How Video Analytics Help Security Drive Awareness and Insight

In diverse industries, video analytics help security to get a clearer view.

As a rule, there is a lot that video analytics can do to bolster security – whether that’s motion detection for perimeter security; facial recognition for access control; or artificial intelligence (AI) for object classification, to name a few of the possibilities.

As we consider the promise of video analytics in seven key sectors, a common theme emerges. Analytics don’t just enhance the security mission, acting as a force multiplier and driving new levels of awareness and insight. They also boost the position of the security professional, enabling security to leverage its investment in video as a means to drive new levels of efficiency across all levels of the operation.

K-12 Schools

In a K-12 school, where a security officer may need to watch over a large and complex facility, analytics and AI can expand that guard’s reach. “There is the security component from something simple: Was a child left on the playground when everyone returned from recess?” says Forrester Senior Analyst Nick Barber. “AI could be trained to tell the difference between a child and an adult, so that it isn’t falsely triggered if there is a teacher on the playground versus a student.”

“Or, is there an active shooter on campus and should 911 be contacted?” Barber says. AI, as applied to video, could be trained to recognize what a gun looks or sounds like and could automatically alert authorities, while simultaneously relaying the related video. Analytics could support simpler tasks as well, such as taking attendance as students enter the school or classroom.


The security challenge for universities and college campuses rests with sheer acreage. Universities may have a large security footprint, with their own police departments supported by cameras and a monitoring center. But they also have a lot of ground to cover. Analytics can provide a force multiplier.

Facial recognition, for instance, can offer a ‘be on the lookout’ mechanism to help security identify persons of interest. “If there’s a stalker, the analytics can pick up on those individuals,” says Scott Vogel, CEO of Incyte Security, a data analytics consultancy. Geofencing and other analytic tools can likewise help secure a sprawling perimeter. “You may have people hopping the fence at night to avoid the security gate, and analytics can provide a virtual barrier.”


In the healthcare environment, video is of greatest use in helping to secure entry and exit points, whether that is aimed at keeping unwanted individuals out of an emergency-care situation, or at keeping dementia patients in and on-premise at a senior care facility. “Analytics solutions can alert operators when people either enter or exit secure areas without proper identification procedures, such as swiping a badge, or they can utilize some facial recognition features to be sure that the person on camera who has earned entrance to a secure area is the person they are claiming to be,” says Danielle VanZandt, industry analyst for security, aerospace, defense and security at Frost & Sullivan.

Analytics can also be used to identify potential threats that might otherwise be overlooked by security personnel. Left objects or ‘loitering’ analytics will aid hospital security teams to identify either suspicious packages or behaviors, particularly if these alerts are generated in areas that should not have significant amounts of foot-traffic.


Video analytics can help cannabis growers to identify possible threats to the safety of their crop, says Ryan Douglas, founder of consulting firm Ryan Douglas Cultivation LLC. “High-tech greenhouses install mobile cameras that constantly run along tracks mounted to the ceiling. Analyzing this video can help with the early identification of pest or disease outbreaks, nutritional deficiencies and undesirable growth patterns before they negatively affect a crop,” Douglas says. It’s a way for security to leverage its video investment in support of enhanced operational efficiency.

Security could also utilize analytics to help ensure cannabis retailers comply with regulations, if, for instance, the system was programmed to monitor quantities of product changing hands at the point of sale. “It could ensure that during the purchase transaction, buyers don’t exceed the amount of product that they are legally allowed to purchase,” Barber says.

At grow sites, analytics can also be applied to remote video surveillance systems to help secure the perimeter.  Motion-detection capabilities and geofencing can likewise be leveraged to extend the eyes of the security force over the growing and production operations.

Property Management

For security on a commercial property, video alone can’t cover all the bases. Property management requires a combination of broad vision and deep insights. Beyond mere images, analytics can deliver the intelligence to help security professionals make best use of their time and cover ground more effectively.

“You might have teenagers climbing on the roof of the building. Beyond the general liability problem, they are damaging the roof,” Vogel says. “With analytics, you can identify the places where people go up on that roof and notify security. Within seconds you get notification and hopefully can deter that incident.”

Analytics can detect patterns of behavior, noting when a parking lot is filling up. This helps to ensure adequate security coverage when and where it is needed. Video analytic tools can help security to deter theft from commercial properties, by highlighting common traffic-flow patterns and sending out a notification to security officers when those patterns are disrupted. This helps security to see when products may potentially be walking out the back door and, with the help of automated notifications, to respond in real time.

Critical Infrastructure

Consider all the luminous dials in a hydroelectric plant or an oil refinery: Constant reminders that pressure and temperature are key determinants of safety. Security personnel can use analytics to monitor a vast array of analog sensors more effectively and in real time. Point a camera at an analog gauge, program the analytics to watch for threshold levels, “and an alert can get triggered if the pressure rises above a certain point as seen on the dial,” Barber says.

Video can also be used to understand how specific elements of the facility are operating and can signal when key components need replacement. Security thus pushes critical infrastructure closer to an IoT-enabled enterprise, Barber says.

Security personnel also are charged with tracking workers, vendors and others who  at critical infrastructure facilities. Video analytics capabilities, when paired with surveillance systems that provide facial recognition, will help critical infrastructure to improve access control, maintain security logs for entry and exits in specialized areas and better manage visitors or contractors, VanZandt says.


Access control is a key issue in manufacturing, with security tasked to ensure that only the right people can get to certain places, especially sensitive production areas and inventory stores..[…] Read more »….



