IronKey

Mobile Data Security Blog

Home  »  Archive by category "Data Breaches"

by

LATEST DATA BREACH: EVERY U.S. FEDERAL EMPLOYEE AFFECTED

 

Our special guest blogger is Tav Venia, an IronKey sales engineer, who is based in the Washington DC area and serves our Federal and Enterprise clients. 

Unfortunately, we’ve all heard about the hack on the personnel records and social security numbers for more than 4 Million+ Federal Employees at a U.S. Government Agency.  Data lost, stolen, or hacked:  it just represents another failure to protect our federal data.  For this, and many other reasons, now more than ever it’s imperative that all types of data is securely protected— federal, classified, FOUO (For Official Use Only), defense, employee, personal, etc.   Now is the time to get out in front of any and all possible threats and attacks to assure ourselves that our data is safe and secure from what can turn into “Tomorrow’s Headline”.   

Government employees are more mobile— working in the office, in the field and from home— which increases the potential for even more data exposure risks.  The ability to securely store and transport data while on the move is a necessity.  As the Federal Team Sales Engineer, I see how our U.S. Government and Agency customers are using the IronKey™ line of hardware encrypted hard drives to securely store and protect their sensitive information, among many, many other reasons.  But with the release of our newest hard drive, the IronKey H350, government agencies can enjoy the speed and performance advantages of USB 3.0 technology while realizing the benefits of the world’s most secure USB devices including FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certification, AES-XTS 256-bit hardware encryption and centralized management.    

Our customers can now save, backup and move data wherever they may be much more rapidly taking advantage of the USB 3.0 speeds.  As technology advances, data files are exponentially growing in size, the ability to securely store and move data quickly and efficiently from the field back to the government or agency office is of even greater importance.  Forgotten password?  No worries. On managed enterprise hard drives, IronKey provides the only secure password reset mechanism that allows users to recover data without erasing the contents on the drive or using a backdoor to reset the password.  Additionally, when data is not being access or used, the IronKey H350 can protect and secure Data At Rest (DAR), another use case of importance to our U.S. Government and Agency customers.  

Personally, with my job, I am constantly on the move traveling from place to place.  I use the IronKey H350 to back up all of my laptop data because we have all been there when Windows crashes and/or becomes corrupted giving us the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) rendering our data lost and unrecoverable.  This can be a result of a Windows error or a simple drop of your laptop which damages the hard drive.  I don’t ever want to be caught in a situation where I don’t have a backup of my data.  Thanks to my IronKey H350 USB 3.0 hard drive, it now takes less than an hour to back up all of my data, a process that used to take many hours using a USB 2.0 Hard Drive.

by

Keeping Patient and Hospital Information Safe

In September 2014, Forrester Research published a brief titled “Stolen and Lost Devices Are Putting Personal Healthcare Information at Risk”. Amongst the findings were two important trends:

Healthcare is becoming more mobile – approximately one-third of healthcare employees now work outside the office or clinic at least once a week.

Healthcare records are five times more likely to be lost due to device theft or accidental loss.

Today, personal healthcare information (PHI) records are more accessible than ever before. These PHI records contain important personal information such as social security numbers, medical history, and insurance information. Technological progression in the medical world is giving us advancements such as real time medical data on our smartphones and mobile messaging systems so hospital staff can get to patients faster. Although this progression is exciting, with all of this patient information floating around in technology, it makes it harder to keep our data safe.

With so much mobility, it’s not surprising that data protection has become a big problem. Mobile devices are simple to carry from one workplace to the next, but they can be easy to lose. To protect our data, we need a way to prevent unauthorized people from accessing the content of a lost or stolen device.

The solution is to use encrypted USB or external hard drives, such as the new IronKey™ S1000 3.0 USB. These secure storage devices combine encryption, which encodes data, making it unreadable to all but authorized users, with cloud-based management functionality that enables an organization to remotely wipe data from a device even if it is no longer in their possession.

