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SolarWinds, Exchange attacks revive calls for mandatory breach notification,…

Strong two-way communication between government and the private sector combined with a clear national breach notification policy will put a dent in cybercrime, experts say.

On the heels of three major cybersecurity incidents over the past six months—the SolarWinds and Microsoft Exchange supply chain attacks and the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack—government officials and some in the private sector are reviving calls for better information sharing and national breach notification requirements.

“We seem to talk endlessly about information-sharing,” Michael Daniel, president and CEO of the Cyber Threat Alliance, a nonprofit that enables cybersecurity providers to share threat intelligence, said during a presentation at the RSA Conference last week. “Virtually every cybersecurity panel study or review for the last half-century seems to have an information-sharing recommendation in it. No one is really against information sharing in theory. Yet, information sharing never seems to quite work.”

“One of the reasons that companies feel uncomfortable talking about cybersecurity incidents or sharing information about cybersecurity incidents…is because they’re worried that somebody’s going to say, ‘Ha! You had terrible cybersecurity.'” Daniel tells CSO. “But the issue is that we actually don’t know what’s good or bad cybersecurity.” He calls for a “standard of care,” some better means of actually measuring what good cybersecurity constitutes.

This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.

 

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Biden administration releases ambitious cybersecurity executive order

Though lacking in definitional clarity, this new executive order might be more effective than past federal efforts, especially in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline attack.

Capping a dramatic week that saw major oil pipeline provider Colonial Pipeline crippled by a ransomware attack, the Biden administration released a highly anticipated, far-reaching and complex Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity. The executive order (EO) aims to chart a “new course to improve the nation’s cybersecurity and protect federal government networks.”

The ambitious document uses the SolarWinds and Microsoft Exchange supply chain hacks and the Colonial Pipeline ransomware infection as springboards for a series of initiatives that aim to minimize the frequency and impact of these kinds of incidents. These initiatives are:

  1. Remove barriers to threat information sharing between government and the private sector, particularly ensuring that IT service providers can share security breach information with the federal government.
  2. Modernize and implement stronger cybersecurity standards in the federal government, including a move to cloud services and zero-trust architectures and multi-factor authentication (MFA) and encryption mandates.
  3. Improve software supply chain security, including establishing baseline security standards for software development for software sold to the government. The Commerce Department must publish minimum elements for a software bill of materials (SBOM) that traces the individual components that make up software.
  4. Establish a cybersecurity safety review board consisting of government and private sector experts who convene following a significant cybersecurity incident to make recommendations, much like the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) does in the aftermath of a major transportation accident.
  5. Create a standard playbook for responding to incidents to ensure all federal agencies meet a standard playbook and set of definitions for incident response.
  6. Improve detection of cybersecurity incidents on federal government networks by enabling a government-wide endpoint detection and response (EDR) system and improved information sharing within the federal government.
  7. Improve investigative and remediation capabilities by creating cybersecurity event log requirements for all federal agencies.

This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.

 

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US sanctions Russian government, security firms for SolarWinds breach,…

The Biden administration places economic sanctions on Russian government organizations, individuals, and companies including several security firms.

The Biden Administration announced a robust, coordinated series of punitive measures to confront Russia’s growing malign behavior, including its massive hack of SolarWind’s software, attempts to interfere with the 2020 elections, and other destructive deeds against the US. The administration’s actions levy financial sanctions on the country and the companies usually involved in malicious cyber activity against the US. It also exposes previously withheld details about the Russian ruling regime’s digital and disinformation operations. In addition to the White House, the National Security Agency (NSA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Homeland Security, and Treasury Department all play a role in the complex set of actions against Russia.

First, President Biden signed a new sanctions executive order that strengthens authorities to “impose costs in a strategic and economically impactful manner on Russia if it continues or escalates its destabilizing international actions.” Under the EO, the Treasury Department is implementing multiple actions to target “aggressive and harmful activities” against the Russian government, including a directive that “generally prohibits US financial institutions from participating in the primary market for ruble or non-ruble denominated bond issued after June 14, 2021.”

This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.

 

Alejandro Mayorkas

Experts fear that Biden’s cybersecurity executive order will repeat…

President Biden is expected to issue an executive order soon in response to the SolarWinds and Exchange Server attacks. Leaked details suggest it might not focus on the most effective actions.

Since December, the US has been in a cybersecurity crisis following FireEye’s bombshell that Russian hackers implanted espionage malware throughout US private sector and government networks through the SolarWinds supply chain hack. Despite growing pressure from Congress, the still-new Biden administration has released few details on how it plans to respond to this massive intrusion or the more concerning discovery in January of widespread and scattershot attacks by Chinese state operatives on Microsoft Exchange email server software.

Although the administration reportedly won’t release a formal executive order (EO) addressing these and other cybersecurity matters for weeks, Alejandro Mayorkas, the new head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), did reveal that the administration is working on nearly a dozen actions for the order. Meanwhile, some details of the order have leaked, generating mostly skepticism among many top cybersecurity professionals.

This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.

Photo by Mackenzie Weber on Unsplash

 

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Cyber LEAP Act aims for innovations through Cybersecurity Grand…

lead centered=”no”New bill seeks to set up competitions across the US to spur security breakthroughs./lead

The Senate Commerce Committee approved last week what could prove to be an essential piece of legislation for cybersecurity researchers: The Cybersecurity Competitions to Yield Better Efforts to Research the Latest Exceptionally Advanced Problems, or Cyber LEAP Act of 2020. Sponsored by Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV), the bill establishes a national series of Cybersecurity Grand Challenges so that the country can “achieve high-priority breakthroughs in cybersecurity by 2028.”

The challenges set up under the legislation will offer prizes, including cash and non-cash prizes, to competition winners, although the prizes aren’t yet spelled out. The legislation directs the secretary of commerce to set up the competitions in six key areas:

Economics of a cyber attack, focused on building more resilient systems while raising the costs for adversaries
Cyber training, to give Americans digital security literacy and boost the skills of the cyber workforce
Emerging technology, to advance cybersecurity knowledge in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence
Reimagining digital identity, aimed at protecting the digital identities of US internet users
Federal agency resilience, to reduce cybersecurity risks to federal networks and improve the federal response to cyberattacks
Other challenges as determined by the secretary of commerce

This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.

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Executive order boots “foreign adversaries” from US electric grid…

lead centered=”no”White House action implies that China is “creating and exploiting” vulnerabilities in the US power grid. Experts say hardware backdoors have the potential for doing significant damage./lead

On May 1, the Trump Administration issued an Executive Order on Securing the United States Bulk-Power System. According to the order, the administration found that “foreign adversaries are increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in the United States bulk-power system, which provides the electricity that supports our national defense, vital emergency services, critical infrastructure, economy, and way of life.”

The executive order (EO), which also encompasses “malicious cyber activities,” determines “that the unrestricted foreign supply of bulk-power system electric equipment constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.” It declares “a national emergency with respect to the threat to the United States bulk-power system” and prohibits the purchase or installation of specific equipment from foreign adversaries.

The prohibition applies to only a specified list of electrical equipment that poses an undue risk of sabotage or subversion of the equipment’s design, or poses a national emergency with respect to the threat to the United States bulk-power system or otherwise poses an unacceptable risk to the national security of the US or the security and safety of US persons. The order requires the energy secretary to work with other agencies “to identify bulk-power system electric equipment that poses the types of risks associated with prohibited transactions” and to adopt rules and regulations to implement the order within 150 days.

This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.