FDA Cybersecurity Regulations: Medical Devices

A cardiac pacemaker is a lifesaver for many and is considered an implantable medical device. The FDA imposes regulations to protect these devices. Experts Lee Neubecker and Sterling Medical Devices, top engineer, Keith Handler examine FDA Quality System Regulations, ISO standards, and FDA guidelines used by Sterling Medical Devices that are essential to the manufacturing practices.

FDA Cybersecurity regulations in medical devices is a tough topic! Consider the cardiac pacemaker, probably the most notable life-saving implantable medical device. Did you know that it is operated by a computer chip? Just like any other computer they can be vulnerable to cybersecurity breaches.

Experts Lee Neubecker and Sterling Medical Devices, top engineer, Keith Handler examine the FDA’s Cybersecurity quality system regulations, ISO standards, and guidelines followed by Sterling Medical Devices to ensure cybersecurity for all their devices.

Tune in to Part 2 of our 3 Part Series on Medical Devices

The FDA Cybersecurity Regulations: Medical Devices Video Transcript Follows.

Lee Neubecker (LN): Hi, I’m back on the show today with Keith Handler, Keith, thanks for being back on.

Keith Handler (KH): Thanks again for having me.

LN: And Keith, again, is from Sterling Medical Devices, and today we’re going to talk about what measures are in place, that the FDA imposes to help ensure cybersecurity on medical devices, especially safety of PHI, and safety of the operation of those devices for end-users. Thanks again for being here.

KH: Yeah, thanks for having me. So, cybersecurity. It’s a tough topic, and the FDA is still figuring out how exactly to deal with it. They have issued guidance that attempts to categorize how high the risk is of cybersecurity for a device and the basic standards you need to follow in designing, and testing, and documenting your processes for developing that device. That guidance is currently how we generally implement most of our analysis processes and controls. The FDA has chosen to recognize certain certifications, such as UL 2100-1-2.

LN: And what is UL 2100-1?

KH: 2100-1 is a certification for network-connected systems, as far as cybersecurity is concerned, and 2100-1-2 is a subset of that standard, specifically for medical devices connected to the internet or a network. Mostly that standard follows the 2100-1, with a couple of modifications, based on the fact that medical is safety-related.

LN: Have you seen any changes in the standard since the WannaCry attack that took out a lot of the UK hospitals?

KH: Nothing that I can point to specifically. You know, that really comes down to changing specific vulnerabilities, our knowledge about them, and the attack vectors that we know that are capable of executing these things, cataloging them, making sure that we plan for them in future designs.

LN: So I know Bluetooth is a protocol that’s vulnerable to exploitation. I think at one point in time, there was a warning that everyone should take their pacemaker and get it updated. Were you familiar with that?

KH: Yes.

LN: Can you tell people a little bit more about what happened?

KH: Yeah, well, in that specific case, I’m not actually 100% sure what occurred there, but most of the time your issues are, with a lack of authentication, a lack of encryption, you need to be sure that what the device is talking to on the other end is exactly who they expect it to be, what they expect it to be, and you have to make sure that that communication is secured and unchanged, unaltered. Typically, that’s done by using specific security libraries, integrating them in careful ways, making sure that all communication over the wire is encrypted, things like an asynchronous key generation.

LN: I think, just from my memory of events, one of the problems they discovered is that these protocols, there’s a period of time before authentication occurs, in the preamble when there’s broadcast of the Mac address, the wireless name, and whatnot, where there’s a potential to create an overflow situation, to actually compromise a device before encryption and authentication occurs.

KH: Yes, in certain system designs it is that way.

LN: And, unfortunately, these protocols are, you know, they’re everywhere. So, at the time, I believe that the chip makers and various equipment providers, not just only in the medical area, but across the board, had to create fixes that help protect against these types of cyber-attacks.

KH: Yes.

LN: So, you were talking about UL 2100-1-2, what about TIR57? Can you explain what that is?

KH: So, AAMI TIR57 describes how to marry up the processes of medical safety risk analysis and security analysis. It’s an attempt to show that the security analysis process is actually very similar and very familiar for anybody that’s done the safety risk analysis before. More of less, it takes ISO 14971 and applies security risk management to it with a mix of a little bit of some NIST standards in as well. But the general idea is to really categorize what assets you’re protecting in your system, and the known vulnerabilities that your system has, and then from there, you attempt to determine a list of known attack vectors and categorize the profiles of your possible attackers. With a combination of that type of information, you can assess what the real vulnerabilities and risks are for your system, and design in controls, from the ground up, to make sure that you’ve protected against them.

LN: Yeah, well, this is really fascinating stuff. I appreciate you being on the show, and I look forward to our next segment talking more about cybersecurity and how to keep these devices safe.

KH: Thanks again for having me, Lee.

Don’t Miss Part 1 of this 3-Part Series on Medical Devices

Part 1 of the 3-Part Series on Medical Devices

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To Learn More About Sterling Medical Devices

https://sterlingmedicaldevices.com/company/

FDA Cybersecurity Medical Devices Regulations

https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/digital-health/cybersecurity

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Data Breach Response Experts

Chicago Tribune reported, “US says Chinese military behind Equifax breach that stole Americans’ personal data” Data Breach Response Experts Lee Neubecker and Kari Rollins say “Data Breach is inevitable!” They give us advice on how to prepare.

Sedona Conference Incident Response Guide

It is not a question of if you will fall victim to a Data Breach incident, it is when. Organizations large and small need to be ready for when cybercrime strikes. Data Breach Response Experts Lee Neubecker and Kari Rollins know how to prepare for a data breach without breaking the bank. Kari is a partner in the Intellectual Property Practice Group for Sheppard Mullin in New York, and also a member of the Sedona Conference, Working 11 group. Kari describes the Sedona Working 11 as a group of Cyber Breach Experts who design tools and how-to resources that are available to the general public through the Sedona Conference website. The Sedona Conference is a nonprofit research and educational institute that brings together jurists, lawyers, experts, and academics. Kari and Lee share their combined knowledge and talk about the options available to small to midsize companies that may not have the resources in-house necessary to respond to a data breach incident.

Watch Part 1 of our 3 Part Series on Data Breach Readiness follow:

Kari Rollins and Lee Neubecker discuss Data Breach: Sedona Conference

The Video Transcript of Data Breach Response Experts Kari Rollins and Lee Neubecker Follows

Lee Neubecker (LN): Hi, I’m here today with Kari Rollins. She’s the co-managing partner of the New York office of Sheppard Mullins. Thanks for being on the show.

Kari Rollins (KR): Thank you for having me.

LN: And I had Kari, she’s a specialist in the whole area of privacy related litigation involving data breaches and personal information and what not. She’s also a member of the Sedona Conference. Could you tell everyone a little bit about what the Sedona Conference does?

KR: Sure, so the Working Group 11 is the Working Group that is dedicated to helping companies and other practitioners understand some of the hot topics and legal issues in data privacy and cybersecurity today that are rapidly evolving as the laws in that area change. And the Sedona Conference itself is dedicated to pulling together practitioners from private sector, public sector, judges, regulatory authorities who all come to talk about their experiences in these different specialized areas so that it you know, you have a knowledge base with a wide variety of perspectives.

