North Korean WannaCry Ignites Government-Industry Collective Defense



In a Monday Wall Street Journal op-ed Thomas P. Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser, declared “[t]he [WannaCry] attack was widespread and cost billions, and North Korea is directly responsible.” The findings are based on evidence says Bossert, and he is backed up by UK and Microsoft.

A Washington Post Bossert quote ratchets up the call for closer government-industry cyberdefenses. “[S]ome say that defending cyberspace is impossible and that hackers are inevitable. I disagree. . . . Government and industry must work together, now more than ever, if we are serious.”

Today, US and UK officials suggested it was highly likely the Lazarus Group was backed by the North Korean government. Facebook deleted accounts associated with Lazarus last week “to make it harder for them to conduct their activities,” reports The Guardian,  Facebook announced it acted with Microsoft “and other members of the security community” to disrupt the group’s activities.

A few hours ago Axious reports that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans on intervening in U.S. company cybersecurity issues when necessary.

“The Department of Homeland Security is now calling on all companies to commit to U.S. collective defense, per Jeanette Manfra, assistant secretary for the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications at DHS. But Bossert wouldn’t go so far as to say that an attack on a U.S. company constitutes an attack on the country.

DHS plans to move beyond offering voluntary assistance on cybersecurity issues and instead plans on intervening directly when necessary, per Manfra.”

Watch for much closer public-private actions to combat state-actor cyberattacks. 

Whose Job is it to Protect Corporate Data Stores from State Actor Cyberattacks?


It’s hard not to notice, that constant breach of data under corporate care has become our new normal. Headlines seem almost redundant — another data breach revealed, some very tardy.  In this barrage of breach announcements, we hear more about state-actors originating cyberattacks on corporate data stores. So, whose job is it to protect against foreign state attacks on corporate data stores?

“As we all have witnessed: no company, individual or even government agency is immune from these [cyber] threats.” So said Marisa Mayer, former Yahoo CEO, during her November Senate testimony on the Yahoo breach. Despite years of heading off may cyberintrusions and leveraging white hackers to test their defenses, Mayer says Yahoo still does not know exactly how “Russian agents intruded on our systems and stole our users’ data.”

Last year, North Korean hackers almost succeeded in stealing $1 billion from the New York Federal Reserve, after hacking into the Bangladesh Central Bank. The misspelling of “foundation” as “fandation” is the only thing that stopped the heist.  Let’s not forget,  Pyongyang Sony Pictures hack to stop release of an unflattering movie.

In 2011, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un started investing beyond cyberattack prowess for warfare, with a new focus on training hackers for theft, harassment and political-score settling. Researchers believe that 1/5th of Pyonyang cyberattacks originate from their hackers stationed in India, while other attacks are routed through Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand and other countries.

“Only stiffer enforcement and stringent penalties will help incentivize companies to properly safeguard consumer information and promptly notify them when their data has been compromised,” said Senator Nelson during the Yahoo hearing. The Senate committee chairman, added that the patchwork of state regulations on breach notifications must be replaced with a federal law.

On another front, the SEC plans to update its cybersecurity guidance for publicly traded companies, after the Equifax fiasco. Equifax discovered the attack in July but waited until September to inform shareholders. During that window, Equifax executives sold company stock. A company investigation exonerated them. A senior SEC regulator wants  faster cyber intrusion notices to investors, and revision of post-breach insider trading policies.

Is federal cyber-regulation of the private sector the answer?

In a Friday the 13th London speech, DOJ’s Rod Rosenstein said law enforcement’s  goal is to disrupt and deter future attacks, and punish cybercriminals. The Deputy Attorney General observed that “foreign criminals regularly break into systems to steal ideas that make our nation strong and competitive in the global marketplace.” Rosenstein recommends corporations immediately tell law enforcement when they discover a breach, in part so the company can gain access to sophisticated government tools.

What is law enforcement doing to head off these attacks before they happen?
Is Homeland Security doing enough to help corporations protect data from cyberattacks?

Ransomware attacks sure got corporate security folks’ attention this summer. WannaCry and NotPetya wreaked havoc on companies from FedEx to Merck.

SC Magazine places heaps of blame on the National Security Agency (NSA) for the  these  attacks. The NSA originally discovered the Microsoft security vulnerabilities, didn’t tell anyone and let their own hacking tools for the flaws get stolen by cybercriminals.

If the NSA can be hacked, how can corporations fend off nation-state and sophisticated hackers?

Then there’s the ultimate economic cyberattack —  where a nation-state aims to shut down the power supply or scramble bank records with a cyberattack. The NotPetya  attack gripped Ukraine’s power grid this summer. Ukraine claims Russia was behind this cyberwarfare.