Healthcare facilities need to address the realities of mobile work practices but they also need to protect the information in their care. The task is made a lot easier with a good device policy and the right tools.

by

The Age of Hacking

In today’s digital age, teaching children to code seems like a fantastic idea. Children are already spending huge amounts of time using technology, whether it’s a laptop, smartphone or tablet device and these IT skills can be essential in their future careers. However, whilst we must help a new generation of competent workers prepare for the digital world, how can we make sure that children will use their coding and programming skills for good and not evil?

Over the past years we’ve seen a number of technological innovations aimed at equipping children with basic programming and coding skills – from the Raspberry Pi to the recently launched Hackaball, a programmable ball aimed towards 6-10 year-old children. This demographic has been a key target for the UK government who have dominated the primary computing curriculum since September 2014.

However, with these skills being so easily transferrable to illegal activities such as hacking and cybercrime, how can we ensure that the lure of mischief, malice and money won’t sway children to ‘the dark side’? In January of this year, a seven-year-old girl hacked a public Wi-Fi network in just over ten minutes by learning how to set up a rogue access point to activate what is known as a ‘man in the middle’ attack. We know that this is already happening – hackers as young as 16 years old have been arrested for cybercrime, and the Home Office has warned that young video game hackers could be the next generation of cybercriminals.

So how can we tackle this? When it comes to children and young adults, the first place to start is at school and at home. Responsible adults, teachers and parents have a duty to ensure that their children, or pupils, are not engaging in criminal activity, and this is no different in the cyber world.

However, the problem we encounter here is the massive gulf between adults and children when it comes to understanding technology. An Ofcom survey released in August last year found that younger people have a far more advanced understanding of technology devices than adults – with 6 year olds having the same level of knowledge as the average 45 year old. In fact, teenagers aged between 14-19 years old are the most digitally confident in the UK.

If teachers and parents are to monitor and guide young people’s use of technology and make sure they’re not becoming involved in cybercrime, they must first be able to understand the technology themselves.

Secondly, we must consider the types of devices and technology that young people are using and put appropriate security measures in place to limit the possibility of malicious use. Technology like the Windows To Go USB Flash Drive would give young coders a replica desktop, just like the one they have at school, that they can take home and use on any device, without affecting or accessing the data and operating system sitting on that device. With a Windows To Go device it’s very easy to manage activity. The school can control the transfer of information and wipe, delete, monitor actions on the device, this way, the youngsters can hone their coding skills without being able to get in trouble by conducting activities outside the school’s remit.

What is clear is that we must not discourage children from learning these skills – they are absolutely essential for future employment and also play an important role in their everyday socialising with their peers. We must also accept that we cannot stop this evolution. Children are already learning these skills, with or without your knowledge and input, so the best we can do is to help shape that knowledge and put them on a good path.

by

Whistleblowers: Data Theft or Public Service?

A Perspective from the UK

Over the past few years there have been a number of high profile cases where whistleblowers have leaked information to the public, highlighting wrong-doing, corruption and malpractice amongst trusted institutions. Whilst some of these cases have clearly disclosed information that is in the public interest – for example the recent inquiry into the fatalities at Morecambe Bay Furness Hospital – other whistleblowers have disclosed sensitive corporate data leading some to question whether the information is truly in the public interest, or is in fact a data breach.  

What is clear, is that whistleblowing can have huge financial repercussions – in fact, The Pentagon has recently said that it may cost billions of dollars to overcome the damage to military security by Edward Snowden’s release of classified intelligence documents.

From a corporate perspective, unfounded whistleblowing is essentially another type of ‘insider threat’, and we know that this issue is climbing higher on the risk agenda for IT departments worldwide. Organisations must assess the threat that this form of data leakage can have on their business and put measures in place to protect their businesses.

Firstly, businesses can use an array of solutions to protect corporate data on computers, laptops, wireless networks and in the workplace. For organisations seeking extra security, an Enterprise Management System, with a command centre whereby device activity can be viewed from all over the world, provides a robust and highly secure solution. Data can be securely stored and if an employee fails to return to work, a device can be destroyed remotely.

There are however, many other complex regulations to consider when it comes to the issue of whistleblowing.

Under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, whistleblowers have to show that they “reasonably believe” that the disclosure they are making is in the “public interest”. Unfortunately, what amounts to “public interest” is not defined in the legislation and it will be left to the courts and tribunals to lead the way with their interpretation.

