By Dhanya Thakkar, Vice President and Managing Director, AMEA, Trend Micro
In the span of a few months, the coronavirus has reached every country, every community, and every neighbourhood. No nation is spared. Economy grinds to a halt. Millions have fallen sick.
In the meantime, if you take a look at the 15 biggest cyberattacks in the 21st century, you’d notice a few things. First, no country is untouched. Second, it’s extremely disruptive to business operations. Third, millions have fallen victim to these attacks. We have been dealing with a different kind of outbreak for many years, that is, the pandemic of cyberattacks.
The world responds
By now, most countries have imposed a mixed bag of measures to deal with the outbreak. If you look closely, the overarching strategy for dealing with COVID-19 has revolved around four quadrants: prevention, detection, response, and prediction.
In cybersecurity, we often talk about the importance of a holistic strategy that consists of the same quadrants. At its core, a good cybersecurity strategy should take multi-pronged approach and a long-term view.
The first pillar of the defense is prevention. In the time of COVID-19, prevention means protecting people from being infected in the first place, such as washing your hands, socially distancing yourself from others, disinfecting your phone and wallet when you get home, and more.
In cybersecurity, prevention means the exact same thing – protecting your IT assets from being infected in the first place. Because most major data breaches can be traced back to a single point of failure that could have been prevented.
Today, many new cybersecurity vendors talk of a shining silver bullet that miraculously waves away all your cybersecurity headaches – such as machine learning or EDR. But in reality, the concept of a single silver bullet doesn’t hold up. You need the basic technologies – such as antivirus, application control, web and file reputation, etc. – to do the heavy lifting. These technologies can filter majority of the alerts, categorising them as either good or bad.
Detection – knowing what you’re looking for
Contact tracing is crucial during outbreaks. The longer you take to identify a patient, the more people will be infected.
In cybersecurity, detection is about the same thing – how fast you can detect a breach in your system determines the scope of damage. We believe in this strategy called connected threat defense. By deploying security solutions at all the touchpoints in an IT system, from the endpoints to the network to the server, you can start to connect the dots and gain visibility into every nook and cranny. If you know what’s lurking in your IT environment, you can significantly increase your chance of getting rid of it.
Endpoint detection and response (EDR) is another tool designed for the same purpose. EDR technology works like a black box in a plane. It records everything that takes place on the endpoints and threat hunters can rewind to see from which point a threat entered the system, and how it spread across the network. Based on the information, a blueprint of the malware’s infection path can be drawn.
Response – prioritizing the important ones
During the outbreak, there are many false positives and false negatives. Some people may test negative now but develop the symptoms next week. Suspected cases may turn out to be totally innocuous. Because the medical supplies are limited, the healthcare workers need to prioritize. To prioritise, you need context-rich information about the patient.
It’s the same in cybersecurity. A security operations centre (SOC) receives thousands of alerts on a daily basis. Hence, prioritization becomes the key and this is where XDR comes into picture. XDR is the natural progression from EDR. The X stands for anything you can apply detection technology to, such as emails, servers, or the network. XDR is a big collector of security alerts, absorbing data from various touchpoints.
Essentially what XDR does is to break the silos between all these solutions gathering data on their own. A prominent feature of the XDR tool is a central data lake where all data will flow to eventually and be analysed as a collective.
All this data churning can minimise alert fatigue, as it produces high-priority alerts with rich context around it. SOC analysts can now focus on alerts that need immediate action instead of combing through every single one of them and manually looking for connection.
Prediction – taking two steps ahead
Wall Street Journal reported that epidemiologists were teaming up with data scientists to forecast the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the near future. By taking into consideration a vast array of different types of data, the model is expected to predict the number of new cases to arise in an exposed population, or peak infection rates.
Likewise, in cybersecurity, the more accurate our predictions are, the more effectively we can deal with an upcoming data breach. We achieve this by collecting and correlating a vast array of different types of detection and activity data from our native sensors, deployed at different layers within the organisation, like the endpoint, network, email, and the cloud environment.
Combined with big data analytics, threat models, advisory-based behaviour analytics and detection rules from our security experts, we can help to uncover if an emerging or unknown threat or a threat actor is attempting to infect your organization. On top of that, continuous risk assessment of an organisation’s cybersecurity posture also serves to predict impending issues.
