IAPP 2016 Global Privacy Summit Recap

The IAPP held its annual Global Privacy Summit in Washington DC between April 3rd and 6th.  Drawing more than 3,500 attendees, the IAPP said it was the largest summit they had ever put on, and to their knowledge the largest of its type in the world. eWhite House Watch had the opportunity to attend the conference as part of the press corps.  As it has in years past, the conference combined fascinating opportunities to hear about cutting edge issues in privacy law with great opportunities to connect with privacy professionals from around the globe.   The conference drew some of the best speakers and biggest names in the privacy community.  For example, one of the keynote speakers was Brad Smith, Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer and President.  Mr. Smith’s theme was that this is the best of times and the worst of times for privacy in America.  “Privacy is one of the defining issues of our time.”  With everything being connected, we can all benefit from the use of big data, advances in human centered technology, and vast networks of people and computers.  But, hacks like the one Sony experienced, and concerns regarding encryption’s role in the Paris attacks, are just a few examples of the challenges facing privacy professionals.  He emphasized that there is no single answer and that the private sector and governments need to work together to draw proper lines that protect people’s privacy while also providing for their safety.  In short, there is a lot of work to do, but Mr. Smith emphasized that “Privacy should be a cause worth embracing.”

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Cyberwar Escalates in the Middle East

  Author: Sarah Austin   On March 31, 2015 the DHS reported two new malware campaigns spotted in the Middle East. The first malware campaign is a brand-new information gathering tool called Trojan Laziok. The operators of Trojan Laziok have been targeting oil, gas and helium companies in the Middle East since January 2015. This malware infects the companies’ computer systems via a phishing email that contains an infected Microsoft Excel file. Once the email is opened and the malware has infiltrated the system, it collects vital data and information regarding the companies’ anti-virus protection. Access to information about the companies’ anti-virus protection allows the malware’s operators to remain undetected while continuing to infect the companies system with more advanced malware, such as Cyberats and Zbots, which can record audio and video from the infected computers and monitor keystrokes.

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In the Clear after 14 Years? Not Quite.

Looks like mistakes are finally catching up to the group of hackers with suspected ties to the NSA, referred to as “Equation Group” by Kaspersky Researchers, as reported in Ars Technica this past week. After almost 14 years of going unnoticed, it looks like Equation Group is finally getting the recognition they deserve. The Ars Technica article exposed information regarding the astounding capabilities of Equation Group, as well several reasons why it seems it’s more likely than not affiliated with the NSA. As seen in previous posts, the NSA is a reoccurring topic when it comes to cyber security. As reported, the information from the Report  released this past week from the Kaspersky Security Analysis Summit proves why Equation Group is being called “probably the most sophisticated computer attack group in the world.” The Ars Technica article discusses Equation Group’s impressive record, with its most note-worthy achievements including a 2002/2003 hack involving Oracle databased installation CDs and a 2009 attack carried out by infecting CDs sent to specific researchers from a recent scientific conference they had attended. According to the Kaspersky website, Equation Group uses “implants” in order to infect victims and obtain information. According to the Kaspersky report, Equation Group is responsible for more than 500 attacks in 42 countries, although it is estimated by some that the real number is probably much higher considering its impressive ability to prevent themselves from being tracked. As pointed out in the article, Kaspersky researchers refrained from specifically naming the NSA in their report, although the procedural similarities between Equation Group and operations known to be the NSA are striking. Aside from this, as noted in the Ars Technica article, the time and resources, as well as Equation Group’s advanced capabilities are things “people have come to expect from a spy agency sponsored by the world’s wealthiest nation.” Despite keeping quiet since the report’s release this past week, it should be interesting to see if the NSA comes up with a response or acknowledges the allegations made in the report at all. Either way, Equation Group definitely poses a serious threat to cyber security worldwide, whether tied to the NSA or not. Or, maybe not.  Depending on how you look at it, this program may be exactly the kind of program the NSA should be running, instead of the broad domestic surveillance it’s developed in recent years – here’s why.

President Obama Rejuvenates the Cyber Troops: Is the Private Sector be on Board?

