#CyberFLASH: Smaller firms, financial institutions becoming more vulnerable to cyber attacks

10712553A director of an international bank took concerns about cyber crime into his own hands recently, hiring a specialized team to covertly breach his own company’s network.

The attackers used a so-called “spear phishing” technique, baiting the bank’s employees to open an email that appeared to come from someone they knew. If they did — and clicked on the attachment — their computers were infected with malicious software, which then spread to other computers in the network. Once they were in, the expert hackers revealed themselves to the bank’s management, who they then graded on their ability to track down the infiltrators and thwart unauthorized money transfers.

“Once we … gave them hints, it took more time than it should have to find us,” says Robert Masse, a partner at Deloitte in Montreal who runs the consultant’s Canadian incident response practice, which runs such infiltration exercises for financial companies around the world.

Masse, who agreed to discuss only non-Canadian cases because he didn’t want to risk disclosing information that could identify a client in the small domestic market, said he was not surprised the international bank was not up to snuff.

“Unless you have gone through this exercise before, almost everyone is in the same boat.”

For the Canadian financial industry, the stakes in the cyber-security game are enormous. Bay Street banks and wealth management firms have access some of the most sensitive data in the country, and access to millions of dollars in savings and investments, which makes them a natural target for hackers.

“The closer you get to the money, the more of a target you are to cyber criminals,” says David Mohajer, chief executive of cyber security firm Xahive.

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#CyberFLASH: Saint John Development Corporation finds cyber attack damage

GettyImages-556421117The Saint John Development Corporation says it’s working to restore an annual report that it lost to a cyber attack in early 2015.

“We lost a lot of our data,” said General Manager Kent MacIntyre. “We had some [Saint John] city IT people working with us to try to recover that but in the end, it wasn’t recovered.”

According to MacIntyre, sensitive information wasn’t compromised because it was being stored on city servers at the time.

He said the ransomware infected only the office laptops and he doesn’t know why they were hit at all.

“Ransomware isn’t always a targeted attack,” said David Shipley, a member of UNB’s cybersecurity team.

Shipley said organized criminals push out emails that contain malicious software that can scramble information, making it inaccessible without a key.

The perpetrators then demand money to restore the information.

Shipley said it must be paying off, because ransomware attacks have become a huge crime wave around the world.

UNB has seen a significant spike in activity.

A million viruses in a month

“In a typical month, we might receive 149,000 emails with malicious attachments or viruses in them,” said Shipley. “In March, we saw that number almost jump to a million.”

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#CyberFLASH: Critical Infrastructure And Cyber Threats

Q9DataCentreCritical infrastructure, such as the energy sector, financial systems, government operations, national security, transportation networks, water supply, blood supply and the health system, is fundamental to our daily life. It is also heavily dependent on cyber networks. Threats to cyber networks are increasing in number, frequency and impact. Cyber attacks originate from various persons including financial opportunists, activists or government, and the motives for such attacks are equally varied. Motivation for cyber attacks include financial gains, political statements, destructive intentions and power. The nature of the attacks and their targets correspond with the motives of the attacks.

A cyber attack that shuts down, disrupts or manipulates operations relating to electricity, power, water supply, blood supply or financial systems, for even a few hours, can have wide-ranging and significant results.

Threats to cyber networks and the corresponding cyber security has become a critical issue among government leaders from industrialized nations, as well as within the international economic unions and community, often resulting in cyber threats and cyber security being an agenda item during their summits. The Canadian government has also declared that cyber security is a key threat to its economy and critical infrastructure. The United States has declared that cyber security is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges it faces, which has resulted in both domestic and international cyber security initiatives. The European Union has pushed for directives that would require harmonized rules on cyber security among member states.

At this point, all critical infrastructure operations and industries must have cyber threats as one of their key risks to manage with the corresponding cyber security measures as an integral and pervasive part of their operations. The approach to preventing and reacting to cyber security threats should be informed, without ego, built into the fabric of all of the business operations and ongoing.

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#CyberFLASH: Canadian companies have no incentive to report cyber attacks

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Canadians are clueless about the vast majority of corporate data hacks because companies suffer greater financial losses when they reveal they’ve lost data than when they keep consumers in the dark.