COVID-19 will go away, just like any of the pandemics in the past. But cyberattacks will stay as long as there’s a computer connected to the internet. The most effective way to deal with cyberattacks is not to dream of a cure-all panacea, but to take small but coordinated measures that culminate in an all-rounded defense strategy.
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Shining a spotlight on operational resilience and cyber-risk in financial services
By Miles Tappin, VP of EMEA for ThreatConnect, explores why the financial services industry must build a cyber security strategy in 2020
The new digital landscape has welcomed financial institutions with open arms. Emerging technology such as Artificial intelligence (AI), crypto-currencies and big data have shown widespread benefits throughout the years, particularly how they have driven innovation and change. When it comes to retail banking, fintech providers have quickly taken the chance to offer personalised services to ensure they remain relevant to their target market and stand out among their competitors.
This has been particularly evident with Klarna, now Europe’s most valued fintech firm. Providing payment solutions for online storefronts, consumers are now able to shop and pay later with top retailers including the likes of H&M, Ikea and Zara. This is just one example of how easy it has become to successfully and strategically disrupt the payments sector.
With several new players entering the banking scene, traditional financial institutions are making sure that they stay one step ahead and are developing robust digital ecosystems that deliver omnichannel service models. However, this comes at a price. As technological change becomes part and parcel to remaining relevant in the sector, the industry needs to be aware of the cyber security challenges that may present themselves and how to overcome them.
2020: The year for cybercriminals targeting financial services
2020 has become a definitive year for cybersecurity in the financial services industry. Financial institutions are a lucrative target – they hold highly sensitive information and have a mandate to protect the personal information of their customers. It started with an unprecedented attack against Travelex where hackers successfully took some of the currency providers offline for nearly a month. Then came Coronavirus which sparked a new wave of malware and phishing threats. Research from VMware Carbon Black Cloud revealed that threats against financial institutions have surged by 238% since the start of the pandemic.
The renewed interest from cyber criminals comes at a time when regulators are paying close attention to the resilience of the sector. After a string of IT failures and breaches, financial organisations in the UK have been given a mandate from regulators to improve operational resilience. This means ensuring business models can withstand disruptive events from hackers or adversaries and quickly recover to protect the stability of financial systems.
In December 2019, the UK’s financial regulators published a series of consultation papers outlining their proposed approach to achieving greater operational resilience. The proposals suggested that financial institutions will be required to map out the systems and processes that support business services in order to identify any potential vulnerabilities that would pose a risk to the stability of the UK financial system or the firm’s standing.
Working together in tandem
Where cybersecurity used to be a classic back-office concern, it’s now a central part of digital strategies and a key pillar of both reputation and customer retention – financial legislation leaves no room for failure. All financial institutions need to ensure they have full visibility of their systems and can detect any potential threats.
The challenge for financial institutions is making the security tools they have purchased separately work together in tandem. Security teams buy a firewall, an email filter, threat intelligence feeds, antivirus software or enhanced endpoint protection, and whatever else they need individually. Each of them does a good job but they don’t talk to each other and valuable time is lost tending to individual systems that become a burden to run. At the same time, running multiple security systems is expensive. The more systems you have, the more highly skilled staff you need to manage them, and they’re few and far between.
The importance of sharing across communities
To reduce complexity and simplify decision making, financial organisations need to unify processes and technology to harness the security intelligence that comes from across their own security programmes and external sources to drive down risk. However, no financial institution can tackle the problem alone. Experienced threat actors using advanced techniques are constantly targeting the financial sector. The industry needs to come together as a whole to foster a sense of collaboration and data sharing.
In the same way that financial institutions have introduced open banking to deliver a fairer service to customers, the same needs to apply to security – all parts of the financial ecosystem need to unite and share information to learn from one another and succeed in the fight against adversaries that operate across borders.
By sharing alerts on cyber hazards and risk across financial institutions and with law enforcement, government agencies and other relevant authorities, it’s possible to build industry specific insights into cyber security threats and quickly pivot to gain more information on those specific threats and threat actors. By working together, a picture can be painted on threats coming from all manner of malicious activity, from malware to ransomware, to phishing and software vulnerabilities.
Creating a single source of intelligence
Having the right intelligence is not enough to ensure that intelligence is turned into action. Breaking down information and process silos across security teams allows financial organisation to analyse and act on the most pertinent information. Everyone has access to the risk and threats that matter most, and orchestration and automation of response helps overwhelmed security teams prioritise response plans and improve efficiencies in their security programme.