LN: Great and so I asked you to come on to talk a little bit about the data breach incident response guide that the conference came up with. Can you tell us what this is about?

KR: Sure, so as a member of the Working Group 11, several of us at the request of Sedona Conference came together to put together what our views were on how to handle a data breach, or an incident response from the very beginning of the breach life cycle, i.e. planning for and anticipating a breach, through the breach investigation itself and even thinking about issues that may be implicated in a post-breach regulatory inquiry and how companies can best defend themselves and prepare for what is now today, the inevitable, a data incident.

LN: So this is a free resource available to anyone?

KR: It is a resource available to anyone. It’s really a practitioner’s guide. We think this is probably best used by small to midsize companies who may not have the resources or staff in-house, legal staff in-house dedicated to responding to incidents. And it’s, though it can be used by any practitioner, any counsel, any type of company, we do expect that this is probably something that would be useful to small to midsize companies as really a guideline and material to help them issue spot and understand what are the issues in incident response? What should I be concerned about? What are the pitfalls? What am I going to need to be on the lookout for?

LN: Great, and if people want more information about this or want to download the guide, where can they obtain it from?

KR: They can go directly to the Sedona Conference website. There are, there are publications that are, in the publication section of the sedonaconference.org website, it will have all of the various publications including this one, “The Sedona Conference Incident Response Guide,” and you can download and access the publications there.

LN: Great, so in our next segment, we’re going to be talking a little bit about what should be done before a data breach happens.

KR: Right.

LN: And then in our third segment, we’ll talk a little bit about okay, the data breach happened or an incident happened, what do you need to do to respond? So watch those segments and tune in again. Thanks Kari for being on.

KR: Thank you.

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Select a Computer Forensic Expert Before a Data Breach Incident

More Information about Kari Rollins and Sheppard Mullin

https://www.sheppardmullin.com/krollins

View The Sedona Conference Website

https://thesedonaconference.org/

https://thesedonaconference.org/download-publication?fid=4860

Other Resources on the Web Helping Organizations Prepare and Defend Against Cyber Attacks and Data Breaches

https://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/SpecialPublications/NIST.SP.800-193.pdf

https://www.nccoe.nist.gov/sites/default/files/library/project-descriptions/dc-drr-project-description-draft.pdf

https://www.ready.gov/cybersecurity

https://www.cisa.gov/national-cyber-exercise-and-planning-program

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AI Smarter Solutions: eDiscovery

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used to vastly improve the eDiscovery document review process. Zylab is one of several eDiscovery vendors offering solutions utilizing AI. Lee Neubecker, Computer Forensic Expert, and President & CEO of Enigma Forensics met with Jeffrey Wolff, Director of eDiscovery Solutions at ZyLAB during his visit to the Legal Tech Conference 2020 in New York. Lee and Jeffrey discuss how AI can be used to conduct more effective eDiscovery.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is everywhere. It’s hard to imagine how it’s being used in the legal industry where legal libraries filled with law books and courts filled with black-robed judges reign. In this formal traditional world, AI is now providing smart solutions for today’s electronically stored information or ESI and is streamlining the way the Legal Industry works.

In this video, Lee Neubecker, Computer Forensic Expert, and President & CEO of Enigma Forensics met with Jeffrey Wolff, Director of eDiscovery Solutions at ZyLAB during his visit to the Legal Tech Conference in New York. Lee and Jeffrey analyze how Artificial Intelligence (AI) develops smarter solutions in the eDiscovery process. Jeffrey shares with Lee that ZyLAB’s mission is to provide automated full-text retrieval using AI, for both on-premise or cloud-based solutions.

Watch Part 1 of a Three-Part Series on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and eDiscovery.

The video transcript of AI Smarter Solutions: eDiscovery follows.

Lee Neubecker: Hi, I have Jeff Wolff, back on the show from ZyLAB. Jeff, thanks for coming back on.

Jeff Wolff: Thank you.

LN: He’s their Director of eDiscovery, and I wanted to ask him some questions as it related to what differentiates ZyLAB from other products out on the market. Some of my clients may want to use this type of artificial intelligence program to help get through their review and see what the results are of using AI verse the traditional e-discovery review process, so.

JW: Sure.

LN: Jeff, could you tell us what sets ZyLAB apart from other competitors in the marketplace.

JW: Sure, sure, so first, I think ZyLAB is uniquely positioned in the fact we understand the corporate space quite well, as well as the law firm space, but we got our start incorporate, or start in information governance. So we are very vested in search and data science, and that’s really where we’ve put a lot of our focus. We have both on-premise solutions, as well as cloud-based, SaaS solutions like every other next-gen provider. But we really push our interface, our user interface and our user experience, as one of the most unique selling points. And that is, that it is not difficult to start using. Anyone, any legal professional can pick up our product in an hour, from start to finish, and understand really how you utilize it. Drag and drop interfaces for getting data into the system, and immediate color-coding and tagging, easy search, and the ability to really visualize your data and understand what’s in the dataset.

LN: Okay. So, what would you say for a company that has to deal with multiple jurisdictions, they’re in Europe, they’re in the US. JW: Sure. LN: There are some unique challenges posed by all the various regulations out there, like GDPR.

JW: Right.

LN: Maybe the have operations in China. How could you help a company that has to deal with various regulatory authorities spanning the globe?

JW: Sure, and that’s another advantage that ZyLAB has, actually, we’re actually a global company, so we’re dual-headquartered in Washington, D.C., here in the US, as well as Amsterdam in the Netherlands, in the EU. And as a result, we have cloud operations in both jurisdictions. So our global customers can actually keep US data in the US, and they can keep the European Union in the EU, and not worry about that issue. But we also have the expertise, consulting expertise, in both environments, both geographic locations. For example, I’m doing a lot of work now with corporations, not so much focused on directly just on e-discovery, because e-discovery is a bit reactive, you know? Or corporations go through peaks and valleys with e-discovery, the litigation, something they have it, sometimes they don’t. What they constantly have though, are internal investigations, regulatory responses, in the highly regulated corporations. And more and more now, data privacy concerns. So, my European colleagues have been dealing with GDPR for a while, we’re now starting to feel it here in the US, with CCPA, the California Consumer Privacy Act. And there are a number of states on the horizon that are going to California’s examples, so corporations need to be able to find, and classify all the data that they have in their organization that has customer information because if those customers request it and they can’t provide it, they’re financially in a lot of trouble.

LN: Do you think that the regulations coming down on companies are going to fundamentally change how companies chose to communicate with their vendors, suppliers, and own employees?

JW: Absolutely. If you look at all the recent data breach situations, it’s typically not the organization that has the problem, and I won’t mention any of the large companies that have recently had data breaches, but it’s typically not the original company that had the issue, it’s one of their suppliers, or one of their vendors that had accesses to the database, and wasn’t protecting it properly, and that’s how the trouble began.

LN: Yeah.

JW: Same thing with data privacy.

LN: The supply chain certainly is a huge point of vulnerability for all types of organizations. The governments, the military,

JW: Yep.

LN: and even corporations.

JW: Yes.

LN: So what do you see happening over the next few years with the adoption of AI platforms?

