Subscribe to Monitoring Matters RSS Feed

Monitoring Matters

by: Ginger Hill - Wednesday, September 4, 2019

I have a special affinity toward cybersecurity, probably because I’ve witnessed it grow from not even being a word, much less a concept to indoctrinating itself into society on a second by second basis. People must be alert, knowledgeable and actionable in order to stay safe from cybercriminals, and thankfully, there are various organizations available to help. 

During August, I attended the National Cyber Security Alliance and Infosec webinar that explored the cyber threats phishing, smishing and vishing, and offered steps of protection. Daniel Eliot, director of education and strategic initiatives, National Cyber Security Alliance moderated as Tiffany Schoenike, chief operating officer, National Cyber Security Alliance and Lisa Plaggemier, chief evangelist, Infosec took center stage.

“At their core, phish are just tools criminals use for social engineering, which is the use of deception to manipulate individuals into doing something they wouldn’t normally,” Plaggemier explained during the webinar. “Thieves are generally after two things: money and things they can turn into money, and over three billion phishes are sent every single day” to try and gain access to private information, engage with people to develop trust, present links that download malware when clicked, modify data, etc.

Here’s some common types of phish you need to know about: 

  • Spear phishing: a targeted attack that usually involves cybercriminals gathering intel to use to send emails that appear to be from a known or trusted sender.
  • Whaling: attacks that target senior-level employees. 
  • Credential harvesting: an attack that allows unauthorized access to usernames and/or emails with corresponding passwords. 

To identify phishes, Plaggemier said to look for things such as spoofed sender addresses that may be off by a letter or two; misspelled words and bad grammar; strange URLs; the use of scare tactics; buzzwords such as cool job offers and last but not least, use your own senses. If you feel something isn’t right, you’re probably correct. 

With smishing, the cybercriminal uses text or SMS messaging to try and trick people into giving out private information while vishing uses the phone via a call. 

To protect yourself and your organization against phishing, smishing and vishing, consider the following: 

  • Enable strong authentication.
  • Think before you share personal information. 
  • Never give personal information over the phone. 
  • Use unique and the longest passphrases possible as passwords
  • Keep your computer system and smartphone’s software updated. 
  • Only download apps from trusted sources. 
  • Train employees. 
  • Establish, maintain, use and enforce policies and procedures. 
  • Report all phishing incidents to DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Federal Trade Commission

For more information on how small and medium-sized businesses can be safer and more secure online, visit National Cyber Security Alliance’s national program, CyberSecure My Business, which consists of in-person, interactive workshops, monthly webinars, an online portal of resources and monthly newsletters that summarize the latest cybersecurity news.

by: Ginger Hill - Friday, August 23, 2019

I remember in elementary school those little gold, silver, red, green and blue foil star stickers the teacher would put at the top of my paper, each color reflecting my grade: gold for the perfect score of 100; silver for 90s; blue for 80s; and green for 70s. If I saw a red star, just forget it, because that meant redoing the whole assignment, usually DURING recess, or when I got home from school DURING my favorite TV shows — Woody Wood Pecker, Tom & Jerry and Heathcliff. 

Let’s see if you pass the star test or if you’ll be caught at your local Department of Motor Vehicles during your recess, what we adults commonly call our lunch break! Take out your driver’s license. Does it have a black or gold star on it? If so, you passed and your lunch break is safe. If not, looks like a trip to your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is in your future if you plan on using your driver’s license to fly. 

Back in 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act, designed to ensure that people boarding a flight or entering a federal building are exactly who they claim to be in all U.S. states and territories including Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands. Now, 14 years later, all states and territories are compliant or have an extension (Maine, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Oregon are extended until Oct. 10, 2019) and are awaiting each and every citizen over the age of 18 to pay a visit to their local DMVs. 

