The healthcare industry has become more important than ever during the coronavirus pandemic, as the majority of Americans have had to interact with a provider in order to get a coronavirus vaccine, test, or care. This has resulted in an influx of personal medical information to these institutions. That coincided with a global increase in cybercrime as work-from-home policies led to lax cybersecurity enforcement. For an industry with so much sensitive data, it was particularly susceptible to data breaches and ransomware attacks. Furthermore, HIPAA compliance requirements add another layer to security changes to how client data is stored.
This has resulted in a string of attacks against healthcare providers over the past year. In 2020, at least 560 healthcare facilities were impacted by 80 separate cybersecurity attacks, and healthcare was ranked as the second most frequently targeted industry by multiple studies. Entities in the healthcare industry have been forced to overhaul their security practices in order to protect their client data. Multi-factor authentication, single sign-on portals, weekly security checks, and data encryption have all become more prevalent in the industry over the past year in response to increased threats. However, these individual actions may not be enough to protect the industry as a whole.
Virtual appointments, and telehealth more generally, is rapidly expanding within the healthcare industry. Yet, this rapid expansion of telehealth services by a growing number of private and public providers, as aforementioned, comes at a time when the healthcare industry is particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks. Protecting client data after the fact is inadequate when the meetings themselves may be compromised. The challenge of keeping patient information secure with regards to telehealth is unfortunately one that has yet to be adequately addressed. Another concern is lax security protocols and regulations surrounding telehealth specifically–the immediate necessity brought about by the pandemic overrode the long-term security concerns.
As we move towards a post-coronavirus world, the security concerns that fell by the wayside need to now come to front of mind. If you’re interested in learning more about how to bring a security mindset to healthcare, check out our page on IT and security solutions for healthcare or leave a comment!
Self-driving cars have become an iconic part of the early 21st century. Tech companies like Uber, Google, and Apple have all made forays into self-driving vehicles to media fanfare. Self-driving car company Tesla has a legion of devoted fans, partially due to CEO Elon Musk’s purposeful cultivation of that base, and the stock price to back up the hype. However, fully autonomous cars are still unavailable, with technological and ethical barriers making their development difficult. Despite that, modern automobile manufacturers have been able to integrate increasing amounts of technology into their products. Safety features like automatic braking are especially popular–but they currently rely on visual feedback to work. That’s where V2 technology comes in.
V2X, or “Vehicle to Everything” technology, refers to various different technologies that allow a vehicle to communicate with other objects. The overall idea is that a vehicle is able, or will be able to, use its on-board communication tools to deliver real-time traffic information, preemptively react to changing road conditions, signs, and other feedback. While V2X functions alone won’t be able to replace a driver, they are important building blocks in a self-driving vehicle’s ability to create a map of its environment. These technologies allow a vehicle to share information with various other devices, such as a pedestrian’s smart phone, a traffic light, or other vehicles.
While V2X provides many advantages, proponents of the technology have to overcomes many hurdles before it can become mainstream. The infrastructure changes necessary to take advantage of V2X systems are far-reaching and costly. Privacy concerns about location privacy, hacking or malware, and personal safety have led many people to be skeptical of novel technologies, especially ones that rely on autonomous communication. Finally, adding comprehensive V2X technology to cars is expensive, and the tech itself is still in its relative infancy.
For now, true self-driving cars are still years away from the commercial market. Still, the issues surrounding their deployment and usage need to be addressed before they become mainstream, so that we have systems and structures to accommodate them.
Cyber threats increased dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic. Individual members of vulnerable populations, small businesses, large corporations, and even the federal governments were hit by major attacks that stole millions of dollars along with sensitive data. One of the largest, most damaging events to come out of this surge in digital crime was the Solarwinds hack that dominated headlines throughout late 2020 and early 2021. Major players like Microsoft and the titular company Solarwinds were affected by the data breach, along with 9 federal agencies. Most worrying is the fact that its still unknown who was behind the hack. Speculation ranges from foreign governments to independent hacking groups, but nothing is definite.
This hack revealed how unprepared most entities are for preventing and mitigating the effects of cybercrime. This week, the Justice Department announced that it would be investigating the U.S. response to cybercrime. Newly confirmed Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced the review at the Munich Cyber Security Conference, stating that the U.S. was at a “pivot point” around how it approaches concerns around cybersecurity. While details are understandably scarce, she elaborated that the review would focus on issues such as digital currency, supply chain attacks such as the SolarWinds attack, and state-sponsored cyber-terrorism.