Wired reports that the NotPetya October follow-on, “Black Rabbit attack” — locked hundreds of machines and hampered critical infrastructure in Russia, Ukraine, Germany and Turkey — may raise doubts about Russian involvement in NotPetya. Though one of the cybersecurity firms commenting on the situation is under F.B.I. investigation for links to  Russian intelligence.

Is this a spy novel or what?

These massive destructive attacks on critical infrastructure and data manipulation worry the head of the US National Security Agency (NSA), Admiral Michael Rogers. Let’s remember that a vast swath of US critical infrastructure is run by the private sector.

How will we protect corporate data stores from nation-state and rogue cyberwarfare, let alone run-of-the-mill profit-seeking hackers?

Isn’t the private sector’s job commerce and innovation? Yet in the digital economy, corporations must also be extremely sophisticated data security companies. After all, they leverage our personal data for profit, right?

The European Union’s  GDPR is about to usher in massive corporate liability for data privacy.  Though “cybersecurity,” a major data breach threat, is not mentioned in the regulation.

Does the government need to take a wider role in combating state-actor cyber attacks on corporate data? What new public-private models are needed to protect corporate data stores? Whose job is it to protect against state-actor cyberattacks on the private sector?

Food for thought.


Data Protection is Everybody’s Job

Data protection is everybody’s job today. With the perfect storm of  a doubling of data every two years, juicy dark web profits for stolen personal info and crushing data breach business impacts, organizations simply have to build data protection values into the company’s culture.  Read this blog for practical tips on how to do this in your organization.


Ready for New EU Data Protection?

I recently did a Guest Blog for AccessData on the sweeping new changes to the European Union data protection regulations. An end to a patchwork of national laws, bigger fines, faster breach notice and the “right to be forgotten” are just a few of the many changes businesses selling in Europe will want to know about.  Be sure to check out the practical tips on how to get ready for 2018 when the new regulations go live.

Safe Harbor Chess Game Heats Up.

It is fascinating to watch this chess game unfold, with knights, bishops, kings and queens making their moves. The sudden October abolishment of the Safe Harbor framework for data flows – moving personal information like payroll data, user information and marketing data from the EU to the US — literally threw out the rules of the game.  For over fifteen years, US companies have been able to self-certify, under the Commerce Department Safe Harbor program, that their data protection protocols satisfy EU laws.

That all came to an end when the European Court of Justice invalidated Safe Harbor in a case still underway calling for a halt to Facebook’s transfer of EU user information from its Irish subsidiary to Facebook US. The high court essentially agreed with complainant Max Schrems, that the Snowden revelations demonstrate that European’s private data is not safe from the prying eyes of US intelligence agencies. The ruling ricocheted simmering EU-US privacy and security policy discussions to center stage.

EU Data Protection Gets Hot.
Europeans have some of the most advanced protections for personal data, currently being updated in a massive EU modernizing effort. Keeping personal data private is a fundamental right of every person, according to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. This right has emotional roots in the transgressions of European totalitarian regimes and their secret police activities.  Leaders in Germany and France were livid when they learned from the Snowden documents that US intelligence was likely tapping their personal cell phones.  Over the last few years, things have heated up in EU data protection authorities’ investigations of Facebook  and Google over privacy violations.  This is especially true in privacy-sensitive Germany, where the DPA announced immediate investigations of former Safe Harbor companies such as the internet behemoths.

An EU Move: New Safe Harbor Rests in US Hands.  
On the eve of continued Safe Harbor 2.0 negotiations in Washington DC this week, the European Commission shared its official views and guidance for US companies after the momentous high court ruling. They also made their negotiating position very clear: any new agreement must uphold the court’s ruling, “… notably as regards limitations and safeguards on access to personal data by U.S. public authorities.”

Late last week, Vĕra Jourová, the European Commissioner for Justice and Consumers and lead Safe Harbor negotiator, said she expects the U.S. to show clear conditions and limits on US intelligence access to European private data. The Commission also indicated that a solution is urgently needed, but expects negotiations to take three months – a target set earlier by the pan-EU data protection authorities group, known as the Article 29 Working Party.

Is this soon enough?  US Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker tweeted on November 9th: “Safe Harbor and cross-border data flows are vital for American business. I heard a sense urgency on resolving this at #Techonomy15”. Tech company trade associations encourage policy makers to arrive at a bullet proof agreement sooner than 3 months. Many guess that more US surveillance reforms to narrow intelligence gathering, and passage of the redress rights bill giving European citizens access to US courts for privacy violations, are part of the equation to restore trust and move forward.  Things like this take time.  Meanwhile US companies spend time and money trying to figuring out how to stay inside the lines.

More Chess to Come.
No doubt we will see some master chess moves over the next few months.  Let’s hope so – keeping the digital economy vibrant while modernizing global privacy and security policy is no easy game to play.