JW: I think the e-discovery market is going to fundamentally change. There’s still always going to be a need for discovery within corporations and law firms, but what you do you with the data is going to become much more important, so it’s going to be about how you can extract value from the data, not just metadata, which we’ve always been able to do for years now, but now more about looking for entity information. People, places, organizations that are mentioned in documents and emails, and collaborative environments, and being able to visualize those, and quickly drill down to what was going on in your organization. You know, if you got people that are going to the dentist three times a week, they’re not doing to the dentist, they’re doing something else, They’re just writing about going to the dentist.

LN: Yeah.

JW: Software like ours that can identify those references in documents are going to be crucial to the success of organizations.

LN: That’s great. So it seems that there’s continued e-discovery service provider consolidation out there.

JW: Mmhmm.

LN: The companies that are using tools that are more of a channel partner tool to resell.

JW: Yes.

LN: But as those companies consolidate, do you think that there’s going to be a movement away from those providers where, the company, the firms, directly do their own e-discovery?

JW: Oh, yes. Yeah, very much so. We’ve been seeing that over the last few years. A lot of companies, even small companies that tend to have, in the past, just used outside vendors for e-discovery, are now deciding that they prefer to control, not just the cost, but also their data. They don’t want their data outside of the organization for reasons we’ve already talked about. So they’re purchasing in-house tools that they can use themselves, and then they can invite outside counsel in to make use of, that way they control their costs, they control the efficiency, and they control the data.

LN: Well, this has been great. Thanks a bunch for being on the show.

Lee Neubecker: Thank you again.

LN: Take care.

JW: Bye bye.

View related articles on Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI): Medical Data
Artificial Intelligence (AI) Re-inventing Legal Technology
Artificial Intelligence (AI) eDiscovery
Litigation & Computer Forensic Experts
Cyber Security & Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence (AI) Assists in Cyber Security

View ZyLAB’s for more information on (AI) Smart Solutions: eDiscovery

https://www.zylab.com/en/product/artificial-intelligence

View Law Technology Today’s article on Artificial Intelligence (AI)

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Medical Device Security Challenges

Behind lifesaving medical devices are Cyber Experts hard at work to secure and protect Patient Health Information (PHI). Check out this video on securing medical devices.

Cutting edge medical devices save lives! Not only do they save lives but they carry a vector of complicated communications and a unique set of security challenges. Cyber Security Expert Lee Neubecker, sits down with Sterling Medical Device’s top engineer, Keith Handler who develops cyber protection and security for their client’s medical devices.

Sterling Medical Devices helps companies design and develop mechanical & electronic medical devices and follows them through FDA approval. The conversation is educational and important to those interested in knowing how medical devices are cyber protected and secured. In this video, they outline the concerns that relate to the control, security, and confidentiality of the patient’s health information (PHI) when using these medical devices.

The transcript of Part 1 of our Series in Medical Device Security

Lee Neubecker: Hi, I have Kieth Handler here on my show from Sterling Medical Devices. Keith is a top engineer here that helps ensure cybersecurity and resilience and protection of medical devices of their clients. They help assist through the FDA certification process. Keith, thank you, thank you for being on my show.

Keith Handler: Thanks for having me, Lee.

LN: So can you tell me a little bit about what your firm does and how it helps clients in cybersphere?

KH: Yeah, sure. Sterling Medical Devices is a 13485 certified product development firm. We help various companies design and develop electro-mechanical medical devices. Pretty much from, anything from concept all the way to submission to the FDA.

LN: So, can you tell everyone what, ISO…?

KH: 13485?

LN: 13485 Certification means?

KH: Yes that is, that is the ISO standard that defines the product development and manufacture of medical devices. It defines all the processes that we generally run our business by.

LN: Okay, so what are some of the concerns that you have as it relates to the patient personalized information, sometimes known as PHI? Is that right?

KH: Yeah, patient help information, that’s correct. Well, you know, our first concern, of course, with any medical device is safe. We want to make sure that the devices are treating patients as intended and not presenting any undue harm to the patient or anybody else. The second thing is the Patient Help Information. It’s very important that we maintain confidentiality for all patients, in any of these systems. Diagnostics, their personal information, all need to be protected.

LN: These devices, they have PHI, they also have, they also are involved with the generation of electronic medical records, known as EMR, that feed into the various hospital systems that are used to provide and deliver healthcare to users. As it relates to this, what are some of the top concerns that you try to address as it pertains to safety for your clients?

KH: Well, when it comes to information or command and control that can be done remotely on a device, it’s again important to maintain the integrity of those communications, and to protect everything there. One of the hardest aspects, I would say, is integrating a medical device into a larger hospital system. We may have control over the confidentiality of the information, and of the commands that are sent and received within a device, but as soon as we connect to an external system we lose control of that data. So, it becomes a unique challenge to try and make sure we are protecting, and not only in our system but also in any system ours might integrate with.

LN: Yeah, and there’s such a myriad of ways devices connect, Bluetooth, wifi–

KH: Yes.

LN: I’m not sure if medical devices use infrared or–

KH: Yes.

LN: Near band communication, but there are all these vectors of communication that create new threats and potentials for compromise.

KH: And typically medical hardware is pretty cutting edge, you know, some of the things that they’re trying to treat now still can’t. So all of these things that you’re bringing up, all exist in medical, all need to be protected.

LN: Great, so in our next segment we’ll be talking a little bit more about the FDA, the certification process, and some of the standards that devices might undergo to help ensure adoption by the FDA, and to make them commercially viable to be sold in the United States. And then, in our third segment, we’ll talk more about protecting devices against cyber compromise, the firmware and software that gets embedded into these devices, and other things that should be done to help keep medical devices safe and secure. Thanks for being on the show today.

KH: Thanks again for having me, Lee.

Related Materials on Medical Malpractice

Forensic Imaging

See more about Sterling Medical Devices on their website.

https://sterlingmedicaldevices.com/

See other related websites for more information about Medical Device security.

FDA ISO Standards

https://www.iso.org/standards.html

FDA Medical Device Cybersecurity Guidelines

https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/digital-health/cybersecurity

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Energy Industry Incident Response

Energy is vital to our everyday life. Companies face a competing demand to preserve data and at the same time continue to function. Experts Lee Neubecker and Geary Sikich give advice on how to overcome these challenges.

The Energy Sector provides the global economy with oil, gasoline, electricity, wind and natural gas. An Energy Industry incident could be a physical attack on a power grid or a cyber attack that stops a company from functioning. The properly planned and orchestrated energy sector incident response will minimize or reduce recovery time and loss. Potentially saving lives! Enigma Forensics CEO & President, Lee Neubecker and Geary Sikich, Principal at Logical Management Systems, Corp. strongly urge all companies to create an incident response plan.

This is the final segment in the four-part series on Energy Sector Cyber Insecurity.

Part 4 of our Global Energy Sector – Incident Response

Energy Sector Incident Response video transcript follows

Lee Neubecker: Hi I’m here again with Geary Sikich, and we’re continuing with our final fourth part segment in this discussion about global cyber insecurity as it relates to the energy sector. And in this segment, we’ll be telling you a little bit more about some of the things that need to happen, related to the incident response of a data breach, for the energy sector. Geary, thanks for coming back.

