unable to stop new attack infrastructure or new types of email attacks. It is simply automating that flawed, traditional approach – only, instead of having a human update the rules and signatures, a machine is updating them instead. Relying on this approach alone has one basic but critical flaw: It does not enable you to stop new types of attacks it has never seen before. It accepts there has to be a "patient zero" – or first victim – in order to succeed. The industry is beginning to acknowledge the challenges with this approach, and huge amounts of resources – both automated systems and security researchers – are being thrown into minimizing its limitations. This includes leveraging a technique called "data augmentation," which involves taking a malicious email that slipped through and generating many "training samples" using open source text augmentation libraries to create "similar" emails.

Why Is Agile Methods Literacy Key To AI Competency Enablement?

First, quality AI is a highly iterative experimentation, design, build and review process. Organizations that are aspiring to build strong AI and data sciences competency centers will flounder if their core cultures are not building agile skills into all operating functions, from top to bottom. Given the incredible speed and uncertainties of everything becoming more digital and smarter, the imperative for all talent to continually adapt, reflect, and make decisions based on new information is a business imperative. Leaders do not have the luxury to procrastinate too long before acting on the new insights, and making decisions with confidence. Some times, cultures can build a capacity for inaction versus action oriented behavior. Agile leadership demands rapid precision, involving diverse stakeholders, which in turn, yields more positive change dynamics (momentum) and more importantly innovation capacity grows as a result of this energy force. In a recent Harvard article, the authors pointed out that, “If people lack the right mindset to change and the current organizational practices are flawed, digital transformation will simply magnify those flaws.” Truly agile organizations are able to capitalize on new information and make the next move because they have what we call the capacity to act.

10 ways to prep for (and ace) a security job interview

Hiring managers typically look for strong technical skills and specific cybersecurity experience in the candidates they want to interview, particularly for candidates filling entry- and mid-level positions within enterprise security. But managers use interviews to determine how well candidates can apply those skills and, more specifically, whether candidates can apply those skills to support the broader objectives of the organization, says Sounil Yu, CISO-in-resident at YL Ventures. As such, Yu says he and others look for “T-shaped individuals”—those with deep expertise in one area but with general knowledge across the broader areas of business. The candidates who get job offers are those who have, and demonstrate, both. “Security is a multidisciplinary problem, so that depth is an important asset,” Yu adds. Candidates love to say they’re passionate about security, but many can’t figure out how to showcase it. Those who can, however, stand out. Yu once interviewed a candidate via video and could see a server rack in the background of this person’s home office. “He clearly liked tinkering outside of work. You could see that he had tech skills and a passion for them and a drive to learn about new technologies,” Yu says. 

The changing role of IT & security – navigating remote work cybersecurity threats

The move to remote working and the complication of multiple devices and locations is also raising the important questions related to software licensing. Are you licensed for the apps that people are using at home, or are you licensed on their computer in the office and on their computer at home? Several businesses are now having to buy thousands of additional software licenses so that employees can work on more than one computer, at a time when cost optimisation is extremely important. One of the related threats to businesses is running afoul of regulatory data privacy protections like GDPR and CCPA, among others. Given the current state of things, it is unlikely that a regulator would currently be hunting for companies that might be improperly managing employee and customer data. It appears regulators are largely being more lenient at this stage while companies are busy just trying to survive. Whilst it is reasonably to consider that, for a time, this will continue, there will come a time when we see a return to enforcement and, in the meantime, there is no guarantee that regulators will not review issues that come up as a result of a data breach or loss. It’s always important to reinforce the best security practices to your workforce, but it is especially important when your employees are out of their normal routines.

Weighing Doubts of Transformation in the Face of the Future

You don’t have to [change], but you will be left behind. Seventy-four percent of CEOs believe that their talent force and organization need to be a digitally transformed organization, yet they feel like only 17% of their talent is capable and ready to do that. That gap is glaring. That’s coming from the tops of organizations and businesses. The first mover advantage has kind of passed already. Now we’re getting into the phase of cloud migration and the concept of everything-as-a-service. Digital transformation is easier to attain. You don’t have to be the first mover or early adopter. The companies that help you live, work, and play inside your home were pretty resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tech, media, and fitness companies like NordicTrack and Peloton that helped you stay inside your house, they were the ones that needed to transform digitally immediately to deal with the significant increase in demand along with significant supply chain challenges. Now we are seeing other industries that saw a bit of a pause during COVID -- consumer, travel, entertainment, energy -- those businesses are seeing or expecting this uptick in the summer travel period, the pent-up demand of Americans. Interest rates are very low, and they haven’t been able to spend [as much] money for the last 12 to 18 months by the time the summer comes around.

Good News: Cryptocurrency-Enabled Crime Took a Dive in 2020

While the total cryptocurrency funds received by illicit entities declined in 2020, Chainalysis reports, criminals continue to love cryptocurrency - with bitcoin still dominating - because using pseudonymizing digital currencies gives them a way to easily receive funds from victims. Cryptocurrency also supports darknet market transactions, with many markets offering escrow services to help protect buyers and sellers against fraud. Using cryptocurrency, criminals can access a variety of products and services, such as copies of malware or hacking tools, complete sets of credit card details known as fullz, and tumbling or mixing services, which are provided by a third-party service or technology that attempts to mix bitcoins by routing them between numerous addresses, as a way of laundering the bitcoins. Criminals have also been using a legitimate concept called "coinjoin," which is sometimes built into cryptocurrency wallets as a feature. It allows users to mix virtual coins together while paying for separate transactions, which can complicate attempts to trace any individual transactions. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have some closely held ability to correlate the cashing out of cryptocurrency with deposits that get made into individuals' bank accounts.

Quote for the day:

"To have long term success as a coach or in any position of leadership, you have to be obsessed in some way." -- Pat Riley

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