How the COVID-19 Pandemic Reinforced Hackers’ Revenue Models

The industrious and criminal-minded threat actors behind the majority of cyberattacks have reinvented their attack approaches during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Since the advent of the outbreak, cybercriminals are developing new phishing tools, hacking strategies, and exploring different attack avenues to benefit from the crisis and eventually prove their cyber prowess.

By Rudra Srinivas, Feature Writer, CISO MAG

Several new cybersecurity scams and malicious activities have risen during the pandemic.  According to a survey the key cause for the emergence of these new threats is likely due to social distancing norms and malware authors being bored and stuck at home due to the lockdown.

COVID-19 has certainly reshaped the way darknet forums operate. CISO MAG learned four intriguing ways cybercriminals are trying to cash in on public fears.

1. Fake Products in Darknet Markets

Since the beginning of 2020, Coronavirus-related vaccines, virus testing kits, and other fake products are being peddled on the deep web and darknet markets. Hackers are taking advantage of panic as people look for safeguards against the disease. Several security experts warned that the products selling in these hacking forums are in no way real, and buyers are sure to be scammed. For instance, there are fake “vaccines” being sold on the darknet.

2. New Phishing Strategies

COVID-19-related phishing lures, scams, disinformation campaigns, weaponized websites, and malware infections have become widespread across the internet. Recently, a hacker group targeted the World Health Organization (WHO) via a sophisticated phishing attack, which involved an email hosted on a phishing domain that tried to trick the employees into entering their credentials. Researchers are noticing new types of phishing campaigns that pretend to be from authenticate sources, trying to trick users into downloading malicious attachments or entering sensitive data in fake forms.

Recently, a security firm discovered that threat actors distributed malware disguised as “Coronavirus Map” to steal personal information that is stored in the user’s browser. Attackers designed multiple websites related to Coronavirus information to prompt users to click/download an application to keep themselves updated on the situation. The website displays a map (a lookalike of a genuine one) representing the COVID-19 spread. The map generates a malicious binary file and installs it on victims’ devices.

3. Demand for Ransom Soars

With organizations working remotely, the security of the remote employees’ devices becomes a major concern for companies across the globe. Several industry experts stated that remote work increased the risks of cyberthreats like never before. Ransomware attacks on remote workers have become an additional threat level to organizations, especially for health care providers and businesses in financial, federal, and state agencies that deal with sensitive data. The ransomware operators are forcing enterprises to pay high ransom in order to get decryption keys. The average enterprise ransom payments increased 33% ($111,605) in Q1 of 2020 from Q4 of 2019, a survey revealed.

Information technology services provider Cognizant admitted that it is a recent victim of a ransomware attack. The IT giant stated that it was hit by Maze ransomware that caused service disruptions for some of its clients.

4. Income from Selling Credentials

Stolen user credentials and financial information have long been prevalent commodities on hacking forums. But with large swaths of remote workers depending on video conferencing apps and other virtual private networks, hackers are refocusing on these attack surfaces. As endpoint security at home is not as secure as it is in the office, attackers are trying to exploit loopholes.

Over 500,000 account credentials of video conference platform Zoom are being sold on the darknet. According to a recent investigation by IntSights’ researchers, hackers have shared a database containing more than 2,300 usernames and passwords to Zoom accounts on dark web forums. The exposed database contains usernames and passwords of personal Zoom accounts, including corporate accounts belonging to banks, consultancy companies, educational facilities, software vendors, and healthcare providers. Researchers also highlighted that they’ve found various posts and threads of dark web forum members discussing different approaches of targeting Zoom’s conferencing services…[…] Read more »…..

This article first appeared in CISO MAG.

<Link to CISO MAG site:>

Here Come 5G IoT Devices: What Is “Reasonable Security”?

After years of waiting for 5G technology to transform industry and consumer devices, developments at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show suggest that 2020 may finally be the year when US companies make the leap.  Early signs show the healthcare and manufacturing sectors will lead the way this year in incorporating 5G and connected devices into their operations.

If the prognosticators are correct, our smart watches will soon talk to our refrigerators and order healthy groceries online.  And our doctors may receive real-time health updates from our workout equipment, pharmacies, and implanted medical devices.

The combination of 5G and the projected explosion in the number of IoT devices has industry excited, and the government focused on data security.  5G will allow massive evolution of products and services; leading to autonomous vehicles, remote surgery, and greater connectivity, automation, and precision in industrial manufacturing.  This coming integration and reliance on connected devices—the Internet of Things (IoT)—raises myriad new privacy and security concerns, and lawmakers and regulators are ready to take action.

The New Year brought new state laws in California and Oregon focusing specifically on security requirements for connected devices.  The laws are the first in the nation, and portend a coming wave of laws, lawsuits, and regulatory actions focused specifically on data security.  Lawmakers are wrestling with how to keep consumers safe in the face of rapid technological advancement, and are falling back on the concept of “reasonable security” to bridge the gap.  But reasonable security may not be an easy standard for engineers to implement.

The California and Oregon laws require manufacturers of connected devices to integrate reasonable security measures that (1) are appropriate to the nature and function of the device; (2) appropriate to the information the device may collect, contain, or transmit; and (3) designed to protect the device and its information from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure.

This may seem like a simple threshold, but these laws’ definition of “connected devices” is expansive, potentially expanding the scope to include security cameras, household assistants, vehicles, and in the case of California, industrial manufacturing equipment.  Each different category of device is going to have a different level of sophistication, different uses, different interaction with data, and different manufacturing requirements.  What may be reasonable for a wifi-enabled juicer is not going to be reasonable for a connected vehicle.

