Tag Archives: cyber security

US Dept of Homeland Security Nation Cyber Security Division & Idaho National Laboratory Win National Cybersecurity Innovation Award

AscentiveCyber Security News from the Ascentive Team

The SANS Institute announced today that Department of Homeland Security National Cyber Security Division and Idaho National Laboratory have won the 2011 U.S. National Cybersecurity Innovation Award for building Cybersecurity skills needed to defend the power grid and other control systems.

The Controls Systems Security Program (CSSP) at the Department of Homeland Security and Idaho National Laboratory have created a series of training programs for managerial and technical people in the industries using control systems (power, oil and gas, electrical, water, and several others) that are packed with up-to-date information on cyber threats and mitigations for vulnerabilities.

The goal is to reduce industrial control system risks within and across all critical infrastructure and key resource sectors by coordinating efforts among federal, state, local and tribal governments, as well as industrial control systems owners, operators and vendors. The CSSP coordinates activities to reduce the likelihood of success and severity of impact of a cyber-attack against critical infrastructure control systems through risk-mitigation activities.

One innovative course provides intensive hands-on training on protecting and securing industrial control systems from cyber-attacks, including a Red Team/Blue Team exercise that is conducted within an actual control systems environment.  This training has been transformational for technologists and managers who previously underappreciated the power of cyber-attacks or the ease at which they can be executed.

The Department of Energy – Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability has partnered with DHS to provide the Red Team/Blue Team training specifically to the energy sector asset owners and create lessons learned from the energy sector.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Idaho National Laboratory wins the 2011 National Cybersecurity Innovation Award for developing a long-term, common vision where effective risk management of control systems secturity can be realized through successful coordination efforts.

The National Cybersecurity Innovation Awards recognize developments undertaken by companies and government agencies who have developed and deployed innovative processes or technologies which are innovative in that it has not been deployed effectively before, can show a significant impact on reducing cyber risk, can be scaled quickly to serve large numbers of people, and should be adopted quickly by many other organizations. Nominations included most senior government officials involved with Cybersecurity as well as those from major Cybersecurity Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs).  Corporations and individuals, including SANS instructors also nominated innovations and each nomination was tested by the SANS Institute research department. More than 50 nominations were received and 14 were selected.

The SANS Institute was established in 1989 as a cooperative research and education organization. SANS is the most trusted and by far the largest source for information security training and security certification in the world.  In addition to world-class training, SANS offers certification via the ANSI accredited GIAC security certification program. SANS offers a myriad of free resources to the Infosec community including consensus projects, research reports, newsletters, and it operates the Internet’s early warning system – the Internet Storm Center.  At the heart of SANS are the many security practitioners in varied global organizations from corporations to universities working together to help the entire information security community.

Photo Credit


AmberWatch Foundation Launches AmberWatch TV VOD Channel

AscentiveCyberbullying news from the Ascentive team

The AmberWatch Foundation celebrated the planned launch of AmberWatch TV on Cablevision System Corp.’s iO TV® digital television service on Tuesday at a celebrity-filled, mid-day gala held at The Standard Hotel in New York City.  AmberWatch TV, a dedicated video-on-demand (VOD) channel, will be available across Cablevision’s nearly three million digital cable customers on iO TV® Channel 625 by the end of the month.

AmberWatch TV is the first interactive cable channel dedicated entirely to the preemptive protection of children. Delivered in partnership with global partners, AmberWatch presents a series of engaging and updated original content designed to educate kids, educate parents, and proactively inoculate both against the dangers of the modern world. Issues covered include cyberbullying, sex predator protection, online protection, and safe texting.

AmberWatch TV will break new ground as one of the first interactive VOD channels devoted entirely to parents, caregivers, and child safety.  The channel features a vast library of video-on-demand content and advanced features designed to drive awareness and viewer interaction.

To help celebrate the momentous launch event hosted by Chris Wragge of CBS’s The Early Show, AmberWatch was joined by key partners including Protext Mobility, MetLife and celebrities who have rallied in support of the Foundation and the launch of this important new TV channel.  McAfee and Protext Mobility made major technology and child-protection announcements benefiting both the Foundation and the local tri-state community.

