The Price of Falling Victim to Ransomware: Colonial Pipeline Forced to Pay $5 million ransom – could you be next?
May 17, 2021
By now, most of you have felt the impact of the recent ransomware attack on The Colonial Pipeline causing skyrocketing gas prices and even leaving some gas stations with shortages. Colonial Pipeline paid a pretty penny to resume operations by forfeiting $5 million to a well-known hacker group called Darkside. This is yet another example of a high-profile cyberattack.
Companies of all sizes are at risk of falling victim to cybercriminals. In late April of this year, Apple disclosed a third-party service provider had been attacked and cybercriminals were demanding $50 million in return for controls. The hackers behind the Colonial Pipeline have already attacked 3 additional companies only after collecting on the Colonial Pipelines ransom. The 3 companies were smaller in size and spread across the world – 1 in the United States, 1 in Brazil and, 1 in Scotland.
While Colonial Pipeline and Apple both experienced ransom attacks (cybercriminals deploy malicious software encrypting files on a computer system and then demand a ransom to be paid to restore the data), they were two completely different types of which exposures cybercriminals are now leveraging to ensure their payout:
- Critical Infrastructure – Colonial Pipeline carries nearly half of the fuel supply on the East Coast meaning holding such a critical company at ransom to resume operations is a ruthless approach to ensuring a ransom will be paid. Cybercriminals are now turning their attention to critical infrastructure as prime targets.
- Third-Party Targeting – Apple was not held at ransom within their own network, but at a third-party supplier of proprietary parts. Due to weaknesses within the third-party suppliers’ network, hackers used the vulnerability to their advantage. Knowing the third-party provider would not have the capital to pay combined with the proprietary data at stake, hackers knew Apple would forfeit the ransom.
It is imperative companies of all sizes assess their networks for weakness. A cybercriminal does not care if your business cannot survive after paying a ransom. They are looking for a quick payout. Many companies rely on third-party IT security professionals to help fill skills gaps to mitigate risks. There is no better time to ensure your company, big or small, has the right measures in place to keep your capital safe and secure.
How we can help
WVCT is here to help you assess your IT risks and support your overall security plan. To schedule a meeting today, connect with our Risk Services Practice Leader below.
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Tiffany Pollard, CISA
wvco.com | 419.891.1040
Categories: Risk Services
Sep 14, 2020
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to impact businesses globally, cybercriminals are taking advantage of this crisis, through phishing tactics, for their financial gain. Phishing is the fraudulent attempt of a cybercriminal to act as a trusted source to gain sensitive information, typically resulting in financial gain for the criminal. Since January 1, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission has received more than 90,000 reports related to COVID-19 fraud with a total loss of $114 million since the beginning of the year.
Business owners already have the day-to-day operations of managing employment needs, fulfilling client orders, and running back-office tasks to manage; the list goes on and on. Having to worry about a phishing attack shouldn’t be one of those added tasks. However, a surge in COVID-related fake emails with dangerous attachments, links, and requests for personal information is our reality.
As teams work remotely, businesses have increased their use of web-based meetings. An example of a COVID-19 phishing scam involves the use of Zoom websites. Scammers are sending fictitious Zoom web address links, that when launched, download viruses that compromise the company’s data. These scams result in expensive fixes to restore company networks.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently issued an alert warning which urged individuals to be on the lookout for the following red flags:
- Unexplained urgency
- Last-minute changes in wire instructions or recipient account information
- Last-minute changes in established communication platforms or email account addresses
- Communications only in email and refusal to communicate via telephone or online voice or video platforms
- Requests for advanced payment of services when not previously required
- Requests from employees to change direct deposit information
Here are some basic rules and best practices to protect you and your employees from falling victim to these scams:
Exercise caution – Don’t open emails from unfamiliar email addresses or contacts. Or if you receive an email that appears to be from a trusted source, but appears ‘odd’ call and verify with the sender the authenticity of the email.
Avoid clicking on links and opening attachments – Verify a link by hovering your mouse button over the link to see where it leads. Sometimes, it’s obvious the web address is not legitimate. But keep in mind phishers can create links that closely resemble legitimate addresses. Delete the email and notify your IT department.
Get information about government actions regarding COVID-19 from reputable sources – For the most current information, visit the CDC and WHO websites.
Do not reveal personal or financial information – Emails seeking personal information like your Social Security number or login information is a phishing scam. Never respond to solicitations for this information. If you receive an email saying your shipment has been assigned a new ‘tracking id’ and you are asked to click the link to verify the update. Do not click the link. Instead, go to the website of the delivery service and enter the tracking id to verify if a change was made.
Do not use open or unsecure Wi-Fi for working remotely – Never use public wi-fi. When working remotely it is best practice to have a mobile wi-fi device that you can securely connect to.