Wednesday’s cyber attack on infidelity site Ashley Madison shone a spotlight on a risk that usually lurks in the shadows because of a lack of regulation, experts say.

“The security at Canadian organizations today is inadequate,” said Claudiu Popa, CEO of cybersecurity firm Informatica Corp.

“We don’t have a law that is prescriptive enough to tell companies that they absolutely need to buy this or that type of technology.”

Sometimes, he said, companies don’t even know they’ve been targeted.

Although the government must report data breaches such as last year’s Heartbleed attack at the Canada Revenue Agency, private companies have no such requirement.

The Ashley Madison data leak might not have come to light if hackers hadn’t announced it, Popa said. The 2013 Target Corp. breach, which also affected Canadian customers, was revealed partly because of reporting requirements in the United States, which imposes fines on companies that allow consumers’ files to be exposed.

“It’s in their best interest to play along and to invest in more sophisticated technology for detection and prevention,” Popa said.

“That’s really what’s lacking in Canada today.”

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#CyberFLASH: Ottawa to spend $100M to battle cyber attacks

99783415-620x250The government will be spending as much a $100 million to protect its computer systems against cyber attacks.

There is also “a request from inside the government” for extra money in the upcoming 2015 federal budget to back this cyber security strategy, according to a report from the Globe and Mail.

The daily said it got its information from a senior officials who asked not to be identified. The sources said the amount needed for the initiative could go over $100 million spread over several years. The project will involve upgrading the government security system.

The decision to move beyond patching security holes comes after Chinese state-backed hackers broke into the National Research Council’s network in July last year. The national body responsible for business-led technology research the “cyber-intrusion” on its IT infrastructure was detected by the country’s electronic spy agency, the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC). The NRC said the cyber attack was carried out by a “highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor.”

The NRC had to shut down the system to thwart cyber espionage activities. However, sources told the Globe and Mail that officials knew of the intrusion before they system was shut down. They did this in order to find out what the attackers were doing and how they were going about it.

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#CyberFLASH: Paddy Power say 650,000 customers affected by 2010 cyber attack

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Paddy Power is contacting almost 650,000 punters today after their personal information was leaked in a 2010 cyber attack.

The Irish bookmaker say they are ‘pro-actively’ getting in touch with customers whose names, addresses, and phone numbers may have fallen into the wrong hands.

Close to 120,855 Irish customers, 461,154 UK users and 67,052 international punters have been affected.

It’s understood that the attack originated in Ontario, Canada where the bookmaker is liaising with police.

The gambling giants have also commenced legal proceedings in Toronto to secure possession of computer equipment owned by the person who was holding the Paddy Power data.

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#CyberFLASH: Canada’s military squeezed out of cyber-defence, emails warn

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OTTAWA — Military advisers working on the cyber-security file warned a year ago that the Canadian Forces were on the verge of being pushed entirely out of the realm of cyber-defence, according to internal emails from the military’s cyber task force.

In a March 5, 2013 email exchange, one Canadian Forces officer argued the military had not pushed hard enough to be the lead digital defence agency and warned that not pushing harder would “drive DND/CF entirely out of the cyber ops business.”

What role the Canadian Forces should play in protecting the country in cyberspace has been debated for years, and the emails give a glimpse into how the military continues to grapple with its place in Canada’s cyber security strategy.

In Canada, Public Safety Canada is the central hub for cyber-security policy and works with provinces, territories, municipalities and the private sector to help them protect their networks. The Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), which has among the most powerful computer resources in the country, is in charge of defending federal government systems and gathering foreign intelligence on potential cyber threats.

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#CyberFLASH: Canadian Trade secrets increasingly under attack from hackers, Foreign Affairs warns

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OTTAWA — Foreign affairs’ networks face daily cyber attacks, with the “range and severity” increasing, raising the risk that secret information about trade negotiations could fall into the wrong hands, the department says.

It’s not only information about trade negotiations that is under attack from cyberspace: sensitive information about foreign policy passes through the worldwide network used by Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) at all hours of the day.

Messages can be sent to any of Canada’s allies, or to one of more than 170 Canadian missions abroad.

In a report to Parliament in early November, the department flagged cyber security as a key risk that it must continue to address, saying the loss of sensitive information “could have significant negative consequences for Canada.”

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