Some of the Foundation’s Celebrity Champions include Selena Gomez, Ray Romano, Al Roker, Cheryl Hines, and Blair Underwood. New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and Miss New York USA 2011, Amber Collins were in attendance.

AmberWatch TV is the shared vision of the AmberWatch Foundation, its partners, its “Foundation Champions”, law enforcement experts, and supportive parents nationwide, all of whom collectively decided that the time had come to make child safety a national priority. The interactive, on-demand channel is designed for parents and caregivers to help them make sense of the world that we live in and to equip them to make safe and healthy choices in the most important moments.

“Through engaging media and interactive on-demand content,” says Keith Jarrett, Founder of AmberWatch Foundation, “AmberWatch TV will teach parents and caregivers how to keep their kids safe and then supply them with all of the resources to do just that.”

“Cablevision’s branded VOD channels provide a wide array of organizations and advertisers a dedicated platform to engage directly with viewers,” said David Kline, President and COO of Cablevision Media Sales.  “AmberWatch TV is the latest VOD channel expanding the range of unique, targeted information services available to our iO TV digital cable customers.  We are pleased to be the first cable provider to offer AmberWatch TV, bringing educational information that will help the communities we serve stay more informed about child safety.”

Photo Credit


New Survey Shows Gap Between Americans’ Online Security Perceptions and Actual Practices

AscentiveInternet Safety News from the Ascentive team

More than nine in ten Americans (92%) believe that a safe and secure Internet is crucial to our nation’s economic security and 81% of Americans want to learn more about being safe and secure online, but there still exists a visible disconnect between Americans’ perceptions of their online safety practices versus the reality of their actual safety practices. These insights were revealed in the 2011 National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA)-McAfee Online Safety Study, released today by the NCSA and McAfee.

While the study found progress in a number of areas regarding online safety awareness, perception versus reality gaps continue to exist in critical areas:

70% of Americans say that they represent their child/children’s primary source of information for online safety, yet 48% of parents are not completely confident that their children can use the Internet safely.

32% of consumers either back up data only once a year—or never (20%).

15% of Americans have never checked their social networking privacy and security account settings.

According to the survey, only 7% of U.S. parents are worried about cyberbullying even though 33% of teenagers have been victims of cyberbullying, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Survey.

“This new study shows that vast majorities of Americans believe that cyber security is important for our personal safety and our nation’s economic security,” said NCSA Executive Director Michael Kaiser. “Yet this survey also shows that we can do a better job of protecting ourselves and those around us and really focus on the notion that a safe and secure Internet and digital experience represents a shared responsibility.”

“As our digital usage grows exponentially each year with a multitude of different devices connected to the Internet, cyber threats have grown more sophisticated and widespread than ever before,” said Todd Gebhart, co-president, McAfee. “This new survey demonstrates the fundamental importance of better online safety and security awareness for ourselves, our communities, our schools and our businesses.  Consumers need to think beyond just PCs, and also protect their web experiences, their data, and very importantly, their children on all the devices they use.”

Key Findings:


Security Perceptions

Less than half of the population (46%) reports that they feel safe from viruses, malware and hackers while on the Internet.

When it comes to the issue most Americans are concerned about regarding online safety and security, 43% of respondents reported they were most worried about identity theft; 13% were concerned with loss of privacy; and 12% reported their biggest concern was someone monitoring or recording their online activity.

When asked how people would like to learn about staying safe online, 37% of Americans are willing to receive regular information from an organization about safety best practices; 15% are willing to educate others; 13% would attend an in-person education session; 20% are not willing to do any of these and 15% are not sure.

Crime and Law Enforcement

When asked what puts Americans most at risk of a cybercrime or a loss of personal information the largest number of respondents, one-third (33%) said they believe connecting to an unsecured wireless network puts them most at risk yet more than half (53%) of Americans said they have logged onto a wireless network without entering a security password.

One in 5 (18%) Americans have been the victim of a cybercrime and 38% know someone who has been victimized, and 65% of all respondents do not think their local police department is equipped to handle reports and investigate Internet crimes.

Of the 17% who were victims of cybercrime but did not report them, 34% were either unsure what exactly happened or were not sure who to report it to.

More than half (53%) of Americans indicated they have received fake anti-virus warnings but 87% said they did not believe the warning was legitimate. From 2008 to 2010, fake anti-virus scams have grown by 600% and are estimated to victimize one million Internet users per day, according to McAfee research.