Geary Sikich: Thanks Lee for having me. I think this is, probably one of those areas that are challenging to talk about.

LN: Yeah, certainly, and at the forefront, when things first go wrong, there’s a need to immediately take action to help preserve the data, and collect data so that it can be analyzed. But at the same time, there’s a competing demand for wanting the organization to function. And sometimes those two needs, create conflicts.

GS: Yeah, they sort of butt heads if you will. Yeah, I think the issue for a number of organizations, and I’ve experienced being in the kind of command center if you will, of organizations where their website had gone down. And it was, one of these where a lot of stuff was processed through the portals that they had there. Suddenly there was this pressure to get things back up, and then to look at, what is this costing us? Because now our customers cannot execute their orders and whatnot. And that becomes a challenge because it’s the urgency issue. The other aspect is that when we look at incident response, and this is a little bit different from the typical natural disaster incident response. If I’ve been breached in a cyber incident, how long is it before I actually realize that I’ve been breached? It may not happen very quickly, it could be very subtle. And things could be manipulated, and suddenly I’m in a situation like some of the big companies that had data hack, where all the sudden personal accounts of cardholders are exposed. Now, what do I do? So there’s a lot of not the only rapid response that’s needed, but a lot of consequence analysis that’s really needed.

LN: Is it?

GS: How do you do that and yet maintain, as you were saying, and begin to look at that.

LN: Yeah.

GS: From, not really a legal standpoint, but, from a defensive standpoint.

LN: Yeah, well there’s a lot that needs to happen in a short period of time, you have the collection and preservation. Which, forensic professionals are often called in, such as myself. To collect the data. Firewalls, servers, logs. Then you also have the analysis of that data to determine, what are the motivations of the attacker? Was it an attacker? Was it negligence? You know, oftentimes things go down, people assume it’s a cyber attack, external. It could be an internal attack, it could just be something as innocent as, I’ve seen a new system coming online that’s supposed to help back up and provide redundancy, actually reformat a storage NAS array, that it was supposed to help protect. So, these things can happen. And quickly understanding, making sure that data doesn’t disappear that could be used to rebuild is important And that’s where bringing in the outsider’s important because someone new coming in doesn’t have skin in the game. And, you really need that objective party, to help you figure out what’s happening.

GS: But I think that in that respect when you bring in someone from outside, they also have a vested interest in making sure that, from not only a reputation standpoint but also from the standpoint of the viability of their services, making sure that they’re helping to alleviate the issue. And to bring back some, equilibrium if you will. So there’s this issue of consequence management that comes to bear on those–

LN: And you have some conflicts that happen with having the people that were, kind of in charge of watching over the equipment, do the investigation. And that can cause some, serious problems to the organization. And it may be very well that, the attack wasn’t the fault of the people responsible for managing it. But, if for instance there was, an action that took place that might show some carelessness or mishandling of events by the people in charge of IT, there’s a real risk there that, that person might take actions that could result in further data destruction. In an effort to cover up, what had happened.

GS: So now in that respect, we need to protect, we need to begin to look at how we manage the data collection post-incident, or during an incident, if you will. There obviously some legal ramifications.

LN: Yeah well whoever does this might have to testify. And that’s another reason why having a third party come in to do this work is important. Because you may want, legal may want to know, “well before we put an expert up to testify in this, “just tell us what happened and how do we respond? “How do we get ahead of this?” If it was a problem with a vendor, you want to know that. Because the clocks ticking. You know from the time a data breach is confirmed, it is a real data breach and known, to the time it has to be reported, oftentimes its thirty days. So there’s not a lot of time, to wait around If your data breached before you get in your expert, your forensic expert to inspect.

GS: Okay, so we’ve got a legal consideration, that has to be looked at. Insurance today has changed in a lot of respects. So, business interruption insurance. Obviously, that’s a critical area because if you want to file a claim–

LN: Yeah you have to report it to the carrier, or even if you have cyber coverage, it might not be covered if you failed to notify the insurance company of the incident.

GS: So, when I look at that aspect and say, “I’ve got a business interruption policy,” you mention cyber. And now I know that there are other writers to those policies. Like for terrorism and things like that today. If I don’t have a cyber writer, which is a contingent business interruption issue, my business interruption insurance may not cover me, on something like that. So it really becomes more incumbent to have one, the knowledge, two, to be able to look at the legal considerations, three, to begin to understand insurance laws, what do I have from a coverage standpoint? Which is where the traditional risk management group comes into play. But IT’s got to coordinate with them, to ensure all that.

LN: Exactly, and I had Todd Rowe on my show, who’s an insurance cyber attorney, that deals with these coverage issues. So, that’s an excellent video to watch that delves into that more. The other things though with incident response, you know you have the potential PR issues that relate to being data breached. So really, you need to assemble your team, your in-house legal, your HR, your media advisor. Preferably you have a PR firm that has dealt with data breaches before. And then, you’ve got to put together a plan. And all this stuff needs to be going on in parallel. So while that’s happening, your internal people are probably trying to work on, getting their disaster recovery systems restored. You might even have an outside IT provider come in and help bring those systems back up online. The workload that happens when a data breach has occurred, is such that it really isn’t pragmatic or practical to try to have internal IT do all the work. And it also isn’t covered by insurance typically. The outside providers will usually be covered, but not the internal people.

GS: So, if from a structural standpoint, and I’ll draw this to the areas that I worked in many years back after some of the events in the energy industry. Oil spills and things like that. Where industries adopted what they called an incident command system. The United States now has the National Incident Management System. So with cyber though, the composition, in terms of that team, is not necessarily the same that we would see in a typical, incident command system as is generally presented. So from a functional standpoint, I think that there are some things that I would look at. One, somebody’s got to be in charge. Two, somebody’s got to look at planning. What’s going on, and future planning, what do we do? Three, operationally, what’s effected what’s not affected? How do we keep it from cascading? Four, a communications perspective. Internal and external. An administrative function, which looks at the financial aspects. An infrastructure function, which again, internal-external infrastructure. And then, the aspect of, you know, bringing this all together as a team. Your HR people, all these other things. So, yeah.

LN: That was an excellent wrap-up Geary. I really appreciate you being on the show. If you liked this video, please share it. And check out the other segments we did as well. Thanks again Geary for being on the show.

GS: Thank you, Lee. Very challenging to present on this topic. So much.

LN: Be safe.

Watch the other segments in our Cyber Insecurity in the Energy Sector Series.

Energy Sector Detection

Energy Sector Protection

Energy Sector Global Cyber Insecurity

Enigma Forensics related video blogs

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Energy Sector: Intrusion Detection

After the most recent Iranian attacks most people don’t think about the danger to our Energy Sector that lurks in the global underworld. Cyber Security Experts Lee Neubecker and Geary Sikich are on the job! They say we can tighten our security and detect cyber attacks before they happen.

Energy Sector Intrusion Detection is complicated and delicate and necessary to maintain our power grid. The Energy Sector provides energy for the world and must be secured and protected. Many detection tools and resources of expert precision are used to ensure the security of these precious resources. Think about it? What do you do on a daily basis that doesn’t involve energy or some type of energy? Enigma Forensics CEO & President, Lee Neubecker and Geary Sikich, Principal at Logical Management Systems, Corp. put your mind at ease and dissect cyber security and intrusion detection systems that are utilized by the Energy Sector.

