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At least nine global MSPs hit in APT10 attacks: ACSC

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(Image: ACSC)

Nine global service providers are known to have been compromised in attacks by China’s APT10 group, according to Alastair MacGibbon, head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC).

On Friday, the US formally attributed these attacks to China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) in its indictment of two Chinese nationals who it alleges are members of the group.

APT10 is the name given to the group by FireEye. Other names assigned to it are Red Apollo (PwC), CVNX (BAE Systems), Stone Panda (CrowdStrike), POTASSIUM (Microsoft), and MenuPass (Trend Micro).

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and IBM are among the MSPs affected, Reuters reported on Friday. The companies were infiltrated “multiple times in breaches that lasted for weeks and months”, the report said, although neither company has commented officially.

“We’re not naming any managed service providers,” MacGibbon told ZDNet.

“One, we said we wouldn’t name them. And two, I can’t be sure, and none of our allies can be sure, that we know all of the compromised global providers,” he said.

“We know of, I think, nine global service providers that have been compromised… And they’re the ones we know about. Very Rumsfeldian, but it’s what you don’t know that is problematic. The unknown unknowns.”

The ACSC does not know how many of the MSPs’ customers have been affected either, MacGibbon said.

In part that is because of the “subtlety” and “sophistication” of the attacks, and in part because of the way the MSPs have built their systems to be “scaleable and global in nature”.

“[This] often means that they don’t segment, and do other things to their networks, that you would argue is sensible,” he said.

Australian customers of compromised MSPs have not been named, but MacGibbon says that globally the targets have been organisations like mining companies, tech companies, and those involved in advanced manufacturing.

“It’s commercial secrets. It’s not about the traditional strategic intelligence. It’s not about, frankly, defence systems, or secrets from governments… [It’s] all of those things where a country may want to win in that competition, stealing the lifeblood from their competitors in the West,” MacGibbon said.

“The reason why I said on RN [the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio National] that I don’t believe but can’t prove that government entities are being victims is because generally the way government uses outsourced IT providers is different to how some corporates will. We put in place some different architectures.”

But why name China now?

A key question is why China is being called out now.

In April 2017, Premier Li Keqiang and then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull signed an agreement to refrain from the cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets, or confidential business information.

The activities of APT10 had been revealed just two weeks beforehand in PwC’s Operation Cloud Hopper report, produced in conjunction with BAE Systems and the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

“As a result of our analysis of APT10’s activities, we believe that it almost certainly benefits from significant staffing and logistical resources, which have increased over the last three years, with a significant step-change in 2016,” PwC wrote at the time.

In April this year, the NCSC warned that third-party suppliers were now an organisation’s weakest link, citing the success of Cloud Hopper as an example.

And as recently as last month, joint Fairfax Media/Nine News reporting confirmed that China’s Ministry of State Security is behind Cloud Hopper.

MacGibbon uses what he called his “tortured” doctor analogy. If you’re in pain, a doctor might at first advise a couple of days off work, and to come back if pain persists. Next might come manipulation of the limb, and so on.

“We’re now into what I call radical surgery phase. We’ve tried other things. Clearly, to dislodge the threat actor themselves, and to send a message to them, in this case APT10 working on behalf of the Ministry of State Security (MSS) in China.

“That’s an important lever we need to pull to get them to change.”

This is presumably part of the coordinated diplomatic campaign against nation-states breaching the so-called “cyber norms” that named Russia as the nation-state actor behind the NotPetya attack, and blamed North Korea for the WannaCry incident.

But the ACSC’s announcement is also intended to drive action inside Australia’s economy.

The ACSC’s website has posted advice for Australian businesses in the wake of the MSP breaches.

“[MSPs] need to change the way they do their business, because if they are compromised it could potentially compromise all of their customers. Then those that consume those services, what can you do to architect this arrangement to still get the benefits of outsourced IT and reduce the risks,” MacGibbon said.

“So it’s a wake-up call, and we’re using, frankly, naming the MSS as a fulcrum to create leverage to change the way we behave domestically.”

MacGibbon acknowledges that it’s “not the best time of year” to launch an awareness campaign, however. He cites the US indictments as a trigger for it happening now.

“Once everyone’s eaten enough turkey and had enough ham, we’ll be back out again to drive change, where we hope that members of boards, CEOs, and customers start asking questions on how to change the way they construct their IT systems.”

Related Coverage

US charges two Chinese nationals for hacking cloud providers, NASA, the US Navy

The two Chinese nationals were members of the infamous APT10 cyber-espionage group, DOJ said.

DHS aware of ongoing APT attacks on cloud service providers

Attacks most likely linked to APT10, a Chinese cyber-espionage group, also known as Red Apollo, Stone Panda, POTASSIUM, or MenuPass.