Safe Computing Practices

54% of Americans don’t back up their data regularly; with 21% backing up just monthly; 12% backing up only once a year and 20% of consumers never backing up.

21% say they don’t think it’s necessary to change account passwords regularly even though experts believe this is a basic online safety practice.  More than a million password-stealing malware samples were discovered from January 2011 –June 2011, according to McAfee Labs.

25% say they never change their passwords unless prompted.

Social Networks

26% say they are sharing more information on social networks today than one year ago.

Nearly half (47%) of Americans are confident in their ability to use privacy and security account settings in their social networks, but another 47% are only somewhat confident with 24% saying they are not confident at all.

15% of respondents have never checked their social networking privacy and security account settings and only 18% said the last time they checked their settings was in the last year.

Meanwhile, one out of ten (11%) Americans reported that their social network has been hacked in the last year, while 81% did not.

Children and Online Safety

70% of Americans say that they represent their child/children’s primary source of information for online safety, yet 48% of parents are not completely confident that their children can use the Internet safely.

According to the survey, parents worry most about contact with strangers (38%) online, 7% worried about bullying and harassment and 9% were worried about identity theft even though 140,000 minors are the victims of ID fraud each year according to ID Analytics.

The concern that ranked second according to parents was exposure to adult content yet 44% of parents admit they have not discussed Internet pornography with their children and 44% don’t have content-filtering software on their computers.

48% of the parents surveyed say they know their child/children have seen pornography online and of the parents who aren’t sure if their kids have seen adult content, 68% think it unlikely that they have.

Of those parents who don’t have content-filtering software, 34% say they trust their kids.

Workplace Cyber Security Practices

The survey also polled a sub-sample of Americans cyber security practices and attitudes in their workplace.  The survey found that a majority say their employer has a formal work Internet usage policy (59%) while 26% do not.

But respondents are split as to whether or not they have had training on keeping their work computers safe and secure (43% to 43%).

Seven in ten (69%) say that a safe and secure Internet is dependent to their job, 45% of which say it is very dependent. Six in ten (61%) say that losing Internet access at their job for 48 consecutive hours during a regular business week would be disruptive, 43% say it would be extremely disruptive.

A 2011 NCSA/Symantec study of small businesses finds that two thirds (66%) say that their business is dependent on the Internet for its day-to-day operations, two fifths of which (38%) would characterize it as very dependent.  Two thirds (67%) of small business owners describe their businesses as more dependent on the Internet than it was 12 months ago.

Age Disparities

Respondents ages 18-54 feel that individual users are most responsible for keeping the Internet safe and secure, whereas users 55 and older believe that it is the Internet service provider who is most responsible.

As the age of the user increases, so does their concern over identity theft, with 40% of 18-29 year olds, 39% of 30-49 year olds, 47% of 50-64 year olds, and 50% of those 65+ citing this as their largest concern.

As respondents’ age increases, a smaller percentage feels safe using smartphones with 23% of 18-29 year olds, 11% of 30-49 year olds, and 2.5% of 50-64 year olds feeling safe accessing the Internet using their smartphones.

Gender Attitudes Towards Cyber Security

If a computer were infected by a virus or malware, and the user was provided step-by-step instructions to fix it, only 31% of females feel very confident in fixing the computer on their own versus 53% of males who feel very confident about pursuing this task.

Nearly one in every five males (or 19%) backup their data and digital information on a daily basis while a less amount of females – only 12% – do so each day.

Thirty-eight percent of females have undergone training to keep their computer safe and secure at work, while 48% of males received training about safe and secure cyber security practices in the workplace.

Photo Credit


National Cyber Security Alliance Announces New Agreement to Promote Cyber Security Education Programs Nationwide

AscentiveInternet Safety information from the Ascentive team

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) – a non-profit public-private partnership focused on cyber security awareness and education for all digital citizens – has announced that on behalf of the National Cybersecurity Education Council (NCEC) it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to formally institute and promote cyber security education programs in K-12 schools, higher education, and career and technical education environments nationwide.

