Australian government considers approach to cybersecurity

The Australian government considers itself to be “world-leading” when it comes to cybersecurity, with Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security Angus Taylor telling ZDNet that Australia has the opportunity to extend its global lead to create a thriving local industry.

“You talk to other countries and we have a chance here to lead the world, it’s very exciting not just so we can protect ourselves but so we can grow an industry,” he said on Wednesday.

“I don’t think anyone’s where they wanted to be, we’re all still facing risks, but I think we’re in a great position I think now to deal with these risks at a speed and with a level of collaboration that very few other countries have.”

To Taylor, it’s important to keep abreast of the threat landscape as it changes, noting also that it helps the country has a leader in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that understands technology.


“I think one of the reasons why we are arguably leading the world is that we have a prime minister who actually understands that, which is I think pretty much unique,” he told ZDNet. “For me personally that is a huge help because it means I can have a detailed discussion with him about Intel chips, and he understands.”

The newly minted cyber minister drew on his time as the minister overseeing digital transformation to discuss the current approach to cybersecurity the government has, commenting that it’s important to ensure departments and agencies aren’t further creating silos for dealing with threats.

“There is a risk  I’m acutely conscious of that, and I’m acutely conscious of that because I hear people say this to me all the time,” Taylor said. “We can’t let that happen.

“The key in cyber, like most areas, is speed and that means you’ve got to share information in a collaborative way.”

While the government has determined a need to share and created a handful of avenues to do so, it doesn’t exactly have a way to measure such information sharing.

“It’s very easy to see afterwards,” Taylor said in response to a question asking how to ensure cross-department collaboration. “This is something I’m adamant about and we do need to share. It doesn’t mean you have to share sources, but you have to share the information people have to act on.”

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49-day Hack shows need for cyber security beef up

It took one NSW Government agency 49 days to shut down a hack by fraudsters, a new report on cyber security in the public service has revealed.

The attempted financial fraud in 2017 involved a government agency and its IT systems provider, and spread to other agencies before it was reported and stopped.

The case study is part of a new report by the state’s auditor-general Margaret Crawford.

She called for urgent improvements in the public sector’s ability to respond to cyber security incidents.

“There is a risk that incidents will go undetected longer than they should, and opportunities to contain and restrict the damage may be lost,” the report said.

“Cyber security incidents can harm government service delivery and may include theft of personal information, denial of access to critical technology, or even the hijacking of systems for profit or malicious intent.”


Hacked account sent out 450 bogus emails

The 2017 case study started with a compromised email account, and led to led to a shut-down of the agency’s financial payment system.

Six days later, the hacked account sent deceptive emails, known as phishing, in a bid to get the credentials of finance staff.

Two weeks after the initial hack, the agency’s IT provider detected a fraudulent invoice and raised the incident to major status.

Email account users were told to change their passwords, but by day-20, the hacked email account had sent out 450 bogus emails, and 300 staff had clicked on the link inside.


At that point the agency had found out that about 200 email accounts were under the control of criminals, yet it failed to temporarily lock the accounts.

It was not until day 36 that the IT provider reported the incident to the Government’s chief information security officer.

Six days later, it was found that the account that had been hacked at the start was still compromised.

The agency’s payments gateway, which handled business invoices, staff salaries and superannuation, was finally re-opened on the 49th day.

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WHK hires top cyber security talent

Global online security exchange provider, WhiteHawk Limited (ASX:WHK) has announced that it has made a strategic investment in top cyber talent.

The company, which offers the first global online cyber security exchange which enables small-to-medium businesses to take smart action against cyber-crime and fraud, has made two new hires and promoted Antonio Crespo as Chief Information Officer.

Crespo joined WHK in 2017 as the company’s Director of Product Development and Services. He has expertise in security threat analysis and security product engineering, having gained experience at Computer Sciences Corporation and Security Risk Advisors prior to joining WHK. As CIO, Crespo will oversee the management and delivery of all customer facing WHK services, product lines, and business operations.


Soo Kim joins WHK as Director of Product Development from Accenture Federal Services. She brings more than 20 years’ experience in software engineering and technology strategy, having held senior positions at Accenture Federal Services, HP Enterprise Services, and TASC Inc. At WHK, Kim will lead the daily development, testing and advancement of the CyberPath Solution Engine and all data analytics efforts, to include the continuous improvement of the WHK online ecosystem.

Jason Beach has also joined the team as Senior Data Scientist, bringing recent data analytics and solution development experience from supporting customers such as Microsoft Corp, North Western Mutual Insurance, and US Departments of Treasury and Defense.

WHK also announced the promotion of Israel Villanueva, previously a WHK sales partner, who now joins as the Solutions Architect. Villanueva will work with and manage all cyber security vendors, and focus on how to tailor, market, price and deliver top products and services. He has over 12 years of VP and Account Executive experience in the marketing and sales of software and technology.