This is the second announcement from the government addressing cybersecurity concerns, following the Justice Department’s creation of a Ransomware and Digital Extortion Task Force to tackle the past year’s spike in ransomware attacks against critical infrastructure and organizations. It’s always encouraging to see increased awareness surrounding cybersecurity, especially from an organization as large as the federal government. Now is a great time for any organization, large or small, to re-evaluate how they are approaching security concerns and their information systems more generally. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can improve business security, reach out to us at info@optfinITy.com or leave us a comment. Stay safe!
Data breaches are devastating for an organization. Like any cyberattack, a data breach requires an immediate response. The victim has to identify the scope and scale of the breach, whether it is limited to a data breach or whether other systems were affected, and take steps to prevent further access from the perpetrator. Some data breaches come as part of a larger ransomware attack, were the threat of releasing sensitive data is used to leverage payment instead of more traditional ransomware that holds physical devices ‘hostage’. Payment is often ineffective, with perpetrators releasing the data anyways one they’ve received their untraceable ransom money.
Then, there is the additional legal and economic fallout to a company after the data has been released. These data breaches don’t just hurt a major corporation, they also reveal sensitive information about that organizations clients, partners, and prospects. With data collection on individuals becoming more expansive, and digital privacy rights eroding, the potential impact of data breaches on the individual increases dramatically. Anything from your browsing history, recent purchases, family information, medical details, banking and financial information, or social security number could be revealed without you even knowing it happened. The latest example of a major data breach shows just how sensitive this released data can be.
London-based security firm TurgenSec announced that nearly 345,000 files from the solicitor-general of the Philippines, including sensitive information for ongoing legal cases, have allegedly been breached and made publicly available. The released documents included hundreds of thousands of files ranging from “documents generated in the day-to-day running of the solicitor-general’s office, to staff training documents, internal passwords and policies, staffing payment information, information on financial processes, and activities including audits, and several hundred files titled with keywords such as “private, confidential, witness, and password”.” TurgenSec said after discovering the breach that the “data breach is particularly alarming as it is clear that this data is of governmental sensitivity and could impact on-going prosecutions and national security.”
Vaccine rollout in the United States is going fairly well. Some states like Virginia have vaccinated close to 41% of their population, meaning that in some areas, we are halfway to reaching the levels needed for herd immunity. While the pandemic is still ongoing, and precautions are still necessary, many decision makers are looking to plan for a post-COVID future. What was originally thought to be a month long shutdown, a temporary state, has evolved into a year long cultural shift that is sure to leave an indelible impact on our way of life. Or perhaps everything will go back to normal–there’s no way of being certain. Some environmentalists point to the impact climate change has on the emergence of novel viruses as a reason to believe that the coronavirus may not be the last major pandemic in the lifetime of Millennials and Generation Z.
With this uncertainty over what the future holds, the economy seems to be split on the question of whether employees should return to in-person work at all. Major tech companies like Facebook and Google have already announced that a percentage of their workforce will continue to work remotely. Workers themselves seem to prefer remote work as an option–54% of people currently working remotely want to continue the arrangement after the pandemic ends–and research hasn’t shown a definitive drop in productivity. In fact, some studies suggest that post-pandemic remote work could create a 5% boost to overall productivity. Workers take fewer sick days, office spaces can be downsized to save on rent, and corporate expenditures on making the office bearable can be eliminated.
On the other side, working from home creates undeniable cybersecurity risks for an organization. Workers who aren’t digitally literate are more likely to take risky actions without their colleagues in IT to watch over them. In fact, almost 20% of data breaches over the past year were due to worker negligence. If organizations cannot develop a robust cybersecurity program to train their remote workers, it may bring more harm than good.
Ultimately, the decision to allow remote work is one that is unique to each organization. There are tangible benefits to allowing the practice to continue, along with moral improvements and increased retention rates to consider. However, it’s still important to keep cybersecurity in mind. Without it, you put your organization at risk.
For the past year, we’ve been profiling major cyberattacks in order to raise awareness about the increase in cybercrime after 2020. Businesses have been struggling to balance remote work with the increased security necessary. Some, unable or unwilling to invest in structural security improvements, are instead choosing to take out insurance policies against cyberattacks. Cyber insurance or “cyber-liability insurance” helps companies recover from cyber threats and attacks. Having a cyber insurance policy reduce disruptions and downtime during an incident, as well as potentially helping to absorb the financial cost of dealing with and recovering from the cyberattack. But what happens when a giant in the cyber-insurance field is the one targeted?
