The governments of the UK, US, Australia and more have publicly blamed Russia for the NotPetya ransomware attacks, which crippled businesses all over Europe back in June 2017 with a particularly nasty and destructive strain of ransomware. Last Thursday, the White House press secretary Sarah Sanders stated that NotPetya was “a reckless and indiscriminate cyber-attack that will be met with international consequences”, squarely blaming the Russuan Military and the Kremlin for causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage to businesses and states alike. The same day, the British defence secretary Gavin Williamson accused the Russian government of “undermining democracy”, after the attack, which was primarily aimed at the Ukraine, spread uncontrolled throughout Europe and beyond and caused major disruption to commerce and public services.
Ireland is claimed to be wide open to attacks from cyber criminals and rogue states, following an incident in which over 4000 websites around the world were hacked and used to mine crypto-currency. First reported by The Register, the breach affected the Department of Argicultures, Dublin City Council and Fingal, Cork, Wexford and Offaly county councils, and it is suspected to have also affected the websites of the Oireachtas, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, Women’s Aid and the Central Remedial Clinic. The crypto-mining attack was not limited to Irish websites, however, as the Information Commisioner’s Office in the UK, the United States courts and many more sites belonging to governments and organisations were also hit.
Over 4000 websites around the world were affected in the crypto-mining attack, many of which belonged to government organisations
It looks like the Meltdown and Spectre fiasco is only just getting warmed up. Security researchers at antivirus testing firm AV-TEST have discovered more than 130 samples of malware that attempts to leverage the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities. The malware samples analysed by AV-TEST appear to be mostly Poof-of-Concept code, and still in the research phase, however, it is believed that cyber criminals will be similarly experimenting with malware that utilises these vulnerabilities.
Meltdown and Spectre will haunt IT systems for years to come, potentially, as between them they can affect most processors in use since 1995
Norton has just released their annual Cyber Security Insights Report, which analyses the effects of cyber crime around the world. One of the key findings of this report is that when it comes to cyber security, “consumers are overconfident in their security prowess, leaving them vulnerable and enabling cyber criminals to up the ante this year, which has resulted in record attacks”. Over the course of 2017, the report estimates that over 978 million adults in 20 countries around the world experienced cyber crime. These attacks cost consumers an estimated €150 billion.
While most people stated that cyber security was important to them, one third of people stored their passwords insecurely and one fifth admitted to using the same password across all sites they use. Over half of the respondents reported either they or someone they knew had been a victim of cyber crime, with the average cyber crime victim spending almost three full working days recovering from the attack.
“When it comes to cyber security, consumers are overconfident in their security prowess, leaving them vulnerable and enabling cyber criminals to up the ante this year, which has resulted in record attacks.”
2018 certainly knows how to make an entrance. The Christmas turkey has barely been finished and we’re told that nearly every electronic device on the planet with an Intel processor (from servers to PCs, smart devices and more) are susceptible to not one, but possibly two of the worst critical hardware related flaws ever known (Meltdown & Spectre). Flaws that can allow a hacker to steal your data without a hint of detection. In cases like these we often hear “but I have the latest next generation antivirus software”, but it’s not going to help you here I’m afraid. “And I have the latest next generation firewall and a state of the art SIEM solution just installed” – no good for fixing this either. You may even be really good and have your staff trained in security awareness and your systems backed up offsite – but unfortunately neither will address the root cause of this global issue. Even Santa couldn’t help fix this one – that’s how serious this is.
The hardware flaws have been aptly named “Meltdown” and “Spectre”. They sound like something straight out of a James Bond spy movie – and to be honest – the names aren’t far off, given if exploited, spying on you is exactly what a hacker could do. Predictions have already come in from experts that this could be the biggest disaster in IT history, and similar to the KRACK WiFi vulnerability of last year, Meltdown and Spectre could take years to fully fix. While important workarounds are available in some cases and must be put in place (see below) , only a hardware redesign in processor architecture will truly lay these bugs to rest.
To make matters worse, now that the crafty hackers know about it and with the EU GDPR data protection regulation coming into force on the 25th May – we predict, this year is going to see some considerable cyber-attacks that will try to take advantage of at least one of these flaws which may result in some pretty serious data breaches and some serious GDPR related fines. Its time like these one would think “Why did we ever go paperless?”.