Cyber Criminals Are Hijacking Computers for Cryptocurrency Mining

Cryptocurrency mining malware may end up being a bigger problem than WannaCry

Organizations that think they dodged a bullet when their older systems did not fall prey to the WannaCry ransomware may want to think again. Weeks prior to the WannaCry attacks, a group of hackers was taking advantage of the same Windows vulnerabilities that WannaCry exploited. Instead of locking down systems with ransomware, these cyber criminals were putting them to work, using a cryptocurrency mining malware called Adylkuzz.

Cryptocurrency mining malware may end up being a bigger problem than WannaCry

Not only did users have no idea their machines had been turned into cryptocurrency mining zombies, but Adylkuzz acted as a sort of vaccine for machines against the WannaCry malware so that mining operations would continue unimpeded. So, in a bizarre twist, had it not been for Adylkuzz, the WannaCry attacks may have been even larger and more destructive.

That’s not to say Adylkuzz is benign. Just as WannaCry was a warning shot for the destructive potential of ransomware, Adylkuzz sounded the alarm about the next threat on the horizon: cryptocurrency mining malware.

Cryptocurrency 101

Cryptocurrencies are digital or virtual currencies that use cryptography to prevent counterfeiting. They are distinguished from “fiat currency” – the dollars, euros, and other money issued by governments – because they are not issued by a central authority or representative of debts. They are sometimes referred to as “hard” or “sound” money and are more similar to gold bars than dollar bills. The most well-known and widely used cryptocurrency is Bitcoin, which was invented in 2009 as a byproduct of the blockchain technology that enables it.

Although there is nothing inherently nefarious about cryptocurrencies, they have come under fire for their popularity among cyber criminals. While many perfectly legitimate businesses accept payment in Bitcoin, it also is the de facto currency of the Dark Net, and most ransomware variants demand payments be rendered in it.

New units of digital currencies are created through a process known as cryptocurrency mining. “Miners” solve highly complex cryptography problems that allow them to add blocks to the blockchain, and they are rewarded for their efforts with free cryptocurrency units. To prevent devaluation, all digital currencies have a cap on how many units can ultimately be mined; Bitcoin’s cap is 21 million units and, as of this writing, about 5 million are left to be mined.

Cryptocurrencies have another failsafe to prevent devaluation and other forms of abuse: The problems miners must solve suck up enormous amounts of processing power, which means that miners who want to use their own equipment are looking at a capital investment in highly specialized hardware. For those who don’t want to spend the money, cryptocurrency mining malware such as Adylkuzz has emerged. Although Adylkuzz takes advantage of the same Windows vulnerabilities as WannaCry, it behaves more like the Mirai botnet. It does not lock down systems or access data; instead, it goes after a machine’s processing power, hijacking it and using it to mine units of a Bitcoin competitor called Monero, a “next-generation” cryptocurrency that is growing in popularity among cyber criminals because it promises even stronger anonymity than Bitcoin.

Adylkuzz has proven to be far more lucrative than WannaCry; it’s estimated that rogue Monero miners have raked in 10 times more money than the WannaCry hackers. It’s also not the only cryptocurrency mining malware in town. There’s a Samba bug that attacks Linux machines, and, in a surprising twist, another form of malware that goes after Raspberry Pi devices, tiny computers that are popular among tech enthusiasts. While it may seem counterintuitive to target such a small machine, the idea is not to hijack one device but tens of thousands, as the Mirai botnet did, and harness the combined power of a “zombie army.”

Protecting Your Systems from Cryptocurrency Mining Malware

One of the reasons why Adylkuzz and similar malware are so successful is that many victims have no idea they’ve been hijacked. The symptoms of an infection are vague, consisting of general system sluggishness and a loss of access to shared network resources.

Critics of cryptocurrencies have long been calling for governments to regulate or even ban them, and WannaCry and Adylkuzz have added fuel to their arguments. However, because of the very nature of cryptocurrencies, any attempts to legislate them face a protracted, uphill battle. The best defense against cryptocurrency mining malware is to employ the same proactive cyber security measures used to defend against ransomware, data breaches, and other cyber attacks: ensure that all systems and software are up-to-date; install new manufacturer patches as soon as possible; always change manufacturer default passwords; perform regular penetration testing; continuously monitor networks for anomalies; and address the human factor by training employees on cyber security best practices.