Technically you have until October 1, 2020 to get your star, but as busy security professionals, 13 months will pass faster than a hot knife through butter! (That’s Texan for “quickly.”)  So, here are some strategies and tips to make the process as painless as possible: 

Decide if you even need a Real ID. If you want to fly with only your state-issued ID, don’t have a passport or other TSA-approved ID or need to visit a security federal facility, such as a military base, then yes, you do need a Real ID. 

If you only need your state-issued ID for identification purposes, don’t mind bringing a TSA-approved ID, like a passport, starting October 1, 2020, or are under age 18, then no, you do NOT need a Real ID. 

Physically go to a DMV office. Be sure to bring along identification documents such as a birth certificate and passport. Some states are requiring up to four pieces of identification, so be sure to check your state’s requirements BEFORE standing in that long line, finally arriving at the clerk’s desk after a five hour wait (that’s the typical wait time in Texas) just to be turned away to go back home, retrieve said documents and then wait another five hours in line! (As “they” say, “Everything’s bigger in Texas;” I guess that includes these lines, too!)

  • Tip #1: To be on the safe side, at the very least, bring proof of identity, social security number and residency, proof of name change (if applicable) and of course, money (a fee is involved).
  • Tip #2: I would suggest bringing cash and/or check in case your DMV doesn’t accept credit cards or charges a fee. It looks like North Carolina is the cheapest at $13.00 and Massachusetts is the highest at $85.00. Check your particular state’s DMV website for the fee schedule. 
  • Tip #3: If your state allows it, make an appointment to visit your DMV. This will cut back on wait time and frustration. 

 

I wish you well on your endeavor to obtain your star!

 

 

by: Ginger Hill - Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Whomever is the culprit for all these ransomware attacks on local U.S. government entities sure is getting a ton of notoriety in the media. With 22 reported and known public-sector attacks so far this year, and none tracked by the federal government or FBI, according to CNN, I say, the more information available the better for those needing to protect themselves. 

The most recent ransomware attack happened in my home state of Texas against 22 small-town governments, and while our “Don’t mess with Texas” campaign is aimed at road-side litter, I think it’s appropriate that we take out the trash on cybercrime, too! Here’s 5 important facts you need to know about these attacks: 

Names of the attacked municipalities are undisclosed, except for two. The city of Borger, Texas, located a few miles north of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle, issued a statement noting that as of Monday, August 19, 2019, birth and death certifications are offline, and the city is unable to take utility or other payments. The city reassured residents that no late fees would be assessed nor would any utilities be shut off.

Keene, Texas, located just outside Ft. Worth, Texas, was also affected in a similar fashion as Borger. They, too, are unable to process utility payments via credit card. Keene Mayor, Gary Heinrich, told NPR, that hackers breached the information technology software used by the city and managed by an outsourced company, which according to the Mayor also supports many of the other targeted municipalities. 

Heinrich also noted that the hackers demanded a collective ransom of $2.5 million but also said there’s no way his city will be coughing up the dough!
“Stupid people,” Heinrich told NPR, referring to the cyber attackers. “You know, just no sense in all this at all.” 

Attacks seem to be from one, single threat actor. This means only one cybercriminal or cyber-criminal group is responsible for the attacks. 

Attacks are coordinated. What’s so alarming about these attacks is that they simultaneously targeted approximately two dozen cities, dubbing it as a “digital assault.”

Attacks are mostly rural. Small-town governments usually don’t have the budget to staff in-house IT, instead using outsourced specialists. This could mean valuable time that should have been used to quickly assess each incident was spent bringing the outsourced specialists up to speed about the details of the attack before any response could begin. 

The overarching goal is response and recovery. The affected municipalities are assessing and responding and, as quickly as possible, moving into remediation and recovery to get back to operations as usual as soon as possible. 

 
by: Ginger Hill - Wednesday, August 14, 2019

It seems Joe Public is shouting “privacy here, privacy there, privacy everywhere,” as people are pushing back against certain technologies that could, or people believe could, misidentify them and track, monitor and record their actions, or be the catalyst to their personal information and identity being stolen.