This is Part 2 in the four-part series on Energy Sector Cyber Insecurity.

Lee Neubecker (LN): Hi, I’m back on the show again with Geary Sikich, thanks for coming back on the show.

Geary Sikich (GS): Thanks for having me back Lee.

LN: So we’re continuing our series discussing about global cyber insecurity as it relates to energy sector. In the second part of the series we’re talking more about detection of compromise. Um Geary, what’re your thoughts in this area?

GS: I believe that there’s a lot to be looked at in terms of the detection aspect, and this is one of the areas where you from a forensic standpoint, provide sort of a critical juncture, what’re you seeing that the general person, and even the general employee of the utility, might not be seeing? And might not be aware of?

LN: Well we know from reports by Dragos Cyber Security firm, that there’s a number of groups, I think around 11 groups are specifically targeting the energy sector. This report just came out this month, so there is a heightened attack readiness requirement to defend against these attacks. And the key thing that organizations need to be doing is they need to know that they have their firewall actively logging, and they need to be looking at those logs.

GS: Those are all state sponsored groups, right?

LN: Well, we don’t know exactly who they are, there could be terrorist cells, the Dragos report doesn’t give attribution as to the entities behind them. They describe the types of attacks, and the character of the attack methods, but there is a number of them that you can check out, there’s a link that will take you to their report if you’re interested in reading it. But you know, often times organizations fall compromised, and they don’t know it, and these things go on for a long time. There was a credit reporting agency attacked recently, for instance.

GS: So from a detection standpoint, the challenge that industries are faced with, cause our focus is going to be on the energy industry, so we’ll get energy industry. In general, the challenge that they face then, is that it’s not just what we perceive could be state sponsored hacking of their systems, it could be individuals, it could be terrorist cells, it could be pretty much anyone with a desire to infiltrate a system whether it’s to do harm, or whether it’s just to see if they can do it

LN: Exactly. The barrier to entry to launching one of these attacks is much lower. It requires knowledge, but the knowledge could be in the head of a teenager, that got rejected at school and wants to take the power out in his town. So that’s a legitimate problem. Now related to detection, I mentioned the firewall logs, there’s a great product out there called, Canary. Have you heard of it?

GS: No, it’s new to me.

LN: Essentially, it’s a company they tell these little devices, you deploy in your network, and they can pretend to be a payroll mass, health care information system storage database, or you can make it be whatever you want. But it’s essentially trying to lure an attacker. So if someone’s in your network, there going to scan your network to look for resources and it will detect people trying to brute force that item. So these items are a great way to have another way of knowing are you compromised. If organizations that had recently been publicly compromised, that didn’t know it for many years had some of these devices in place, they would probably know pretty quickly, like within a day or so, of someone getting through their firewall.

GS: So the challenge then I guess, from a detection standpoint, and the way we’ve seen it, and in discussions with organizations that I’ve worked with. Is that it’s not a single point of penetration that we have to worry about, it’s become multiple points of penetration, and multiple points that are not necessarily hard wired into the operating system. So utilities in a lot of respects have gone out to do with their status systems, monitoring your water usage, or electric usage, all remotely, and you periodically might see a utility vehicle drive by, and they may have a cellular type phone system, that goes by and scans your homes to see what your energy usage is. So those all become a factor. We get into detection in terms of things, we’ve mentioned today shipping is a big issue, and we mentioned with the current situation with Iran, the concern over the Strait of Hormuz, but shipping in general, navigation systems, have been targeted, not only by state actors, but by other groups. So you have navigation systems which is not just water born shipping. Think of where navigation systems are today. Look into your pocket and see your cell phone.

LN: Well we had the recent issue with the Boeing Max airplane, it turned out the sensors were damaged. Well these sensors they’re called MEMS sensors, they’re a combination of electro-mechanical sensors, and if the chip is hit at the frequency that matches the natural frequency of the component board, it can actually cause the chip to malfunction and report erroneous readings temporarily. Or if the frequency matches and it’s of a great enough amplitude it can actually damage the chip. And there hasn’t been much discussions about whether these chips were cyber-attacked but it’s very possible, if you look up University of Michigan, they have research on MEMS chip sensors and interestingly enough, the patent for these sensors was a Boeing patent. So there’s not a lot of talk about that and I think more likely if the chips were damaged, it’s more likely they were damaged while they were on the ground interestingly enough, the two crashes that occurred were in countries that had a lot of terrorist activity.

GS: I think the other aspect with detection is that when you begin to bring out a point like that, people have a tendency to assume durability of systems when systems can be very sensitive to, if you will, shocks, minor shocks to the system. So it’s not necessarily the physical attack, you could take the example recently Puerto Rico has had an earthquake. What damages were incurred by the, on their systems as a result? That are undetected yet. The sensitivity of systems I think has become really critical in a lot of these aspects.

LN: But like with these chips we’re blending mechanical with computer embedded processors. So like these chips think of an opera singer, that sings the natural frequency of a wine glass. If he sings it loud enough, that glass will shatter. It’s the same concept with this chip. You can fire sound at it, if you’re close enough, or if you have a strong enough amplifier, you could fry it. Now that could happen, a drone could potentially launch a sonic attack, someone onboard, a passenger could do it, cleaning crew coming through could do it. So these are some questions that it’s kind of a new paradigm but we even had issues with military aircraft having this uptick in crashes, and these same types of systems are in the newer military helicopters and planes and whatnot. So I think it was good that the military grounded some of these devices that were having these problems, And you know the investigation, I’m sure, continues and the public may not fully be briefed on this, but it is a threat that needs to be detected before people die.

GS: So the real issue with the situation that we’re in, with this kind of global insecurity if you will, is our ability to detect has been I’ll put it in these terms, if our ability to detect has been compromised by virtue of the disruptive technologies that exist that are making detections more and more of a challenge, because they’re becoming more and more subtle in how they entered in the system. So I can have a system that looks like it’s working perfectly, and yet at a point be compromised like the mechanical system that’s supposed to open a valve, and it’s been doing it for a long time, and then suddenly it either leaves it open, or completely shuts it.

LN: This is where it’s important that these entities have an accurate inventory of what their equipment is, and they also have an accurate inventory of the embedded systems and what that software code should look like. And they should have procedures in place to periodically verify that the embedded firmware chips that do these functions haven’t been altered. Otherwise they won’t even know, and something could happen at a very critical time. So that wraps up our section on detection. In our next segment will be talking about helping to protect against these types of attacks.

GS: Great.

Watch the other segments on Cyber Insecurity in the Energy Sector

Part one of our four-part series on Energy Sector Cyber Insecurity

Learn more about cyber security and data breach from Enigma Forensics.

Check out the government’s directives on cybersecurity as it relates to energy infrastructure.

https://www.energy.gov/ceser/activities/cybersecurity-critical-energy-infrastructure

Check out what ComEd is doing.

https://www.comed.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/SmartEnergy/SmartGridAndDataSecurity.pdf

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FBI Warning: Smart TV’s may be spying on you.

Smart TV’s may be recording you or your children without your knowledge.

