Why Kaspersky's Bank Robbery Report Should Scare Us All - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // IT Strategy
Commentary
2/18/2015
09:15 AM
Susan Nunziata
Susan Nunziata
Commentary
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Why Kaspersky’s Bank Robbery Report Should Scare Us All

So, you don't work for a financial institution? Don't think you're off the hook for the kind of theft discussed by Kaspersky. Banks are certainly not the only organizations moving around massive amounts of money every day.

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I'll be the first to admit that every time another major breach story hits the mainstream media headlines, I'm the one ready to don the tinfoil cap and return to communicating only by pen and paper. Even with that as my default setting, I found Kaspersky Lab's Great Bank Robbery Report, released Monday, to be particularly nerve-wracking.

It's not the reported $1 billion stolen or the global scale of the breach that frightens me. Nor is it the potential for the attacks to threaten the safety of my personal identity (the Anthem breach has that covered, thank you very much). No, my night terrors here are the details about who the hackers targeted in the enterprise, and how they executed their crime.

As a banking consumer, I'm grateful for the fact that the so-called Carbanak hackers found a way to siphon money out of the targeted financial institutions without actually hurting the individual account holders. As someone who lives and breathes enterprise IT, I'm horrified at the fact that their spear-phishing campaign was so successful. That's right, they gained entry into financial institutions the old-fashioned way, by sending what security blogger Brian Krebs described as malware-laced Microsoft Office attachments that targeted very specific employees.

[ Why do hackers keep winning? Read How Malware Bypasses Our Most Advanced Security Measures. ]

Targeting employees via malware is a technique that is so old it's almost laughable. Hard to believe it still works, right? It's what happened once that hackers were inside that's really scary. The malware would crawl until it found the employees who administered the cash transfer systems or the bank's ATMs.

Kaspersky Lab sums things up quite nicely in its report, "Carbanak APT: The Great Bank Robbery":

Advanced control and fraud detection systems have been used for years by the financial services industry. However, these focus on fraudulent transactions within customer accounts. The Carbanak attackers bypassed these protections by, for example, using the industry-wide funds transfer (the SWIFT) network, updating balances of account holders, and using disbursement mechanism (the ATM network.)

The report goes on to note that, rather than exploiting a vulnerability within a particular service, these attackers studied internal procedures and pinpointed who within the organizations they should impersonate in order to authorize the movement of funds.

Here's a handy explanation of how the attack worked:

(Image: Courtesy of Kaspersky Lab)

(Image: Courtesy of Kaspersky Lab)

I'm far from an expert on security. I've never even played one on TV. Those who are smarter than me may find my fears unfounded. But the thought that people pretending to be senior executives in my company could be authorizing the transfer of huge sums of money scares the bejesus out of me. And, what if the hacker impersonating my boss informs me that I should authorize the transfer of said sums? What's the company's liability? What's the employee's liability? Would we both

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Susan Nunziata leads the site's content team and contributors to guide topics, direct strategies, and pursue new ideas, all in the interest of sharing practicable insights with our community.Nunziata was most recently Director of Editorial for EnterpriseEfficiency.com, a UBM ... View Full Bio
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batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
3/2/2015 | 12:19:20 AM
Re: Stalking the intruder
@yalanand interesting point... as this days many Co. do not want to spend... keep relaying on old approach toward security... keep stepping on the old rake... sad reality of down turn economy...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
3/2/2015 | 12:17:03 AM
Re: Stalking the intruder
@SachinEE, with Windows 10 it more like big Microsoft hype for now until we see it on the market and see how it perform in the real world...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
3/2/2015 | 12:15:31 AM
Re: Keeping up with the Hackers
@impactnow, same here I could not agree more... in my books it would make sense Corporate responsibily is a must be in any case....
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
3/2/2015 | 12:14:13 AM
Re: Putin's Kaspersky
@SachinEE agree, but in mind we only see begining of the problem or just tip of the mountain... as it gonna be happening more and more... sad reality...
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Author
2/25/2015 | 11:41:44 AM
Re: Keeping up with the Hackers

Susan I completely agree. It's getting to a point that people expect breaches it's very sad. I hate to over regulate but I think if fines were levied against companies for security breaches that were a result of their negligence it might speed up security efforts at some organizations.

SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
2/23/2015 | 1:42:15 PM
Re: Stalking the intruder
I think Windows 10 would come with a better protection from hackers because Microsoft has had us quite hyped up about the facilities it will be providing and the support base it has promised to establish sinec the support team for windows 8 was just terrible. 
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
2/23/2015 | 1:37:01 PM
Re: Stalking the intruder
@yalanand: I agree with you on this one. Cloud systems offer better management of resources but the extent of security in cloud is wavering into a blurry line because security systems in cloud are just, plain, bad. Companies that have taken upto the cloud have their own team facilitating security for their utilities, and in the process investing millions of dolalrs in cloud security. I think in 2 to 3 years cloud security would come cheaper.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
2/23/2015 | 1:33:39 PM
Re: Putin's Kaspersky
@yalanand: No, but companies should screen their employees better, evaluate their mental conditions and keep monitoring suspicious activity, now that might seem intrusive towards the singular privacy of an employee but it is needed to keep whistle blowing and damages in check.
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2015 | 1:09:44 PM
Re: Putin's Kaspersky
@moarsauce123 I don't know how much truth there is to that.  Kaspersky Lab is actually incorporated in the UK, despite having lots of Russian employees, they do lots of work with huge government agencies such as Interpol and Europol.


I agree. There would be diversity in an organisation but that doesn't mean we would frame a being just because of his/her place of origin. This gives birth to false workplace ethics. 
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2015 | 12:57:41 PM
Re: Stalking the intruder
Yes, this example of sly and persistent intrusion is alarming. I think we need behavior analytics that learn from routine system ops and recognize an activity that is out of line. 

Even more so these days, since everything is going up into the cloud and cloud as we know has a lingering issue of "safety and security" that still hasn't been solved. Old school identity management is severly backdated.
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