The cyber security experts at Lazarus Alliance have deep knowledge of the cyber security field, are continually monitoring the latest information security threats, and are committed to protecting organizations of all sizes from security breaches. Our full-service risk assessment services and Continuum GRC RegTech software will help protect your organization from data breaches, ransomware attacks, and other cyber threats.

Lazarus Alliance is proactive cyber security®. Call 1-888-896-7580 to discuss your organization’s cyber security needs and find out how we can help your organization adhere to cyber security regulations, maintain compliance, and secure your systems.

Cyber Insurance Market Full of Uncertainty and Skimpy Coverage

Cyber Insurance Coverage: a Brave, Uncertain New World for Insurers and Policyholders

Despite the escalating intensity and frequency of cyber attacks, fewer than 1/3 of U.S. businesses have purchased cyber insurance policies. A recent report by Deloitte provides insight into why organizations are deciding to go without cyber coverage, as well as why many insurers are hesitant to offer the coverage on a large-scale basis.

According to a recent report by Deloitte, Demystifying Cyber Insurance Coverage, cyber insurance policies represented only $1.5 to $3 billion out of a total of $505.8 billion in premium revenues generated by U.S. carriers in 2015. Further, only about 29% of organizations had even purchased a policy as of October 2016. Just 40% of Fortune 500 companies have coverage. Even companies that do have policies may have “skinny” coverage that will leave them high and dry if they ever do file a claim; just ask fast-casual restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s, which found out the hard way that its cyber insurance policy did not cover millions of dollars in liabilities to credit card issuers in the wake of a POS breach.

Cyber Insurance Coverage: a Brave, Uncertain New World for Insurers and Policyholders

Why is cyber coverage so spotty? It’s easy to point fingers at insurers, policyholders, or both. After all, insurance companies do not make money from paying claims; they make money from collecting premiums and paying claims only rarely. When a policyholder files a claim, whether it’s for a roof repair or a ransomware attack, the insurer will look for every reason not to pay out. At the same time, both the public and private sector are guilty of not taking cyber security seriously; from Yahoo to Major League Baseball to the U.S. Secret Service, organizations keep getting breached, yet they also keep behaving as though a major cyber attack will never happen to them.

While these are valid issues, the cyber insurance situation is not that simple. Deloitte’s report identified numerous obstacles in the path of both insurance companies that wish to sell policies and organizations that wish to buy them. Specifically, insurers struggle with:

  • A lack of historical data, making it difficult or impossible to build reliable predictive models.
  • The dynamic nature of cyber security, where brand-new threats are emerging literally daily.
  • The potential for “catastrophic accumulation” of claims if a nationwide or worldwide cyber attack brings down hundreds or thousands of claimants simultaneously; for example, if cyber terrorists were to strike the nation’s power grid, or a major website host is taken down.
  • “Tunnel vision,” which causes insurers to primarily focus on policies that protect insureds against the theft of personal identifying information (PII); not all organizations handle PII, and the threat landscape includes DDoS attacks, ransomware, and other attacks that can cripple an organization but do not involve the compromise of PII.

On the other side, policyholders are plagued by:

  • Not fully understanding their cyber risks or insurance options; similar to the situation with health insurance, many organizations feel they don’t “need” cyber insurance or require only bare-bones policies.
  • Erroneously thinking that they are already covered because another insurance policy, such as a general liability or business interruption policy, does cover some degree of cyber risk.
  • An inability to effectively compare policies due to a lack of standardization, another issue that seen in the individual health insurance market; buyers are unable to make “apples to apples” comparisons.
  • A legal landscape that is as dynamic as the threat environment; what is and isn’t covered by an insurance policy can be hard to determine, and insureds fear having to duke it out with insurance companies in court.

Cyber Insurance Is Not a Replacement for Proactive Cyber Security

Organizations that wish to purchase cyber insurance policies cannot go it alone. They must enlist expert help from cyber security professionals, not only to make sense of potential policies but also to evaluate their risk environments and determine what type of coverage they need. Because the cyber risk environment is continually evolving and changing, cyber coverage should be reviewed annually; a policy an organization purchased two years ago may no longer meet its needs.

Just as homeowners’ insurance is not an excuse to keep your doors unlocked or leave food cooking on the stove unattended, even a robust cyber insurance policy is not a replacement for proactive cyber security measures. Insurance policies will always contain exclusions, especially in cases where the insured was negligent in some manner, claim payouts will never be immediate, and insurance policies cannot repair damage to an organization’s reputation.

