Meltdown and Spectre are the latest vulnerabilities to raise cybersecurity concerns as the threat of attack grows. On average, organizations suffer two to three focused security breaches each month—attacks they admit could take months, or even years, to detect. In the case of Meltdown and Spectre, such breaches could be impossible to detect. Accenture Security is monitoring existing and potential threats and offers deep experience to help organizations build resilience from the inside out. Find out more about the latest threats.
On January 3, 2018, various media reports announced that researchers had discovered two major flaws in microprocessor design which leave the world’s laptops, desktops, servers, smartphones, other mobile devices and cloud services vulnerable to attack. Considering the nature of the vulnerabilities, it is highly unlikely that organizations will be able to detect whether a system has been successfully attacked.
Meltdown is a vulnerability affecting main microprocessor manufacturers with Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) currently being reported as unaffected. Part of the reason that this vulnerability exists is the race for microprocessor performance. To perform as fast as possible, a chip predicts which code it may need to run next. If this predictive assumption is wrong, the chip discards the operations it did not need. Remnants of the “speculative” code—which can include logins, passwords, personally identifiable information (PII) and encryption keys—remain in the memory cache at risk of exploitation. Meltdown enables attackers to execute software that can read this memory and capture the data. Meltdown is relatively easy to exploit, but patches are becoming available to remediate its effects. These patches can degrade processor speed by five to 30 percent according to reports—which will affect cost and performance.
Spectre is a flaw in the architecture of microprocessor design making processors from most, if not all, manufacturers vulnerable to attack. Fixing it is difficult and may rely on a new generation of redesigned microprocessors.
Of the two vulnerabilities, Spectre appears more serious, although it is also more difficult to exploit. The fix for Spectre is difficult and will take the industry a long time to address completely, and the impact could be felt throughout a complete generation of CPU hardware.
The information obtained from system memory can be used to conduct further attacks and expose vulnerabilities on a range of devices. Cloud services are also affected, as multiple virtual machines are often provided on a single physical machine. An attacker with a presence on a virtual machine in the cloud could theoretically use a specially crafted program to access the memory contents of other customers’ virtual machines on the same physical system. Although the performance impact is uncertain, older devices are likely to suffer most and the resultant poor performance costs may have to be absorbed by organizations. With the potential for services to be disrupted, and the difficulties of enforcing patch updates, the overall cost to businesses could be punitive.
Take practical steps today to protect your organization from future malware attacks that may exploit the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities.
Prioritize patching, especially of virtual machine software
Test patches for performance before deploying them to production
Increase scrutiny of phishing e-mails that may contain attached executable files
Regularly review performance metrics on cloud-based servers looking for unexplained performance degradation
Do adequate performance testing, and add more resources as required to arrive at the desired performance level—applying operating system (OS) patches to mitigate the Meltdown attack may degrade performance.
Take a risk-based review of the unpatchable systems in your estate—given the ubiquity of microprocessors, older systems running critical functions may be most at risk.
Ransomware introduces malicious software onto a target computer or server to exploit one or more programmatic flaws and gain expanded access to the computer. With files “locked” with an encryption key that only the attacker possesses, the impacted user is asked to pay money—often in the digital currency bitcoin— to reinstate access to the encrypted files. Ransomware in itself is not the real risk. The risk lies in the impact to the business that is caused by a service or process that has been suddenly removed. Now, ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) is enabling less-skilled malicious actors to employ this threat tactic, with high reward for little effort or technical knowledge.DOWNLOAD REPORT [PDF]
In the last year, we have seen high-profile cyber attacks from destructive malware as a result of people mistakenly downloading malicious files. A variant of the Petya/Petwrap malware was in evidence in June 2017 when companies’ computers in Europe, the Middle East and the United States were hit with a ransom note demanding US$300 to recover their files. Such an incident highlights not only the frequency and sophisticated of cyber threats, but also serves as a reminder of the outcomes of human error.
Download the report and take practical steps today to protect your organization from future malware attacks like Petya/Petwrap:
Adopt proactive prevention: Many, but not all, ransomware attacks are initiated by a disguised trustworthy entity asking for sensitive information via an electronic communication. Known as phishing, employees can be helped to recognize such scams through prevention training and awareness programs. Make it easy for your employees to report fraudulent e-mails quickly, and keep testing internally to prove the training is working.
Elevate e-mail controls: Strengthening e-mail controls can often prevent malicious e-mails from reaching employees. Maintain strong spam filters and authentication. Scan incoming and outgoing e-mails to detect threats and filter executable files. Consider a cloud-based e-mail analytics solution and revisit how you configure your e-mail.
Insulate your infrastructure: Stay one step ahead of smart attackers by removing or limiting local workstation admin rights or seeking out the right configuration combinations (virus scanners, firewalls and so on). Also, regular patches of operating systems and applications can foil known vulnerabilities—Microsoft patches related to the WannaCry threat is one of the measures that should be included as part of a normal patching cycle.
Plan for continuity: Having a strong cyber resilience plan for recovery that is regularly reviewed, updated, and tested makes it easier to avoid paying any ransom. Recovery objectives must be aligned to the critical tasks within an acceptable timeframe. Workstations and file servers should not be constantly connected to backup devices, and the backup solution should store periodic snapshots rather than regular overwrites of previous backups, so that in the event of a successful attack, backups will not be encrypted.
Security experts and market commentators alike are voicing their concerns after examination of a power outage in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, in December 2016 identified a malware framework known as CRASHOVERRIDE or INDUSTROYER. The malware targeted Kiev’s electrical infrastructure via its Industrial Control Systems (ICS) in an unprecedented and sophisticated cyber-attack. The event has serious implications globally, and is proving to be a hacker’s paradise for more than power grids in the near future. Read the practical steps organizations can take to better protect themselves from future malware attacks like CRASHOVERRIDE/INDUSTROYER.
Alongside the use of digital technologies for enhanced automation greatly increasing hackers’ potential attack surface, aging critical infrastructure support has not always been architected with cybersecurity top of mind. CRASHOVERRIDE/INDUSTROYER targeted circuit breakers and switches hijacking electrical systems from a distance by taking advantage of standard device-level communication protocols, making it almost completely undetectable in the power infrastructure.
CRASHOVERRIDE/INDUSTROYER could be a blueprint for a more widespread and longer-lasting attack. The potential to disrupt energy, water supplies and other critical industries using ICS for automation, in an economic context, could be highly damaging to a company, municipality or nation for a long period of time.
Download the report and take practical steps today to protect your organization from future malware attacks like CRASHOVERRIDE/INDUSTROYER.
Assess and isolate
Monitor and detect
Plan and prepare
In May 2017, the WanaCrypt0r/WannaCry ransomware attack saw systems infected in more than 200,000 organizations across 150 countries—in particular, the attack affected 47 National Health Service trusts in the United Kingdom resulting in cancelled operations and patient disruption.
Ransomware, also known as cryptoware, attacks a company’s data by encrypting it until a ransom is paid—with no guarantees that the data will be decrypted once the payment has been made to the adversary. Threat intelligence and law enforcement agencies warn such attacks are accelerating in frequency and targeting more businesses with increasing ransom demands. Watch the webinar video for practical steps organizations can take to better protect themselves from future ransomware attacks like WanaCrypt0r.
Find out how you can protect your organization against ransomware attacks like WanaCrypt0r. Listen to the webinar (above) where our distinguished panel of security specialists discuss the latest ransomware attack for:
In-depth analysis and remediation of the current WanaCrypt0r/WannaCry attack to prepare organizations for new variants
Practical advice on steps organizations can take to better protect themselves from future ransomware attacks