The law states that an individual is permitted to declare information/whistleblow if someone’s health and safety is in danger, if there is damage to the environment, if the employer is committing a criminal offence, if the company is failing to honour legal obligations or if the company is covering up a wrongdoing.

Many of these exceptions will pose no threat to the everyday corporation, therefore the key threat is the possibility of an ex-employee sharing sensitive information.

Although the Data Protection Act gives businesses additional protection when private data is at stake, there is still a concern that ex-employees will speak out about historic events such as previous data breaches experienced whilst employed.

A ‘Compromise Agreement’ is becoming a common solution to the problem around employee trust. Organisations are adding a clause in contracts to ensure that all confidential information remains confidential, and employees are then prevented from making defamatory comments or disclosing sensitive information, even after they have left a company.

This month, Sir Robert Francis QC announced a ban on the ‘Compromise Agreement’ for hospital staff. In the health sector, where lives are at stake, it is clear that the act of whistleblowing must be protected.  Some incredibly shocking stories have been revealed highlighting horrendously poor care and unacceptably high mortality rates. This has of course had a positive outcome and forced trusts to introduce new regulations to improve patient care.

For the corporate world, however, whistleblowing poses quite a different risk and can cost organisations hundreds of thousands, or even millions of pounds to repair. Businesses must reduce this risk by protecting their data, which lives both inside the building and outside on employee mobile devices and in the cloud.  This way, they can put themselves one step ahead of the game.

Organisations need to ensure that they have permissions and privileged access in place to protect sensitive information to avoid the potential for these to be breached.

Businesses need to keep account of and collect any devices that may have been issued such as mobile phones; tablet, laptops, proprietary software or data, failing to do so could have detrimental repercussions.

Ensuring intellectual property and sensitive data remain secure is an on going challenge, and if businesses are failing to protect this information, the threat from whistleblowers will endure.

by

Majority of Healthcare Breaches Are Due to Loss or Theft, Not Hackers

I just recently read an article about how a healthcare organization lost backup hard drives containing personal information on nearly 40,000 of its clients. To make matters worse, the article stated that there was “no mention of strong encryption being applied to the records, implying that they were stored relatively insecurely.” WHAT?  I shake my head in frustration because there is a simple solution. Why don’t more healthcare companies deploy secure USB?

You might be surprised to know that the majority of breaches come from lost or stolen devices, not hackers. In fact, sixty-eight percent of all healthcare breaches are from loss and theft. This leads me to conclude that most healthcare companies insecurely store, and therefore risk losing their clients protected health information (PHI) such as birth dates, medical records, and Social Security numbers.

Sadly, it looks like this trend won’t be ending anytime soon.  A recent healthcare data breach forecast predicted that employees (not hackers) will continue to be the greatest threat to securing healthcare data including PHI.  The forecast goes on to say that despite all signs pointing to employees as the largest threat to a company’s security, business leaders will continue to neglect the issue in favor of buying more “appealing” security technologies aimed at preventing intrusions from outsiders in 2015. (sigh)

So here’s the good news – there is a workable solution that’s easy for healthcare organizations to implement. One simple, affordable option is to store PHI and other confidential data on a portable, encrypted external hard drive or USB instead of storing data directly on the laptop.  There’s a class of readily available hardware encrypted devices that are virtually unhackable and can be remotely wiped should they be lost or stolen.  And, these drives deploy the highest standards of protection with AES-256 encryption.   These highly secure drives even protect data and applications from malware like BadUSB. And their rugged design makes them nearly indestructible.  They’ve even been known to survive an autoclave! 

IronKey™ offers the most secure storage solutions and mobile workspaces available.  So, don’t be tomorrow’s headline.  Check out our healthcare security solutions today.

by

Could You Pass a Privacy Audit? Healthcare and Australia’s Privacy Regulations

 

Our special guest blogger, Elizabeth Parsons, is based in Melbourne and is responsible for growing the Imation Mobile Security business in Australia and New Zealand.  

Last year the Australian Federal Government ushered in a new set of Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) and in the process, dramatically overhauled the obligations of organisations regarding the collection, use, storage and security of personal data.  The changes were expected to have a big impact on data handling within the healthcare industry, as the regulations particularly targeted all Australian Government agencies, businesses with a turnover of more than $3 million or trade in personal information, and private health service providers.