The increasing inability of laws and policies to keep pace with advancements in technology means that efforts to address these issues are going to be crafted in an overly broad and flexible manner.  The California and Oregon laws, as well as similar efforts at the federal level, reflect a struggle to empower the government to address problems, the exact contours of which are not completely known or understood.  Rather than be behind the curve of a particular problem, these laws impose broad requirements that will evolve over time.

At the same time, laws run the risk of codifying standards that may be inapt or quickly become obsolete.  The California and Oregon laws provide that “reasonable security” can be satisfied by equipping a device with a unique preprogrammed password or a requirement that the user generate a new means of authentication before gaining access to the device for the first time.  This may be reasonable for some devices, but the law also covers devices where a compromise in security could result in significant physical harm, and where more stringent security requirements would be appropriate.

As security and encryption approaches continue to advance, the password requirements codified in the laws may actually be disincentives to the adoption of more effective—and reasonable—security practices.  So this is leaving engineers asking the question, what is reasonable security?

Unfortunately, “it depends” is the answer right now. Until regulators offer guidance on how they are going to interpret the requirements or, develop those standards through various enforcement actions, it will be up to manufacturers to develop industry-wide standards for what constitutes “reasonable security.”  This may be particularly challenging in light of the expansive scope of these laws.  The California Attorney General, at least, has previously endorsed the Center for Internet Security’s Critical Security Controls as a baseline for reasonable security.  And some industries, like the automotive industry, already have good track records and mechanisms to establish industry standards.  Emerging industries and existing companies unfamiliar with IoT and 5G, may not be in such an advantageous position..[…] Read more »



Engaging Young Women and Girls in STEM to Bridge the Cybersecurity Job Gap

As the proliferation of digital technologies continues, cybersecurity’s importance will only increase – there’s a direct correlation between our use of devices and the deployment of digital technologies and the need for improved security.

This increased need for cybersecurity translates directly to the need for cybersecurity-focused professionals, as numerous reports over the past few years have highlighted that several million positions will need to be filled in the not-too-distant future.

To more effectively bridge the cybersecurity job gap, we should look towards a particularly underrepresented group in STEM – young women and girls.

The Cybersecurity Pros of Tomorrow

Today’s youth are the most digital native generation in the history of humanity. However, despite this, younger individuals comprise one of the most vulnerable demographics of users due to their practices, such as having a tendency to be freer in terms of what they share about themselves with strangers, making them prime targets for criminals to attempt to exploit.

Engaging young women and girls in cybersecurity-focused disciplines not only serves address this problem directly by helping educate them to enable them to protect themselves, but it also presents an opportunity to harness their experiences and unique perspectives to understand possible scenarios criminals are capitalizing on. It’s this diversity of thought that will help us as a means of deterring bad actors by anticipating their behavior and by placing individuals who have had relevant personal experiences with bad actors in positions to protect other individuals from future attacks.

Beyond this, women and young girls are predominantly attracted to disciplines that help people and our society.

By educating this demographic on how cyberattacks can cause harm, educators will be able to more effectively encourage young women and girls to envision themselves as protectors and enlist them to become cybersecurity superheroes.

By seeing the immediate impact they and their peers can have on the world and other individuals by using security technology, more young women girls will want to pursue careers in these areas – and, in turn, these individuals have the capacity to wind up as future advocates for additional diversity and inclusion in STEM, having had positive experiences in relevant fields themselves.

The Keys to Engagement

To better engage young women and girls in STEM to bridge the job gap in cybersecurity, educators should utilize the following strategies:

  • Find new and unique ways of connecting students to the larger societal issues they care about. More specifically, make a concerted effort to continuously stress the impact young women and girls can have on issues that they’re personally invested in by using and developing security-focused technologies.
  • Explore topics from students’ perspectives as opposed to introducing and approaching problems from a theoretical bottom-up approach, which can be confusing – this approach will enable educators to better engage students, resulting in a deeper understanding of technological concepts that might be otherwise hard to gras..[…] Read more »….




Cybersecurity Weekly: Colorado BEC scam, CyrusOne ransomware, new California privacy law

A town in Colorado loses over $1 million to BEC scammers. Data center provider CyrusOne suffers a ransomware attack. California adopts the strictest privacy law in the United States. All this, and more, in this week’s edition of Cybersecurity Weekly.

1. California adopts strictest privacy law in U.S.

A new privacy rights bill took effect on January 1, 2020 that governs the way businesses collect and store Californian consumer data. The California Consumer Privacy Act mandates strict requirements for companies to notify consumers about how their data will be used and monetized, along with offering them a hassle-free opt-out process.
Read more »

2. Starbucks API key exposed online

Developers at Starbucks recently left an API key exposed that could be used by an attacker to access the company’s internal systems. This issue could allow attackers to execute commands on systems, add/remove users and potentially take over the AWS instance. The security researcher who reported the incident to Starbucks was awarded a $4,000 bounty.
Read more »

3. Cybercriminals filling up on gas pump transaction scams

Gas stations will become liable for card-skimming at their pay-at-the-pump stations starting in October. In the meantime, cybercriminals are targeting these stations with a vengeance, according to security researchers. This is because pay-at-the-pump stations are one of the only PoS systems that don’t yet comply with PCI DSS regulations.
Read more »

