Last week, The White House released its long awaited Executive Order (EO), Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure, ironically enough during the same week we experienced the largest single ransomware attack that, by some estimates, has affected more than 200,000 victims across 150 countries. My intentions were to highlight the EO in this blog on Friday and discuss some of its merits while also discussing its inadequacies, specifically its inability to address the growing capability of cybercriminal undergrounds and the criminals that prowl within them. This attack alone has done this in just 48 hours with greater impact than a thousand blogs could ever do.
On the heels of so much visible activity and discussion around cyber espionage and cyber propaganda from Pawn Storm and their political impact, this new ransomware attack highlights the single largest threat to global cybersecurity—transnational cyber criminals. The monetization of traditional data breaches have taken a backseat to lucrative online extortion campaigns. Ransomware attacks by their very nature are designed around speed and impact. Cybercriminals are able to monetize their attacks in hours and days. This attack was taken to the next level on a global scale by using a public vulnerability (MS17-010) and the “EternalBlue” exploit coupled with the incredibly large number of unpatched and end-of-life Windows OSs around the world. While most in our industry, and rightfully so, will focus on the symptoms, specifically the critical need of sound vulnerability management; good cyber-hygiene and the problems of nation-state exploits, the real focus needs to address the cancer that is represented by numbers of transnational cybercriminals operating in virtual and physical safe havens globally.
When you look at this attack through the lens of this EO there are some promising mandates that will help the federal government properly assess their departments’ and agencies’ cyber risk, and more importantly, tie the responsibility and budget to manage these risks to secretaries and directors. Federal CISOs have made and will continue to make progress to improve their cybersecurity profile, but only if they are given the needed resources. And therein lies the question: will Federal CISOs, or any CISO for that matter, ever be provided enough resources to meet the changing threat landscape. This brings me to my biggest problem with the EO—it only addresses the symptoms. The EO fails to adequately address the incredible power of collaboration. Cybercriminals working in the Russian underground have scaled trust to a level evident by these attacks. Over the last 17 years they have created a marketplace where cybercriminals of varying degrees of skill have come together to plan, attack and monetize public and private organizations. While we are still challenged to leverage trust to protect ourselves at a very basic level.
However, there is good news around this event. Information Sharing Analysis Centers (ISACs) and Information Sharing Analysis Organizations (ISAOs) have been working overtime with their members and partners in the security industry to provide actionable intelligence. I’d like to specifically congratulate HITRUST for getting the word out to U.S. healthcare early in identifying and sharing indicators, but also in gaging impact. This collaboration enables us to leverage our resources to not only protect our customers directly but also helps us collectively impact the protection of entire sectors.
Until such time that we can address the global risk posed by transnational cybercriminals with a holistic approach to eliminate their freedom of movement and their ability to monetize attacks, we will continue to face these types of scenarios. In the meantime we can continue to work together on building the needed trust through events like these to ultimately improve our collective defense.
[Editors note: For the latest WannaCry information as it relates to Trend Micro products, please read this support article.]