Our cyber security products span from our next gen SIEM used in the most secure government and critical infrastructure environments, to automated cyber risk reporting applications for commercial and government organisations of all sizes.
Obviously, writing this in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak, airlines all round the world are suffering huge impacts from the effects of the isolation, quarantine and travel restrictions that are in place. Cyber security might not be at the top of their agenda, but it’s certainly at the top of Cathay Pacific’s.
The virus, and the global pandemic it has led to, is an unprecedented (the most used word in 2020) event, one that no-one could really have foreseen a few months ago. We would all forgive companies from suffering disruption and business losses due to a situation so random.
Cyber security is a much more foreseeable risk. For one thing, there is an accepted wisdom that cyber security breaches are a matter of “when, not if”. If this is to be believed (and for businesses that handle large volumes of personal data it is probably right), then any given company needs to expect a data loss at some point.
But this should not drive a fatalistic attitude and resignation to a loss occurring. It has six real implications:
The most important thing is to try and make it difficult (rather than trivial) for an attacker to gain access to systems and data. That means not leaving obvious and easily exploitable routes for them to take advantage of; this is often referred to as cyber hygiene; much like the hand washing advice during the Coronavirus outbreak, this is about reducing the chances of infection (or attack) by covering off easily defensible vectors. Here is one lesson from the Cathay Pacific case:
“The ICO found Cathay Pacific’s systems were entered via a server connected to the internet and malware was installed to harvest data. A catalogue of errors were found during the ICO’s investigation including: back-up files that were not password protected; unpatched internet-facing servers; use of operating systems that were no longer supported by the developer and inadequate anti-virus protection.”
This really follows from the first point. There are several standards, all around the world, that encapsulate the core principles of cyber security. Adopting or following these means that you can align security to the advice on minimum standards from experts – whether those be UK, US, Australian etc.
Steve Eckersley, ICO Director of Investigations, said:
“This breach was particularly concerning given the number of basic security inadequacies across Cathay Pacific’s system, which gave easy access to the hackers. The multiple serious deficiencies we found fell well below the standard expected. At its most basic, the airline failed to satisfy four out of five of the National Cyber Security Centre’s basic Cyber Essentials guidance.”
If a breach does occur, the sooner you know about it and can understand what is happening (or what did happen) the better. You can avert wider impacts, curtail data losses, notify people early before they fall victim to fraud, and start fixing holes in systems to prevent inward compromise.
Cathay Pacific did detect the breach and employed a firm to help them deal with it. But the timespan of dates is alarming:
So yes, the attack was detected, but only after several years. Yes, YEARS!
If you assume you will have a breach despite having sound controls in place, and despite rigorous monitoring, then knowing what your plan is to deal with it is paramount: having companies, either known or on retainer, for technical consulting or forensic work to address the technical side of a breach; knowing what the plan will be around comms to customers, regulators, markets; having processes to cope with the management of the internal teams and personnel that will be involved. Businesses need to prepare and test these preparations.
We might say that we can learn a lot from the Cathay Pacific case. But sadly, the mistakes they made constitute mostly things that we really already know. It is yet another case of risks not being properly anticipated and handled.
One goal is to avoid fines.
Cathay Pacific was fined £500,000. The maximum amount possible under the Data Protection Act which was in force when the breach occurred. GDPR (now in force) allows for fines up to €20,000 or 4% of global turnover, whichever is greater.
Cathay Pacific’s global revenues are HK$111bn. This is about £11bn, so 4% of that (assuming the nature of the breach merited the maximum fine again) is £460 million. Much more than their annual profits of around £243m.
No company can afford not to learn these lessons, and quickly. Having visibility of the gaps in their cyber defences will enable organisations to prioritise issues for remediation. At a time of much distraction, using a cyber risk audit tool will provide operational focus and some much needed peace of mind.
A recent KPMG Report suggests that protecting against and dealing with cyber risks will be the major challenge for senior executives in 2024. It is clear that despite high levels of security investment, organisations continue to suffer from cyber attacks.Read more
The Australian Signals Directorate’s (ASD) recent publication of their Cyber Threat Report 2022-2023 unearthed a range of areas for concern for government departments and critical infrastructure entities at local, State and Federal level.Read more
As cyber risks increase, organisations are encountering the longer life cycle of insurance renewals and the need to demonstrate better management of security controls and their effectiveness.Read more
Highlights and insights from the recent Managed Services Summit in London & the ISACA Central Chapter Conference on Digital Trust, in Birmingham, UK. With two recent conferences in the space of three days, some interesting challenges were very evident in the topics discussed. Being very different events, the challenges were quite different, but interestingly they […]Read more
In early August 2023, the latest joint advisory on persistent vulnerabilities was issued by the intelligence and security agencies of the “Five-eyes” community. These joint advisories are becoming more common. Perhaps recognising the growing importance of shared security information and the common nature of many of the threats faced – the weight they carry makes […]Read more
The quality of your risk assessment and the security information it provides is important; if you plan to use it to actively manage your operational and cyber resilience activities. Organisations are constantly exposed to a rapidly changing threat environment, so you really need a similarly rapid evidence-based feedback system that informs you of the ongoing […]Read more
The UK market has its own regulators, security standards and challenges. And while rulings from SEC in the US or the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) in Australia don’t apply to UK companies, for the most part, the observations are undoubtedly relevant and the resulting advice instructive. It would be wrong to think UK financial […]Read more
<<< Part 2a: Australia’s Essential Eight: Beyond Endpoint Control <<< Part 2b: Activating UK NCSC & US NIST Guidelines: Beyond Endpoint Control Part 4: Systematic Measurement of Cyber Controls >>> As much as we invest into cyber security controls, external threats are inevitable. In a recent Notifiable Data Breaches Report from the Office of the […]Read more
Keen campers, scouts and even the Swiss Army know – that a good penknife is indispensable. This simple device has mitigated many a disaster at one point in time or another. Whether it’s to cut through a bit of string, tighten a screw or simply to solve the problem of no bottle opener in the […]Read more
Supply chain risk is an area of cyber security that demands the ongoing attention of every enterprise; because it can make the difference between being resilient or not. It’s no surprise that insurers warn that the vulnerability of supply chains is potentially a systemic risk that can quickly propagate across supply chain dominated industries. Organisations […]Read more
Read by directors, executives, and security professionals globally, operating in the most complex of security environments.