4. Travelex currency exchange suspends services after malware attack

On New Year’s Eve, the U.K.-based currency exchange Travelex was forced to shut down its services as a “precautionary measure” in response to a malware attack. The company is manually processing customer requests while the network stays down during the incident response and recovery process.
Read more »

5. Xiaomi cameras connected to Google Nest expose video feeds from others

Google temporarily banned Xiaomi devices from its Nest Hub following a security incident with the Chinese camera manufacturer. Several posts on social media over the past week have showcased users gaining access to other random security cameras. Google warned users to unlink their cameras from their Nest Hub until a patch arrives.
Read more »

6. Colorado town wires over $1 million to BEC scammers

Colorado Town of Erie recently lost more than $1 million to a business email compromise attack after scammers used an electronic payment information form on the town’s own website. They requested a change to the payment information on the building contract for a nearby bridge construction project.
Read more »

7. Maze ransomware sued for publishing victim’s stolen data

The anonymous hackers behind the Maze ransomware are being sued for illegally accessing a victim’s network, stealing data, encrypting computers and publishing the stolen data after a ransom was not paid. Lawyers claim the lawsuit may be to reserve their spot for monetary damages if money is recovered by the government.
Read more »

8. Landry’s restaurant chain suffers payment card theft via PoS malware

A malware attack struck point of sale systems at Landry’s restaurant chain that allowed cybercriminals to steal customers’ credit card information. Due to end-to-end encryption technology used by the company, attackers were only able to steal payment data “in rare circumstances.”..[…] Read more »….



Trial Before the Fire: How to Test Your Incident Response Plan to Ensure Consistency and Repeatability

While many organizations go to great lengths to set up effective security operations incident response plans, few proactively test their processes to ascertain how they will work when faced with a real threat.

Fifty-nine percent of incident response (IR) professionals admit that their organizations follow a reactive approach, according to a report from Carbon Black. Essentially, teams assume their processes work reasonably well to address the incident at hand … until they don’t. While organizations must have IR plans in place, it’s even more important that they a) work consistently and b) are updated and improved over time.

Testing incident response processes within the security operations center (SOC) should yield two important results: a clear understanding of whether your plan is likely to work and a list of gaps that should be addressed. There is no point testing them if the findings will play no role in optimizing your processes.

Lessons learned from your tests must be properly documented for them to have real, lasting value for your security operations team. Plus, you don’t want to find out your emergency plans don’t work when disaster strikes. What makes sense on paper or the whiteboard often doesn’t work as planned when put into practice.

Schools run fire drills, so everyone knows what to do when the bells go off. So, why aren’t we applying this logic more broadly in cybersecurity?

What is incident response?

IR refers to the systematic response to and management of events following a cyberattack or data breach. It involves a series of actions and activities aimed at reducing the impact of such an event.

A typical IR plan includes six phases which help the affected organization recover from an incident or simply contain it once it occurs: preparation, identification, containment, eradication, recovery and lessons learned.

When building an effective IR plan, security teams should determine the following:

  • The purpose of the plan.
  • Details on how to use the plan.
  • Your ability to respond to different incident types – including unauthorized access, malicious code, denial of service and inappropriate usage – and whether your information assets would be affected by such events.
  • Event handling protocols for each incident type and how to respond. This should include a checklist of which playbook needs to be triggered in the event of a cyberattack or breach. (A playbook, also known as a runbook, is common to the SOC and defines the flow of activities associated with a specific security issue and subsequent investigation and response. The goal is to build a consistent set of activities followed in every case, no matter the analyst assigned to it.)
  • Your ability to set up a “war room” for critical decision makers to receive and share information across the organization.
Testing the waters

Once you have a clear, documented plan in place, you should periodically test it through simulations to assess effectiveness and make continuous improvements. So, how can you put your processes to the test? Most security operations teams today use three methods:

1)     Paper tests

The most theoretical and likely the first step for security operations teams who don’t have well-documented processes. However, paper tests leave too much room for error and should only be used to look for small process changes.

2)     Tabletop exercises

These scenarios consist of company stakeholders sitting around a, you guessed it, table and running through a mock security event. While these exercises may appear informal, you should prepare well in advance, make sure the right individuals participate from across the organization and that the scenario is as real as possible. Allow for up to half a day to put key processes through their paces and troubleshoot as you go.

3)     Simulated attacks

The most effective way to pressure test your processes is to simulate a real-world attack to see how your organization will respond.[…] Read more »





What Indicators Can I Reference to Gauge My Organization’s Security Posture?

Understanding an organization’s security posture will help to create a clear and present representation of what the cybersecurity capabilities of your organization are. Any information security program is evaluated on the integrity, availability, and confidentiality of the data within a designated secured environment. Several indicators can help to gauge where your organization belongs within the risk management structure, which can help to identify your organization’s security posture and what security challenges the business must confront.

Many cybersecurity information risk management programs suggest businesses should adopt the InfoSec security standards and implement cybersecurity as a key driver of business decision making. The scope of InfoSec is wide-ranging, but the aim is to continuously improve your organization’s information security, year after year.

What exactly should you look for? What are the indicators that will help describe your organization’s security posture? The following information will help you determine what your new approach to cyber risk management should be.

Is there a set budget for infosec?

Understanding if there has been a budget allocated for information security helps to identify if an organization is serious about cybersecurity. In-house cybersecurity can work out to be incredibly expensive; hiring highly-skilled, ethical security personnel is not easy. SecOps engineers are highly sought-after personnel and salary expectations are usually very high. The purchasing of software licenses and security hardware appliances is another considerable cost to consider.

