It has been almost two years since I started this incredible journey at CynergisTek and in healthcare. In that time, what I have found to be the most impressive is the amount of ongoing and constant change. Particularly, I have seen how security has changed in healthcare IT over the past few years and how as an industry we are responding to it to improve our ability to protect patient information.
In the classic movie Groundhog Day, the main character played by Bill Murray finds himself trapped reliving the exact same day over and over again. In the film, he eventually decides to make the day better, to right as many wrongs as possible eventually leading him to escape the loop. In a similar fashion, information security in general has been stuck in a Groundhog Day type of loop for at least a couple of decades, and unless we can make some changes we can expect more futility as we fight the uphill battle of information security.
A History Lesson on Ransomware The first known instance of what we now know as ransomware was seen in 1989. This first attempt was a poorly executed endeavor to extort $189 from the victims, but it was quickly discovered that recovering the files did not require the "tool" offered. The world and concept of ransomware remained relatively quiet for many years until two researchers Adam L. Young and Moti Yung wrote an academic treatise on the subject in 1996.
IT and InfoSec professionals have been playing catch up with users since the beginning of time (as long as you consider the first computer the beginning of time like I do). This is at least partially caused by an all-encompassing misunderstanding that has been rarely noticed at best and certainly never been remediated.
There is no shortage of professionals and experts talking about security, but if you want to understand security, or even just IT in general, you have to understand human beings. The users and those that administer the systems are all people. If one strives to understand and impact security overall, they must fully understand the human condition.
In the United States, we got lucky, very lucky, that a malware researcher known only as @MalwareTechBlog on Twitter found the “kill switch” domain in the code of the WannaCry ransomware. Had he not found and purchased this domain, effectively neutering the ransomware, I believe that the incident could have been much worse. It was already quite bad around the world with estimates of over 200,000 systems infected including many healthcare providers in the United Kingdom.
Recently, incidents involving the internet of things (IoT) have had no shortage of media coverage. In fact, I would suggest that the IoT has become one of the top buzzwords in IT right now. Large, more mature organizations have started to realize the growing attack surface that IoT is creating for the enterprise they manage, but whether large or small organizations are feeling the pressure to allow IoT on their networks even though in many cases they are not equipped to deal with it effectively. In healthcare, this is particularly troubling as IoT attacks generally cause some form of disruption which can affect both operations and patient safety.
In your midst is a shadowy network of illicit devices poisoning the carefully controlled ecosystem you and your networking operations team have painstakingly built. Years of toiling with management to fund new initiatives, educating users to act securely, managing policies and procedures with careful and diligent precision are at risk of being rendered useless.
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR), published an advisory in the March issue of its “Cybersecurity Newsletter” warning of a well-known attack method known as the man-in-the-middle (MitM) attack. This type of attack is used by attackers to, exactly as it sounds, become a man in the middle of a secure connection. So, while the victim thinks they are connecting to their destination website (e.g. bank, social media, email, etc), the attacker is taking over the connection and can see any data “in the clear” before it is forwarded on to the actual destination.
While researching future blog post topics, I discovered that many people are searching on Google in the hopes of better understanding the benefits of having a penetration test done. This is a great question, and it is especially important to understand the answer even if your organization is not governed by regulatory or compliance requirements to have a penetration test done. There are plenty of reasons to conduct a pen test, or red team assessment, on your organization’s technical environment.