Enigma Forensics, CEO & President, Lee Neubecker talks about the FBI’s warning about Smart TV’s and other smart home devises that are not secure. Lee adds to that warning that a hacker can actually see through to your living space by using the built in camera on your Smart TV. They can also listen to you and record your conversations, or exploit your TV to show content that is not suitable for your children to watch. In fact, most of our smart devises don’t have any security at all. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to strengthen your security. Tune in to engimaforensics.com to learn more.

The transcript on FBI Warning on Smart TV’s follows:

Lee Neubecker:

Hi, so all of you should be aware that FBI has issued an advisory and warning to consumers purchasing Smart TV’s for your homes.

Specifically, you should be on the lookout for TV’s that have cameras. It could be recording you or your children without your knowledge. One popular measure they recommend is using black electrical tape to cover the top of the camera. If the camera’s physically covered you can’t record.

However, you have to be aware that many of these TV’s are also listening to you and maybe taking up voice commands, recording your conversations and possibly even retransmitting that information to other parties. It’s also possible that a hacker could get into a TV and exploit your TV display inappropriate content that your children might see.

So for more tips on how to secure your home, check out our website, we have a link that gives advice on this and as it relates to your TV, you want to make sure you know what you’re buying and it’s best to buy a TV that doesn’t have a known camera in it if you’re concerned about not being recorded.

Related articles to keeping your home secure

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Cyber Insurance Coverage

Cyber insurance and security protection

Engima Forensics CEO & President Lee Neubecker and Tressler, LLP, Cyber Insurance Coverage Attorney Todd Rowe sit down for a video discussion. These experts stress the importance of understanding the full scope of your data risk in case of a cyber attack. Both agree cyber attacks are getting more and more sophisticated and urge every company no matter the size to take the necessary steps to protect themselves before a date breach occurs. Prepare your company by working with computer forensics experts and legal counsel and create a game plan to lessen the potential threat posed by a cyber attack. Tune in to find out more about cyber insurance and maximizing your potential for coverage when a cyber attack strikes.

Evolution of Cyber Insurance and Security

The transcript on Cyber Insurance Coverage follows:

Lee Neubecker: Hello, today I have Todd Rowe on the show. Todd is a specialist in cyber insurance related litigation and data breach litigation Todd, thanks for being on the show.

Todd Rowe: No, thank you, this is great. I appreciate it.

Lee Neubecker: And so, Todd, can you tell us a little bit about how cyber has evolved over the last five years?

Todd Rowe: It’s wide open, I mean, we’ve seen everything. First, I think, when we look at the threats, and the evolution of a cyber threat or a privacy threat, we’ve seen things from the classic data breach, which would have been the target data breaches move into more of a social engineering component and tricking users that way, by emails and things like that. Getting around the technology safeguards a little bit and getting in there and tricking people is the biggest development I think we’ve seen in the evolution of threats.

Lee Neubecker: And, how has coverage evolved for cyber insurance over the last five years?

Todd Rowe: Yeah, I mean, we’ve seen huge leaps in insurance coverage and what the policies look like and what we would call cyber policies. We’ve seen the developments first in what would be considered first party insurance coverage, which would be actually responding to the damage that happens. And then, the third party liability piece, responding and giving a defense in the case of an incident. While we’ve seen a lot of developments, I think, with cyber insurance, we still don’t see the uniform policy language. So, there’s still a lot of uncertainty there, but we’ve seen some big developments recently.

Lee Neubecker: So, when a company suspects that they have a data breach incident, what’s your first role on the ground, talking with the client in terms of what you’re advising them?

Todd Rowe: Yeah, all things being equal, we would have loved to have been in there before there was an incident. Preparation is always the best scenario, and what preparation should look like is a corporation or a business working with forensics and legal and getting a game plan together, assessing what those threats might be, and what to do if there are those threats. But, afterward, hopefully you have the game plan. If you don’t, it’s pretty much all boots on ground, getting in there with forensics and legal, and understanding what the threat was, and making sure that the threat is extinguished, and moving on and notifying people that were involved in the threat.

Lee Neubecker: I know from experience that companies that take the time to proactively assemble their team before something happens, and bring in legal, forensics, and outside help, are often in a much better situation when something goes down. They face less downtime, their business can be back up and running. I think the biggest challenge I’ve seen is when companies have no idea what is legitimately their, what their devices are, because when you’re trying to assess are we still compromised, you need to know what good looks like. And if you haven’t mapped out your organization’s IT resources, that really creates a problem.

Todd Rowe: From our point, there’s always been, it’s been a tough sell to go in and try to get in before there’s an incident. A lot of corporations don’t want to think about something until it actually happens. But, the sort of, the wisdom in getting in there beforehand is getting that game plan together, figuring out what data you’re storing and what data you can get rid of. And so, the more data you can get rid of, the better you do on cutting down your liability in the end. Also, working on technology safeguards and having those in place. So, working with forensics, legal, and even PR a little bit really helps in the long run, no doubt about it.

Lee Neubecker: So, if you have cyber insurance, does that mean that you don’t have to worry about a cyber incident?

Todd Rowe: The thought right now, I think, and it has been for a number of years, is an incident’s going to happen, and it just, you need to go in and do things to prep. And while we were discussing earlier, the preparation that you need to do to get sort of an inventory, cyber insurance is another piece of that preparation that needs to be in place. Once again, working with professionals, insurance professionals, brokers, forensics, legal, on what that cyber product that best suits your needs, is the best situation to have that in place once something happens. It will happen, it’s just a matter of having all the right pieces in place when it does happen.

Lee Neubecker: So, if a company has, is storing biometric information, which could even include video cam footage of a certain resolution, what are some of the unique challenges that are raised by some of the laws here in Illinois and elsewhere?

Todd Rowe: Really, being in Illinois is, and I don’t want to use a cliche, but is on the cutting edge of biometric data. And we have BIPA, which is the Biometric Information Protection Act. And what that does is it protects a lot of things like face scans, and finger and thumbprint templates. And, I think one of the biggest issues we see is recently, now BIPA’s been around for 10 years or so, it’s been around for a long time. But we’re seeing a huge uptick in BIPA cases right now, because a number of businesses went in and put in timekeeping systems for their employees that work on thumb and finger scans rather than the old punch card systems. So, the law didn’t change, but the technology did, and so now, there was warnings that should have been put in place before you take that biometric data with those systems. So, they put the systems in, and they didn’t necessarily have the law in place. That’s a perfect scenario where we could’ve had forensics and legal all working together beforehand to avoid a lot of liability, so.

Lee Neubecker: So, what do you see happening in the future with the insurance coverage laws? Especially, you know, one of the concerns I have is, you know, there’s this act of war exclusion, and if you have cyber insurance and you’re hacked by someone outside of the country, what happens there, is that covered?

