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New CISA director outlines top 5 priorities for protecting U.S. critical infrastructure

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CISA’s Christopher Krebs has a two-year plan for his new cybersecurity agency, with China, supply chain and 5G as top priorities.

Last November, the former, somewhat awkwardly named National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) was elevated within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to become the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) following enactment of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act of 2018. CISA is responsible for protecting the country’s critical infrastructure from physical and cyber threats, overseeing a host of cybersecurity-related activities. This includes operating the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), which provides round-the-clock situational awareness, analysis, incident response and cyber defense capabilities to the federal government, state, local, tribal and territorial governments, the private sector and international partners.

CISA made its first prominent mark as an independent agency during the 35-day government shut-down when, on January 22, it issued an unexpected, and to some a startling, emergency directive ordering admins at most government agencies to protect their domains against a wave of attacks on the domain name system infrastructure (DNS). The directive was prompted by a number of DNS tampering efforts at multiple executive branch agencies. This malicious, complex and widespread campaign, dubbed DNSpionage by Cisco Talos, allowed suspected Iranian hackers to steal massive amounts of email passwords and other sensitive data from government offices and private sector entities.

Christopher Krebs serves as CISA’s first director. Krebs previously headed the NPPD as assistant secretary for infrastructure protection and joined DHS as a senior counselor to the secretary after working in the U.S. Government Affairs team as the director for cybersecurity at Microsoft.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

The cybersecurity legislation agenda: 5 areas to watch

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The 116th Congress is only a few months old, but far-reaching cybersecurity bills to protect infrastructure and the supply chain, ensure election integrity, and build a security workforce are now being considered. Here’s the list.

New digital threats that could topple business, government, military and political institutions is moving cybersecurity to the top of the congressional agenda. The newly seated 116th Congress has so far seen 30 bills introduced in the House of Representatives and seven bills introduced in the Senate that directly deal with cybersecurity issues. That does not include other pieces of legislation that have at least some provisions that deal with information and digital security.

A key problem in grappling with such a complex issue as cybersecurity in Congress — and in Washington in general — is the diffused responsibility spawned by the wide-ranging, interconnected nature of the topic. Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI), a member of the Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, and one of the founders of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, flagged this stumbling block at the 2019 State of the Net conference in January by calling for consolidation in Congress over cybersecurity.

Noting that around 80 groups within the legislative branch claim some jurisdiction over cybersecurity matters, Langevin said, “We as a Congress are going to have to move with greater agility to respond to the cybersecurity threats we face going forward, and we can’t do it under the current construct.” Langevin wants the House Homeland Security issue to take the lead on all matters related to cybersecurity.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

EFF has an encryption plan for the entire internet

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Spurred by government surveillance of data, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is making progress toward its goal of encrypting all internet traffic using technology and scorecards.

If there is one technology that best protects internet users from scammers, hackers and nation-state threat actors it’s encryption. Fortunately, the web is currently undergoing a massive transformation from a non-secure HTTP format, the initial underlying protocol for all communications on the web, to HTTPS, which ensures communications between browsers and websites are secure via encryption.

Few organizations have done more to push encryption technologies onto the internet’s vast jumble of websites than the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). “Ten years ago, there was basically no encryption on the web,” Dr. Jeremy Gillula, technical projects director at EFF, said during a talk at Shmoocon.

Internet surveillance spurs encryption efforts

In 2006, a surprise development pushed encryption higher up on EFF’s agenda. On January 26 of that year, former AT&T technician Mark Klein walked into of EFF’s offices, unsolicited, with the astounding story of how the NSA built a secret spying room in AT&T’s San Francisco facility that gave it access to all internet traffic traveling through that, and probably more, AT&T facilities.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

Why one of America’s top experts is hopeful for better election security

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Voting machines and elections in general are still vulnerable to hacking, says Matt Blaze, but adoption of risk-limiting audits and software independence gives opportunity for improvement.

In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, election security quickly became one of the hottest political and cybersecurity research topics. The growing unease that foreign and other adversaries might meddle in our digital voting infrastructure gave way to a growing chorus among some experts to disband digital voting technology altogether and revert to paper ballots.

Six top-tier information security experts issued an alarming report about what they had discovered when they took apart voting machines at DEF CON’s Voting Village last year. They found dozens of severe vulnerabilities in a range of voting equipment, including one in a device from top voting technology supplier Election Systems & Software that could allow an attacker to remotely hijack the system over a network and alter the vote count.

One of those experts, Georgetown University professor and noted cryptographer Matt Blaze, told attendees at this year’s annual Shmoocon conference that in the 20 years he has been studying election security, “it is the hardest security problem I’ve ever encountered.”

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

How Facebook’s privacy woes might change the rules of the road in 2019

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Following a string of data privacy and protection missteps, Facebook faces potential backlash from legislators and consumers that could affect all companies that process consumer data.

The past year has been nightmare for Facebook, breaking a decade-long streak of seemingly boundless growth that placed the internet giant at the center of social, political and commercial activities of billions of people around the globe. Facebook began its precipitous downhill turn in March when a whistleblower uncovered Facebook’s role in helping political consultancy Cambridge Analytica harvest and use the personal data of tens of millions of users without their permission.