Integrating internal security tools and technologies, while also connecting to external sources of intelligence, creates a single source of intelligence that feeds operations and enables organisations to direct action against the threats that matter most. The outcomes of those actions further feed intelligence, providing the ability to further refine the efficacy of the entire security lifecycle.
This approach provides a continuous feedback loop for the people, processes and technologies that make up the security programme. It allows financial institutions to keep up with threat actors that have consistently adapted their methods to profit at the expense of the financial industry. Something that won’t stop anytime soon.
While financial services institutions tend to operate with security front of mind, there is still an opportunity to collaborate more within the industry and increase intelligence sharing, so CSOs and CTOs can understand as much as they can about the threats they are facing. For example, what types or variants of malware have been used to steal, delete, or ransom personal identifiable information or IP specific to financial services? What ransomware has been used in attacks against other organisations within the industry? How does this ransomware work and how does it ransom the targeted data? Ultimately, the more you know, the better and quicker you’ll be able to respond to a new threat and remain protected.
Blackline reveals CEO succession plan
By President & COO Marc Huffman appointed CEO as of Jan. 1st, 2021;
Founder Therese Tucker to serve as executive chair
Accounting automation software leader BlackLine, Inc. (Nasdaq: BL) today announced that the board of directors has elected Marc Huffman as chief executive officer, effective January 1st, 2021. Mr. Huffman currently serves as president and chief operating officer. Therese Tucker, who has served as CEO since founding BlackLine in 2001, will continue to serve on the company’s board as executive chair.
A seasoned SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) executive with more than 25 years of experience driving growth at successful software companies, Huffman joined BlackLine in early 2018 as chief operating officer. He was named president in February 2020, leading the company’s worldwide sales, marketing, technology and all customer-facing organizations. Since Huffman joined, BlackLine has scaled its sales and customer success teams, strategically repositioned its go-to-market plan, completed a global reseller agreement with SAP, established a subsidiary in Japan, and entered into a number of strategic alliances with the world’s leading consulting and advisory firms.
Prior to BlackLine, Huffman served as president of worldwide sales and distribution at NetSuite. During his 14-year tenure, NetSuite grew from $3 million to $1 billion in annual revenue and became recognized as a global SaaS powerhouse.
“I’ve been so pleased with the leadership Marc has demonstrated over the past two and a half years, most recently driving our response to the COVID-19 pandemic – mitigating disruption to the business and our customers. Because of Marc’s leadership, skill set, cultural alignment and stellar performance, BlackLine is in a better position to grow and scale than ever before,” said Ms. Tucker. “I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved at BlackLine and believe Marc is the kind of leader I can trust to take our customer-centric values, vision and growth to the next level. I am also thrilled that in addition to providing strategic oversight as executive chair, I will now have more time to focus on the areas I love most – product innovation and customer success.”
The announced transition is part of a multi-year succession plan that has involved seeking potential successors, bringing the right person on board, seeing that person excel, and Tucker and Huffman working methodically together over several years to build out the leadership team and strategic growth plan and ensure values were aligned.
“I am ready and excited for this next step. BlackLine is a special place with a strong culture and I am looking forward to leading the company through its next phase of growth,” said Huffman. “We’ve got the team, the plan, and now we are focused on execution as we continue to scale the business and make BlackLine an indispensable platform for Finance & Accounting organizations globally.”
Commenting on the CEO and executive chair changes, John Brennan, BlackLine’s chairman of the board, said, “We are excited to announce Marc’s appointment as CEO. His experience successfully expanding and scaling NetSuite into new strategic and geographical markets is invaluable as BlackLine continues to penetrate what we believe is still an untapped market. Coupled with his proven track record at BlackLine we are confident that, under Marc’s leadership, the company’s momentum, growth and success will only accelerate.”
Mr. Brennan added, “Therese has been a strong and inspirational leader since she founded BlackLine just over 19 years ago. Her unwavering determination and commitment to both customers and employees has been the driving force behind the company’s incredible journey from start-up to global market leader. We look forward to having her serve as executive chair, a position in which she will continue to shape the future of the company she has built from the ground up.”
Upon Tucker’s assumption of the executive chair role, Brennan will serve as the board’s lead outside director.
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