The new agreement paves the way for the continuation of the recently established public private partnership known as the National Cybersecurity Education Council to build a consensus on the future of cyber education in the United States. The multi-stakeholder effort will bring together government, industry, nonprofit, academia and other educational organizations to make recommendations and suggest guidelines on cyber education.  The collaboration will also include all parties participating in a working group to identify the cyber education needs of all young people and the foundational knowledge, skills and competencies needed by government and industry to build a workforce that can protect America’s vital digital assets.

The MOU’s partnership supports many of the educational efforts responding to President Obama’s 2009 Cyberspace Policy Review, which called for the nation to “build an education system that will enhance understanding of cyber security and allow the United States to retain and expand upon its scientific, engineering, and market leadership in information technology.” Toward this end, in the spring of 2010, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) within the U.S. Department of Commerce led a team involving many departments and agencies across the government in launching the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE). The goal of NICE is to establish an operational, sustainable and continually improving cyber security education program for the nation to use sound cyber practices that will enhance the nation’s security. NICE includes four focus areas, or tracks:  cyber security awareness, formal cyber security education, cyber security workforce structure, and cyber security workforce training and professional development. The public/private partnership, which the MOU fosters, will advance efforts of the formal education track, particularly responding to the needs identified in the Cyberspace Policy Review for a K-12 cyber security education program for digital safety, ethics, and security and for expanded university curricula.

NCEC members are also cognizant of the inherent demand for improved cyber security education in bolstering America’s future workforce.

Today, the U.S. faces a deficit in the number of cyber security professionals in our country, and predictions of our future needs are worrisome. Estimates from a recent study by (ISC)2 and Frost and Sullivan reveal a need of more than 700,000 new information security professionals in the Americas by 2015. What’s more, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate that there will be 295,000 new IT jobs created in the U.S. between 2008 and 2018 – many of which will require cyber security expertise. This data points out a great responsibility within the U.S. education system and other industry groups to help produce cyber capable citizens.

“Our children live in an interconnected technology-based world with a growing need for digital skill sets,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “An education that incorporates tools to understand, navigate and operate technology will encourage students to exercise awareness when using digital platforms while helping better prepare them for the jobs of the future.”

“This important MOU will add another dimension to the public/private partnership that is key to cyber security awareness and formal cyber education,” said Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator, Howard Schmidt.  “Through the partnership, we will continue to increase public awareness of safe cyber behavior, as well as expanding the availability of the cyber education so vital to the future of our workforce.”

“Our future depends on a digital citizenry that can use the Internet safely, securely, ethically and productively,” said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. “Today, the United States faces a daunting challenge. We need to build a cyber security ready workforce trained to deal with a constantly changing digital infrastructure that is protected against a broad range of cyber threats. This broad effort is critical because cyber security and digital safety touches everyone.”

“With cyber threats on the rise, career opportunities in cyber security will continue to grow and students need to have the access to the necessary foundational STEM education and other prerequisites needed to pursue them,” said NICE National Lead, Dr.Ernest McDuffie. “Higher education and technical training must lead to skills and competencies that meet the hiring requirements of government and industry to fill the growing need for cyber security professionals. This working group will help pave the way to achieving this goal.”

“We are proud to convene and lead this new nationwide effort to help make cyber security education widely available and accessible,” said John Havermann, of EMC Corporation and president of the NCSA Board of Directors. “There is no organization or government agency that can tackle this problem alone. It’s going to take a diverse partnership between government, industry, academia and others to work together to develop shared priorities and a path forward.”

Cyber education is also critical to our nation’s economic growth as evidenced by a recent survey, conducted by Zogby International for NCSA and Symantec, of U.S. small business owners that shows a high portion of businesses need employees with cyber security skills. When employers were asked to rate skills necessary for new hires, U.S. small businesses report the following skills are very relevant or essential:

Understanding privacy (51%);

Importance of protecting intellectual property (49%);

Basic knowledge of using technology ethically (47%);

Basic knowledge of Internet security practices (passwords, identifying secure websites) (44%).

In addition, NCSA and Microsoft recently conducted research on the state of cyber security education and the results make clear better cyber education is needed in America’s K-12 classrooms.

 

More than one-third of U.S. K-12 teachers (36%) received zero hours of professional development training by their school districts in issues related to online safety, security and ethics in the past year. (86% received less than six hours of related training).

Only 51% of teachers agree their school districts do an adequate job of preparing students for online safety, security and ethics.