The company was rocked by a scandal or controversy every month thereafter, not all of which were privacy related. Emerging from these scandals was a portrait of a company with a voracious appetite for monetizing users’ detailed data and sloppy management in protecting the privacy and security of that data. How the company and its regulators react to these events could have a lasting impact on how all companies manage and protect consumer data.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

Finally, a meaningful congressional report on stemming cybersecurity attacks

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The Cybersecurity Strategy Report offers solutions to six problem areas in an effort to improve IT’s ability to cope with today’s cyber threat landscape.

As a new Congress arrives next month, expect a whirlwind of activity on the cybersecurity and privacy fronts. From major data breaches to the growing consumer data privacy morass, the frenetic pace of Washington developments will heat up.Most of this activity will obscure the fundamentals of why we have never-ending breaches, personal data exposures and chronic digital insecurity. A just-issued report by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversights and Investigations is, however, a refreshing departure from the usual political drama because it delves into this very question.

The Cybersecurity Strategy Report released on December 7 sidesteps the crises du jour by taking a bigger picture, practical and non-partisan view of what’s going wrong and how to fix things. It seeks to articulate how “traditional information technology (IT) strategies seem largely ineffective at stemming the growing tide of cybersecurity incidents.”

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

Who is responsible for IoT security in healthcare?

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NIST panel debates who should own IoT security: vendors or users. The issue is especially important when it comes to protecting medical devices.

The next big challenge in cybersecurity will undoubtedly be to secure the billion-plus (and growing) internet-of-things (IoT) devices around the globe, which exponentially expand the attack vector across the increasingly interconnected IT sector. Based on statistics from Symantec, attacks that leverage internet-connected cameras, appliances, cars, and medical devices to launch attacks or infiltrate networks soared by 600 percent from 2016 to 2017.

[“It was a big year for cyberattacks,” Ken Durbin, senior strategist for global government affairs at Symantec, said speaking on a panel at NIST’s Cybersecurity Risk Management Conference. Much of that panel’s discussion focused on who should own IoT security. The nature of IoT risk makes that a hard question to answer.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

With supply chain security grabbing headlines, NIST sees new relevance for its guidance

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Supply chain is sexy again, and NIST hopes that means more companies take its supply chain risk guidance seriously.

Cybersecurity in the supply chain is a dense, massively complicated topic that lies beyond the comprehension of all but a few dedicated experts. It has nonetheless risen to the top of security challenges organizations face today. “Supply chain is the new black. Supply chain is sexy again. That’s kind of hard to imagine,” said Jon Boyens, manager, security engineering and risk management at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Boyens, who manages cybersecurity supply chain efforts at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), made that comment during a plenary session at NIST’s Cybersecurity Risk Management Conference.

NIST’s long history with supply chain risk

NIST is an old hand at supply chain outside the cybersecurity realm, starting decades ago when it began developing guidance for managing risk in global industrial and defense supply chains. “Supply chain is the most mature in its gestation because we’ve had all sorts of permutations along the way. This is an old topic for defense organizations,” says Matt Barrett, NIST’s Cybersecurity Framework lead.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

Why NIST’s privacy framework could help security efforts

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Although many people, even some cybersecurity practitioners, tend to conflate data security and data privacy as one and the same, privacy experts see them as two different, often contradictory, yet frequently overlapping objectives.

Although many people, even some cybersecurity practitioners, tend to conflate data security and data privacy as one and the same, privacy experts see them as two different, often contradictory, yet frequently overlapping objectives.

“We look at it as a Venn diagram,” Naomi Lefkovitz, privacy engineering program head at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), said during a plenary session here at NIST’s Cybersecurity Risk Management conference.

Lefkovitz is spearheading NIST’s initiative to create a Privacy Framework, along the lines of NIST’s successful Cybersecurity Framework, which could help pave the way toward the development of trustworthy information systems that protect privacy. From the Venn diagram perspective, the protection of individual privacy cannot be achieved by merely securing personally identifiable information (PII) because security risks arise from unauthorized system behavior while privacy risks arise as a byproduct of authorized PII. The area where security concerns overlap privacy concerns is the only area where true PII privacy currently occurs.

(This article appeared in Cyberscoop. Please read the rest of the article here.)

Why NIST is so popular in Japan

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While organizations around the globe continue to grapple with chronic shortages of qualified cybersecurity workers, Japan is tackling the problem in a significant way by turning to two U.S. government technology frameworks to help manage its own information security manpower shortages.

Japanese industry has turned to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework and National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Workforce Framework in an effort to fill the unique cybersecurity skills gap characteristic of Japanese companies.

Masato Kimura, a manager in the cybersecurity R&D planning department at Japanese telecom giant NTT, said that the NIST workforce framework in particular plays a pivotal role in Japan due to the high level of reliance by Japanese companies on outsourced IT and cybersecurity personnel.

[This article appeared in Cyberscoop. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]