Twelve months on, it’s timely to consider how well your organisation has responded to the new requirements, and to ask yourself:  Would your organisation pass a privacy audit if one was held tomorrow?

The Basics

One of the first changes that should have been introduced by every facility or institution is an updated, accessible privacy policy. This should advise individuals of your obligations, the kind of personal information collected, how it is collected, the purpose for collection, how an individual can access that information, and how they can make a complaint about any breaches of the APPs.

Following on from this, every organisation should also now have an internal guide to privacy compliance.  The aim of this is to ensure that the staff will understand the legal requirements when dealing with personal data. It should also articulate the organisation’s own rules and processes relating to collection and storage of data.

The Problem of Security

One of the most critical obligations under the APPs is security.  The eleventh privacy principle states:

“If an APP entity holds personal information, the entity must take such steps as are reasonable in the circumstances to protect the information:

(a) from misuse, interference and loss; and

(b) from unauthorised access, modification or disclosure.”

And it’s here that, even today, many healthcare organisations find their privacy efforts falling short, because keeping data safe from accidental loss or malicious activity such as viruses, worms and hackers isn’t always straightforward or easy.

While most organisations have measures in place to secure data on the network, the main area of vulnerability is mobile data.  When a clinician carries patient data on their laptop from their consulting rooms to the hospital, what happens if the laptop is stolen?  Or when a USB stick is used to send information from one facility to another, what is the outcome if the USB is dropped and lost?

No matter whether confidential information is breached due to theft, malware, spyware, or just a simple accidental loss, there are serious consequences. Since 2014, failure to comply with Australia’s new privacy laws can leave an organisation liable for a fine of up to $1.7 million.

Doing away with mobility is not the answer.  The efficiencies and improvements to health outcomes arising from a more mobile health force are too great to ignore. Therefore, it’s clear healthcare facilities have to find a way to keep mobile data safe.

A Two-pronged Response

The solution is to adopt a two-pronged approach to mobile data security by only using drives that offer encryption supported by data management.

Encryption involves coding data on the drive so it remains unreadable to anyone who doesn’t have the right “key”.  If the USB or hard drive is lost or stolen, the contents remain obscured and inaccessible. One of the most appealing aspects of encryption is there are no technology barriers to its adoption, and compared to the cost of a data breach, the investment required is relatively insignificant.

The second part of the approach is a management capability that brings control to the data on the device.  For example, at some stage an employee will forget their password, rendering them unable to access the corporate network. With the right management capabilities, IT can not only reset the password but when the user logs on, they can cross-reference the IP address of their machine against a map in order to ascertain if the person is indeed who they say they are. If IT has any suspicions, they can remotely wipe the hardware device that the employee is working from and kill all encrypted data.  Management functions also enable IT to force a device to be in read-only mode, remotely make password changes and re-commission devices that are no longer in use.

Together, encryption and management ensure confidential and private information on USB and external drives to remain protected, even if the drive is lost or stolen and lands in someone else’s hands.

The 2014 changes to Australia’s privacy regulations have put the data management practices of Australia’s government agencies and private sector organisations under the spotlight. For the healthcare industry, securing confidential patient data has never been more important with the increasing amount of records being transferred to electronic records. Achieving the necessary degree of security requires more than good intentions. It demands a comprehensive mobile security solution built around strong encryption, robust identity management, and policy-based data management.

 

by

Equation Group Attack on Hard Drives – What Can Your Organization Do?

 

This week Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab published a report that examines a group of hackers, the Equation group, and the depths they have gone to for many years to spy.  The report outlines the attacks in detail and highlights, “the group’s attack technologies exceed anything we have ever seen before.  This is the ability to infect the hard drive firmware.”

As you consider your options, keep in mind there are a number of approaches to prevent the Equation group’s attack against hard drives.  

 A fundamental feature that every enterprise bound hard drive should have is preventing its firmware from being altered by an unauthorized agent.  The best protection against this vulnerability is to use code signing for firmware updates. Such devices will not allow unsigned firmware to be loaded onto the device.  As a further level of protection if somehow unsigned firmware was present on the device, it simply will not operate.

