Daily Tech Digest - September 14, 2021

Honing Cybersecurity Strategy When Everyone’s a Target for Ransomware

While not all hackers are out for the money, if they are, they become particularly crafty at plying their trade. What malicious actors are often looking for are the “keys to the kingdom” — the most lucrative mission-critical information, passwords, contacts or accounts — which is usually found within the C-suite. And not only do C-suite targets have the most valuable organizational data, but they are also the decision-makers of whether to pay a ransom. This creates two situations that put executives under even greater threat. First, it makes a ransomware attack on a C-suite decision maker incredibly efficient, which achieves maximum ROI for threat actors. Second, it makes a C-suite executive’s personal communications incredibly valuable and particularly vulnerable. The tighter cybercriminals can twist the screws with embarrassing business and private communications threatened for release, the greater their chances for payment – and often, the more they can demand. The sad reality is that the majority of executives, and particularly their direct reports, are incredibly soft targets.

What Do Engineers Really Think About Technical Debt?

It's no surprise that technical debt causes bugs, outages, quality issues and slows down the development process. But the impact of tech debt is far greater than that. Employee morale is one of the most difficult things to manage, especially now that companies are switching to long-term remote work solutions. Many Engineers mentioned that technical debt is actually a major driver of decreasing morale. They often feel like they are forced to prioritize new features over vital maintenance work that could improve their experience and velocity and this is taking a significant toll. ... More than half of respondents claim that their companies do not deal with technical debt well, highlighting that the divide between engineers and leadership is widening rather than closing. Engineers are clearly convinced that technical debt is the primary reason for productivity losses, however, they seem to be struggling to make it a priority. Yet, making the case for technical debt could help engineers ship up to 100% faster. As much as 66% of Engineers believe the team would ship up to 100% faster if they had a process for technical debt. 

Human-Machine Understanding: how tech helps us to be more human

Human-Machine Understanding, or HMU, is one of the lines of enquiry currently getting me out of bed in the morning, and I’m sure that it will shape a new age of empathic technology. In the not-too-distant future, we’ll be creating machines that comprehend us, humans, at a psychological level. They’ll infer our internal states – emotions, attention, personality, health and so on – to help us make useful decisions. But let’s just press pause on the future for a moment, and track how far we’ve come. Back in 2015, media headlines were screaming about the coming dystopia/utopia of artificial intelligence. On one hand, we were all doomed: humans faced the peril of extinction from robots or were at least at risk of having their jobs snatched away by machine learning bots. On the other hand, many people – me included – were looking forward to a future where machines answered their every need. We grasped the fact that intelligent automation is all about augmenting human endeavour, not replacing it.

Essential Soft Skills for IT leaders in a Remote World

People in positions of authority often aim to project unbreakable confidence, but a better path to building connections is through honesty. Foremost, being open about insecurities, uncertainties, and failures is humanizing—a critical trait in the age of Zoom. Conversely, ultra-strict managers may find their teammates become reticent to speak up about risks they see. Such an environment is an anathema to multidisciplinary IT fields, given the need for transparent workflows. Being vulnerable at work is not only about you trying to show something to your teammates, it is also about establishing and growing a safe environment for the colleagues you work with. In my experience, it’s hard for people to speak up about sensitive topics like challenges, difficult conversations or if they don’t agree with someone at work. But these aspects are much easier when the team, including leadership, has built an environment, where everyone trusts that they are free to express their opinions and share their feelings about their work.

The past, present and future of IoT in physical security

As ever, the amount of storage that higher-resolution video generates is the limiting factor, and the development of smart storage technologies such as Zipstream has helped tremendously in recent years. We will likely see further improvements in smart storage and video compression that will help make higher-resolution video possible. Cybersecurity will also be a growing concern for both manufacturers and end users. Recently, one of Sweden’s largest retailers was shut down for a week because of a hack, and others will meet the same fate if they continue to use poorly secured devices. Any piece of software can contain a bug, but only developers and manufacturers committed to identifying and fixing these potential vulnerabilities can be considered reliable partners. Governments across the globe will likely pass new regulations mandating cybersecurity improvements, with California’s recent IoT protection law serving as an early indicator of what the industry can expect. Finally, ethical behavior will continue to become more important. A growing number of companies have begun foregrounding their ethics policies, issuing guidelines for how they expect technology like facial recognition to be used — not abused.

