Welcome to Cyber Security Today. This is the Week in Review edition for the week ending Friday, February 17th, 2023. I’m Howard Solomon, contributing reporter on cybersecurity for ITWorldCanada.com and TechNewsday.com in the U.S.
In a few minutes David Shipley of New Brunswick’s Beauceron Security will be here to discuss some recent cybersecurity news. One is that Canadian government and hospital leaders got a shellacking on a webinar for not putting enough funds into healthcare cybersecurity. David will have thoughts on that.
We’ll also talk about the compromise of the GoAnywhere MFT managed file transfer service, whether cyber threat intelligence is used well and why corporate managers and IT security staff don’t communicate better. But first a look back at some of the headlines from the past seven days:
A variant of the Mirai botnet is being used to infect a number of internet-connected devices with old and unpatched vulnerabilities. These include Atlassian’s Confluence collaboration suite, the FreePBX telephony management suite, the Mitel AWC audio conferencing platform, the DrayTek Vigor router, surveillance cameras and more. According to researchers at Palo Alto Networks, infected devices create a new botnet for spreading malware or to launch denial of service attacks. These device are being compromised by brute force credential attacks. IT administrators of any device that connects to the internet must make sure they have secure passwords.
Attackers are still exploiting unpatched versions of Windows Exchange. According to researchers at Morphisec the latest campaign installs cryptomining software on computers. By stealing computing power attackers get to mine for cryptocurrency faster — and slow computers from doing company business. IT departments that for some reason haven’t installed two-year-old patches to close the Exchange vulnerabilities need to scan systems for compromise, then install the patches.
Atlassian is the latest company to be a victim of a successful cyber attack on an outside service provider. According to Cyberscoop, Atlassian initially acknowledged the theft of company data held by a service called Envoy. Envoy is used to co-ordinate in-office resources. A hacking group called SiegedSec posted what appears to be the names and email addresses of Atlassian employees. Atlassian makes the Confluence, Jira and Trello project management and collaboration suites. The company says no customer data was stolen.
UPDATE: Atlassian now says the data theft wasn’t from Envoy but from one of its own employees. TechCrunch says an Atlassian official told it that after closer investigation the attacker had actually compromised Atlassian data from the Envoy app “using an Atlassian employee’s credentials that had been mistakenly posted in a public repository by the employee … The compromised employee’s account was promptly disabled eliminating any further threat to Atlassian’s Envoy data.”
Washington is bringing its talent together to better protect American technology. The new Disruptive Technology Strike Force will include experts from the FBI, Homeland Security and federal prosecutors to strengthen supply chains and protect critical technology from being stolen or illegally exported. This includes knowledge about supercomputers, quantum computers, artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing and biosciences.
And a Russian man was convicted this week by a Boston jury for his part in a scam that used inside knowledge of the finances of publicly-traded companies to get rich. The man and other co-conspirators hacked into and stole about-to-be published earnings information of companies from two corporate filing firms. How did they do it? By stealing employees’ passwords. It is alleged the group netted US$90 million. The man, who was arrested in Switzerland and extradited to the U.S., will be sentenced in May. His alleged accomplices are at large.
(The following transcript is part of the discussion. To hear the full conversation play the podcast.)
Howard: Let’s start with the state of cybersecurity in the healthcare care sector. Participants on a Globe and Mail webinar this week had a lot to say about the poor state of cybersecurity at Canadian hospitals. They blame small budgets for hospitals having outdated IT equipment. And the lack of support from hospital executives in Canada. Provincial governments supply most of the budgets of hospitals. COVID didn’t help, the panelists said, because hospitals had to scramble to buy solutions in the short term so that administrative staff could work from home, and that opened up cybersecurity risk. David, who’s to blame?
David Shipley: I’m going to be controversial and say we are. And by that I mean those of us in Canada that consistently picture health care as being doctors, nurses and sometimes allied Health care workers. But if our conversation consistently is about lack of doctors, nurses or staff and not about the tools that they need to enable them we miss the story. The one silver lining to IT disasters and ransomware at hospitals is that they have categorically demonstrated the value of IT: When you don’t have IT working properly in a modern Canadian or an American hospital your capacity is reduced by 75 to 90 per cent. That’s massive. Yet we consistently underinvest — not just in security tools, because this isn’t just a story about not having antivirus or SOCs [security operations centres] or all these things, but even in the basics. Patient record systems are massively outdated. They don’t even necessarily have encryption enabled. We are in a health IT Code Red and it still can’t get the attention of policymakers. Why? because we’re not taking it seriously as Canadians.
Howard: Well, the federal government has just offered billions of dollars to the provinces and territories for health care. Some of it can go to modernizing IT systems but to my knowledge none of is dedicated to cyber. That doesn’t mean that upgrading systems and policies won’t be cyber-related, but there’s that huge chunk of money that we’ve been talking about in Canada in the past week and no conversation about that relating to cyber.
The other thing is I can’t help but notice that Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick — to name three of the smaller provinces in Canada — all have budget surpluses. I just have to wonder with the money sloshing around, the provinces have money to spend on hospital cybersecurity if they want to.
David: I don’t know if they have the money that’s needed for not just cybersecurity but the overhaul of IT. The fact is that is going to be a decade-long adventure. New Brunswick, where I live, is also a province where their debt has doubled in the last decade. We’re not fiscally healthy. We’ve shown a few signs of life, and particularly with the influx of Ontarians to our province as a result of the pandemic. That’s been a net benefit from an income tax point of view. But it’s not a long-term good health indicator. That being said, the provinces do own the delivery of health care, they do own the underinvestment in it. But at the end of the day politicians put the money where people ask them to. And until we evolve the conversation to be about more than staffing, to be about the actual IT equipment that’s required which is so fundamental to changing the equation [nothing will change]. This also speaks to the executives who are terrible at understanding risk. We will go with the stuff that we have the greatest handle on. Until the eruption of ransomware gangs into health care — which is even worse now that North Korea is getting more serious about it — we didn’t take it seriously as a risk. And, unfortunately, you can’t have downtime in a hospital There’s never a good time to plan a rip-and-replace of IT equipment. But that’s exactly the kind of effort we have to pour into this. We missed a freight train-size opportunity to tie IT modernization and cybersecurity outcomes into the health care story, and that’s on everybody: The federal government, the provinces and us as Canadians, for not demanding it …
I briefly participated on the board of one of Canada’s healthcare corporations, so I got a small insight into this. And their struggles are so enormous in terms of staffing challenges, the physical infrastructure that they’re trying to run, trying to keep things modernized. Keep in mind that many hospitals in this country still have to fundraise to get necessary medical capital equipment. We still have to hit the streets with a tin can to get new CT scanners in some hospitals in Canada. It’s really hard to make a compelling case for spending multimillions of dollars upgrading our patient information system which you [taxpayers and patients] will never see. You will never understand how that [positively] impacts the patient flow. And I think the challenge is we haven’t necessarily spoken the language of capacity and impact on patients of IT. The translation issue is that their [poliitcians and hospital executives] focus has always been patient outcomes. We probably haven’t been as clear about how vital IT is to patient outcomes.
The post Cyber Security Today, Week in Review for Friday, February 17, 2023 first appeared on IT World Canada.