For your external hard drives I suggest these be replaced as soon as possible with drives that support firmware signing.

Protecting your internal hard drives is more difficult.  These drives could be infected at any time by self-replicating code such as “Fanny”, physical media (e.g. CD-ROMS), USB devices susceptible to BadUSB, and Web-based exploits. Swapping out internal hard drives is an expensive and time consuming proposition.  One option is to immediately switch to a Windows To Go flash drive that supports firmware signing for all of your critical systems as a hard drive replacement. 

Windows To Go equips users with a portable Windows corporate image.  It uses the flash drive as the system disk, completely insulating the user from the risk of any hard drive infections on the onboard hard drive. This is significantly less costly than replacing the computer’s internal hard drive with a FIPS-approved hard drive and can be easily done in the field without having to pull apart the computer. And, as an added benefit, Windows To Go drives can be centrally managed enabling organizations to track the devices and disable them if lost or stolen.

IronKey™ secure USB hard drive, flash storage and Windows To Go devices are not vulnerable to the Equation group’s malware or the BadUSB attack. IronKey’s leadership in security, including its use of digital signatures in all controller firmware, makes its products immune to these threats.

 

 

by

The Value of Encryption

With high profile security breaches such as the iCloud hack and the leak of celebrities’ private photographs hitting the headlines, the concern for the security of our own personal information and sensitive data is mounting. Apple’s response to the data breach was to increase the level of security following the incident with the introduction of default encryption on phones, demonstrating the importance of encryption as a safeguard to protect data.

Encryption is simply the translation of data into code, using a defined algorithm, and is considered one of the most effective means of ensuring data security. Access to encrypted files requires a key or password that enables you to decrypt it by restoring it to its original form. Whilst most data transmitted over a network is sent in clear text, by incorporating encryption algorithms, users can protect data and make sure that only the intended recipient can decode and read the information.

Although there are many different types of encryption, they all serve the same purpose: to keep our data protected and secure. Storing any sensitive information is inherently risky, but in order to do this effectively, action must be taken to reduce the risks of inappropriate disclosure.

Given that a large amount of data can be stored on USB’s, smartphones and tablets, there is a real danger that personal information could be compromised should such a device end up in the wrong hands. We recently published research which found that over one third of respondents would look at, or try to open/access a device if they found one , showing that even when mislaid devices are found by conscientious members of the public, the devices may be examined and opened.

The problem is that users want devices that are easy to manage, hassle-free and allow them to go about their lives securely. Measures such as optional encryption do not fit into this lifestyle. Users will not hunt down new security features, either because they don’t know they need them, or perhaps think they already have them.

Whether it is personal or corporate data, security needs to be a necessity, and users should be provided with everything they need to protect their intellectual property.

For businesses, encryption can be a simple and effective means to protect sensitive information. Being able to manage and track the encrypted data, knowing who has accessed it, from what location and on what devices that information resides is also essential.

A Windows To Go device is a securely encrypted, IT-managed USB drive that gives businesses control over what happens to sensitive data, and is easy to use. It contains a fully functional corporate Windows desktop. Employees insert the Microsoft certified USB drives into their home computers, hot desks, or tablets that feature USB ports, and they receive a secure desktop and secure access to all applications and data they use in an office setting.

Unlike a virtualised or online remote access solution, the portable workspace offers full host computer isolation, meaning documents cannot be saved to the host machine but are saved to the USB drive, which can be locked down and remote wiped if required, and all data will remain secure without the threat of a potential data breach.

Encryption is a valuable and essential tool for securing your data. Don’t give users the opportunity to be unprotected; security needs to be a default – not an option.

by

The Cost of Cybercrime

 

Hackers are holding the world to ransom with cyber-attacks costing the global economy more than £238 billion a year¹. These attacks damage the global economy almost as much as illegal drugs and piracy, with financial losses from cyber theft resulting in a potential 150,000 European job losses.¹ Cybercrime is a growing menace which is proving to be an ever growing challenge for individuals and businesses. US retailing giant Target saw its earnings drop 46% after an attack that leaked more than 40 million customer credit card details², whilst eBay and Office have also been ‘hit’ this year, with customer data compromised.

