A Third Florida Town Succumbs to Ransomware

I’m betting that there will some openings for IT positions coming soon in various Florida municipalities. Ars Technica reported today that a third (that’s right – third) city in Florida fell victim to ransomware. According to Ars, Key Biscayne, FL was breached using the Ryuk strain of ransomware (the same as Lake City, FL on June 10th which cost that city just shy of half a million dollars in bitcoin, and possibly the same as Riviera Beach, FL which cost that city $600k).

Key Biscayne became infected with Ryuk through what is known as a triple-threat attack: Emotet, in this instance, was brought into the network as a result of a successful phishing email. Emotet was used as a dropper to bring in the Trickbot trojan, which allowed the attackers lateral movement throughout the city’s infrastructure. At this point, the attackers had enough control to be able to infect the city’s systems with Ryuk – and game over. The city held a meeting tonight in which, one would assume, they’d decide on whether or not they need to pay the ransom or not. That decision has not yet been made known.

Let’s think about the different ways that this attack should have been – but was not – stopped in its tracks before it had a chance to wreak this havoc:

  • Employee Security Awareness training. Training employees to avoid clicking on phishing links will help; although it is still subject to human error and ignorance. I recommend conducting phishing security tests and following up with necessary training – KnowBe4’s training platform is an awesome tool for this purpose.
  • Key Biscayne’s MX record points to, meaning that they’re using email services through Office 365’s Exchange Online platform but also likely that they’re relying solely on Microsoft’s spam filtering. Microsoft is not ineffective at preventing phishing emails, but plenty of phishing emails will inevitably get through. Microsoft provides some advanced phishing prevention when users are assigned Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) licenses – it’s unclear if the city had subscribed to this additional license.
  • Lateral movement was allowed from the infected user’s workstation to the back-end server infrastructure. Key Biscayne is a small city with a population of only around 3,000. What likely happened here is that the city did not invest enough in their IT infrastructure. Most network admins these days recognize the importance of minimizing the possibility for lateral movement, but in an organization this small I imagine that it was not recognized as an important security control.
  • Why aren’t we restoring from backups? I’m making the assumption that they can’t, and that they’ll eventually be paying the ransom. Will this lesson ever be learned by our IT organizations? Back up your data, air-gap it so that the backups can’t be compromised, and have a disaster recovery plan in place that details how you’ll restore systems in a worst-case scenario such as this.

More details are sure to emerge regarding Key Biscayne’s ransom payment decision over the next few days. If anyone from the city happens to read this, please let us know if we can be of assistance in the recovery of your systems.

Desjardins Group: Another Slap on the Wrist from Lawmakers

This is getting ridiculous: companies continue to lose peoples’ personal data and no one seems to care to do anything about it. Where’d it happen at this time? The Desjardins Group credit union co-op, a financial institution that you’d expect would have some of the tightest controls to prevent this kind of breach.

According to CBC/Radio-Canada, this breach was not caused by the nefarious hacks that seem to frequent today, but rather by an insider – an employee who accessed the data of 2.9 million Caisse Desjardins members and decided to share the information outside of the company. Details are sparse, but supposedly the compromised information included “names, addresses, birth dates, social insurance numbers, email addresses and information about transaction habits,” but not passwords, security questions, nor PINs. Well there’s some silver lining: they only stole your personal information, not the information that would let money be withdrawn out of the credit union’s coffers. Doesn’t that make you feel better?

