Weekly Security Roundup with Clinton Pownall

By Clinton Pownall
 President & CEO
 Computer Business

“Stop Using Your Work Laptop or Phone for Personal Stuff, Because I Know You Are.” That’s the in-your-face (but too-often true) headline from a recent ZDNet article on the dangers of mixing work and personal computing. The article points to a survey conducted by antivirus vendor Malwarebytes asking about personal use of work computers. The survey found that “53% reported sending or receiving personal email, 52% read news, 38% shopped online, 25% accessed their social media and 22% downloaded or installed non-company software.” The article quotes figures from a related survey by cybersecurity vendor Kaspersky that found “57% of respondents said they checked work email on their personal smartphone and 36% did work on their personal laptop or desktop. Only 30% said they never used a work device for personal activities.” The article’s author feels those figures, bad as they are, actually understate the problem as many respondents may have under estimated their use, or been afraid of fessing up. For a bit of motivation to avoid mixing business and personal, the article notes a study finding: 20% of companies in one study “are using technology capable of tracking workers’ online activity, or have plans to do so in the future.”

China-Linked Hackers Targeting U.S. Defense Industry via VPN Flaw. Security researchers say at least two groups of China-linked hackers have spent months using a previously undisclosed vulnerability in U.S. virtual private networking devices to spy on the U.S. defense industry, according to a report from Reuters. Utah-based IT company Ivanti said in a statement the hackers took advantage of the flaw in its Pulse Connect Secure suite to break into the systems of “a very limited number of customers.” In a statement, the cyber arm of the Department of Homeland Security said it was working with Ivanti “to better understand the vulnerability in Pulse Secure VPN devices and mitigate potential risks to federal civilian and private sector networks.”

Is There a Russian Connection to the Recent $50 million Ransomware Attack Against Apple? Apple Computer faces a $50 million ransomware demand for technical drawings and other intellectual property stolen by cyber criminals of a group known as REVil, according to a recent report in Threatpost. One disturbing element of the report is there may be at least a loose Russian connection. Threatpost writes: “REvil’s possible connection with the Russian government and its high-profile attack on America’s largest tech company should be viewed as another act of aggression by Vladimir Putin to send a signal to the new Biden Administration,” according to Lior Div, CEO of Cybereason. “This attack is a direct challenge to the Biden administration from Russia. When the largest U.S. supplier of consumer technology and products is hit by this type of attack, the message from Russia to Western companies and governments is loud and clear: We can control you.” Div suggests: “Putin will use the plausible deniability excuse and claim that the hacking group associated with the attack is not connected to Moscow.” But reading between the lines, Div adds: “Russia is telling the United States that it can steal our blueprints and our IP—and that these types of attacks will continue bigger than ever with higher ransom demands.”

“Terrified” Cyber Insurers Face “Existential Battle” for their Future Because of Attacks. That’s the word from some cybersecurity experts monitoring companies that insure against losses from cyber attacks, according to a recent article in CSO Online. The article reads “Faced with increasing payouts and a likely storm of litigation around the recent SolarWinds and Microsoft Exchange server compromises, cyber insurers are facing an ‘existential battle’ for their future, a leading cybersecurity researcher and privacy consultant has warned.” John Selby, head of research and training at privacy risk management consultancy Privcore and a researcher at Macquarie University’s Faculty of Business and Economics, spoke of legal wrangling over what constitutes an excluded “act of war” when dealing with hacks perpetrated by bad actors employed by foreign governments. “There have been a lot of attacks over the years that have caused insurers to lose sleep,” Selby says. “The aggregated risks in other insurance policies have the insurance industry quite terrified, because they’re worried it will affect either their solvency or their credit ratings, and their ability to pay policies out generally because they’ll go bankrupt.”

“Geico Admits Fraudsters Stole Customers’ Driver’s License Numbers for Months.” That’s the headline in a recent TechCrunch article about a breach at Geico, the second-largest auto insurer in the U.S. According to the article, the insurance giant did not say how many customers were affected by the breach but said the fraudsters accessed customer driver’s license numbers between January 21 and March 1. Reporting on the incident, KnowTechie, writes: “The insurer reckons it was done to apply for things like unemployment benefits, although it can’t be sure that any license numbers have been used in this way.” KnowTechie advises: “If you’ve noticed any official letters talking about unemployment benefits that you know weren’t filed by you, contact your state’s unemployment agency/department to let them know the claim is fraudulent.”

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. He is a member of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, and advises law enforcement agencies on cyber security. Pownall serves on several boards and committees and has a strong affiliation with various arts and education groups, local school districts, and served in regional efforts of the Bill & Melinda Gates NextGen Foundation. He’s served 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.