General Cyber security / What We’re Reading This Month

What We’re Reading This Month

What We’re Reading This Month
Photon Research Team
Read More From Photon Research Team
June 29, 2021 | 6 Min Read

Ransomware, ransomware, RANSOMWARE! We can’t get away from it. Certainly there’s a fear that focusing too much on one threat leaves the door open for others, which is why we’re constantly scouring the internet for the latest and greatest. 

Luckily, we’ve been able to get some time to take a bit of a breather, get introspective and read some great stuff about what’s happening in the cybersecurity world. Once again, similar to last month’s article, we’re looking at some of the stories that might’ve flown under the radar, so to speak; or, are just some fresh perspectives. 

The Hard Truth About Ransomware: We’re Not Ready

Nowadays, writing something refreshing and innovative about the ransomware threat is not an easy thing to do. However, Kevin Beaumont accomplishes this in his latest blog post on “the hard truth about ransomware.” Beaumont describes the ransomware ecosystem as a multi-million dollar well-oiled machine with bad actors (Initial Access Brokers, criminal marketplaces, Ransomware-as-a-Service) and good ones (Cyber Threat Intelligence providers, insurance and negotiation companies, cryptocurrency markets) constantly chasing each other in a vicious cycle. 

Part of the success of this business model is due to “the biggest disconnect” between InfoSec theory and practice, with principles such as “just patch” and “zero trust” that can’t be realized in practice every day by cybersecurity and IT staff. Additionally, years of “APT fetishism” have led ransomware gangs to operate almost undisturbed and amass millions and millions of dollars off the back of vulnerable organizations.

“To give an example, one ransomware group receiving a $40m payment for attacking a cybersecurity insurance company gives the attackers more budget to launch cyberattack than most medium to large organizations have to defend against attacks in total”.— Kevin Beaumont

At this point, the situation is highly complicated and will remain so for quite some time. According to Beaumont, governments need to seriously step in and disrupt every stage of the ransomware monetization model while bringing personal cost to the individuals involved in these attacks. Remediating the ransomware threat is certainly not going to be easy at all. Still, it’s now evident that it requires immediate and decisive action by every party involved in it.

Read it here

Byline: Stefano De Blasi 

Reimagining Cyber Conflict

It should not come as a surprise that the recent US-Russia summit heavily featured the topic of cybersecurity, Although it is unlikely that any significant progress was made during the meetings between Presidents Biden and Putin, it provides an opportunity to discuss the importance of being proactive when dealing with cybersecurity. In this article,CyberWire writes we may be starting to see a change in how policymakers approach the issue of cybersecurity. The US’ first National Cyber Director will have some critical issues to tackle head-on, and directly approaching them is likely the best method.

A “declarative policy” is currently on the cards, suggesting that NATO should adopt an Article 5-type approach to dealing with cyber attacks. Although this has issues in its own right, it shows a willingness to deter the seemingly endless onslaught of attacks. Efforts to address the relationship between private and public entities regarding cybersecurity are likely also a priority. This, in particular, can be observed in President Biden’s recent executive order, which sought to provide an imperative for revising and improving cybersecurity strategies and partnerships.

When looking at the appointment of a National Cyber Director and the prevalence of cybersecurity discussions at the US-Russian summit, we can see just how seriously the US Government is treating cyber. A positive, proactive approach to cybersecurity governance and policy, rather than a reactive one, is likely the best way to start creating advantages.

Read it here.

Byline: Rory 

How Do You End Up a Cyber Criminal at 55?

One thing that didn’t survive edits was something I’d tried to touch on in my last blog about adversaries living off the land. The idea was that the more prominent criminal groups behind the latest ransomware and other malicious campaigns are also working within a business. There are probably some usual trappings of any tech job, with conference calls, project management, product releases, and candidate interviews occurring. 

In this write-up,Brian Krebs and his intrepid crew of investigators looked into a recent case of a 55-year-old mother recently arrested for being part of the developer team behind Trickbot. If you don’t know about Trickbot, it was a prolific and adaptable piece of malware for a while that could, among others, steal data, crypto mine, and drop early ransomware variants. 

The mugshot alone should be enough to finally dispel the image of a hooded hacker sitting alone in a dark room surrounded by depictions of binary code. It gets you thinking about how average probably many of those involved with the criminal underground really are. This is a place where you don’t have to cover yourselves in tattoos or perform violence against rival crews to prove your loyalty. Your skill is the talent and brainpower you bring to the group, not to mention what could be a win for a more diverse workforce in Ms. Witte’s case.

In the snippets of chats between potential candidate interviews, it’s apparent just how “normal” everything might be working from within a criminal enterprise such as this. One could almost picture sprint planning and Jira tickets. If you read Kevin Beaumont’s article above, you’ll also get to see some bits about actual resumes and “job postings” for cybercriminals, which are also eye-opening. 

It’s not enough to make you less guarded when it comes to cyberattacks, but the revelations that hackers and criminals are just like us might be an adjustment in thinking for some. 

Read it here. 

Byline: Sean Nikkel

Last Thoughts

At Digital Shadows, between blogs, intelligence updates for clients, requests-for-information, and other research, life gets busy sometimes. It’s nice sometimes to get back to our roots and read the compelling stuff as we all grow in this chosen profession. We’ll be continuing this series monthly, hopefully with some different voices and new things to think about. In the meantime, if you’re looking for more in-depth threat intelligence, you can take Searchlight for a 7-day test drive or contact us for a customized demo.