Advanced Chinese hacking campaign infiltrates IT service providers across the globe

‘Cloud Hopper’ campaign by sophisticated APT10 hacking group uses advanced phishing and customised malware to conduct espionage.

Elite Chinese hackers target board directors at some of the world’s largest firms

The APT 10 hacking group has struck again, this time using a watering hole attack to compromise the National Foreign Trade Council website and gather sensitive data about its directors.

Top 4 security threats businesses should expect in 2019 (TechRepublic)

Cybercriminals are developing more sophisticated attacks, while individuals and enterprises need to be more proactive in security practices.

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Work from Home Security

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Spin Master is a leading global children’s entertainment company that invents toys and games, produces dozens of television and studio series that are distributed in 160 countries, and creates a variety of digital games played by more than 30 million children. What was once a small private company founded by childhood friends is now a public global supply chain with over 1,500 employees and 28 offices around the world.

Like most organizations in 2020, Spin Master had to adapt quickly to the new normal of remote work, shifting most of its production from cubicles in regional and head offices to hundreds of employees working from home and other remote locations.

This dramatic shift created potential security risks, as most employees were no longer behind the firewall on the corporate network. Without the implementation of hardened endpoint security, the door would be open for bad actors to infiltrate the organization, acquire intellectual property, and ransom customer information. Additionally, the potential downtime caused by a security breach could harm the global supply chain. With that in mind, Spin Master created a self-imposed 30-day deadline to extend its network protection capabilities to the edge.

Key Findings:

  • Think Long Term: The initial goal of establishing a stop-gap work-from-home (WFH) and work-from-anywhere (WFA) strategy has since morphed into a permanent strategy, requiring long-term solutions.
  • Gather Skills: The real urgency posed by the global pandemic made forging partnerships with providers that could fill all the required skill sets a top priority.
  • Build Momentum: The compressed timeline left no room for delay or error. The Board of Directors threw its support behind the implementation team and gave it broad budget authority to ensure rapid action, while providing active guidance to align strategy with action.
  • Deliver Value: The team established two key requirements that the selected partner must deliver: implementation support and establishing an ongoing managed security operations center (SOC).
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Key Criteria for Evaluating Privileged Access Management

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Privileged Access Management (PAM) enables administrative access to critical IT systems while minimizing the chances of security compromises through monitoring, policy enforcement, and credential management.

A key operating principle of all PAM systems is the separation of user credentials for individual staff members from the system administration credentials they are permitted to use. PAM solutions store and manage all of the privileged credentials, providing system access without requiring users to remember, or even know, the privileged password. Of course, all staff have their own unique user ID and password that they use to complete everyday tasks such as accessing email and writing documents. Users who are permitted to handle system administration tasks that require privileged credentials log into the PAM solution, which provides and controls such access according to predefined security policies. These policies control who is allowed to use which privileged credentials when, where, and for what tasks. An organization’s policy may also require logging and recording of the actions undertaken with the privileged credentials.

Once implemented, PAM will improve your security posture in several ways. The first is by segregating day-to-day duties from duties that require elevated access, reducing the risk of accidental privileged actions. Secondly, automated password management reduces the possibility that credentials will be shared while also lowering the risk if credentials are accidentally exposed. Finally, extensive logging and activity recording in PAM solutions aids audits of critical system access for both preventative and forensic security.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Vendor Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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Adventist Risk Management Data Protection Infrastructure

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Companies always want to enhance their ability to quickly address pressing business needs. Toward that end, they look for new ways to make their IT infrastructures more efficient—and more cost effective. Today, those pressing needs often center around data protection and regulatory compliance, which was certainly the case for Adventist Risk Management. What they wanted was an end-to-end, best-in-class solution to meet their needs. After trying several others, they found the perfect combination with HYCU and Nutanix, which provided:

  • Ease of deployment
  • Outstanding ROI
  • Overall TCO improvement

Nutanix Cloud Platform provides a software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure, while HYCU offers purpose-built backup and recovery for Nutanix. Compared to the previous traditional infrastructure and data protection solutions in use at Adventist Risk Management, Nutanix and HYCU simplified processes, speeding day-to-day operations up to 75%. Now, migration and update activities typically scheduled for weekends can be performed during working hours and help to increase IT staff and management quality of life. HYCU further increased savings by providing faster and more frequent points of recovery as well as better DR Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) by increasing the ability to do daily backups from one to four per day.

Furthermore, the recent adoption of Nutanix Objects, which provides secure and performant S3 storage capabilities, enhanced the infrastructure by:

    • Improving overall performance for backups
    • Adding security against potential ransomware attacks
    • Replacing components difficult to manage and support

In the end, Nutanix and HYCU enabled their customer to save money, improve the existing environment, and, above all, meet regulatory compliance requirements without any struggle.

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