Many organizations realize that the OpEx costs can be high, and many choose to outsource to a reputable cybersecurity service provider who can call upon teams of SecOps architects, engineers, and consultants when needed to install, manage, and maintain any purchased security infrastructure service.

Companies need a pragmatic approach for monitoring and assessing their cybersecurity landscape, and a security program that delivers a return on the security investment (ROSI). Security expenditure needs to be justified by successfully completing external audits that validate security processes are in place, such as:

  • Conducting external vulnerability scans
  • Planning for disaster recovery & incident response tests
  • Conducting phishing and social engineering tests
  • Conducting external penetration testing

Without a realistic security budget, there is a significant risk that an organization may fall short on these scenarios. This can lead to significant gaps and weaknesses in your organization’s cybersecurity policy.

The frequency and sophistication of employee training

Cybersecurity training should be made available to all employees. This is a key area to look for, as training is absolutely essential. Cybersecurity is a highly technical industry where relevant, important security information needs to filter down to every single employee. Security training strengthens employee’s knowledge and understanding of cybersecurity risk management putting each employee in the best position to uphold your organization’s cybersecurity policy.

Collaborating with a skilled cybersecurity vendor will ensure training compliance and improve team understanding of the latest risks and trends in cybersecurity, as well as knowing what the best practices are to reduce the risk.

Cybersecurity training in many industries, such as the financial sector, is mandatory and enforceable by the regulator. There are huge benefits of having teams who are aware of the latest cybersecurity trends and able to spot phishing, scam phone calls, malware and virus attachments.

Technical red flags

You may be surprised by the number of issues that are discovered with organizations that are missing even the most basic technical safeguards to protect the integrity, availability, and confidentiality of data. Reviewing the results of your malware scans is not enough, businesses need to be proactive in providing the basic security requirements:

  • Secure Networking – The network is the first line of defense in cybersecurity. Strong network authentication, encryption, restricting public internet traffic, and blocking common ports on the firewall are the first steps to improving security. Furthermore, network analysis and scanning using Intrusion prevention systems, content filters, email scanning tools, and isolating network assets should all be in place
  • Asset Management – It is important to identify all pieces of equipment owned by the business. An asset list will catalog servers, laptops, tablets and any other infrastructure device. Good asset management reduces waste, capital expenditure and above all else acts as a baseline for the support teams who will know what equipment is available and where it is located.
  • Patch Management – A regular patching schedule is the first step to securing software and operating systems. Vendors publish security patches that prevent exposure to the latest software vulnerabilities and exploits
  • Passwords – Securing a network using unique and complex passwords that are enforced company-wide will help to provide an immediate level of protection. Taking this further and testing user accounts and system accounts for weaknesses using penetration testing software such as Nessus or Backtrack will proactively scan for weakness and non-compliance. Processes can be drawn up to harden password policies or maybe offer training to the worse offenders

There are many further technical safeguards that can be implemented, but these basic first steps will help to prevent misconfiguration and backdoors into your environment. Credible cybersecurity providers recommend an annual internal audit and roadmap check-up is performed. This process will review existing technical safeguards, identify weaknesses, and then suggest recommendations based on industry best practice, as well as a roadmap on the best way to implement the changes […] Read more »



AR and VR: How Immersive Technology Is Bringing Cybersecurity Scenarios to Life

A PwC survey on corporate digital IQs found that there’s a disconnect between the skills and technologies that companies say matter most and what they’re investing in. With the rapid increase in emerging technologies disrupting every industry, enterprise leaders are feeling immense pressure to fill the resulting glaring void with employees who can pick up the skills necessary to implement this technology into everyday enterprise tasks. Aside from finding the right people, companies also need to ensure that proper training is in place. However, it’s no secret that a lack of engagement exists between employees and the less-than-awe-inspiring learning programs in use.

Just as I was finishing my tenure as the CSO of Dell, we introduced “Gamification” into our security and ethics training and noticed an uptick in the engagement it engendered amongst our millennials. Given what had been my 20-year “uphill” battle in the space of awareness training, this offered a welcomed glimmer of hope. Now add to that what augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) bring to the field and the prospects get even brighter.

When the phrases AR and VR started being tossed around, many of us could not even fathom how these technologies would impact our lives. Fast forward to today, and these technologies are right in the palms of our hands. AR and VR have opened new doors for innovation and created a more immersive user experience, especially for IT and security teams. While perhaps not the earliest adopters of these technologies, companies are beginning to use AR and VR to their advantage when it comes to providing cybersecurity training to their employees.

How exactly does AR training work? First, let’s break down what AR is in a broader sense. AR allows the user to see the real world with virtual objects superimposed or composited with their reality. Essentially, users can interact with on-screen digital objects within the scope of the physical world they see on a daily basis. Now imagine the use of AR in a corporate training environment. Not only does AR provide employees with a more interactive platform, but one that can be customized to accommodate unique learning needs.

For companies with a multigenerational workforce, this creates a profound opportunity to present their employees with training that is both more relevant and realistic. This is extremely valuable in high-touch industries like the cybersecurity sector, where the skills gap is already an area of concern. With AR, a new employee could be sitting at their desk and have a training system present various cyber threat scenarios through AR glasses, prompting them to identify the issue and solve the problem. It is interactive programs like this that will help employees remain more engaged in their training and generate better results overall.