Todd Rowe: It depends, really, on the policy form. So, we’ve seen, once again, Illinois is on the cutting edge of that law as well. A lot of insurance policies, CGL, commercial liability policies, and even some cyber policies to some extent, have terrorism or war exclusions, excluding acts of war. And that was fine when we were looking at Pearl Harbor, perhaps, or something like a real act of war where a government might declare war on a country, and some damage that results of that would be an act of war. But, with privacy and hackers, and hackers sitting in nation states, but maybe not being an agent of that nation state. So, the case that we have right now that gives a good example of this is a Zurich case, insurance case with Mondelez, they’re a snack food maker. And, Zurich denied coverage, and it looks like the hacker may have come from perhaps China or North Korea. So, what do you do with that, as far as, if you’re going to exclude coverage for that, nobody’s declared war on any of those countries, so that’s going to be a struggle. And I think that demonstrates some of the strengths and weaknesses of cyber coverage right now, as it stands.

Lee Neubecker: And, what do you see happening, what’s the likelihood that the federal government stops in, steps up to the plate should a major data breach happen that could be considered an act of war?

Todd Rowe: Yeah, I mean, well first off, the government brings up another point, as far as right now as it stands, privacy and data laws, we just have a patchwork of things here in the U.S. Of course, there’s frameworks that have been adopted in, for example, the E.U. with GDPR, and we don’t really have that in the U.S. So, we first don’t really have a clear idea of who would do the response in the government. Would it be the Federal Trade Commission, or who would handle that type of situation? So, we have a lot of state laws, so we have a lot of problems like that. And, we have California, which is adopting some stronger guidelines as well. So, what would happen there as far, it’s going to be really left to ironing things out with the insurers and the insurance. Once again, what a great opportunity to sort of look at this issue before an incident happens. You really wouldn’t want to get into this complex of an issue when you’re trying to respond to an incident. So, another reason is, to go and prep a little bit, would be exactly what we’re discussing right now.

Lee Neubecker: Yeah, I know from experience that clients of ours that have had data breach incidents, if they’re working with someone that’s experienced litigation professional in the area of cyber and insurance, the likelihood that, you know, my firm’s fees get covered goes way up, and there are, there’s a potential for coverage of that forensic response. But ideally, you want to have your own team. You want to be picking your team. You don’t want the insurance companies assigning your people, if you can avoid it.

Todd Rowe: Yeah, a lot of insurers do have panels, and there are a lot of insurers that prefer that, because they don’t know where to go. So, that actually, if there’s an incident, that helps out. But, the best scenarios, and we’ve been involved in a lot of responses, and the best scenario is when we’ve had an opportunity to sit down, and maybe you and I talk, the forensic side of things and the legal side of things, and figuring out exactly how we can cooperate and what that response would look like. So, absolutely, if you can sit down and chat beforehand, you’re going to really save yourself a lot of stress and pressure.

Lee Neubecker: Well, thanks a bunch Todd, for being on the show. This has been great.

Todd Rowe: Absolutely, thank you so much, I appreciate it.

More articles that relate to data breach response and cyber insurance coverage follow:

https://enigmaforensics.com/blog/secure-home-from-cyber-attacks/
https://enigmaforensics.com/news/wgn-cyber-security-chicago-2018/

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/what-s-covered-under-a-cyber-liability-policy-462459

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Cyber Readiness: Power Grid Outages

Are you ready for a power outage? Check out this video for Cyber Readiness and Power Outages tips.

Enigma Forensics CEO & President, Lee Neubecker and Geary Sikich, President of Logical Management Systems, tackle the strategies you need to know to prepare for a cyber attack. Each describes in detail the importance of cyber readiness starting with power outages.

Be prepared for a cyber attack or power outage

The transcript of the video follows:

Lee Neubecker: Hi, I’m here today with Geary Sikich. Geary is the President of Logical Management Systems. Thank you, Geary, for being on the show.

Geary Sikich: Thank you, Lee.

Lee Neubecker: So we’re here to talk a little bit about cyber attacks on the power grid, and what impacts that could have on businesses and individuals alike. All right, Gary, is the future of war likely to be cyber, in your opinion?

Geary Sikich: Well Lee, I think there’s three aspects of that that we need to look at. There’s what I’ll call a strategic aspect, which in effect, we’re already in a cyber war in many respects. Nation states are using cyber in a lot of different ways. Not necessarily as disruptive as it could be, but it’s got the potential to expand. There’s then another level down from there which I’ll call operational, which is targeting specific locales and areas. And then, what I’ll call a tactical level where you’re targeting individual facilities to include even neighborhoods at this stage. And one of the things I think you’re going to see in the future is that there’s going to be more of a reliance on these disruptions because of the great impact they have on businesses as well as the general population.

Lee Neubecker: Yeah so, one of the things that I had lectured on before was some research that came out of Princeton University on a topic called MadIoT, which relates to manipulation of end user demand by attacking insecure Internet of Things, IoT, devices in homes and whatnot. And essentially, what the researchers found was that by taking over enough routers in homes, you could compromise Wi-Fi devices attached to high-wattage appliances like Internet-enabled microwaves, toasters, heaters, things like that that would draw a lot of current, air conditioning systems and that by attacking adjacent neighborhoods, you could manipulate power demand in one neighborhood such that the power’s going off or down low, and then the adjacent neighborhood causing all these appliances to come on, which by only creating a small disturbance in balance of power, Kirchhoff’s law that dictates the flow of electricity could cause faults in lines as electricity moved from one neighborhood to another in spikes, and that that type of attack could effectively knock out parts of the grid. There are a lot of factors, obviously, that could knock out the grid, but what have you been advising your clients to do in advance of such an outage, to help them mitigate the risk and protect themselves?

Geary Sikich: One of the things we look at with that issue, and it’s a very big issue, and it ties into the areas I previously mentioned, the strategic, operational, and tactical, is to begin to look at how you can be resilient as an organization. So, I’ll give you an example. A colleague who was at a firm in Southern Illinois, they were about to move to a larger building. And one of the things he was charged with was developing the plans and then getting the move set up. They didn’t have a generator, and I highly recommended to him that they get a generator. They decided to do it, and to their benefit, once installed and once they got it in the building, they had a localized power outage which, for them, was a non-event so to speak because the generator immediately kicked on. They didn’t lose any power. As a commodities trading firm, they’re very dependent on the ability to communicate electronically for trade. So when we got to analyzing things, I asked, “What did you think?” and he said, “Well, it cost “probably a quarter of a million.” And then I asked the second question, which I think was more relevant and important as he understood it, “What was the cost in lost trades, if you’d have not “had the generator?” He said, “About $2 billion.” So the immediate impact on these things is that organizations really need to think about how can they secure a power supply for themselves so that they can effectively operate independently of the grid in times of a crisis?

Lee Neubecker: So an adversary of a financial services company could actually cause massive harm by targeting and causing a power disruption, knocking out the trading facilities–

GSL Yes. LN:Costing them billions of dollars.

Geary Sikich: Yes. And the interesting part about that is, that when you begin to look at it, it’s not just that immediate impact, it’s the cascading impact that goes throughout the entire system. So you knock out the trading aspect, you suddenly knock out the logistics of movement of products and services, and it cascades throughout the entire system if you will.

Lee Neubecker: So what do you see are the other downstream potential impacts to a prolonged outage?

Geary Sikich: Oh, prolonged outages are one of the concerns that a lot of organizations have. What do I do to keep my business in business if we’re faced with a long-term outage? Natural disasters have shown us that it can take up to and beyond a couple of years to recover. A lot of organizations literally could go out of business as a result of not being able to have the financial resources to weather a storm like that.

