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.

be fired for embezzlement before anyone ever caught on that we weren't the guilty parties? That scares me. And I think it should scare you, too.

There's nothing new about the fact that the exploit involved an old Microsoft Office vulnerability for which a patch had long since been issued. We already know many organizations are sloppy when it comes to patch updates.

But the level of targeting – heck, let's call it stalking – that was involved in this attack seems pretty sophisticated to my untrained eye. The Kaspersky report noted that, as part of an automated reconnaissance phase, "the Carbanak malware checked victim systems for the presence of specialized and specific banking software. Only after the presence of these banking systems was confirmed were victims further exploited."

[ What did the Anthem breach teach us? Read Anthem Hack: Lessons For IT Leaders. ]

So, where does that leave enterprise IT, and others in your organization? Well, for starters, whatever education we're giving employees about how to identify potential malware can't possibly account for this kind of advanced persistent threat (APT). As Kaspersky stated in its report:

We believe that the Carbanak campaign is a clear indicator of a new era in cybercrime in which criminals use APT techniques directly against the financial industry instead of through customers. APTs are not only for stealing information anymore.

Here's some advice from Kaspersky on the early warning signs that Carbanak has hacked you:

(Image: Courtesy of Kaspersky Lab)

(Image: Courtesy of Kaspersky Lab)

Sure, at the moment, the targets were financial institutions. It's really a high-tech version of cooking the books. Once the hackers were inside, according to Kasperksy, they were able to set up fake accounts, or add dollar amounts to real accounts, and then authorize the transfer of those sums out of the bank, either to ATM machines or to external accounts, without anybody catching on.

So, you don't work for a financial institution? Don't think you're off the hook. Banks are certainly not the only organizations moving around massive amounts of money every day. All major multinational corporations and government agencies could, potentially, have their finance and accounting systems fall prey to a similar attack.

According to Krebs:

Most organizations — even many financial institutions — aren't set up to defeat skilled attackers; their network security is built around ease-of-use, compliance, and/or defeating auditors and regulators. Organizations architected around security (particularly banks) are expecting these sorts of attacks, assuming that attackers are going to get in, and focusing their non-compliance efforts on breach response.

Have I scared you yet? If not, tell me why. And, if you are as terrified as I am, tell me how you plan to address this in your organization. Let's discuss in the comments section below.

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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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Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
2/19/2015 | 10:25:56 PM
Re: Fun with security
@macker490: So what's the deal then? Is it just more cost effective for corporations to allow themselves to get hacked like this than to invest in the resources required to protect themselves? Are they so well covered by insurance policies, and making so much $$, that even this level of money walking out the door is small change to them?
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
2/19/2015 | 10:23:02 PM
Re: Fun with security
@Stratustician: What perplexes me most is how corporations of such size and scope can have such a hard time keeping one step ahead of bad actors. I suspect, more than anything, that the problem is one of deciding where to invest $$--in security & trainng, or in stockholder pockets. Until the equation shifts and breaches become so crippling that they affect stockholder dividends, I suspect we'll just see attacks like this becoming so commonplace they won't even scare us anymore.
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Author
2/19/2015 | 11:35:14 AM
Keeping up with the Hackers

Susan yes very scary and it makes the point for multiple levels of authorization required when money is moves in large quantities and tracking of actions as related to money movement. The vulnerabilities still exist in so many places its type for cyber security to start catching up with the hackers.

bwjustice
IW Pick
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bwjustice,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/19/2015 | 9:51:20 AM
Brian Krebs
The part that reads "security blogger David Krebbs" should refer to Brian Krebs instead. He's written a very good book lately, SPAM Nation. You should read it. That will probably scare the pants off you too.
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
2/19/2015 | 6:45:26 AM
Re: Why Kaspersky's Bank Robbery Report Should Scare Us All
The most striking thing to me is actually how mundane this attack is. Yes, it required great tact (for lack of a better word) and specificty on the part of the attackers, but it ran through a patch vulnerability in Microsoft Office and used a social engineering e-mail attachment to get itself running. I didn't even know banks used Microsoft office. They didn't use a sophisticated packet-sniffing tool (or maybe they did at some point), they used monitor capture to physically look at someone's screen, watch what they were doing, and copy it. Like macker490 is saying, these are not new techniques - they're old techniques with new life in them. As you pointed out, Susan, these techniques could work on anyone - all it takes is a hacker that knows what to look for the way these guys knew what to look for in bank software. Maybe that's what makes them most dangerous.

One thing I have to disagree with Mr. Krebbs on is the issue of mitigation vs prevention. Yes, IT security focuses on mitigation and DR rather than prevention. It may sound cool to say that that's because we're not up to the challenge of preventing breaches, but that's just not true. It's when a breach will occur, not if. It's the simple law of diminishing returns. Every amount you secure yourself above, say, the 90th percentile, costs exponentially more. Businesses (especially banks) are about making money. If a breach is unlikely and will cost you less than securing against it, then yes, you're in the right spot. Preparing thoroughly for disaster recovery is not a sign of weakness but a sign of pragmatism, and many actually under-invest here. I will agree that tons of businesses don't get this balance right, though, and not patching your office software defnitely falls on the wrong side.
macker490
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macker490,
User Rank: Strategist
2/18/2015 | 2:44:41 PM
Re: Fun with security
"the hackers got around our most advanced security systems"

hardly

the problem is they didn't have any security systems: ( short list )

1. use an O/S that cannot be modified by the activity of an application program

2. use public key encryption to authenticate transmittals: transactions, e/mails, software updates, forms, ...

3. use named spaces to isolate the activity of application programs

 

if we continue doing business as we have in recent years hacking will continue to get worse.   have you had enough yet or is this still just "part of the cost of doing business " ?     the whole mess stinks.
Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
2/18/2015 | 1:23:14 PM
Fun with security
Definitely not alone when it comes to the reality of current IT and the risks that come from it.  We've seen social engineering mixed with malware for awhile now, and the fact that these things just seem to find larger holes to exploit makes it so much worse.  Security training can definitely help, but the reality is that these types of attacks work phenomenally well when it comes to exploiting human behavior, and sadly, even with the right tools in place, these holes are destined to exist.
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