Few K-12 educators are teaching topics that would prepare students to be cyber-capable employees or cyber security-aware college students. In the past year, a mere 4% taught about careers in cyber security; 20% taught about knowing when it is safe to download files; 23% taught about using strong passwords; and just 7% taught about the role of the Internet in the U.S. economy.

 

Photo Credit


New case study reveals that Training can reduce your Vulnerability to Cybercrime

Internet safety tips from the Ascentive team

New statistics published by Internet Security Awareness Training (ISAT) firm KnowBe4 indicate that formal training can substantially reduce an organization’s vulnerability to cybercrime. The findings, which are based on a case study of three KnowBe4 clients, revealed that between 26% and 45% of employees at those companies were susceptible to phishing emails. Implementation of ISAT immediately reduced that percentage by 75%; with subsequent 4-week phishing testing resulting in a close to zero phishing response rate across all three companies.

“As cyberheists continue to make headlines, it’s become clear that Small and Medium Enterprise underestimate the prevalence of cybercrime and the ability of cybercriminals to hack into their networks and bank accounts,” said Stu Sjouwerman, founder and CEO of KnowBe4. “Many executives erroneously assume that their IT departments and antivirus software will identify and block any cyberheist attempts. The fact of the matter is though, that all it takes is one employee clicking on a phishing email gives the bad guys a backdoor to your network. Cybercriminals use that weak link (employees) to bypass your antivirus software and gain full access to your systems. Our research has proven that Internet Security Awareness Training can close that hole; but organizations need to take the initiative to implement a formal, company-wide program.”

KnowBe4’s recent client case study showed that between a quarter to a half of employees were phish-prone before receiving Internet security training. If a cybercriminal had targeted any of those companies prior to their implementation of ISAT, there could have been serious implications. The initial test involved sending a simulated phishing email to employees before the first ISAT session to see how many would fall for a phishing attempt. The results were alarming; KnowBe4’s phishing statistics revealed an average 36.67% click rate among the three companies:

•   Company A (28 users):  45%

•   Company B (95 users):  39%

•   Company C (76 users):  26%

Following the preliminary free phishing security test, KnowBe4 conducted company-wide training. After that 30-minute on-line training, a series of five different simulated phishing emails were sent to users. The emails and the order in which they were sent varied by company; and the simulated phishing attacks encompassed a number of different topics, which ranged from bank account unauthorized access alerts, to Twitter notifications, to requests that appeared to be sent from the companies’ own IT departments. After the first email in the post-training test campaign, Company A’s Phish-prone percentage dropped to 28%, while Company B and Company C had a 0% click rate; resulting in an average of 9.33% across the three organizations. That represents an immediate overall 74.55% reduction in phishing susceptibility after the first training session.

Supplemental training decreased the phishing response rates even further. The second email in the campaign netted only a 7.10% response rate from Company A, while Company B and Company C held steady at 0%. Following the third email in the series, Company A had joined Company B at 0% phishing susceptibility, while Company C had a 1% response rate. The fourth email in the campaign – a message that appeared to have been sent from the companies’ own IT departments – fooled some employees at Company A (3.5%) and Company B (10%), while Company C had no clicks. By the fifth email in the test campaign, all three companies had achieve a 0% Phish-prone rate; representing a full 100% reduction in susceptibility to phishing tactics.

Sjouwerman noted that the initial pre-testing phishing response rates are indicative of phishing susceptibility among small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as a whole, making these businesses especially vulnerable to cybercrime. “The media often tend to focus on high-profile cases, like the recent hacking incidents at Sony and Lockheed Martin. Cybercriminals target smaller companies and non-profits all the time; it’s just that those cases don’t always make national news. As a result, many SMEs have a false sense of security, thinking that nobody is going to bother going after them with so many larger, more successful targets out there. The reality is that cybercriminals know SMEs are less likely to have effective security measures in place – and they’ll go anywhere they can find an easy way in. We recently published a case study about an attempted $150,000 cyberheist at a Boston branch of the United Way. If someone at the charitable organization hadn’t been especially vigilant, those funds would be in the hands of overseas criminals instead of helping local citizens in need. My point is that cybercrime can – and does – happen everywhere. That’s why Internet security awareness training is so important.”