Connect with your IT department – If you receive a suspicious email, forward the entire email as an attachment to your IT team. If you click on a link or open an attachment in a suspected phishing email, report any incident immediately.
If you are concerned about your company’s security controls or your phishing risk, connect with our team. We can assess your systems and provide value-added recommendations to protect your organization.
Tiffany Pollard, CISA
Risk Services Practice Leader, William Vaughan Company
Tiffany.email@example.com | 419.891.1040
Apr 23, 2020
On April 21, 2020, news sources* revealed the Small Business Administration (SBA) notified 8,000 applicants of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program of a data exposure on the application website. The exposure, which occurred briefly on March 25, may have permitted applicants to view Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of other applicants. Current reports reveal the disclosure included names, Social Security numbers, tax identification numbers, addresses, dates of birth, emails, phone numbers, marital and citizenship statuses, household sizes, incomes, financial and insurance information.
If you learn you have been impacted by the data exposure, the Federal Trade Commission has provided specific guidance with checklists on their website for Identity Theft. The actions described in their checklists are based on the type of data loss. Please refer to this website on how to protect yourself.
It is unfortunate to have a data exposure during an already stressful time, but it further demonstrates the continued need for cybersecurity programs. WVC Technologies is here to assist you in making sure your company is operating securely whether it be updating your remote working policies, implementing a security practice, or preparing a business continuity plan.
*CNBC was the first to report on the data exposure from the SBA. For a full report, please see this article.
Connect With Us.
Tiffany Pollard, CISA
Risk Services Practice Leader
Categories: Risk Services
Mar 23, 2020
In just a short amount of time, COVID-19 has had an immense impact on the global economy, as well as business operations around the world. How companies stay resilient and can adapt in the face of COVID-19’s impact, will be a topic of discussion for many business leaders as new information continues to surface. Along with COVID-19’s impact, the changes business leaders implement to respond to the ongoing crisis may introduce unintentional security and privacy risks.
Our daily routines are being impacted, along with the activities we perform. This creates opportunities for hackers, and others with malintent, who thrive in this type of environment, to take advantage of uncertainties and changes to routines. What has not changed, however, is an organization’s responsibility to protect data and to secure systems to reduce the risk of a breach or unauthorized access to information. The regulatory requirements, and other state and industry standards for protecting information, are as critical as the day they were implemented, if not more so. GDPR, CCPA, NYDFS, PCI DSS, CFIUS, HIPAA, HITRUST, SOX, and so on – still need to be adhered to.
The risk to an organization could increase if processes, implemented to help secure systems, protect data and information, and maintain daily operations, are not followed. Personnel, who have the assigned roles and responsibilities for managing systems and the corresponding data environment, need continued support and assistance to meet their job assignments.
To add to the complexity of daily operations, organizations have been forced to consider remote work options and telecommuting to slow the spread of the virus. There are certain technical considerations for remote workers, the first being the devices that they will use to conduct business. For organizations that provide laptops, this is generally a non-issue, however, if your workforce is typically in the office, working remotely can present some additional challenges from an equipment standpoint.
How will businesses secure remote access to company systems and data?
Businesses across the globe have been instituting remote work requirements to decrease the likelihood of spread and impact on business operations. Due to the increase of remote workers, businesses should secure access to company systems and data to ensure secure transmission of personal information. The actions below can help secure remote access to the organizations’ systems:
- Require secure connections to remotely access company systems. A VPN solution should be leveraged to ensure the transmission of data is secured over public networks. A common practice for many organizations is to use multi-factor authentication in conjunction with VPN to ensure authorized access.
- Ensure session timeouts for connections into company systems. Allowing remote connections to stay open indefinitely increases the window of availability for unauthorized access.
- Ensure workstations timeouts for remote workstations. With the increase of remote workers and remote workstations, businesses will be unable to physically secure these areas. By implementing workstation timeouts, businesses can reduce the availability of unauthorized access if a workstation were to be left unattended remotely.
- Require email using the organization’s distributed solutions. Organizations are so dependent on email communications and in most instances, corporate email is available remotely. Employees should be reminded not to conduct corporate business over personal email accounts, text messages or third-party apps that are not managed by the organization. This is a great opportunity to pick up the phone and speak with people in lieu of other typical communication channels.
How will businesses secure mobile assets?
Businesses should consider how mobile workstations will be secured. Due to remote working capabilities, an increase of mobile workstations provided to employees will need to be secured. Data at rest should be encrypted. Hard drives on workstations are commonly encrypted to ensure confidentiality of data. Just to start.
We are all adjusting to the changes as a result of COVID-19. By supporting and reinforcing your organization’s processes, procedures and solutions, which were implemented to protect your data, the risk can be better managed.
If you are concerned about the vulnerability of your organization, contact our Risk Services Leader, Tiffany Pollard (firstname.lastname@example.org) to help guide you through ensuring your systems are safe and secure.