Since the start of the pandemic, there has been much disruption in some industries. Many businesses have been challenged during the pandemic as a result of the difficulty of managing cyber and data security. Data breaches relating to remote workers and hacking of corporations continue to escalate at an alarming rate, require prompt response to mitigate the fallout.
There have been several significant shifts in the ways that businesses operate and their reliance on digital systems. Many businesses moved to a largely remote working model. Some have had to focus more on online activities in order to keep their brands active and visible. Businesses in a number of industries began to deliver products and services online for the first time. Meanwhile, those that already existed in online spaces saw an increase in business. All of these changes have meant that various security issues have arisen and become more prominent for businesses everywhere.
Increase in corporate data breaches
Cybercriminals have been taking advantage of the unprecedented circumstances caused by the pandemic, exploiting the vulnerabilities of businesses everywhere. Verizon carried out a recent study called ‘Analyzing the COVID-19 data breach landscape‘, which looks at 36 confirmed data breaches that were directly related to the pandemic. In addition, there was 474 data breaches between March and June 2020. Using this data, they determined that many cybercriminals were using the same methods to obtain data as before the pandemic while exploiting the disruption experienced by many businesses.
One way in which corporate data breaches have been impacted by the pandemic is through increased use of ransomware. Seven of the nine malware incidents from Verizon’s 36 COVID-19 data breach cases demonstrated a spike in ransomware usage. Another change is in the way that criminals use phishing emails to play on the emotions of users. In a time when stress is high and mental health problems have increased, many people are more susceptible to phishing emails. Phishing was already a popular and often successful form of cyber attack before and even more so now.
Cost of data breaches for companies hit a record high in 2021
The cost of a data breach also hit a record high during the pandemic, according to IBM Security. They revealed the results of a global study showing the average cost of data breaches for companies surveyed was $4.24 million per incident. This is a 10% increase from the previous year. When remote work was a factor in the breach, data breaches cost an average of $1 million more. Stolen user credentials were the most common cause of data breaches. However, the study also showed the use of methods such as AI, security analytics, and encryption helped to reduce costs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected corporate data breaches due to a number of shifts in the way businesses are working, user behavior, and more. It’s vital for companies to take the right steps to prevent breaches and protect themselves.
If your company recently fell victim to a cyber attack, such as ransomware, or suspected data exfiltration by an unknown hacker, call Enigma Forensics today. We offer emergency incident response services and can help preserve available data, identify the origins of the attacker, and assist with the restoration of company services. Our experts have experience testifying and helping to mitigate risk and maximize your potential of recovering damages and lost data. Call us today at 312-668-0333 for a complimentary consultation.
Don’t fail to prepare for a data breach! Check out what experts Lee Neubecker and Kari Rollins say are the three strategies to prepare for a data breach.
In the famous words of Benjamin Franklin “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Forensic Expert Lee Neubecker and Kari Rollins with Sheppard Mullin agree with our Founding Father and warn that a data breach is inevitable, don’t fail to be prepared!
In her practice, Kari focuses on data privacy, data security and data breach preparedness. Together, they discuss two basic strategies to help you prepare for a data breach; understanding what data you have, where that data resides. Check out our video with transcripts to learn more on how to prepare for a data breach.
Part 2 of our 3-Part Series on Data Breach
The Video Transcripts of How to Prepare for a Data Breach Follows
Lee Neubecker: Hi, I’m back on the show again with Kari Rollins. Thanks for coming back again.
Kari Rollins: Thank you.
LN: We’re continuing our discussion about the Sedona Conference Data Incident Response Guide and some of the best practices of how to prepare for the inevitable data breach and what you should be doing beforehand. So Kari, can you tell me what some of the things are that you advise your clients to do in anticipation of a potential issue?
KR: Sure, and I think planning, in our view, is just as important as the actual response itself and how you investigate. And in the Sedona Response Guide, we’ve pulled together some suggestions for sort of two elements of planning. One is the more technical, understanding what data you have, where that data resides, what your network systems are so that when you do have an incident, and you have to understand what information may have been impacted, to understand whether you have a legal obligation to notify, you have a better understanding and a better map of what those systems are and the information they hold. And a lot of times, using not just counsel and conducting that analysis, but using third party forensic firms to come in and help with that data mapping process is a really important step in getting prepared to understand where are all of the jewels of the company lying within the systems to know what the type of critical impact could be if one of those systems is hit.