It’s a double-edged sword really; people want to use the technology to ensure safety and security, but at the same time, they want no interference with their privacy. It’s all or nothing. Unfortunately, we aren’t at a point with technology where “good” people are automatically excluded from the “bad.” However, one solution to protect privacy presented itself about a week ago at none other than DEFCON 27

As over 25,000 security professionals and researchers, federal government employees, lawyers, journalists, and of course, hackers with an interest in anything and everything that can be hacked descended on Las Vegas’ Paris, Bally’s, Flamingo and Planet Hollywood Convention Centers, professional ethical hacker and now, fashion designer, Kate Rose, debuted her weapon of choice against ALPRs and surveillance — t-shirts, hoodies, jackets, dresses and skirts. 

Knows as Adversarial Fashion, each garment is purposely designed to trigger ALPRs and inject data rubbish into systems used by states and its contractors, believed by some to monitor and track civilians. Rose tested a series of modified license plate images with commercial ALPR APIs and created fabric patterns that read into LPRs as if they are authentic license plates. Priced at no more than 50 bucks, tops, you too can now fool ALPRs with your clothes! 

Don’t feel like shelling out your hard-earned money? Not to worry! Rose lists all the resources needed to make your own computer vision-triggering fashion and fabric designs on her site, along with a hyperlinked list of libraries and APIs, image editing tools, color palette extraction tools and textile pattern tutorials. In addition, slides from her DEFCON 27 Crypto and Privacy Village talk, “Sartorial Hacking to Combat Surveillance,” offering the following how-to guide of designing your own anti-surveillance clothes: 

  1. Choose a recognition system and experiment with design constraints, starting with high confidence images.
  2. Test tolerances by making slight modifications to source images. 
  3. Make notes of “cue” attributes that affect confidence scores. 
  4. Plot enough images to determine what seems to work. 
  5. Use images that work to design a pattern and digitally print it onto fabric. 

I’m not too sure if this is a 5-step method to early retirement, but I can say people are demanding privacy and obviously, being very creative in their fight for it. 

 
by: Ginger Hill - Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Some people are calling it “social control,” some believe it’s exploiting the poor; others are saying it will “criminalize and marginalize” residents, while Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley mentions “rampant biases” especially with “women and people of color.” Sounds like “it” should be banned, right? Well, what if I told you I am talking about facial recognition biometric technology? Would that influence your decision to ban or not to ban this technology?

For the first time ever, a piece of proposed federal legislation addresses limits on biometric technology and tenants of public housing — the No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act of 2019, introduced by Congressional Democratic lawmakers Yvette Clarke from New York; Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib from Michigan. 

Here’s what the legislation would do: prohibit the use of biometric recognition technology in most public and assisted housing units funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and require the department to submit a report to Congress. Required in the report would be the following:

  • Any known use of facial recognition technologies in public housing units
  • Impact of emerging technologies on tenants
  • Purpose of installing this technology in units
  • Demographic information of tenants
  • Impact of emerging technologies on vulnerable communities in public housing, including tenant privacy, civil rights and fair housing.

Several organizations support this legislation including:

  • NAACP;
  • The National Housing Law Project;
  • National Low Income Housing Coalition; 
  • National Action Network;
  • Color of Change; and
  • The Project On Government Oversight (POGO), a nonpartisan, independent watchdog that investigates and exposes waste, corruption, abuse of power and when the govern fails to serve the public or silences those who report wrong doing. 

POGO went so far as to pen a letter to the Congresswomen, citing facial recognition systems have “registered false matches over 90 percent of the time in multiple law enforcement pilot initiatives,” and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, the America Civil Liberties Union and an FBI expert found “facial recognition technology is less effective in properly identifying women and people of color, raising civil rights concerns.”