And it doesn’t stop there. Companies like Inspired eLearning have made it their mission to provide training around security, cybersecurity and compliance with the help of VR. Called Security First Solutions, their product takes data from a multitude of tests and simulations to deliver an immersive training program on the latest and most popular cyber threats like phishing and SMiShing, all behind a VR headset. What’s more, immersive technology is also opening the eyes of young minds and showing them what a career in cybersecurity could entail […] Read more »….


Managed Services and Risk: Mitigation or Inherent Acceptance?

With the evolution of cybersecurity over the last decade, it’s easy to forget what security is; the art of dealing with risk. The flood of funding into the space has created a host of marketing buzzwords that pollute the board room and pull the attention from the “why?” of security. What is the reason cybersecurity exists? What is the problem we’re trying to solve?

Control-based vs risk-based

The conversation around security has shifted, and not for the better. Historically, security teams built programs around assessing risk and deciding on how best to deal with it. However, today’s world of endless frameworks focus more on technologies, and less on the risks they’re implemented to address. This controls-oriented program development has led to the emergence of security leadership that show pause at the mention of a “risk register”. This isn’t to say that risk isn’t considered, but more that it isn’t properly enumerated at a level that gives the security team flexibility in addressing the risk.

Security frameworks like NIST, SANS, ISO, etc. are great lists of controls to consider for a security program but are built with a one-size-fits-all approach. By starting with a comprehensive audit, and developing controls that mitigate specific threats, many organizations can move to an acceptable risk posture without many of the “checkbox” controls contained in most frameworks.

Risky decisions

Common risks exist across different organizations, but how those risks are addressed is a business decision the security team develops their strategy around. When handling risk, there are three options:

  • Accept – The risk does not represent itself as a threat worth investing resources to lessen. Accepted risks should be entered into a risk register, naming the business owner that accepted the risk and note why they’ve accepted it; usually due to low probability or low impact.
  • Mitigate – These risks are not accepted and pose enough threat to a business that resource investment is warranted to prevent the risk from coming to fruition, or at least lessening the probability or impact to an acceptable amount.
  • Transfer – The risk is not accepted, but the business will not mitigate on its own. Leveraging third parties, the risks are contractually moved from the business to the provider. Common forms of cyber security risk transference include Cyber Security Insurance and Managed Security Services.
Risks worth transferring

There’s an existential problem in security right now. The problem isn’t new attacker tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), new malware, or the speed of malware to get to market; rather, there are products to identify these threats, but not enough skilled headcount to properly implement the products, and investigate and respond to the alerts! This headcount shortage is an industry epidemic leaving security teams scrambling just to perform basic tasks, forcing most organizations to ignore alerts generated from the implemented security products, assuming the products were properly implemented and configured in the first place.

Alert triage and response

Looking at the tasks security teams perform to achieve risk equilibrium, many require deep knowledge of the organization and continuous communication and participation in meetings like change-control. However, the tasks of identifying a false-positive for a wrongly flagged graphics card driver requires little knowledge of the organization.

Transferring the risk of alert triage and response can free organization resources to focus on security responsibilities that are best kept in-house like GRC, vulnerability management, and policy creation. This transference also lessens the probability or impact of the departure of a single person being a significant detriment to the security team.

The most common cause of shelf-ware (technology that is being paid for, but is no longer, or was never used) is the sole-owner or user of that technology leaving the organization. Regarding incident detection, triage, and response, employee churn presents a much larger threat than underutilized budget. This risk is magnified by the litany of false-positives generated by security products making the required headcount necessary to triage every security alert unattainable.

Leveraging a service provider for certain functions will provide the level of expertise necessary to implement, maintain, and utilize the technology. The shift also transfers the burden of hiring and maintaining the staff necessary to perform these functions to the service provider; ideally removing the shelf-ware dilemma.

Transferring risk to a service provider

Ignoring alerts and foregoing security expertise is not a risk most organizations choose to accept and handling it in-house is often difficult or cost-prohibitive, so it makes sense security service providers (MSSPs), including managed detection and response (MDR), are gaining in popularity. The difficulty comes in choosing the right MDR, and ensuring they’re mitigating risk, rather than accepting it.

The false-positive dilemma

As mentioned earlier, the problem of false-positives and the impacts they have on security teams is significant, but why does this problem exist?

Defining the terms:

  • False-positive – An alert that was generated based on an event that was not malicious.
  • False-negative – An event that was malicious but did not generate an alert.

From a product-manufacturer perspective, a false-negative is brand damaging, but a false-positive is just assumed. Endpoint and network detection technologies are attempting to identify everything an attacker could do to perform malicious activity in an environment. With the skill of attackers improving, products have had to create looser detection rules that allow them to be effective at detecting potentially malicious activity, thus avoiding false-negatives. For an effective, detection-oriented, security product, false-positives are almost necessity. With this understanding, how do service providers, who are providing services for potentially millions of endpoints, profitably scale a service?

The Techniques
  • Build a Bigger Army – This is not scalable or profitable, but it is pursued by some service providers. This approach typically results in sub-par service that provides little value and leads to a frustrated customer that has essentially purchased a different source of alert fatigue.
  • Attack the Source of Alerts – Is a particular detection rule being too noisy? Shut it off! The alert fatigue problem is solved, but it also diminishes the effectiveness of the product.
  • Set an Arbitrary Investigation Threshold – Too many Critical, High, and Medium alerts to investigate? Just look at the Critical and High. Still too many? Critical-only should be fine (if we forget the retail breach was a medium alert).
  • Turn Alerts into Incidents –Rolling up multiple alerts into a single incident is a great way to make, what looks like, a high-fidelity alert, but could also be a group of false-positives. The danger here is creating incidents that take much longer to investigate.
Machine Learning!