LN: And some of the problems I’ve seen is, oftentimes the documents that are distributed and given to legally become outdated, so this is something really that organizations should be periodically updating their network data map and actually using either consultants or tools to help them map out what devices exist on their network.
KR: Right, exactly. And to that point, too, understanding what contracts with those vendors control here. Especially in the event, you have an incident that impacts the system that is managed by a vendor, do you know what information is being controlled by that vendor, and how you all are going to liaise when that incident occurs, who’s going to take control, what the contractual obligations are? Because vendor management is a hot-button issue these days. The FCC itself just came down with a number of guidelines and best practices for vendor management, so being prepared in that sense, knowing where your data is, who your vendors are, who controls it is really important.
LN: Exactly, and I can’t stress enough, it’s important, too, that companies have offline backups of their data because if you have a storage mass go down suddenly, if your company doesn’t have offline documents that describe what the drive geometry for that raid array is, the ability to recover the data becomes compromised and if a hacker gets in and takes out a storage network and the documentation for how to rebuild that storage network is on that drive, that could cause a real problem.
LN: Do you see that this guide is applicable to companies that are concerned about cryptolocker type malware as well?
KR: Sure, I think this Incident Response Guide can help guide companies through any type of incident, whether it’s a ransomware attack, where their information is being withheld from them, whether for ransom or for other purposes, it could just be useful in investigating the so often seen phishing attacks that seek to attack the email accounts of employees and then further perpetrate other credential harvesting schemes. So it’s useful in the sense that it helps companies prepare for any of those types of attacks. And it does so by helping them with the data mapping, giving them some guidelines on that front. And then also helping them to craft an incident response plan, which I think it’s just as you were talking about, being prepared here with an incident response plan is also the other critical component of preparation and it’s not a one-size-fits-all for the companies. You can’t just, there aren’t these stock-standard off-the-shelf policies that you can then apply because each company has different data systems, and different requirements, and different teams. But this guide provides you with resources and guideposts for how you build that plan that makes sense in the context of your company.
LN: Exactly, and depending on where the company operates, if they operate in Illinois, they might be subject to BIPA, the Illinois Biometric Information Protection Act, which has a whole host of unique requirements. So in our next segment, we’ll be talking more about what should be done after a data incident arises. Just because it’s an incident, does not mean it’s a data breach, but there are certain things you want to do, like have your team in place beforehand. But before we leave, what are your recommendations and what does Sedona say about forming a team to be able to respond in advance of an incident?
KR: I think that is probably one of the most critical elements of an incident response plan is really just knowing who your team is going to be. Who are the individuals that you are going to call when an incident occurs and building that team, it’s important to have the right buy-in? Legal, of course, is extremely important because you want to be able to conduct the investigation under privilege, and in a fashion that gets the facts to your legal counsel in a timely and expedient manner so that you can understand the point at which you have information that suggests you’ve had a breach as defined by law. Because the point at which you learn you’ve had a breach is defined by law as to when your clock starts ticking for notification and that’s in some jurisdictions, that’s a really tight turnaround. So in the incident response plan, in the Sedona Conference Instant Response Guide, we talk about having that team. Having the information security teams, knowing who your third-party experts are going to be if you need third party support to come in and investigate, knowing who your crisis management team from a PR perspective would be. So having all of those individuals listed, with the contact information in the back of your plan so you know who to call, sort of the Ghostbusters, but the privacy busters of an incident, who are you going to call when you get an incident. So I think that’s most important because having the right people mobilized is going to save you time in the end.
LN: It’s important, too, that especially with your forensic experts, you want to make sure you’re working with experienced people that understand the sensitivity around email because as you investigate incidents, your initial impression of what happened or what is going on might change as you learn new information, so it’s important not to begin with the word data breach when you don’t know if it’s a true data breach. Because sometimes, an organization has a security incident but there’s no proof that any data actually exfiltrated or that it was used in any way, so that’s part of at least during that response that we’ll talk about next, those are part of the issues that need to be investigated, but being sensitive to that and making sure that privilege is in place and communications is definitely important.
KR: Yeah, exactly.
LN: Well, thanks and tune in to our next segment where we talk about what to do after the inevitable data breach.
View Part 1 of our 3-Part Series on Data Breach
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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.
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.
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.