The Office of Inspector General has audited NASA’s insider threat program:
While NASA has a fully operational insider threat program for its classified systems, the vast majority of the Agency’s information technology (IT) systems—including many containing high-value assets or critical infrastructure—are unclassified and are therefore not covered by its current insider threat program. Consequently, the Agency may be facing a higher-than-necessary risk to its unclassified systems and data. While NASA’s exclusion of unclassified systems from its insider threat program is common among federal agencies, adding those systems to a multi-faceted security program could provide an additional level of maturity to the program and better protect agency resources. According to Agency officials, expanding the insider threat program to unclassified systems would benefit the Agency’s cybersecurity posture if incremental improvements, such as focusing on IT systems and people at the most risk, were implemented. However, on-going concerns including staffing challenges, technology resource limitations, and lack of funding to support such an expansion would need to be addressed prior to enhancing the existing program.
Further amplifying the complexities of insider threats are the cross-discipline challenges surrounding cybersecurity expertise. At NASA, responsibilities for unclassified systems are largely shared between the Office of Protective Services and the Office of the Chief Information Officer. In addition, Agency contracts are managed by the Office of Procurement while grants and cooperative agreements are managed by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. Nonetheless, in our view, mitigating the risk of an insider threat is a team sport in which a comprehensive insider threat risk assessment would allow the Agency to gather key information on weak spots or gaps in administrative processes and cybersecurity. At a time when there is growing concern about the continuing threats of foreign influence, taking the proactive step to conduct a risk assessment to evaluate NASA’s unclassified systems ensures that gaps cannot be exploited in ways that undermine the Agency’s ability to carry out its mission.
Posted on March 23, 2022 at 6:16 AM •
Insider data theft:
Dutch police have arrested two individuals on Friday for allegedly selling data from the Dutch health ministry’s COVID-19 systems on the criminal underground.
According to Verlaan, the two suspects worked in DDG call centers, where they had access to official Dutch government COVID-19 systems and databases.
They were working from home:
“Because people are working from home, they can easily take photos of their screens. This is one of the issues when your administrative staff is working from home,” Victor Gevers, Chair of the Dutch Institute for Vulnerability Disclosure, told ZDNet in an interview today.
All of this remote call-center work brings with it additional risks.
EDITED TO ADD (2/11) More information (translated from Dutch).
Posted on January 27, 2021 at 8:59 AM •
No one who reads this blog regularly will be surprised:
A former employee of prominent home security company ADT has admitted that he hacked into the surveillance feeds of dozens of customer homes, doing so primarily to spy on naked women or to leer at unsuspecting couples while they had sex.
Authorities say that the IT technician “took note of which homes had attractive women, then repeatedly logged into these customers’ accounts in order to view their footage for sexual gratification.” He did this by adding his personal email address to customer accounts, which ultimately hooked him into “real-time access to the video feeds from their homes.”
Posted on January 25, 2021 at 9:33 AM •
Greg Priore, the person in charge of the rare book room at the Carnegie Library, stole from it for almost two decades before getting caught.
It’s a perennial problem: trusted insiders have to be trusted.
Posted on September 2, 2020 at 7:02 AM •
Motherboard is reporting that this week’s Twitter hack involved a bribed insider. Twitter has denied it.
I have been taking press calls all day about this. And while I know everyone wants to speculate about the details of the hack, we just don’t know—and probably won’t for a couple of weeks.
EDITED TO ADD (8/10): It was social engineering and not bribery.
Posted on July 17, 2020 at 6:04 AM •
Add to the “not very smart criminals” file:
According to court documents, Tinley provided software services for Siemens’ Monroeville, PA offices for nearly ten years. Among the work he was asked to perform was the creation of spreadsheets that the company was using to manage equipment orders.
The spreadsheets included custom scripts that would update the content of the file based on current orders stored in other, remote documents, allowing the company to automate inventory and order management.
But while Tinley’s files worked for years, they started malfunctioning around 2014. According to court documents, Tinley planted so-called “logic bombs” that would trigger after a certain date, and crash the files.
Every time the scripts would crash, Siemens would call Tinley, who’d fix the files for a fee.
Posted on July 26, 2019 at 6:05 AM •
Last month, Kaspersky discovered that Asus’s live update system was infected with malware, an operation it called Operation Shadowhammer. Now we learn that six other companies were targeted in the same operation.
