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Cybersecurity

SolarWinds CEO Says Hack Shows Need for Information-Sharing Between Industry and Government

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Photo of SolarWinds CEO Sudhakar Ramakrishna from Health iPASS

February 23, 2021 – The data breach suffered by SolarWinds in December illustrates the need for better communications between industry and government, according to the CEO of the information tech company.

CEO Sudhakar Ramakrishna said Monday that it is important that the industry shares information because cyberattacks cannot be dealt with alone.

Ramakrishna and Suzanne Spaulding from the Center for Strategic & International Studies talked Monday about what SolarWinds and the industry had learned in the two months since the malicious attack.

“I see this as an organizational commitment to the community,” Ramakrishna said. “Why would a victim of a hack be out there talking about it? It is our obligation to do so,” he added.

Improving information sharing

Ramakrishna said there are three aspects of cyberwarfare that the community can improve on. 

First, there needs to be more public and private partnerships between companies and governments to resolve these issues, which should also include protection and possible incentives for hacked victims to come forward publicly.

Second, the community needs to set better standards for itself, to reach for excellence instead of just compliance. We should do more than just check off the necessary boxes to meet requirements, he said.

Third, there needs to be better communication methods with government agencies, he noted. Ramakrishna lamented that dealing with different agencies slowed down their ability to find solutions and led to an “asymmetry of information” between the company and the government. He suggested there could be one government “clearinghouse” that communicates with companies and then disseminates the information to the necessary agencies.

The SolarWinds cyberattack, which many believe was Russian in origin, breached several prominent entities, including federal agencies, through a supply-chain software update in early 2020. Although SolarWinds initially thought up to 18,000 of its customers may have been affected, they’re learning that that number is actually much less than that, Ramakrishna said.

Neither he nor Spaulding could definitively say what the perpetrators wanted from the attack, but speculated that they had many objectives, including a few likely “prized assets,” according to Ramakrishna, and gathering details about the environments that they hacked.

They probably wanted more than just to look around—it was more than just a reconnaissance mission, Spaulding said. 

Ramakrishna stepped into the CEO position at SolarWinds on January 4, and said he wasn’t expecting a malicious cyberattack to be the first priority of his new tenure, but said that he was prepared for circumstances like this from his previous experience.

He, as well as former SolarWinds CEO Kevin Thompson, will now testify in front of the U.S. House Oversight and Homeland Security Committees on Friday about the attack. to be held on Friday.

Reporter Tim White studied communication and political science at the University of Utah, and previously worked on Capitol Hill for a member of Congress. A native of Salt Lake City, he escapes to the Pacific Northwest as often as he can. He is passionate about politics, Star Wars, and breakfast cereal.

Cybersecurity

CES 2023: Consumers Need to Understand Personal Cybersecurity, Says White House Cyber Official

Consumers must better understand how to weigh risks and protect themselves in the digital world, said Camille Stewart Gloster.

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Photo of John Mitchell, Tobin Richardson, Amit Elazari, and Camille Stewart Gloster (left to right)

LAS VEGAS, January 7, 2023 – In addition to building a more robust cybersecurity workforce, policymakers should consider consumer education, said Camille Stewart Gloster, deputy national cyber director for technology and ecosystem for the White House, speaking Saturday at the Consumer Electronics Show.

CES 2023 has featured numerous discussions of cybersecurity in sectors ranging from transportation to Internet of Things home devices. On Thursday, an official from the Department of Homeland Security argued that manufactures should design and pre-configure devices to be secure, thus reducing the security burden on consumers.

For their own protection, consumers must better understand how to weigh risks and protect themselves in the digital world, Stewart Gloster said Saturday. “The sooner that people understand that their physical security and digital security are inextricably linked the better,” she argued. According to the panel’s moderator, Consumer Technology Association senior manager for government affairs John Mitchell, 82 percent of data breaches in 2021 involved “the human element, stolen credentials, phishing, misuse.”

Stewart Gloster’s team is working on a national cyber-workforce and education strategy, she said, which will address the federal cyber workforce, the national cyber workforce, cyber education, and “digital safety awareness.”

Stewart Gloster said workforce initiatives should promote the participation of “people of a diverse set of backgrounds who are highly skilled and multidisciplinary who can take a look at the problem space, who can apply their lived experiences, apply the things they’ve observed, apply their academic backgrounds to a challenging and ever evolving landscape.”

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Cybersecurity

CES 2023: Cybersecurity for IoT Devices Should be Market-Driven

NIST’s cybersecurity guidelines for IoT prescribe desired outcomes, rather than specific and ‘brittle’ standards.

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Michael Bergman (left) and Katerina Megas

LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2023 – Cybersecurity protocols for Internet of Things devices should be industry-driven, Katerina Megas, program manager of the Cybersecurity for Internet of Things Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said Friday at the Consumer Electronics Show 2023.

The popularization of IoT devices gives cyber-criminals increasing opportunities to breach networks, many say. Network-connected household devices – e.g., lightbulbs and home security devices – can be entry-points if security protocols are lacking. On CES panel on Thursday, a cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security argued that manufacturers should design and preset devices to be safe, shifting much of the burden from the consumer.

“For a long-term, sustainable solution, the best approach really is for demand to be market driven,” she said, adding that NIST is “happy” to support the market when called on. To preserve flexibility, NIST’s cybersecurity guidelines for IoT manufacturers in general prescribed desired outcomes, rather than specific and “brittle” standards, Megas said.

“How you achieve those [outcomes] will vary depending on the maturity of your organization, the architecture of your product, perhaps preferences that you might have for you own internal processes,” she explained.

Megas said manufacturers, who well know their devices’ technical capabilities, often lack an understanding of how consumers actually use their devices. Megas said she has examined how to “help a manufacturer who has no insights into the final contextual use of this product, how can we help them…understand, ‘Here are the risks associated with my device.’”

At an American Enterprise Institute panel held in November, Megas endorsed an “ecosystem approach” to cybersecurity, arguing that network security is also indispensable.

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Cybersecurity

CES 2023: Railroad Industry Needs Cybersecurity Update

Shawn Smith advocated heavily tailored, industry-specific approaches that can address to the unique needs of the rail industry.

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Photo of Shawn Smith, vice president of business development of Cylus

LAS VEGAS, January 5, 2023 – To keep pace with today’s technological innovations and cyberthreats, the railway industry must retool its cybersecurity defenses, said Shawn Smith, vice president of business development of rail cybersecurity company Cylus.

The railway industry is working to patch old vulnerabilities as well as the new ones that have been create by developing technologies, Smith told Broadband Breakfast at the Consumer Electronics Show on Thursday. The need for enhanced cybersecurity has been a recurring theme at the conference, as have the implications of the ever increasing number of devices and technologies now relying on connectivity.

“We’re really fast-tracking an operator’s ability to keep pace with the change in the digital environment that they’re operating in (and) the interconnectivity that they’re seeing,” Smith said, adding that his team works to provide “visibility, threat detection, and response capability to keep pace with the change in their organizations.”

Smith said that many of the large rail players have developed responses for some cybersecurity risks, but lack the automation and planning tools necessary to maximize their effectiveness. He advocated heavily tailored, industry-specific approaches that can address to the unique needs of the industry.

Governments and industry players worldwide have of late been on high alert for cyberthreats, particularly since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Railways, like other infrastructure, are potential targets for nefarious actors, Smith said.

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