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It’s worth noting that WHK is an early stage play and investors should seek professional financial advice if considering this company for their portfolio.

Executive Chair of WhiteHawk, Terry Roberts, commented on today’s announcement. “In a short period of time, Antonio has proven himself an insightful, driven, and results-oriented cyber businessman and I believe that he is well-suited for the role of CIO. I am also excited to welcome Soo and Jason to the team, both of whom are extremely talented and bring the level of expertise and innovation to ensure that our business and our website development move forward with efficiency and sophistication.”

He continued, “With the additional technical talent that we have been able to attract thanks to the investment of our shareholders, we are now able to start executing on our robust development plan which will, in turn, enable us to maximise value for our shareholders in the long term.”

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Telstra launching London cybersecurity centre

Telstra has announced that it will be launching a Security Operations Centre (SOC) in London, with CEO Andy Penn telling ZDNet that cybersecurity is becoming critical for all businesses.

Speaking during Telstra’s first-half financial results call, Penn pointed towards the telco’s growing capabilities in security.

“During the half, we enhanced our cybersecurity services with the opening of two new Security Operations Centres in Melbourne and Sydney,” he said.


“We have plans to open a further Security Operations Centre this year in London. We have seen strong demand for our cybersecurity offerings in the context of a market where this is becoming an increasingly important issue for companies and boards.”

Penn told ZDNet that the London SOC will have the “same dynamic” as its Melbourne and Sydney centres, which operate virtually as one room with interaction between all of the operators.

“It builds up the ecosystem of the security capability that we have,” he told ZDNet.

“What it enables us to do is either directly for our customers, particularly the large enterprise customers, and/or in partnership with our customers, monitor all of their own in-house networks to make sure that we can identify the aberrant behaviour and the aberrant traffic, any malware, also effectively intervene quickly, and the security operations centres also have crisis management centres in conjunction with them, and it enables us to actually [interact] quickly with the customer, with the teams wherever they are in the world to really manage an incident if and when it occurs.”


The London SOC will also house around the same amount of workers as its Sydney and Melbourne centres, he told ZDNet, which see teams of around 25 people from its 500-strong cybersecurity expert base monitoring 24/7.

In regards to launching additional SOCs across the globe, Penn said Telstra has not yet formally announced any plans.

“The only thing I would say is that undoubtedly cybersecurity is becoming an increasingly critical and important issue for large companies and small companies for that matter, for boards, for chairmen of companies, for CEOs,” he told ZDNet.

“So we are only likely to see this demand increase, and of course it’s a global risk, so whilst obviously much of our focus is on Australian companies and also in the Asia-Pacific, we also have to protect our customers wherever they may be doing business.”

Also beyond standard fixed and mobile telco offerings is Telstra’s Internet of Things (IoT) business, which Penn said is continuing to grow, pointing to the acquisitions of MTData and VMtech and the launch of its Cat-M1 IoT network during the half.

Telstra’s IoT business is nearing AU$200 million in revenue, which he said makes Telstra “one of the most successful IoT businesses globally”.  Click the link to read the entire article.


Cyber Attacks Sideline Independent Media in Azerbaijan, Philippines

Technical attacks ranging from 1:1 hacking incidents to full-on DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks have become an increasingly common tactic for silencing critical voices on the internet. Two examples of this threat have emerged in recent weeks in Azerbaijan and the Philippines.

Independent news site MeydanTV was one of those targeted in a wave of attacks on the websites, Facebook pages and email accounts of Azerbaijani dissidents and their supporters. Meydan TV, which has provided routine coverage of politics and social movements (despite clear and present risks), had its Facebook account hacked, resulting in the loss of years’ worth of posts and 100,000 followers.


The attacks appear to be part of a broad campaign to quell online dissent in Azerbaijan in the lead-up to presidential elections this October. Another such measure came with legal amendments in 2017 that enabled the government to block websites including MeydanTV and the independent news sites Azadliq, Radio Azatliq, Turan TV, and Azerbaijan Hour on “national security” grounds.

Across the ocean in the Philippines, independent media site Kodao is facing a powerful attack that has left it offline for a week, as of February 8.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the attack and reported that it was the result of a “code injection” against Kodao’s WordPress site that has prevented technicians and staff from logging in.

Referencing the Duterte government’s recent attempt to revoke the license of Rappler, another prominent independent news site in the Philippines, the NUJP said it “sees the attack on Kodao as part of the Duterte government’s efforts to silence critical media, as seen in the continuing attempt to shut down Rappler, threaten other news outfits, and other voices of dissent.”


Kuwaiti blogger sentenced to 31 years for ‘insulting’ Gulf countries

Although he is currently in exile in the UK, Kuwaiti citizen Abdullah al-Saleh was convicted in absentia by a Kuwaiti court of multiple charges of insulting the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in his online postings. He was sentenced to a cumulative total of 31 years in prison. Al-Saleh is a prominent blogger, YouTuber and social media voice, with more than 106,000 followers on Twitter. Among other political commentary, al-Saleh has openly criticized the Saudi-led diplomatic blockade against Qatar.