As we mentioned before, ASUS was not the only company used by the attackers. Studying this case, our experts found other samples that used similar algorithms. As in the ASUS case, the samples were using digitally signed binaries from three other Asian vendors:
- Electronics Extreme, authors of the zombie survival game called Infestation: Survivor Stories,
- Innovative Extremist, a company that provides Web and IT infrastructure services but also used to work in game development,
- Zepetto, the South Korean company that developed the video game Point Blank.
According to our researchers, the attackers either had access to the source code of the victims’ projects or they injected malware at the time of project compilation, meaning they were in the networks of those companies. And this reminds us of an attack that we reported on a year ago: the CCleaner incident.
Also, our experts identified three additional victims: another video gaming company, a conglomerate holding company and a pharmaceutical company, all in South Korea. For now we cannot share additional details about those victims, because we are in the process of notifying them about the attack.
Me on supply chain security.
EDITED TO ADD (6/12): Kaspersky’s expanded report.
Posted on May 16, 2019 at 1:34 PM •
Notice this bit from an article on the arrest of Christopher Hasson:
It was only after Hasson’s arrest last Friday at his workplace that the chilling plans prosecutors assert he was crafting became apparent, detected by an internal Coast Guard program that watches for any “insider threat.”
The program identified suspicious computer activity tied to Hasson, prompting the agency’s investigative service to launch an investigation last fall, said Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, a service spokesman.
Any detection system of this kind is going to have to balance false positives with false negatives. Could it be something as simple as visiting right-wing extremist websites or watching their videos? It just has to be something more sophisticated than researching pressure cookers. I’m glad that Hasson was arrested before he killed anyone rather than after, but I worry that these systems are basically creating thoughtcrime.
Posted on February 27, 2019 at 6:22 AM •
Impressive police work:
In a daring move that placed his life in danger, the I.T. consultant eventually gave the F.B.I. his system’s secret encryption keys in 2011 after he had moved the network’s servers from Canada to the Netherlands during what he told the cartel’s leaders was a routine upgrade.
A Dutch article says that it’s a BlackBerry system.
El Chapo had his IT person install “…spyware called FlexiSPY on the ‘special phones’ he had given to his wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, as well as to two of his lovers, including one who was a former Mexican lawmaker.” That same software was used by the FBI when his IT person turned over the keys. Yet again we learn the lesson that a backdoor can be used against you.
And it doesn’t have to be with the IT person’s permission. A good intelligence agency can use the IT person’s authorizations without his knowledge or consent. This is why the NSA hunts sysadmins.
Slashdot thread. Hacker News thread. Boing Boing post.
EDITED TO ADD (2/12): Good information here.
Posted on January 16, 2019 at 6:53 AM •
Princeton’s Karen Levy has a good article computer security and the intimate partner threat:
When you learn that your privacy has been compromised, the common advice is to prevent additional access—delete your insecure account, open a new one, change your password. This advice is such standard protocol for personal security that it’s almost a no-brainer. But in abusive romantic relationships, disconnection can be extremely fraught. For one, it can put the victim at risk of physical harm: If abusers expect digital access and that access is suddenly closed off, it can lead them to become more violent or intrusive in other ways. It may seem cathartic to delete abusive material, like alarming text messages—but if you don’t preserve that kind of evidence, it can make prosecution more difficult. And closing some kinds of accounts, like social networks, to hide from a determined abuser can cut off social support that survivors desperately need. In some cases, maintaining a digital connection to the abuser may even be legally required (for instance, if the abuser and survivor share joint custody of children).
Threats from intimate partners also change the nature of what it means to be authenticated online. In most contexts, access credentials—like passwords and security questions—are intended to insulate your accounts against access from an adversary. But those mechanisms are often completely ineffective for security in intimate contexts: The abuser can compel disclosure of your password through threats of violence and has access to your devices because you’re in the same physical space. In many cases, the abuser might even own your phone—or might have access to your communications data because you share a family plan. Things like security questions are unlikely to be effective tools for protecting your security, because the abuser knows or can guess at intimate details about your life—where you were born, what your first job was, the name of your pet.
Posted on March 5, 2018 at 11:13 AM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.