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This week's newsletter is dedicated to all the public sector IT & Security Leaders out there doing what they do best and definitely not recieving enough recognition or accolades.
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In this week's edition:
- Cyber Bits & Bytes
- Early Warning - Bad Actors and Nation States Are Eyeing Their Next Big Prize
- Featured Article - 5 Reasons Zero Trust is Increasingly Important for Protecting Public Sector Organizations
- Cyber Quote - Cyber Attacks Are Like Natural Disasters
- Free Cybersecurity Resources - eBooks, tools, apps & services
- Trending Story - No Evidence of A Cyber Attack Behind FAA System Outage
- Cybersecurity News Highlights
- Cyber Scam of the Week - Fraudulent Funds Transfers
- Social Posts of the Week
Cyber Bits & Bytes
Student Loan Breach Exposes 2.5M Records by Nate Nelson on Threat Post titled: "Ransomware Protection: How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks". EdFinancial and the Oklahoma Student Loan Authority (OSLA) are notifying over 2.5 million loanees that their personal data was exposed in a data breach. The target of the breach was Nelnet Servicing, the Lincoln, Neb.-based servicing system and web portal provider for OSLA and EdFinancial.
Iowa’s largest school district cancels classes after cyberattack, per a Bleepin Computer article by Sergiu Gatlan. Des Moines Public Schools, the largest school district in Iowa, canceled all classes on Tuesday after taking all networked systems offline in response to "unusual activity" detected on its network one day before.
Interesting trend as NJ governor bars TikTok, other platforms from state devices. The decision applies to state agencies under the executive branch and comes as a third of U.S. states have moved to prohibit the platform on government devices.
Cybercriminals Starting To use ChatGPT – CPR’s analysis of several major underground hacking communities shows that there are already first instances of cybercriminals using OpenAI to develop malicious tools. Read more via this CheckPoint Security article.
New York state adds $35MM to 2023 cybersecurity budget as attacks soar. New York Governor Kathy Hochul is adding an additional $35 million in funding to the state’s $61.9 million cybersecurity budget for this year, while also creating a new team focusing on protecting critical infrastructure according to an article on The Record.
Bad Actors and Nation States Are Eyeing Their Next Big Prize
Many public sector organizations like cities, counties, schools and universities have lots of IoT, SCADA and ICS that provide important services. Unfortunately, these devices are often vulnerable of as more of them are connected to the internet or joined to the primary network. They then become potential targets for cybercriminals and nation-states as they can exploit vulnerabilities in IoT devices to gain access to sensitive information, disrupt operations or worse. This is especially concerning for public sector organizations, as they may be targeted for disrupting critical infrastructure or accessing confidential information. So, it is important for these organizations to stay informed about the latest IoT threats and take steps to secure their devices and networks.
Here is an excerpt from a recent article from CNBC titled: “The dark web's criminal minds see Internet of Things as next big hacking prize”, that talks about this very issue.
You can read more of the article over on CNBC’s website.*
In addition to the above, it's important for public sector organizations to understand that IoT devices often have a weak security posture and are particularly vulnerable to attacks. They may have default passwords that are easily guessed, lack software updates and patches, and have poor encryption. This makes it easy for attackers to gain access to these devices and use them as a foothold to move deeper into an organization's network. Additionally, IoT devices often have a wide range of capabilities and access to sensitive information, which can be a treasure trove for cybercriminals looking to steal valuable data or disrupt operations. Furthermore, as the number of IoT devices in use continues to grow, the scale of potential attacks increases as well.
Public sector organizations should therefore take a proactive approach to securing their IoT devices by implementing best practices such as regular software updates and security assessments, using strong passwords and authentication methods, and monitoring network traffic for suspicious activity. Don’t become the public sector organization that is highlighted in the wrong way in the local or national press, take action before it is too late.
Featured Original Article
5 Reasons Zero Trust is Increasingly Important for Protecting Public Sector Organizations
Use of Zero Trust in Public Sector is Rising
In recent years, the adoption of the zero-trust framework has become increasingly important for public sector organizations, which face an increasing number of cyber threats, a trend toward remote work, and the need to comply with a variety of regulations.
Government agencies, educational institutions, and healthcare organizations handle a large amount of sensitive data and are frequently targeted by cybercriminals for a variety of reasons. Nation-state hackers may seek to gather intelligence or disrupt operations, whereas hacktivist groups may seek to expose sensitive information or cause disruption. Public sector organizations must be vigilant not only against these external threats but also the possibility of insider threats, whether deliberate or unintentional.
Pandemic Introduced New Security Challenges
Additionally, the pandemic accelerated the trend toward remote work and learning in the public sector, with an increasing number of people now accessing resources remotely. While this has allowed organizations to continue operations, it has also introduced new security challenges, as employees and students may be accessing sensitive data via personal devices or insecure networks.