Thus far, this legislation would only affect HUD housing; however, it could very easily trickle into other landlord/tenant situations as the hot topic surrounding public security seems to revolve around privacy.

by: Ginger Hill - Wednesday, July 31, 2019

It finally happened. Temps reached into the 100s in Dallas as Cyber:Secured Forum helped some security professionals stay cool inside The Westin Dallas Park Central while learning actionable takeaways and best practices related to maintaining and improving cybersecurity of security systems and solutions. While I gather my thoughts to bring you a detailed rendition of the past two days, now would be a great time to do a cybersecurity risk assessment on your system. 

Here are my “4 Preliminaries” (4Ps) to help you get started on your assessment:

  1. Perspective. Make a list of all information stored on your computer, online, in different apps and in the cloud, for example, work documents, apps, music, passwords, pictures, videos of your family, banking and credit card credentials, etc. Physically seeing how much precious data you have should be a wakeup call to protect it against cyber threats and attacks.
  2. Passwords. Make a list of all online accounts and their login credentials. 
  3. Peruse. Look through the list and carefully think about the value of each type of stored data. If it would be detrimental if anyone gained access or a particular piece or data or online account was lost, deleted or leaked online, put a star by it or highlight it. 
  4. Posture. Take a position of defense against cyberattacks, cybercriminals and cyberthreats. To start, make sure all the passwords on your list are strong to prevent access to your data. Each account needs a DIFFERENT, robust password consisting of at least 12 or more of the following: upper- and lower-case letters, and numbers and symbols in various combinations and locations within the password. 

Once you’ve completed the 4Ps, google the phrase “cybersecurity risk assessment checklist.” This tool is available for free from different organizations and businesses. Choose the checklist that resonates most closely with your business, or take bits and pieces of a variety of checklists to create a custom list. Then, using the information you’ve already gathered from the 4Ps, get started answering the questions. You’ll be well on your way to learning exactly where your company is postured for cybersecurity as well as areas that need improvement. 

 

by: Ginger Hill - Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Being born in the late 70s, it’s been amazing to watch the evolution of computers, the Internet, cyber and the like. I remember sitting in my junior high computer class—7th grade, I believe. Working with Basic on an Apple 2e, I created white coding on a black screen that made a man (stick figure) jump, dance and run when the user got the correct answer to the math problem presented on the screen. That, my friends, was high tech! 

Now, the graphics are realistic and some even interact with voice; data is being produced and shared at the rate of zettabytes; and computers are turning into machine learners, all of which is absolutely amazing but at the same time scary as bad people have turned it into a free-for-all of mass hacking that is detrimental to people and society. 

Human security experts work tirelessly each and every day to keep people like you and me, and the world safe; however, being human, they have their limits. For example, cybersecurity involves repetitiveness and tediousness, scouring through big data to identify anomalous data points; long, exhausting hours of data analysis; and relentlessly monitoring data going in and out of enterprise networks. Enter the age of artificial intelligence (AI) penetrating into the cyber realm in terms of security, obviously known collectively as cybersecurity. Working along-side humans, AI can complement cybersecurity by performing the repetitive, tedious tasks; it can be trained to take predefined steps against attacks and learn the most ideal responses going forward; and AI is fast and accurate with data analysis. This enables and empowers human security experts to use their talents and skills on other projects to further enhance cybersecurity. 

Capgemini, a global leader in consulting, technology services and digital transformation, recently published “Reinventing Cybersecurity with Artificial Intelligence Report,” finding 61 percent of enterprises said they cannot detect breach attempts today without the use of AI technologies. That’s over half of the 850 senior executives surveyed from IT information security, cybersecurity and IT operations in seven sectors across 10 countries. And if that’s not eye-opening enough, check out these findings: 

  • 69 percent believe AI will be necessary to respond to cyberattacks; 
  • 73 percent are testing AI use cases for cybersecurity; 
  • 64 percent said AI lowers the cost and reduces overall time taken to detect and respond to breaches by 12 percent; and
  • 56 percent said their cybersecurity analysts are overwhelmed and approximately 23 percent are not able to successfully investigate all identified incidents. 