The cyber security experts at Lazarus Alliance have deep knowledge of the cyber security field, are continually monitoring the latest information security threats, and are committed to protecting organizations of all sizes from security breaches. Our full-service risk assessment services and Continuum GRC RegTech software will help protect your organization from data breaches, ransomware attacks, and other cyber threats.

Lazarus Alliance is proactive cyber security®. Call 1-888-896-7580 to discuss your organization’s cyber security needs and find out how we can help your organization adhere to cyber security regulations, maintain compliance, and secure your systems.

RegTech Eases Compliance Costs & Strengthens Cyber Security

RegTech Simplifies Governance, Risk, and Compliance

As compliance costs skyrocket, standards grow increasingly complex, and the cyber threat environment evolves, organizations are turning to RegTech solutions to automate their compliance processes and improve their overall cybersecurity posture.

As compliance costs skyrocket, standards grow increasingly complex, and the cyber threat environment evolves, organizations are turning to RegTech solutions to automate their compliance processes and improve their overall cybersecurity posture.

Compliance with regulatory and industry standards, such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, FedRAMP, and SSAE 16 SOC reporting, are a burdensome yet necessary part of doing business in the digital world. Organizations operating in highly regulated industries, such as healthcare and finance, face significant compliance challenges, especially when they must comply with multiple standards. HIPAA, for example, applies to any organization that handles medical records, including schools, collection agencies that handle medical debt, personal injury attorneys, and SaaS providers of healthcare software; meanwhile, these same organizations may also have to comply with PCI DSS, SSAE 16 reporting, SOX, and other applicable standards.

Organizations must figure out which standards apply to them, then continually keep up with reporting requirements, audits, and the inevitable changes in those standards as technology and the cyber threat environment evolve. It is estimated that regulatory compliance costs U.S. businesses about $2 trillion annually, and in a perverse twist, small business’s compliance costs are over three times higher than what large companies bear. This heavy burden helps explain why so many enterprise cyber security “plans” start and end with compliance, even though compliance does not equate to data security. It’s not necessarily that organizations don’t care about whether their data is secure, but that they spend so much money and time on compliance, there’s nothing left to tackle cyber security.

Fortunately, technology has made it possible for organizations to achieve compliance and secure their systems and data, at an affordable cost.

RegTech to the Rescue

One of the biggest problems in many organizations is the fact that their compliance processes – or the processes of their third-party compliance providers – are not automated. Some companies still use spreadsheet programs such as Excel for compliance reporting and audits, even though Excel was never meant to be used with the very large data sets produced by today’s complex data environments. But RegTech software, such as Continuum GRC’s IT Audit Machine (ITAM), can.

While the term “RegTech” is most commonly associated with the finance industry, RegTech solutions can be employed by any organization that must adhere to compliance standards, including healthcare, cloud computing, SaaS, education, and public-sector organizations. RegTech solutions utilize big data capabilities and rapid report creation to automate data management and reporting. Instead of multiple, disparate spreadsheets and ledgers, RegTech software creates a centralized repository of all IT compliance requirements with associated controls and automated information flows for audits, assessments, and testing.

Making Sense of Big Data

The big problem with big data is that it amounts to a lot of big noise unless you have the capability to analyze it and derive actionable insight from it. RegTech doesn’t just simplify your compliance processes; it also strengthens your enterprise’s cyber security by providing the advanced data analysis capabilities you need to make sense of your data environment and discover where your vulnerabilities lie. The ITAM, for example, integrates IT governance, policy management, risk management, and incident management. In addition to taking the pain out of the compliance process, it empowers you to document and analyze IT risks, develop mitigation plans, define security controls, and manage ongoing risk assessments so that you can anticipate new and emerging threats and stop them before a breach occurs.

RegTech is poised to transform IT governance, compliance, and cyber security. Organizations that employ this new technology will free up money, time, and human resources to innovate, create, and pursue long-term organizational goals instead of being bogged down in regulatory paperwork and worried about data breaches and other cyber attacks.

The cyber security experts at Lazarus Alliance have deep knowledge of the cyber security field, are continually monitoring the latest information security threats, and are committed to protecting organizations of all sizes from security breaches. We offer full-service risk assessment services and Continuum GRC software to protect companies from data breaches, ransomware attacks, and other cyber threats.

Lazarus Alliance is proactive cyber security®. Call 1-888-896-7580 to discuss your organization’s cyber security needs and find out how we can help your organization successfully simplify Governance, Risk, and Compliance, and secure your systems.