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How physical and cybersecurity threats converge around mass-participation events

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How physical and cybersecurity threats converge around mass-participation events

By Josh Lefkowitz, CEO, Flashpoint

It’s been 50 years since the iconic gathering at Woodstock that saw half a million people come together. Today the lure of mass-participation events is just as strong, whether they are music festivals, global sporting tournaments — the Rugby World Cup in Japan being the next big competition on the agenda — or popular interest gatherings such as Comic-con. People simply love to get together to share experiences.

Unfortunately, any event that attracts large audiences also attracts those who want to make an illicit profit, cause disruption, or inflict physical harm. Sometimes this is little more than a minor inconvenience.  But often the impacts are more distressing or dangerous, such as financial loss through fraudulent ticket sales, transport network disruptions, cyberattacks or — worse yet — threats to physical safety. The most high-profile events may provoke nation state actors to target critical national infrastructure with the goal of embarrassing the host nation.

This means organisers have to build a strategy to identify, manage, and mitigate the physical and cybersecurity threats that can converge around mass-participation events. It’s essential to take a holistic approach as, ultimately, physical and cyber threats cannot be neatly separated into two distinct threat types. Disruption or scams conceived and planned online can have devastating real-world effects.

Managing the risks around any mass-audience event needs two critical elements working in tandem: 1) a multi-disciplinary security team, and 2) clear visibility across all channels to build intelligence that identifies relevant threats and the risk of them becoming reality.

Building a multi-disciplinary team

The security team should include stakeholders from across the organisation to bring the right intelligence into focus. Trust and transparency between different departments is essential if the team is to function effectively.

As well as the obvious partners like law enforcement, transport authorities and network cybersecurity professionals, this should also include representatives from less immediately obvious stakeholders, such as marketing. Marketing teams promoting the event can provide first-hand information on what is being publicised, where and to whom, what the authorised ticket sales channels are, and what systems are in place to prevent fraud.

Marketing teams also heavily monitor social media for stories and sentiment so, although not directly focused on threat hunting, they could have valuable insight to offer on themes arising around the event. It’s important to remember that risks can emerge not just through malicious attacks, but through incidents like performers/artists making political statements or athletes failing doping tests that suddenly change the dynamic of the occasion.

Cyber threat and social media monitoring teams are essential. Set up well in advance and active throughout the planning and execution phases, the team members need to be experts in the cyberthreat and geo-political landscape, with a strong working knowledge of the groups and actors that could target the event.

Visibility of threat communities and communications

Threat actors use multiple channels, both on the surface and deep & dark web (DDW), to discuss and plan disruption and money-making schemes. It’s important to note, too, that the channels used by bad actors evolve all the time as they work to evade detection. Teams need to be on top of the latest communications networks used. For example, right now we’re seeing encrypted chat services being used to discuss tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) and co-ordinate cyberattacks; monitoring these is therefore critical.

Our analysts always witness a spike in activity around major events, so it is essential for the multi-disciplinary security team to have visibility into all the relevant communities and channels.

To assess the credibility of a possible threat, it may also be necessary to interact in these communities. This isn’t something that every security pro can undertake; it is work for experienced analysts with trusted dark web personas. These may be provided by companies such as Flashpoint, whose intelligence analysts are skilled at monitoring illicit communities and interacting where needed. We can also provide finished intelligence reports correlating threats with evidence to inform management strategies.

Information-sharing and private sector engagement

Many mass-participation events take place on a regular calendar cycle. This can be an advantage for defenders, as they can improve their tactics over time and apply past learnings to future strategies. However, that same regularity means that there is certainty for bad actors around how the event usually plays out, giving them time to probe for vulnerabilities.

Security teams should certainly pay attention to previous incidents and successful tactics, but must build their strategy around the very latest intelligence. Working with information-sharing and analysis centres (ISACs) and private sector specialist intelligence organisations is extremely valuable. These communities shed light on the emerging threats and root causes of cyberattacks and enable members to share best practices and defensive tactics. The aim of this activity is to ensure that high quality intelligence flows directly to the security team, with associated analysis that helps to focus resources where they are most needed to manage both day-to-day risks, as well as spot major threats.

Global mass-participation events always involve heightened risk, but defenders can get a window into adversaries by developing an intelligence cycle that utilises multiple sources to give them an edge. With such an approach, whether protecting music festivals, or the contest between nations during international sports tournaments, security teams can do their utmost behind the scenes to help ensure the experience is safe and memorable for all the right reasons.