Another technique that’s becoming increasingly popular is the use of machine learning to weed through false-positives. Moving past the animosity towards marketing teams for taking real technology and turning it into a glorified way to describe statistics; machine learning can be broken into two main concepts:

  • Supervised – Using a set of training data, an algorithm can be created to determine the relationship between a new piece of data matches and data used for training. This methodology is commonly leveraged in security to identify malware. While useful in scenarios where training data is properly labeled and available, those prerequisites somewhat limit the usefulness in identifying malicious behavior.
  • Unsupervised – Developing a baseline of “normal”, unsupervised machine learning identifies deviations from the baseline. Unsupervised machine learning technically doesn’t generate false-positives, because it is alerting on anomalies, but given all anomalies aren’t necessarily malicious, this technique is usually paired up with cumulative risk scoring to drive anomalous activity past a threshold, where it will generate an alert hopefully more relevant to security.
Inherent risk

Given the available approaches to dealing with false-positives, it’s clear that there is some necessary risk-acceptance that must happen to get the alert count to a level that allows security teams to efficiently deal with the “high-priority” alerts. This acceptance is not based on the organization’s risk tolerance, but instead on the limitation of resources to mitigate, which places an inflated cost on the risk […] Read more »..

Small and Medium-sized Financial Institutions: The Security Challenges They Face Each Day

It’s no secret that financial institutions are in criminals’ crosshairs. This has been the story ever since people and organizations started putting their cash in the care of others. But unlike the good ol’ days of dramatic ski-masks-over-face, gun-in-hand heists, the majority of today’s banking crimes are digital, and thus, involve far less bravado and derring-do.

While cybercrime and fraud affect all financial institutions, each sector has its own specific concerns. The concerns of large institutions generally take center stage due to their high profiles and the large stakes involved, but often, concerns specific to small and medium-sized institutions go overlooked. In this article, we will examine the issues that cause the most distress to IT and security teams at small and medium-sized financial institutions.

Why Cyber Criminals Love Small and Medium-sized Financial Institutions

Small and medium-sized financial institutions are often seen by cyber criminals as low-hanging fruit — sure, they could go after JPMorgan Chase or Goldman Sachs for a huge payoff — but a heist of that nature requires boatloads of planning and effort. For an attack of that scale, an assailant must have incredibly powerful tools as well as a flawless plan, which could take months and even years to orchestrate.

Add to that the immense challenge of evading the law once the attack has been executed. High profile attacks on banks make great news fodder and criminals can expect to be hotly pursued and tried for their misdeeds.

Unfortunately, this is not typically the case with smaller targets. It doesn’t take quite as much planning or effort to hit smaller players and since these crimes are not as high profile, it may be easier for the attacker to get away with them. All in all, small and medium-sized financial institutions are a wise choice for attackers looking for a relatively easy swindle.

The Security Challenges that Keep Small and Medium-sized Financial Institutions CISOs Up at Night

There are many cyber security issues that plague small and medium-sized financial firms, ranging from structural issues to out-and-out threats. While each organization is unique, security leaders at most, if not all, small and medium-sized financial services firms must overcome these structural challenges.

Lack of Buy-in/Understanding from C-Suite/Leadership

Each financial services firm has its own business drivers, those issues that are integral to the success and advancement of the business model. While issues like customer satisfaction and regulatory compliance generally top execs’ lists, the issue of cybersecurity doesn’t always show up on their radar.

There are a few reasons that cyber security may not be the first thing on many leaders’ minds. To start with, it can be very difficult to prove the return on investment for security-centered projects. In the words of security expert Bruce Schneier, “Security is about loss prevention, not about earnings.” Proving how much a company saves by preventing a breach does not produce the same tangible benchmarks as do other, more concrete investments.

Moreover, leaders may not have sufficient IT and/or security knowledge to grasp the full severity of weak or inadequate defenses. While some decision makers certainly are well versed in technology, it’s often not a part of their job requirements and they simply may not grasp the importance of investing in new solutions as they become available. Likewise, they may not understand the full legal and operational ramifications of falling prey to a breach.

Lastly, according to, leaders at smaller firms are often convinced that their firm is not worth the attacker’s time or effort. This leads to a dangerous stance of security complacency, an attitude that nothing further is required to protect the firm, based on their own erroneous assessment of limited risk.

Limited Budgets

As mentioned above, small and medium-sized financial institutions typically have much more limited cyber security budgets than larger institutions. A recent survey by Untangle found – shockingly! — that of 350 small and medium-sized businesses polled, 50 percent had annual security budgets of less than $5,000 US and of those, 50 percent had budgets of less than $1,000 US.

In light of these numbers, it comes as no surprise that at many smaller FinServs, there is no one specific person or team tasked with cybersecurity – it’s just another aspect of IT’s responsibilities. Moreover, their tools are nowhere near as comprehensive as those found at larger institutions. This increases the chances of breaches and extends time to detection (TTD) and time to respond (TTR) in the face of incidents.

At the same time, small and medium-sized financial firms still have conveniences like customer-facing apps and websites, which are necessary to compete with the big guys. But as with the rest of their technology stack, these applications may be less robust and secure than those developed by banks with more money to allocate to security. This makes these less secure applications prime pickings for attackers.

Dependence on Third Party Vendors

Small and medium-sized financial institutions are heavily reliant on integrations with third party suppliers. As with businesses of any size, these firms need to share information with partners and contractors to remain relevant and agile in an increasingly connected world.