Insurance company CNA offers many different insurance solutions to its customers, including cyber insurance policies to protect against ransomware attacks. In a public statement, CNA confirmed that “on March 21, 2021, CNA determined that it sustained a sophisticated cybersecurity attack” and that “the attack caused a network disruption and impacted certain CNA systems, including corporate email”. The hacking group known as Phoenix also encrypted data on over 15,000 CNA devices, potentially compromising sensitive client information. While CNA is working with the FBI to mitigate the fallout from this attack, it may be the start of a ‘second wave’ of cyberattacks.
Bystanders may be wondering why this attack is so significant. Simply put, threat actors, especially those utilizing ransomware, are incentivized to target organizations with cyber insurance. This may seem counterintuitive, given that cyber insurance is marketed as a product that counters cyber attacks. However, threat actors have realized that when they attack an insured organization, they are more likely to receive payment. If Phoenix was able to identify CNA clients who have purchased cyber insurance, those organizations may be future targets.
If you’ve purchased cyber insurance for your organization through CNA, acknowledge that your risk of attack has increased, and monitor the news for more information on what information was compromised. Additionally, consider improving your business’s other cybersecurity measures. Finally, if you’re interested in help identifying flaws in your business’s security, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
2020 shifted the business world’s mindset on a lot of important issues. Policies about time off, remote work, sick policies, and office communication have all adapted in response to the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the dramatic global increase in cybercrime, especially ransomware attacks, have created a new pressure on businesses to adapt their security policies as well. This shift in security has resulted in relatively new products like cyber insurance increasing in popularity, as smaller companies look for a one-step security solution. However, experts in the field are promoting a more holistic style of digital threat prevention called “cyber resilience. But what is cyber resilience, and you can you implement it at your organization?
Cyber resilience is the ability to predict, resist, recover from, and adapt to both adverse and changing business conditions. By creating a cyber resilient business, you increase your ability to respond flexibly and efficiently to a multitude of potential attacks or general failures. Implementing cyber resilience at your place of business means creating backups, strategies to minimize downtime, disaster response plans, managing cyber decisions from a business-oriented perspective, and finally, using a data-centric security strategy.
Data-centric models deliver the most value when they are used to create visibility throughout a business. Endpoint security, IAM, and security controls are all examples of how to provide that increased visibility that makes data-centric models so valuable. Finally, zero-trust models are becoming ever-more popular. The NSA went so far as to issue guidance on implementing a zero-trust model, saying that “Zero trust is a security model, a set of system design principles, and a coordinated cybersecurity and system management strategy based on an acknowledgment that threats exist both inside and outside traditional network boundaries.”
With the increase in digital threats and cyber attacks over the past two years, experts are recommending for organizations to take another look at their security protocols. However, some people are falling prey to common misconceptions about digital threats and cybersecurity and leaving their organization vulnerable as a result. Here are 5 of the most common misconceptions about digital threats and cybersecurity.
Myth #1 : THREAT ACTORS ONLY TARGET BIG BUSINESSES
Many small-to-medium business owners don’t view ransomware and other digital threats as real dangers for their organization. Because SMBs have fewer employees, store locations, and revenue than large conglomerates like Google or Target, decision makers often assume that threat actors like hackers will view them as too small a fish. The truth is that 76% of all cyberattacks are against businesses with less than 100 employees.
MYTH #2 : CYBERSECURITY IS TOO EXPENSIVE
The coronavirus affected many small business’s ability to pay their bills. Many are cutting down on spending that the organization’s decision makers have deemed frivolous. Cybersecurity spending has been one of those expenses–but it shouldn’t be! Basic security protocols, like multi-factor authentication, password managers, and phishing awareness campaigns are inexpensive ways to protect your business from real threats.
MYTH #3 : you need an in-house expert
Some people believe that an in-house expert is necessary for business security. However, the expense of a full-time, salaried employee can be too much for a small business to afford. Furthermore, one employee rarely has the experience, expertise, or time to fully meet the security needs of an organization. However, one option that isn’t often considered is outsourcing your security concerns to another company. By outsourcing, you can take advantage of a full suite of security experts, for less cost than an in-house team.
myth #4 : anti-virus software is good enough
Anti-virus and anti-malware programs are an important tool in ensuring your devices’ security. Despite their usefulness, they are not a substitute for strong security policies and enforcement. If the hackers use a new kind of malware to infect your network or PC then there’s a high chance that these anti-virus software won’t be able to detect those. These programs are only the first line of defense for your system.