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Bitcoin, ether hit fresh highs

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Bitcoin, ether hit fresh highs 1

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Bitcoin hit a fresh high in Asian trading on Saturday, extending a two-month rally that saw its market capitalisation cross $1 trillion a day earlier.

The world’s most popular cryptocurrency rose to an record $56,620, taking its weekly gain to 18%. It has surged more than 92% this year.

Bitcoin’s gains have been fuelled by evidence it is gaining acceptance among mainstream investors and companies, such as Tesla Inc, Mastercard Inc and BNY Mellon.

Ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization and daily volume, hit a record $2,040.62, for a weekly gain of about 12%.

Ether is the digital currency or token that facilitates transactions on the ethereum blockchain. In the crypto world, the terms ether and ethereum have become interchangeable.

Ether futures contracts launched on derivatives exchange CME earlier this month.

(Reporting by Vidya Ranganathan; Editing by William Mallard)

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World Bank pushing for standard vaccine contracts, more disclosure from makers

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World Bank pushing for standard vaccine contracts, more disclosure from makers 2

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The World Bank is working to standardize COVID-19 vaccine contracts that countries are signing with drug makers, and is pushing manufacturers to be more open about where doses are headed, as it races to get more vaccines to poor countries, the bank’s president said on Friday.

World Bank President David Malpass told Reuters he expected the bank’s board to have approved $1.6 billion in vaccine funding for 12 countries, including the Philippines, Bangladesh, Tunisia and Ethiopia, by the end of March, with 30 more to follow shortly thereafter.

The bank is working with local governments to identify and fill gaps in distribution capacity, after they purchase vaccines under a $12 billion World Bank program, and also to standardize the contracts they are signing with manufacturers, he said.

The bank’s International Finance Corp, its private financing arm, has $4 billion to invest in expanding existing production plants or building new ones, including in developed countries, but needs more data on where current production is headed, he said.

“We are eager to be investing in new capacity, but it’s hard to do because you don’t know how much of the existing capacity is already committed to the various off-takers,” Malpass said in an interview with Reuters. New or expanded plants could be used to produce other types of vaccinations in the future, he said.

The bank’s funds could be used to expand plants in advanced economies, if the production was earmarked for developing nations, he said.

Malpass welcomed Friday’s pledge by the Group of Seven rich countries to intensify cooperation on the pandemic, saying it could help jump-start deliveries of vaccines to poorer countries, which are lagging far behind rich countries in getting shots in arms.

Data compiled by Our World In Data, a scientific online publication, showed Israel was leading the world in COVID-19 vaccinations, with nearly 82 of 100 people vaccinated, while India and Bangladesh reported less than one person per 100, Many African countries have not started at all.

Malpass said he was heartened by news about new vaccines coming down the road, and about Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE seeking permission to store their vaccine at higher temperatures, which would ease another obstacle to deliveries in lower-income countries.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Heather Timmons and Leslie Adler)

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Google to evaluate executive performance on diversity, inclusion

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Google to evaluate executive performance on diversity, inclusion 3

By Paresh Dave

(Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google will evaluate the performance of its vice presidents and above on team diversity and inclusion starting this year, the company said on Friday in one of several responses to concerns about its treatment of a Black scientist.

Timnit Gebru, co-leader of Google’s ethical artificial intelligence research team, said in December that Google abruptly fired her after she criticized its diversity efforts and threatened to resign.

Alphabet and Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai ordered a review of the situation. While Google declined to share specific findings, the company announced on Friday it will engage human resources specialists during sensitive employee departures.

Pichai in June said that by 2025, Google aims to have 30% more of its leaders come from underrepresented groups, with a focus on Black, Latinx and Native American leaders in the United States and female technical leaders globally. About 96% of Google’s U.S. leaders at the time were white or Asian, and 73% globally were men.

As a result of the investigation, the company also expanded a commitment announced in June to devote more resources to retaining and promoting existing employees, including by expanding a team addressing disputes among workers and their managers.

The diversity component of executive performance reviews was not previously announced, and the company did not immediately share details about what would be measured and how pay would be affected.

Alphabet for years had rejected proposals from shareholders and employees to set diversity goals and tie executive pay to them.

Irene Knapp, a former Google employee who advocated for one such proposal at a 2018 shareholder meeting, said on Friday, “I am pleased that they met our demand from 2018, which was a bare minimum that should have been easy to do immediately.”

Evaluating managers on diversity goals is becoming more commonplace. McDonald’s Corp on Thursday tied executive bonuses to diversity.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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