Let’s think for a moment about how this type of data breach would have been possible: First, the malicious insider had a nefarious reason to do it. Maybe it’s being sold? We’re not yet told who this data was shared with (or sold to) but if I was one of these members I’d be very concerned about identity theft right now. From an information security perspective the insider would have needed access to the databases containing this data. Or maybe they improperly accessed a backup copy of the data, stored without proper security controls? Then, they would have been able to obtain the data as well as share it without too many red flags being thrown up. Details are sparse, but if it was shared externally over the network then it apparently was not caught by any Data Loss Prevention (DLP) systems. If it was carried out on media such as a flash drive then there doesn’t appear to be much control around that. Thinking this through, it raises so many questions that need to be asked:

  1. Was the employee’s role one that would have given them access to this data? Or did they find a way around access controls?
  2. How did the action of downloading the data of 2.9 million users not throw up more red flags than it did? How was it allowed in the first place? Database queries to do this should have been setting off all kinds of alarms in any decent SIEM or IDS.
  3. Why did DLP or physical media controls not prevent the exfiltration of the data?
  4. Why was the data stored in an unencrypted format? The fact that some data was lost while other data was not suggests that the Desjardins Group, apparently, cares more about passwords/security questions/PINS more than it cares about the personal information of its 2.9 million members.

Despite the severity of this breach (and the apparent lack of security controls at a financial institution!) and other breaches like it, doesn’t it seem like lawmakers are not doing enough about it? CBC/Radio-Canada’s article states that “Quebec’s regulator of financial institutions, the Autorités des marchés financiers (AMF), described the situation as ‘very serious’ but said it is ‘satisfied with the actions’ taken so far by Desjardins Group” (para. 9). Sounds like Desjardins Group will just be getting a slap on the wrist to me. Maybe a small fine? In my opinion, organizations that fail to adequately protect consumer data should be fined in a massive way – one that sets examples for other companies – and the affected consumers should also receive direct financial compensation, not just the B.S. publicity stunt of being given a year of free credit monitoring. Money is what these companies know, and that’s what will make them start caring.

ASCO Industries Falls Victim to Ransomware

Help Net Security reported yesterday that ASCO Industries, an aerospace manufacturing company, was impacted by a ransomware infection severe enough for them to suspend their manufacturing operations around the globe.

It continues to amaze me how effective ransomware is at grinding a business operations to a halt. Ransomware isn’t new by any means; however, organizations don’t seem to be taking the threat seriously. Employees remain extremely vulnerable to phishing tactics that often let malware into the network, however IT departments should be more prepared for this sort of outbreak than they seem to be. Ransomware should be curable with a quick restore of infected systems, and then you’re back online. Users workstations? Re-image and call it a day.

The blame here does fall on the IT organization themselves for being ill-prepared. I don’t pretend to be knowledgeable about the ins-and-outs of ASCO Industries’ IT environment, but today’s hyper-connected world demands that IT professionals rise to the call of taking reasonable measures to protect their environment. We’re not talking about anything crazy, just common protective measures such as:

  • Backups of all servers to meet RTO/RPO as determined by business needs.
  • Endpoint protection – a reputable antivirus and intrusion prevention solution. It won’t catch everything but it is still an absolute necessity.
  • A segregated network. In this specific example it seems logical that the manufacturing network should be separate and more locked-down than other client networks – so why was the production line impacted?
  • An incident response plan: so a workstation does get infected, what do we do? This doesn’t have to be rocket science, it might be as simple as disconnect from the network until the station is re-imaged.
  • Security awareness training. This is no longer optional – staff need to be trained on threats such as phishing, social engineering, and basic information security concepts.

The biggest problem that I’ve seen is lack of urgency on the IT organization’s part to accomplish these bare minimums. It may also be influenced by insufficient understanding (and maybe lack of proper budget allocation) from the C-level executives in the organization. One thing I’m sure of is that the folks at ASCO Industries are re-evaluating those priorities right now.

Sam’s Club Data Breach?

Just a theory – but it may be possible that Sam’s Club (specifically one of their mobile apps, or the data linked to it) has been compromised. I’ve had two reports of users who have recently used the Scan & Go feature only to shortly afterwards find that their account was fraudulently accessed and used.

Sam’s Club recently made a change where they integrated the Scan & Go functionality into their main mobile app. Coincidental timing? Please reach out if you have any information that could help track this down.