With numbers like these, it’s easy to see AI and machine learning are essential to cybersecurity now and into the future. So, here at SSN, we’ve taken a huge step to bring you the latest and greats cybersecurity news with the addition of a “cybersecurity” tab on our website. Yep, that’s right … a whole section dedicated to all things cybersecurity!

To get a taste of our cybersecurity content check out the articles “Federal government aims to modernize physical security practices” and “Data forensics: time is of the essence,” and as always, we value your feedback. 

 

 

by: Ginger Hill - Wednesday, July 17, 2019

I’ve spent the last two days in Montreal, learning all about Genetec but also learning tidbits of powerful information about the security industry. I will be sharing my thoughts, observations and knowledge in the days to come, so stay tuned to our website. Here is a preview of what’s to come:

We sometimes take for granted how “precious an average day is and how much it takes just to make a day average,” Andrew Elvish, vice president, marketing & product management, Genetec said when it comes to ensuring safety and security each and every day. Further, we have to “make sure everything happens every day.”

Genetec does its part to ensure everything happens every day by creating security solutions as well as partnering with others who do the same. The company has a global footprint in which they grow organically and currently, it employees 1,500 people of whom speak 23 different languages. The company also invests 28 percent of their topline into R&D. Expansion efforts are focused on entering a market at the right place at the right time with an emphasis on building channels and channel partners.

Yesterday was filled with open, authentic discussions around hot topics within the industry with Genetec employees as well as people from outside the organization who work with Genetec. Topics of discussion included: the role of privacy in a digital democracy, the future of AI in security, privacy matters in security, ALPR and the role of parking in cities and a panel discussion about cannabis and security.

Today, I get the unique opportunity to visit the Montreal Casino’s command center to see security in action, demonstrating how everything happens every day.

Again, stay tuned to SSN’s website and print publication for in-depth coverage and knowledge sharing of this event.

Topic:
by: Ginger Hill - Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Featured in Time magazine’s “Top 10 Public-Service Announcements,” the popular one from the 1960s, 70s and 80s went something like this: “It’s 10pm … do you know where your children are?” Being the ripe age of 42, I vaguely remember the tail-end of this campaign where a celebrity or publicly known person — Joan Rivers, Jane Seymour, Darryl Strawberry, Paul Stanley, etc. —would appear on the TV screen at 10pm or 11pm, depending on location, and ask this almost sinister-like question of moms and dads waiting for their dose of the nightly news. During this time, several cities across the U.S. had adopted new curfew laws and this was the late-night reminder to parents. 

Since then, it’s been parodied several times: CNBC asks, “It’s 4 o’clock … do you know where your money is?” while Monster.com asks, “It’s 6 o’clock … do you know where your career is?” And, my personal favorite: “It’s 10am … do you know where your coffee is?” While these are fun and playful sayings and marketing tactics, there’s a lot of truth to be discovered by answering that simple, historical question that remains ingrained in society. So, I ask you, the IoT manufacturer, the security installer, the IoT user: “It’s 10pm … do you know what your IoT devices are doing?” If you can’t answer that question, you may have a security/privacy issue. 

In response to IoT devices, their security/privacy issues, and the lack of laws and governance of these little electronic baubles, several organizations have developed IoT “guidelines” to help developers create, manufacturers build, and consumers purchase and use more secure IoT products:

Security Systems Engineering: Considerations for a Multidisciplinary Approach in the Engineering of Trustworthy Security Systems

By: National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) 

This publication, targeted toward security engineering professionals, provides principles and concepts, and how these can be effectively applied to the creation of IoT devices and other security-related device. It is recognized that no system can be engineered to by absolutely secure and trustworthy, but rather, the focus should be on “adequate security,” making sure the device address the users security concerns. 