5 Reasons Zero Trust Is Needed
We will examine five important reasons why the adoption of zero-trust security protocols is essential for protecting public sector organizations. These include the elevated cyberthreats to which these organizations are exposed, the propensity for remote work, the requirement to adhere to various regulations, the complexity of IT environments, and the possibility of insider threats. By understanding these challenges and the role the zero trust framework can play in addressing them, organizations in the public sector can better protect themselves and the sensitive data they handle.
Public sector organizations are increasingly putting a greater emphasis on adopting the zero trust framework. Here are five important reasons why they are:
1. Increased cyber threats: Due to the sensitive nature of the data they handle and the visibility of their operations, public sector organizations are particularly susceptible to cyber threats. There are a variety of bad actors, ranging from nation-state hackers to hacktivist groups, who may target these organizations for a wide range of reasons. Zero-trust security protocols add an extra layer of protection by continuously verifying the identity of users and devices both internally and externally and limiting access to resources based on a privileged access.
2. Remote work: The pandemic has accelerated the trend toward remote access in the public sector, with an increasing number of employees, students, etc..., now accessing resources remotely. This has introduced new security challenges, as they access sensitive data using personal devices or unsecured networks. Additionally, this move has in most cases more than doubled the attack surface and introduced new threat vectors that must now secured. The Zero Trust framework can help mitigate these risks by requiring multi-factor authentication and enforcing strict access controls both internally and externally when resources are being remotely accessed.
3. Compliance requirements: Public sector organizations are frequently required to adhere to stringent compliance requirements, such as the handling of personally identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI). Zero-trust can aid in ensuring compliance by providing a transparent audit trail of resource access and allowing organizations to enforce strict access controls both internally and externally. It only allows for tailored access to the applications, data, and systems they need and are approved to access.
4. Complex IT environments: Implementing, managing and maintaining traditional security measures, such as firewalls, multiple security applications and virtual private networks, can be challenging in the typically complex IT environments of public sector organizations. On the other hand, the zero trust security framework is designed to be simpler and streamlines security policy creation and management, making it suitable for complex IT environments. An example of this simplicity is you trust no one and require everyone to authenticate to get access to resources, where previously you had to create, implement and maintain complex access rules and controls with little to no visibility.
5. Insider threats: Public sector organizations are also at risk of insider threats, whether intentional or unintentional insider threats pose a risk to organizations in the public sector. By continuously verifying the identity of users and devices and limiting access to resources based on a need-to-know basis, zero trust protocols can help mitigate these risks. This can prevent unauthorized access or the accidental disclosure of sensitive information.
As the threat landscape evolves and the trend toward remote work persists, it is essential for public sector organizations to remain current on the most recent security best practices and technologies. The implementation of zero-trust guidelines is a crucial step in this direction, as it can assist organizations in protecting themselves and the sensitive data they handle.
Significant Long-term Benefits Using Zero Trust
Although the adoption of zero-trust protocols requires a certain level of investment and effort, the long-term benefits are well worth the investment and effort. By taking a proactive approach to security and continuously verifying the identity of users and devices, public sector organizations can protect themselves and the communities they serve more effectively.
The continued adoption of the zero-trust framework by public sector organizations is crucial for their protection against a wide variety of cyber threats that are becoming increasingly sophisticated. It provides a much-needed additional layer of protection, helps prevent unauthorized access or accidental disclosure of sensitive data, and ensures compliance with applicable regulations.
';--have i been pwned? - Check you phone or email for a breach
Web Security Academy - Free, online web security training
Cyber Scam of the Week
Fraudulent Funds Transfers
Organizations often use email to send their employees invoices that they need to pay. Now, cybercriminals are taking advantage of this process by using fraudulent funds transfer (FFT) scams. In FFT scams, cybercriminals try to manipulate you into transferring your organization’s funds to their bank accounts.
To start an FFT scam, cybercriminals use social engineering to steal an email account from your organization. Then, they use this account to send you an email pretending to be an executive from your organization. This email lists bank account information and states that you need to send a payment to the bank account as soon as possible. If you send this payment, you won’t be paying an important invoice for your organization. Instead, you’ll be sending your organization’s money directly to cybercriminals.
Follow the tips below to stay safe from similar scams:
Always think before you click! Cybercriminals can use fake invoices to alarm you and trick you into clicking impulsively.
Never send money to a bank account provided in an email. Instead, navigate to the organization’s official website to submit a secure payment.
To verify the legitimacy of an invoice, reach out to the person who allegedly sent the email by phone or in person.
Just a couple interesting social posts
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