Leading under pressure

“There is a well-accepted and common wisdom that success breeds confidence, and that confidence helps you handle pressure better,” explained Jensen. “My read, without having talked to Simone Biles or knowing exactly what is going on in her head, is that there is a countervailing force to that positive cycle, which is that as you accrue status and visibility, the ‘importance’ piece gets greatly magnified. The stakes expand. They begin to encompass your self-worth and the weight of the 330 million people you are carrying along for the ride.” Business leaders are subject to this phenomenon, too. As they reach higher levels of the corporate hierarchy, the importance of their decisions and actions grows, and the stakes rise. And like pressure itself, the element of importance is a double-edged sword. ... How do you manage importance during these peak pressure moments? The secret is to understand that how you perceive the stakes in any given situation can be controlled. “When you get into peak pressure moments, all you can think about is how important [the stakes are], what you might gain, what you might lose,” said Jensen.

IT leaders facing backlash from remote workers over cybersecurity measures: HP study

Ian Pratt, global head of security for personal systems at HP, said the fact that workers are actively circumventing security should be a worry for any CISO. "This is how breaches can be born," Pratt said. "If security is too cumbersome and weighs people down, then people will find a way around it. Instead, security should fit as much as possible into existing working patterns and flows with unobtrusive, secure-by-design and user-intuitive technology. Ultimately, we need to make it as easy to work securely as it is to work insecurely, and we can do this by building security into systems from the ground up." IT leaders have had to take certain measures to deal with recalcitrant remote workers, including updating security policies and restricting access to certain websites and applications. But these practices are causing resentment among workers, 37% of whom say the policies are "often too restrictive." The survey of IT leaders found that 90% have received pushback because of security controls, and 67% said they get weekly complaints about it.

OSI Layer 1: The soft underbelly of cybersecurity

The metadata from a switch can indicate whether a rogue device is present. This can be accomplished without mirroring traffic to respect privacy within sensitive IT environments. Supply chain exposure is more complex than managing where you order from: It’s a two-fold problem involving both software and hardware. It’s understood that many applications bundle libraries and controls from third parties that are further outside of your purview. Attackers exploit weaknesses and defects from an array of targets, including unsecured source code, outdated network protocols (downgrade attacks), unsecured third-party servers, and update mechanisms. Software safeguarding software is under your control: deploying least privilege principles, endpoint protection, and due diligence to audit and assess third party partners are essential and reasonable precautions. Hardware is another story altogether. It’s less obvious when a fully functioning Raspberry Pi has been modified or telecommunications equipment has been compromised by a state actor, as it looks and plays the part without any irregularities.

Desensitized To Devastation: Strategies For Reaching CISOs In Today’s Cyber Landscape

Hackers only need to be right once. One set of compromised credentials puts them on their way to snatching your critical assets. Security teams, on the other hand, have to be right all the time. There’s no logging off at the end of the 9-to-5 workday for criminals. They’re active when you’re awake, they’re active when you’re asleep and they’re active when you’re celebrating the holidays with your families. All it takes is one right guess of a password and a company could lose millions of dollars, customer data, its reputation and its stock price — and the CISO could lose their job. Businesses can’t afford to have weak security infrastructures that aren’t monitoring for and shutting down threats 24/7. ... Ransomware was up 93% in 2021 from 2020, according to Check Point, and we’ve recently suffered some major cyberattacks. The country has been hit with attacks that have massive implications for daily life and business, like the Colonial Pipeline and Kaseya attacks. And external threats aren’t all we have to worry about. 

Bad News: Innovative REvil Ransomware Operation Is Back

Unfortunately, with its infrastructure coming back online, REvil appears to be back. Notably, all victims listed on its data leak site have had their countdown timers reset, Bleeping Computer reports. Such timers give victims a specified period of time to begin negotiating a ransom payment, before REvil says it reserves the right to dump their stolen data online. REvil is one of a number of ransomware operations that regularly tells victims that it's stolen sensitive data, before it forcibly encrypts systems and threatens to leak the data if they don't pay. But REvil's representatives have been caught lying before, by claiming to have stolen data as they extort victims into paying, only to admit later that they never stole anything. Why might the infrastructure have come back online, including the payments portal, which accepts bitcoin and monero? Numerous experts have suggested REvil was just laying low in the wake of the Biden administration pledging to get tough. Perhaps the main operators and developers opted to relocate to a country from which it might be safer to run their business. Or maybe they were just taking a vacation.

Quote for the day:

"You have two choices, to control your mind or to let your mind control you." -- Paulo Coelho

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