But granting access to third parties can come with great risks — by making your network accessible to third parties, you allow their vulnerabilities to become your vulnerabilities, their liability to become your liability. This was clearly demonstrated in the infamous Target hack of 2013, when the behemoth saw their point of sale system breached due to an integration with an HVAC vendor whose credentials were stolen.

In the typical integration, external partners can access the company’s networks without adequate monitoring and limitations. This allows them access to far more resources than needed to do their jobs, making the organization a sitting duck. And as third-party vendors are often also small and medium-sized businesses, there is a very real chance that they may have less-than-adequate security, which compounds the risk. Further, the decision of which vendor to use is often made with little regard to vendor security practices and how those may affect the institution and its networks.

The Threats that Nightmares are Made Of

While budget limitations, support from top brass and third-party vendors are ongoing headaches for security officers, threats that commonly target financial service businesses are the night terrors that bolt them awake in a cold sweat.

The Many Flavors of Insider Threats

Insider threats take many forms and affect all businesses, from the largest enterprises to shoestring operations. And while all businesses suffer when an employee goes rogue or an ex-staffer decides to spill the company beans, small businesses experience damage from insiders more often than their larger counterparts. This is especially true in finance, where the stakes are inherently much higher than for most other businesses. In fact, according to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, the threat actors in 36 percent of breaches of financial institutions were insiders.

One reason small and medium-sized financial firms fall prey to insiders is that they often lack proper protocols for revoking access after an employee has been terminated. Smaller financial firms tend to have less robust IT standard operating procedures and thus when an employee is asked to leave, it may take days or weeks before his or her access to critical resources is revoked. This leaves the ex-staffer with plenty of time to collect whatever data he or she wants, which can then be given to competing banks — or worse, such as nation state adversaries and cyber-criminal syndicates.

Similarly, smaller firms also tend to engender feelings of trust and familiarity among employees. While this is great for the general work ethic, there is risk in trusting your employees too much. Large institutions often have tiered Identity Access Management (IAM) solutions in place to prevent employees from seeing information which is beyond the scope of their requirements. Once again, due to less sophisticated IT infrastructure and because of that cozy, feel-good atmosphere, smaller institutions may not have the same precautionary measures in place, allowing employees access to data far beyond their actual data needs.

Then there is the insider who, although not necessarily malicious in intent, is simply impervious to training. This is the employee who routinely clicks suspicious links or fails to notice clues indicating that he or she is being phished or scammed. Scary but true: According to Verizon’s 2019 DBIR, three percent of people will click on any given phishing campaign. And these well-meaning employees can cause just as much damage as those with ill intentions: In a small and medium-sized bank, the means or understanding to track just which employee is “that guy” may simply not exist — thus, the risk goes unmitigated.

Business Email Compromise (BEC) Scams

According to a report by security firm IronScales, 95 percent of successful cyber-attacks include an element of social engineering. Humans are easily manipulated and attackers are adept at creating all kinds of compelling scams to help victims and their money or data part ways. According to the Verizon 2019 DBIR, financially motivated social engineering attacks target financial services institutions disproportionately vis a vis other industries.

In recent years, BEC, or Business Email Compromise, has become one of the most potent phishing methods, generating losses of $676 million US in 2017. According to HSBC, small and medium-sized businesses are harder hit than larger enterprises.

In the typical BEC scam, the scammer impersonates someone in a position of power within the organization, perhaps the CEO or a senior member of the IT team. The scammer sends an urgent email to a lower ranking employee, demanding funds to be transferred. This perfectly crafted email is almost indiscernible from an authentic one and implies that the recipient must see to it that the funds are transferred immediately – or face repercussions. If things go according to the attacker’s plan, the employee sends the request off to the organization’s bank, where an unwitting bank employee complies with the email’s instructions and transfers the funds.

BEC scams cause damage to all kinds of businesses, as well as banks.  But no matter the industry, they affect banks because they are the ones through which financial transfers take place. In smaller institutions, standard operating procedure for transfers may not be clearly outlined and thus there is a greater danger that someone within the bank may authorize such fraudulent transfers.

Browser-Based Threats

Like all businesses, small and medium-sized financial institutions need to use the Internet for tasks such as researching loan applicants and corresponding with customers. So, every employee needs web access. But the risk that comes with open connectivity, namely, the fact that browser-borne malware can easily spread laterally throughout networks, cannot be tolerated in such a sensitive arena.

Browser-based malware is always morphing to ensure that it evades traditional security methods, but some attack elements remain the same; Cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection (SQLi) attacks are some of the most common web-based attack methods and can potentially come from any website that has been infected — even those that have been deemed secure. These complex attacks can easily exfiltrate data off employee’s browsers. Moreover, browser-based threats are difficult to detect, which puts critical assets directly in harm’s way.

Many IT admins turn to whitelisting pre-approved web applications and websites to help keep out browser-based threats. But whitelisting has significant drawbacks — it leads to reduced productivity and agility as employees cannot always access the resources they need when they need them. It’s also not completely effective, as once-good sites can become infected with malware and in turn, pass that infection on to your network.

Small and Medium-sized Banks Have to Level Up to Survive

Beyond the threats themselves, small and medium-sized FinServs have to consider the costly fallout that comes along with successful cyber security attacks. Understandably, in the wake of an attack, customers may lose confidence and jump ship. And while larger financial institutions can absorb the costs of many, if not most, attacks, smaller ones cannot, which may lead to closures […] Read more »..