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Cybersecurity Threats in the Age of IoT

Cyber security has become one of the most talked about issues in recent times due to the massive amounts of hacking stories that have taken place over the last few years. We can all clearly remember the massive Target hack and the security breach at Equifax which comprised almost everyone’s information.

Everybody can appreciate cyber security and, in this current climate, must be knowledgeable of it. More and more of the world is becoming interconnected and more and more people are going online. This poses a huge security risk as data from millions of people will, paradoxically, become more secure and more vulnerable simultaneously. This is cause for great alarm as the full reach of what a cyber security flaw can produce is still not entirely known. The Equifax hack would be a sure indicator that, at the very least, it isn’t good.

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Not everyone can be sure what will happen but this, of course, cannot get in the way or inhibit progress in any way. Oddly, these two things must act in perfect harmony. We must have consistent and eager progress while maintaining the risk despite our concerns.

This issue does not become any less complex in the Internet of Things. This new incoming age brings with it all kinds of intricate ways that hackers and other exploitative programs can deceive and infiltrate our personal data. During the tech revolution there are a few things to be acutely aware of in order to prevent a total collapse of your privacy.

The Internet of Things brings with it many innovations that can not only assist us in our lives but can change our lives all together. Almost everyone has a smartphone and smart home assistants are already becoming ubiquitous. We have in our homes all sorts of devices that are constantly listening and watching us to better our lives and make living easier in general. We collectively love these devices as they can keep us in order and drive us closer to a future present only in our dreams.

However, these come with the risks that all electronically inclined and connected objects do. For instance, say an individual has a smart home alarm system with a customised 5 digit security code that has all the bells and whistles. All it takes is someone compromising your network security or interacting with a security camera in your home to grab that passcode and have access to your house, alarm free.

The same goes for Apple Pay which, while secure, is one broad hack away from leaving your personal banking information subject to the view of a criminal. When most of our electronics that record our voices submit what they heard to their engine they usually convert it into text. This text can then be absconded with by a criminal who can use this information against you. These, for better or for worse, are not even the harshest ways we can be compromised.

The tried-and-true formula, of course, still reigns true and that is most individuals do not protect their passwords. Over 80% of all hacks are completed using social exploits, which is to say that somebody lies in order to obtain information.

Sometimes a hack can occur from the silliest mistake, like leaving your password on a sticky note on your computer or written plainly on your desk so you can quickly remember your login. These mistakes, combined with the Internet of Things, put you at an even bigger risk as they are now more ways to find this information using interconnected cameras and voice recognition software.

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CISOs map out their cybersecurity plan for 2018

When Omar F. Khawaja compiled his priority list for 2018, he didn’t include which security technologies he wanted or how many IT staff he hoped to hire.

Instead, the CISO at Highmark Health — a healthcare management and insurance provider whose portfolio includes Allegheny Health Network, United Concordia Dental and Visionworks, among others — articulated an overarching strategy on how the cybersecurity plan should fit within the national organization’s business strategy.


“While I do realize that I will need technology to enable many of the things I’m trying to do [this] year and going into 2019, my goal isn’t to deploy technology, but to realize certain outcomes,” said Khawaja, who works out of Highmark’s Pittsburgh headquarters.

Khawaja broke his cybersecurity plan down into five key areas of focus.

First, he wants to look at how his team makes decisions. “There are always more opportunities to make more impact and add more controls than there are the resources and time to do so,” he said. “So how do we create a decision-making framework so we get [our priorities in order]? And we’re not doing things because it’s a shiny object, but instead because it [has] real business impact?”

Second is organizational change management. The corporate security team needs to be confident that staff throughout Highmark Health, and its subsidiaries, adapt practices and processes to maximize the value of the implemented security protocols and technologies.

Next, Khawaja wants to ensure his team’s cybersecurity plan is aligned with the top business risks, so that the cybersecurity program “isn’t a security program but a risk-management program.”

The healthcare organization also wants to focus on operational excellence and customer satisfaction. “We absolutely have to understand what objectives we’re trying to achieve and who our key stakeholders are,” Khawaja said. “It’s not that we just simply secure the place, but we do it in a way that’s excellent. We have to do it at 100%, and we’ve got to be at 100% every single time.”

While Khawaja’s plans may sound ambitious, he is not alone. Studies show that executives increasingly recognize that a cyberattack could cripple their operations and mean millions in lost business and reputational damage as well as in cleanup costs. The National Association of Corporate Directors’ 2017-2018 Public Company Governance Survey found that cybersecurity threats ranked among the top five trends expected to have the greatest effect on business in the upcoming year.

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