Despite these devastating implications, the public, corporates and their employees continue to be careless with their valuable and highly confidential data –residing on laptops, tablets and mobile devices. Cyber espionage and theft of individuals’ personal information is believed to have affected more than 800 million people during 2013¹, and our mobile working culture has made data security an even greater challenge.

With IDC estimating that over one million smartphones were shipped last year³, someone somewhere in your company is using a personal, mobile device to connect to a corporate network and download sensitive data – making your organization a sitting target for cybercriminals. Companies must equip their employees with the means to protect corporate data from threats such as identity theft and cyber espionage, whilst mitigating the dangers associated with unsecured devices and free Wi-Fi hotspots.

Mobile devices need to maintain the same high levels of security as office-based desktops and servers, with only IT provisioned laptops or tablets connected to corporate networks. But, the best way of ensuring hackers can’t gain access to your company data, is by storing all your data on a secure fully encrypted Windows To Go USB flash drive. It provides employees with an IT managed and provisioned Windows workspace that replicates their secure office desktop environment, on any device that the USB is plugged into. This also means IT departments do not need to deploy individual computers but rather can deploy the Windows To Go workspace on USB drives which saves time, resources and introduces vast cost savings.

Staff awareness plays a crucial role in protecting the company network against cybercrime. Often under-estimating the inherent security risks of using personal devices in the office, employees must be educated to handle these responsibly – on a proactive, ongoing basis rather than waiting until a security breach occurs, when it’s too late.

With so many high profile security breaches making the headlines, organizations want to know that corporate data is secure at all times, regardless of where it resides, whilst employees need the flexibility to work remotely. Cybercrime can have a devastating impact on your business in terms of cost and reputation. Your organization can’t afford to be tomorrow’s headline…

 

Sources:

¹McAfee report, June 2014 – Net Losses: Estimating the Global Cost of Cybercrime

² http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-03-13/target-missed-alarms-in-epic-hack-of-credit-card-data

³ International Data Corporation (IDC)Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, Jan 2014

 

 

 


 

 

 

by

Standing Room Only: BadUSB at Black Hat

 

Our special guest blogger is Chris Louie, an IronKey sales engineer, who joined the company in 2011. 

As I took my seat in the packed Black Hat ballroom, I could sense the level of concern as everyone anxiously awaited the findings on BadUSB. Attacks against USB flash drives are nothing new, but they’ve always centered on the data being compromised or leaked.  Now we’re about to learn about a radically different type of attack. Suddenly the lights dim and the session title flashes across the screen: “BadUSB – On accessories that turn evil” presented by the authors of the malware.

Immediately, things looked bleak for security-minded professionals everywhere. A new type of threat has emerged! Malware is no longer relegated to only files stored on USB flash drives, but can now reside in the controller firmware inside the USB flash drive. And to make matters worse, it doesn’t just affect USB flash drives, but any USB device that has the ability to update its firmware, such as Android-based phones and tablets. BadUSB also has the ability to trick the computer into thinking a flash drive is a mouse or keyboard. Once a computer is infected, it will attempt to infect every USB device that connects to it in the future.

Now if that’s not enough to keep CIOs and CISOs awake at night, the malware authors state that there is currently no mechanism to detect or remove BadUSB from affected devices and computers. It acts as a launch pad to attack computers with the malware author’s attack of choice. Installation of Remote Access Trojans, key loggers, DNS cache poisoning, botnet creation and ransomeware are just a few of the cyber-criminal tools that can be deployed with the help of BadUSB.

Fortunately, not all is lost! BadUSB takes advantage of a commonly found practice in the flash drive industry: the vast majority of USB devices do not require digitally signed code in order to do a firmware update. Since day one, every IronKey device has followed the best practice of requiring digitally signed code for firmware updates to protect against this exact type of attack vector.

During the Q&A session with the malware authors, someone asked if requiring digitally signed code for firmware updates would protect a USB device from this attack.  The audience were assured that those devices are not vulnerable to this attack.

So get rid of that potentially dangerous flash drive and upgrade to a secure flash drive that cannot get infected with BadUSB.