Lee Neubecker: Well, this has been great stuff. I really appreciate you coming on the show, Geary. Thanks a bunch.

Geary Sikich: Thank you, Lee, I appreciate it.

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Cook County Clerk on Election Security

Enigma Forensics’ CEO Interviews Cook County Illinois Clerk Karen Yarbrough on election security. The two discuss progress made in securing the vote against cyber attacks over the last several years.

Clerk Yarbrough has been working to streamline and improve the efficiency of the Clerk’s office while ensuring that the next 202o election is protected against rogue nation states that may want to compromise our next election cycle.

Transcript of the interview is as follows:

Lee Neubecker: I am here today with Karen Yarbrough she is our Recorder of Deeds and Clerk in Cook County here in Chicago.

Clerk Karen Yarbrough: Well not quite Recorder of Deeds anymore Lee, I am now the Cook County Clerk and will be taking over the Recorder of Deeds office in about a year. We actually went to the voters and the voters decided that they were going to do a consolidation of the two offices and so I will pick up the Recorders job in about a year.

Lee Neubecker: So you must have a lot of integration going on with technical resources.

Clerk Karen Yarbrough: You can imagine, and yes we do. I have a very capable staff and we’re trying to get our arms around you know in the clerk’s office there are a number of duties and responsibilities we have elections of course, we have vital records and then we also are involved with taxes, and so I’ve been in this job since December. And what I’m trying to do now is get ready for 2020 and the big election for sure. But also we are absorbing the duties of the recorder of deeds. Big undertaking.

Lee Neubecker: So with all the talk of election hacking and whatnot by different nation states and foreign entities. What kind of things are you involved with, with Cook County with helping to defend against the voting system being attacked the next election cycle?

Clerk Karen Yarbrough: Well for starters Lee, our approach is a multi-leveled risk management approach. We know that there’s no system is foolproof. I mean you know it’s not a perfect system. No system is. Knowing that, we tend to look at every aspect of our system. We have these guiding principles. Defend Detect and Recover. What that simply means is we have a plan we have a plan A plan B all the way to Z.

Lee Neubecker: So its more than just putting your head under the covers.

Clerk Karen Yarbrough: Oh, no, no, no. I noticed when we were in the Recorder Deeds office our systems were attacked on a daily basis. People scraping our sites and in all of these kinds of things. So I am aware of this business of you know people trying to steal data and and what-have-you. But the elections are absolutely positively important. People need to understand that their vote does count and it will count. All the noise we’re hearing from Washington DC really makes people nervous.

Lee Neubecker: What kind of hings have happened to help make sure that wasn’t going to happen. Let’s say if the computers all get zapped to make sure that votes that are casted get counted.

Clerk Karen Yarbrough: Well first of all I have a team of experts. On staff. We’re sharing a gentleman with the city of Chicago who is at the top of the food chain when it comes to people who know about this kind of thing. Having those people on board working with the city of Chicago, we also have a two-factor login authentication of course the firewalls VPN and dedicated private data networks. Then we’re going to be able to lock down our systems both on the hardware and software lock them down before and after elections. So those are the kinds of things that we’re doing. And I think we’re going to be ready coming 2020.

Lee Neubecker: I understand that you’re currently doing some projects to seek outside computer forensic experts. What is your office looking for assistance with right now?

Clerk Karen Yarbrough: I think we’re putting something right now, I might want to defer to John Mirkovic who’s with me here today, on how that’s going. John’s been with me since I was actually in Springfield as a legislator and he has been working on the Blockchain Initiative and certainly this, and so, if you would, could you defer to him, so he can talk about what we’re doing there because John keeps up with this more than I do.

Lee Neubecker: Sure absolutely. What, in the event that a data breach were to happen, what kind of things are in place to make sure that you can recover and get back?

Clerk Karen Yarbrough: Sure. Okay having those plans certainly are important. But you know the Cook County just spent 32 million dollars on new voting equipment. That voting equipment that we have it’s almost like going back to the future,you know all the talk about, you know,voting on the internet and all these kinds of things,up come at some time, at some point in the future. But today we need to know that those votes are safe. So with the system that we have now. I don’t know if you remember,but you would have a system where you have on the side this kind of ticker tape thing that would show you how you voted.

Lee Neubecker: Paper audit trail.

Clerk Karen Yarbrough: Okay yeah well nobody noticed it. I mean I shouldn’t say nobody. But many people didn’t notice that with the new equipment, and we piloted it actually in your suburb and a couple of others. So we ran it through, and people loved it. It was so simple. So you know, you vote, you can either vote, the same way you vote now. So you could use your stylus or what have you. You place your vote, but then it’s going to shoot your ballot out to you. You’ll be able to hold that in your hand. You’ll be able to see if everything you voted for is there. And then you, not somebody else, but you will be able to post and cast your ballot.

Lee Neubecker: So the key thing is, well while the votes are being stored electronically there’s also be printed, they’re also being verified in a print out, that people can see. And then they can take it over and feed it and then scan it so you have another level of detection done, you’ve got the paper vote locked up in a box.

Clerk Karen Yarbrough: Exactly. And let’s say you mentioned something about the whole system blowing up. Okay so if the whole system blows up we still have that paper ballot locked away so that if we have to go back and let’s say everything blew up and people are running all around, with what have you. We can go and retrieve those documents and by hand we can actually,you know, count those those votes, so people should feel confident.

Lee Neubecker: It’s a great Improvement.

Clerk Karen Yarbrough: It is.

Lee Neubecker: I was brought in to consider bidding on the suburban voter audit project for the forensic project. At the time, what I was concerned about, is there wasn’t a simultaneous printout. And at certain points in time, the votes only existed electronically in storage media. They would be transferred to a consolidator that would transmit it. There was a potential at the time, that someone could have a USB device preloaded with 118 votes but in a different distribution. They could swap that device out and put it in the consolidator. But that doesn’t doesn’t exist now with the new equipment.

Clerk Karen Yarbrough: Not at all. So we’re happy about that. Let me tell you, we’re happy about that. The voters who voted in the last election, both the voters and our folks who run the elections, the judges, and what have you, just absolutely love the new system. They liked the fact that they were going to have that ballot in their hand. We shared with them, what happens now? I said well your votes are going to be counted. I said well what if? That’s the same questions that you ask. Well what if? Well we’ve taken all those precautions. But, Lee, I know, like you know, while you have a better mousetrap today, you always have to stay on your P’s and Q’s. The young man I was talking about Raoul, is his name, we share with city Chicago, everyday he’s checking our system, right now, we’re just about we’re ready to go. I think if we had to have an election today, we could have that election and have the confidence that we need to know that we’re going to have a good election, it’s going to be safe, people are going to feel good about how they’re gonna be able to cast their ballot. I’m just excited about the whole thing.

Lee Neubecker: I appreciate everything you’re doing to help secure the vote in Cook County and all your effort to streamline the government.
Clerk Karen Yarbrough: Well thank you so much for the invitation to come on. I’m just thrilled and I know that you’re a real geek and you know all of this stuff. But thank you so very much for having me on.

Lee Neubecker: Thank you Karen Yarbrough!

Watch the second part in this two part series on Cook County Election Security here.

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