This past week, President Obama met with tech gurus at Stanford University to discuss cybersecurity and emphasized the need to focus more efforts on combating cyber security threats. The theme of his speech was the unification of efforts by the private sector and public sector. The flexibility of the private sector combined with the wealth of data collected by the government could, the President hopes make for an aggressive partnership capable of combating cyber threats. While the President’s remarks were very broad, a plenary session of corporate leaders spoke about two issues that might define a cyber security relationship. First, the need to reduce outdated legislation that hinders cyber protection efforts and Second, the definition of “data” that is to be shared.   During a plenary panel, led by Director of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, corporate leaders talked about the the growing need to face cyber threats facing their industries and hurdles to doing so. One of the themes that each executive touched on was that outdated legislation and regulatory measures hinder the company’s ability to face modern threats. For example, Kenneth Chenault of American Express, highlighted that limits on access to customers via text messaging and email hindered Amex’s ability to rapidly respond to such threats. Additionally, Mr. Chenault called for greater transparency in the way in which the government collects and shares it’s data with private industry, claiming that less than 1% of all threats facing Amex were sourced from government entities.   Mr. Bernard Thompson, from Kaiser Permanente emphasized that private industry should not be willing to blindly hand over their data to the government. Healthcare data is sensitive information and he said that the relationship between government and private industry should be clearly defined by the type of data industry is willing to share. He emphasized that he would under no circumstances be willing to share “content” with the government, but would provide information about those attempting to gain access to that content. Mr. Thompson reiterated the point that outdated legislation continues to hinder Kaiser Permanente’s ability to face growing threats. Financial and Healthcare corporations like American Express and Kaiser Permanente respectively, have built their reputations on trust with their customers. Any talk of data sharing will need to be clearly defined. Additionally, any government led cyber security policy will inevitably usher in a series of new regulations and with them regulatory cost. Corporations, unlike our sluggish bureaucracy must make cuts were new regulatory measures are needed to be enforced. A certain degree of deregulation of outdated measures will be necessary to help corporations create a lean cyber fighting mechanisms.  

Obama’s Cybersecurity Initiative: Substance? Or Hot Air?

Success of the President's proposed cyber legislation hinges on the willingness of corporations to share their data with the government.  But why would a company want to share data with the government? While the Sony hack was shocking to most, it’s unlikely that corporations will be willing to trust the government with their customers most sensitive data. For one, businesses owe a duty to their customers to maintain their data in accordance with their agreements with and expectations of their customers.  Also, despite billions of dollars in funding, the federal bureaucracy has failed to meet its own federal cybersecurity standards. Using data from General Accounting Office, George Mason University researchers found that in 2006, there were more than 5,503 cyber-breaches on federal IT systems, in 2013 - 61,213 cyber-breaches. Since 2002, the federal government has had its own legislation similar to the one proposed by the President last week, and despite $78.8 billion in funding, the number of IT security breaches has increased more than 10 times since 2006. Critics argue criminalizing cybercrime will not prevent what Americans fear - industrial espionage and oversea hackers. Summary of President’s proposal: 1.      Cyber information sharing between private sector and government, with liability protection for companies 2.      Expanding RICO to include cyber-crime 3.      Criminalizing the sale of botnets and the sale of banking information overseas 4.      Greater restrictions on selling spyware 5.      Gives Courts the authority to shut down botnets engaged in distributed denial of service attacks and other criminal activity 6.      Making rogue insiders punishable by the CFAA (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act) 7.      Uniform national data breach notification - 30 days within attack 8.      Establish a consumer policy bill of rights Additionally, critics argue that the law could hinder U.S. internet users who have no intention of committing cybercrimes but who may be out of compliance with a U.S. judgment in an effort to debilitate cybercrime. What is lacking from this bill is a mechanism that actively seeks out global cyber threats; and while the new legislation may reign in domestic cybercriminals - it does nothing to relieve our increasing threat - rapidly emerging economies with no form of legal redress for victims of cybercrimes. Despite bills that promise to reign in cybercriminals, it remains incumbent on companies to strengthen their own defenses.

SOTU Watch: Obama Cybersecurity Boost

SOTU Watch: Obama Cybersecurity Boost   With great expectation that Cyber Policy will be a significant focus of the upcoming State of the Union address (SOTU) – more than any other of this administration’s past SOTUs – we feature our SOTU Watch series leading up to, during, and after January 20th’s main event.   Earlier this week, President Barack Obama vowed to introduce three new pieces of legislation aimed at providing online protections for consumers and students. Obama labeled the new legislation the “consumer privacy bill of rights” and promised that his proposals aim to protect consumer privacy and “ensure that private industry can keep innovating.”   President Obama is launching this program at a time when consumers and industry leaders are still coming to terms with the devastating hack of Sony Entertainment this past December, among other high-profile breaches. Ironically, on Monday the Administration witnessed another embarrassing example of the potential power of hackers when people claiming to be supporters of ISIS took control of the Pentagon’s social media accounts scoring a propaganda move for the group.   President Obama outlined three new pieces of legislation:   A consumer privacy bill of rights, a set of rules about how technology companies can use and store sensitive information about their consumers.   A set of standards as for when a company must reveal that it has been breached and when a credit card or bank is breached - at present states have their own rules.   A bill that would place limits on data that is collected on students using technology in the classroom.   In theory these are uncontroversial ideas, but the politics of cybersecurity in the United States is not so clear cut. Especially since the Edward Snowden incident pitted privacy activist against the government security establishment. Additionally, it unclear whether Republicans share the same definition of “cybersecurity” as the President. While google and yahoo lobby budgets continue to grow, it will be interesting to see just what shape a “cybersecurity” definition will take. Nevertheless, President Obama says that he hopes that Congress will join him in making his proposed laws the law of the land.