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.
Microsoft Executive Calls For Improved Information Sharing Between Governments and Companies
Brad Smith said information sharing is critical for preventative measures against cyberattacks.
WASHINGTON, September 20, 2021—Microsoft Vice Chair Brad Smith called for improved information sharing between countries to prevent cyberattacks on critical infrastructure.
While participating in a Washington Post Live discussion on September 20, Smith pointed toward certain sectors and aspects of society that should be protected from cyberwarfare. He specifically mentioned that a country’s digital supply chains, healthcare systems, and electoral processes should be considered off limits.
“I think the sobering fact of life is that unfortunately the world typically comes together to do what needs to be done only after it has experienced some kind [disaster],” he said.
“If we said we won’t harm civilians in a time of war, why should we for a moment, tolerate this kind of harm to civilians in what is supposed to be a time of peace?” Smith likened the SolarWinds attack to tampering with a blood supply to harm recipients.
A webinar in June hosted by the Stimson Center heard that a cybersecurity framework between countries is key to combatting cyberattacks.
Information sharing with private companies
In addition to reaffirming a commitment to not cause civilian harm, Smith also called for improving coordination and information sharing between private companies and stated that these efforts are enhanced by government leadership.
“I think any day when we’re sitting down and talking about how we can collaborate more closely among companies, that’s probably a good day.” Smith lauded efforts by the Biden Administration to facilitate information sharing between tech companies to prevent further attacks like the one SolarWinds suffered, “We are going to need a government that can work as a single well-coordinated team and the team is going to need to include participants in an appropriate way from the private sector as well. I’m hopeful, encouraged and I would dare say even optimistic.”
Last month, Comcast Cable’s chief product and information officer Noopur Davis said the private sector is falling behind on information sharing during cyberattacks, and that companies in the tech industry are reevaluating their strategies and how they share information to prevent such acts. Some have noted that companies are still not prioritizing cybersecurity.
Senator Angus King, I-Maine, has even called for new rules requiring companies to disclose when they’ve been breached in a hack.
Shortage of cybersecurity workforce
Smith noted, however, that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. He described a “substantial shortage” of cybersecurity professionals, which he stated is one of the reasons organizations are not able to move quickly enough to keep pace with bad actors and implement best practices.
“There is a real opportunity for us to work together for community colleges to do more [and] for businesses to do more to train their people,” he said.
Overall, Smith stated that things are moving in the right direction but emphasized that the international community—governments and otherwise—need to establish better methods of federating data that is secure from bad actors but accessible to the necessary parties.
Private Sector Falling Behind on Information Sharing During Cyberattacks, Says Comcast Rep
Comcast’s Noopur Davis says cyber attackers share information better than the private sector.
ASPEN, Colorado, August 23 — In the wake of an influx of ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure and cyberattacks on private carriers, entities across the technology industry are revaluating their strategies and how they share information to prevent such acts.
T-Mobile announced on August 15 that as many as 50 million consumers had their private data compromised during a data breach. Days later, on August 17, as part of Technology Policy Institute’s 2021 Aspen Forum, Noopur Davis, Chief Product and Information Officer at Comcast Cable, sat down for a fireside chat to discuss what the industry was doing to address this event and events like it.
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When Davis was asked how she felt about the current state of cybersecurity, she said it was okay, but that the telecom community at large would have to do more.
She referenced the mean time of comfort—that is, the average duration between the time that a service becomes connected to the internet and when it is targeted by bad actors. While in the early days of the internet cybersecurity experts could expect to have significant mean times of comfort, she stated that this is no longer the case.
“The second you connect [to the internet] you are attacked,” she said.
As soon as a successful breach is recognized, Davis explained that the target companies begin to revaluate their “TTP,” or tactics, techniques, and procedures.
Information sharing is crucial
Though one company may find a remedy to their breach, other companies may remain vulnerable. To combat this, Davis said that it is critical for companies to share information quickly with their counterparts, but she indicated that this is a race that the private sector is currently losing.
“[Attackers] share information better than [the private industry does].”
She went further, revealing that there is now a sophisticated market for malware as a service, where various platforms publish reviews for their products and services and even offer tech support to those struggling to get the most out of their purchases.
Growing market for hacking tools
She pointed to the Colonial Pipeline attack as an example where hackers did not even create the malware themselves—they just purchased it from a provider online. She explained that this marketplace has significantly lowered the barriers of entry and deskilled the activity for would be attackers, and that theoretically anyone could engage in such nefarious acts today.
Though Davis was in favor of collaboration between companies to address these attacks, she made it clear that this would not mean that responses and capabilities would become standardized, and that every company would maintain their own unique strategies to ensure that their services and data remain uncompromised.
DOJ Official Supports Mandatory Breach Reporting
Proposed legislation would make it mandatory for companies to report cyberattacks.
August 2, 2021—An official from the Department of Justice urged members of the Senate judiciary committee last week to proceed with legislation requiring companies to report ransomware attacks to federal agencies.
Richard Downing, deputy assistant attorney general of the criminal division within the department, told the committee studying cybersecurity during a hearing that such mandatory breach reporting legislation would aid in its defense against cyberattacks.
There is currently no federal law requiring such disclosures, but bipartisan Senate legislation co-sponsored by Senator Angus King, I-Maine, would change that. Titled Cyber Incident Notification Act of 2021, the bill was introduced last month.
This legislation would require all contractors, federal agencies, companies, and organizations critical to U.S national security to report all breaches of data to the Department of Homeland Securities’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within 24 hours.
The bill and discussions about it come in light of high-profile cyberattacks that have targeted software company SolarWinds and oil transport company Colonial Pipeline in the last several months. And the discussion isn’t expected to slowdown as more critical infrastructure is hooked up to the internet.
The Last week, the House energy committee approved a series of cyber bills that would improve telecom network security.
Cyber threats becoming more bold
Downing noted that threat actors are becoming bolder and more sophisticated, and that the government must hasten efforts to thwart attacks and stay ahead of such malicious acts.
“Many actors now research their victims—identifying the victim’s net worth, the cost of a business interruption, and even the value of their cyber insurance policy—to extort as much money as possible,” Downing said during the hearing.
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