Weekly Security Roundup with Clinton Pownall

By Clinton Pownall
 President & CEO
 Computer Business
 Consultants

“NSA Director Says Intelligence Has a Big Blind Spot: Domestic Internet Activity.” That’s the headline in a recent Washington Post report on National Security Agency Director Gen. Paul Nakasone testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee.  He stressed that foreign hackers are taking advantage of the intelligence community’s “blind spot”—domestic Internet activity. The article notes: “The NSA only has authorization to monitor foreign Internet traffic. And although the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have some authority over Internet traffic within the United States, the authorities require a warrant. It’s against this backdrop that some experts want to expand NSA authorities to monitor domestic Internet traffic under limited circumstances.” Speaking of recent cyber attacks by Russian agents, Gen. Nakasone said: “It’s not the fact that we can’t connect the dots. We can’t see all of the dots.”


Recent Attack on the Oldsmar, Florida Water Treatment Plant is a Warning. That’s the bottom line in a recent BetaNews interview with James Carder, Chief Security Officer and Vice President of Labs at security company LogRhythm. In an interview exploring the growing risk of cyberthreats to critical infrastructure, Carder pointed to the recent attack on the Oldsmar facility, in which cyber intruders attempted to increase the level of lye in the water. Carder said: “The Florida water hack cast a bright light onto the vulnerable nature of our nation’s critical infrastructure. There is a great need for owners of these entities, such as utility, manufacturing, agriculture and banking, to up their awareness level for evolving threats and adopt technologies that offer proper protection.” While he said critical infrastructure attacks make up a small fraction of cyber attacks, the impact of such attacks “can be absolutely catastrophic.”


“Employee Lockdown Stress May Spark Cybersecurity Risk.” That’s the headline in a recent Threatpost report on a study that found that stressed-out employees in a remote-working world could be a major contributor to poor cybersecurity practices for companies. The study, which involved 2,000 office workers in Germany and the U.K. found that younger employees as well as people caring for children or other family members reported more stress in their lives, as well riskier IT behaviors when compared to other demographics. “67 percent of employees under 30 said they use shadow IT (unsanctioned apps, services and equipment) to help them to perform certain tasks more easily, compared to 27 percent of older workers. Also, 55 percent of the younger group reported making more mistakes when working from home, such as copying in the wrong people into emails—in comparison, only 17 percent of the over-30s reported such mistakes. And, nearly two-thirds of the younger group (63 percent) stated that distractions while working from home negatively impact decision-making, compared to 26 percent of older people.”


German Members of Parliament Hit by Russian-Backed Phishing Attacks. Infosecurity Magazine reports that German lawmakers have been targeted by phishing attacks reportedly linked to Russian intelligence services. Local reports claimed that seven members of the Bundestag and 31 members of the state parliament had their inboxes compromised, although these appear to have been personal rather than official accounts. Infosecurity Magazine reports: “The campaign has been attributed to a GRU-linked group known as ‘Ghostwriter.’ Ghostwriter operations in the past have been mainly focused on creating and disseminating online propaganda designed to turn people, especially in eastern Europe and the Baltic, against the US and NATO.”


Clinton A. Pownall is the President & CEO of Computer Business Consultants and has been in the IT field since 1990. Pownall served in the U.S. Navy for six years as a Weapons Systems Technician and has a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering. Through Computer Business, he was one of the first to pioneer VoIP technology using satellite communications. Pownall serves on several boards and committees and has a strong affiliation with various education groups, local school districts, and served in regional efforts of the Bill & Melinda Gates NextGen Foundation. He serves as a Vice President of the Board of Director for the Orlando Shakes Theater and is heavily involved in the South Lake Chamber of Commerce, West Orange Chamber of Commerce, and the Orlando Economic Partnership.