Myth #5 : threats are from the outside
When people consider what cybersecurity threats look like, they often imagine a lone hacker sitting in a dark basement. Most attacks, in fact, are internal, with over 75% of data breaches coming from insiders at an organization. Security protocols need to take into account that not everyone within an organization needs access to sensitive information and tools. Take a look at our article on internal threats if you’re interested in learning more.
It’s been a cold month in Texas–an Arctic front covered most of the middle and southern American states in snow. Some parts of the southernmost state received over a foot of icy accumulation, and temperatures fell to single digits. While areas of the US can handle those conditions, Texas’s infrastructure was drastically unsuited to the task. When you combine houses with little to no insulation, a lack of snowplows, and a failing electrical grid, you get the kind of tragedy that Texas is slowly recovering from. So much of the damage done has been to the state’s citizens. However, the continual power outages and shutdowns are also impacting technology-focused businesses around the world in unexpected ways.
First, some background: a large proportion of the world’s technology requires semiconductors in order to operate. These are substances that help form most modern circuits, including those in everything from cars to iPhones to refrigerators. Without semiconductor chips, most modern technology cannot function. Because they are so important to modern manufacturing, a shortage of semiconductors can transform from a supply issue to a national crisis. In 2020, experts predicted that a such a shortage was imminent as consumer demand for products like cars outpaced corporate expectations. By January 2021, that shortage was fully realized. Then, the blizzard hit Texas.
Texas hosts the largest amount of semiconductor manufacturing facilities in the country, each of which relies on Texas’s energy grid in order to function. When the blizzard began disabling power plants, several of these manufacturers were forced to halt production indefinitely. For some companies, the uncertainty surrounding the power grid made work impossible. Others shut down voluntarily so that power could be redirected to nearby hospitals and residential areas. Either way, the gap in production represents another blow to semiconductor supply.
As of now, the ultimate impact of the semiconductor deficit is unknown. More important than the immediate supply chain failure is what the situation signifies: uncontrollable physical disasters can have major ripple effects. Whether your business is a semiconductor manufacturing firm or a small local bakery, our modern economy requires some degree of interdependence. You cannot predict everything, which is why a disaster recovery plan is a crucial aspect of any business. If you don’t currently have a disaster recovery plan for your business, consider reaching out to us at email@example.com–we’re always happy to help!
Almost 10 million devices have been compromised by a popular scanning app.
Lavabird Ltd’s Barcode Scanner was a popular barcode and QR code scanner downloaded to almost 10 million devices from the Google Play Store. Android devices, unlike newer generation Apple products, do not have a built in QR code scanner or a barcode reader, making an app like Lavabird’s a must have for many consumers. Unlike some malicious apps, Lavabird’s Barcode Scanner had been on Google’s official app store for years. The app had a clean security certificate, thousands of positive reviews, and no obvious malicious code. This meant that security-conscious consumers, who are aware of potential dangers, downloaded the app believing it was safe. That made it all the worse when what should have been a routine update transformed the app into malware
Malwarebytes, a cybersecurity company dedicated to identifying and preventing malware infections, began receiving complaints from customers in late December. These customers were experiencing ads opening themselves using their device’s built in internet browser. This type of malware, sometimes called “malvertising”, is typically connected with new app installations. However, those consumers had not downloaded any new apps that could have been causing the problem. The company eventually discovered that this malware was coming from Lavabird’s Barcode Scanner, which had been operating on these devices without issues for years.
The good news is that, if your device has been infected, uninstalling the app seems to remove the malware as well. What’s more concerning is the fact that an app was able to build up a large following before discretely pushing a malicious update. For consumers, this means that doing due diligence on an application prior to downloading it is no longer enough. So how do you keep your devices and your data safe?
The first step is knowing what apps you have downloaded on your phone. Make a point of deleting apps that you no longer use, and monitor your phone for any changes in performance after an app is downloaded or updated. If you are a decision-maker at a business that issues ‘work phones’ to employees, consider restricting app downloads and updates so that you can monitor the phone’s performance. If you’re looking for outside assistance in developing a security plan for your company’s mobile devices, you can always reach out to us at info@optfinITy.com.