With several free, downloadable publications related specifically to IoT security, the IoT Security Foundation is on a mission to “Build Secure, Buy Secure and Be Secure.” They offer a tool called “IoTSF Compliance Checklist” that helps IoT manufacturers create devices that are within contemporary best practices. The checklist opens as an Excel document, with tabs that take the person through the entire process of compliance, starting with assessment steps; includes device hardware, software, operating systems and interfaces; and concluding with issues such as encryption, privacy, cloud and network elements and device ownership transfer. 

IoT Security Guidance

By: The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP)

With the familiar look of a Wikipedia page, this guide speaks directly to IoT manufacturers, developers and consumers, offering specific and general recommendations. It’s laid out in an easy-to-read chart and bullet point format. It addresses 10 key categories such as insecure web interface, poor physical security, privacy concerns and insecurity cloud interface; tells what security issues the manufacturer, developer and consumer should be aware of; and offers recommendations to remedy such issues. 

Future Proofing the Connected World

By: Cloud Security Alliance’s IoT Working Group

This PDF guide offers 13 steps to developing secure IoT products, but it also describes exactly why IoT security is needed and addresses some of the common security challenges for IoT users. The 13-step process starts with developing a secure methodology and ends with performing internal and external security reviews. 

IoT Security Guidelines and Assessment

By: GSMA

The goal of these guidelines and assessment is to help create a secure IoT market with trusted, reliable and scalable services. The guidelines include 85 secure design, development and deployment recommendations; security challenges, attack models and risk assessments, and examples while the assessment, based on a structured approach yet providing a flexible framework, address the diversity of the IoT market while addressing the whole ecosystem.

Topic:
by: Ginger Hill - Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Being a part of the security industry as a journalist, it intrigues me as to the wealth of security-related knowledge floating around out there in cyberspace, magazine articles, books, newspapers, tv … any and all media outlets really. Take just a moment and think about this: at any given time, we can access information via our smart devices about any topic we choose. Seriously, let that soak in for a minute … 

The conclusion? Knowledge is power, as the saying goes; there’s even a Twitter hashtag dedicated to the adage: #KnowledgeIsPower. And, as I learned from my dad, it’s the one thing no one can take away from you. But I want to challenge this with: knowledge is power, but taking action based on that knowledge is powerful. Knowing something is only half the battle; it’s action taken because of knowledge that creates power-filled outcomes that truly supports, and adds truth and value to this concept.

With that in mind, The Monitoring Association (TMA) has joined with APCO International, the world’s oldest and largest organization of public safety communication professionals, calling on us — security industry professionals — to support a bill. To make an educated decision, we must gain knowledge: 

Name of the bill: 9-1-1 SAVES Act.

Type of bill: bipartisan, bicameral, simple and zero-cost.

What the bill would do: fix the federal classification by appropriately grouping Public Safety Telecommunicators with other “protective” occupations. 

Why this is important: our federal government currently classifies 9-1-1 operator positions as administrative/clerical, in the same group as secretaries, office clerks and taxicab dispatchers. While 9-1-1 operators do sit at desks, working on computers and phones, would you agree or disagree that this is an inaccurate classification and a disservice to the lifesaving work and dedication of these professionals?

TMA’s and APCO’s argument: Public Safety Telecommunicators should be classified as Protective Service Occupations. This includes a broad range of “protective” occupations such as lifeguards, gambling surveillance officers, fish and game wardens, parking enforcement workers, firefighters, playground monitors and more. These organizations believe reclassification is common sense, and about getting Public Safety Telecommunicators the recognition they deserve for the work they do every day to protect and save the lives of the public and first responders. 

Now that you have the knowledge, it’s time to take action. Here are your two choices: 

  1. Do nothing. After all, not taking action is in essence making a decision.
  2. Send a letter. APCO’s website offers a dynamic form where individuals can provide key contact information and the appropriate letter is sent automatically to your U.S. senators and representatives. (I just did. It literally takes less than 1 minute.) 
 

Pages