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Norsk Hydro will not pay ransom demand and will restore from backups



After suffering a debilitating ransomware attack on Tuesday this week, aluminum producer Norsk Hydro is slowly starting to recover from the incident.

“Experts from Microsoft and other IT security partners have flown in to aid Hydro in taking all necessary actions in a systematic way to get business critical systems back in normal operation,” Jo De Vliegher, Head of Information Systems, said in a press release this week.

The company’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Eivind Kallevik, also said the company does not intend to pay the hackers’ ransom demand and has already started restoring its IT infrastructure from backups.

Overall, the incident has been described as disastrous by Hydro officials. The ransomware impacted Norsk Hydro’s production and office IT systems.

In the incident’s aftermath, systems that managed production equipment had their data encrypted and disconnected from the company’s network, preventing Norsk Hydro employees from managing factory equipment.

The company switched to manual operations, which didn’t impact production, but did slow down factory outputs and led to some temporary stoppages as employees figured out the best way to go about their work.

But the biggest impact was on Norsk Hydro’s office IT infrastructure. In two press conferences, held on Tuesday and Thursday, Kallevik said that not having access to customer orders was the biggest hurdle they had to deal with in keeping production lines going.

Plants in Europe and the US were the most impacted, Kallevik said, and especially the divisions producing extruded and rolled aluminum products. In these factories, employees had problems connecting to production equipment, according to a status update provided yesterday, and frequent stoppages and production line restarts occurred.

Norsk Hydro status

Imge: Norsk Hydro

The Norsk Hydro exec declined to provide in-depth details about the incident itself, citing an ongoing law enforcement investigation.

However, enough information has leaked onto the internet from other sources for some very plausible theories and explanations of what happened inside Norsk Hydro to appear –such as one from infosec expert Kevin Beaumont.

Based on ransomware samples uploaded on aggregated malware scanner service VirusTotal, and based on an analysis of the features found in the samples, the Norsk Hydro incident appears to have happened after hackers breached the company’s network and moved laterally until they gained access to an Active Directory server.

Beaumont says the LockerGoga ransomware lacks the self-propagating features found in WannaCry, NotPetya, or Bad Rabbit, and the only way so many Norsk Hydro plants could have been impacted at the same time was if hackers used the company’s central Active Directory server to push the ransomware to all of Norsk Hydro’s workstations at the same time.

The British researcher also noted that the LockerGoga ransomware was also coded to work very fast, utilizing “every CPU core and thread during encryption.”

“On an average system within a few minutes, it is toast,” he said in an analysis he published yesterday.

In addition, the ransomware also disabled network cards on all infected systems and changed the local admin account’s password. Both operations were done to prevent recovery operations, such as pushing out backups from a remote server to quickly recover infected systems.

Because of this, backups need to be deployed manually, by hand, to each affected PC.

The only thing Hydro employees could do after the ransomware was deployed was to use their local non-admin accounts to log into the infected workstation, where they’d see the LockerGoga ransom note opened on their screens.

LockerGoga ransom note

Image: Kevin Beaumont

Beaumont’s (well documented) theory of what could have happened inside Hydro on that day can be somewhat confirmed by a security alert sent out by the Norway Computer Emergency Response Team (NorCERT) on the day of the incident, warning companies about attacks carried out via Active Directories with the LockerGoga ransomware.

Norsk Hydro marks the second major company infected by the LockerGoga ransomware after the malware was also found on the network of Altran Technologies, a French engineering consulting firm, in late January.

While most infosec experts are classifying the LockerGoga ransomware infection as a cybercrime-related incident, with crooks trying to extort money from a hacked company, there is also another theory slowly taking form.

That theory is based on a blog post by cyber-security firm Cisco Talos that highlighted some LockerGoga features are specific to wiper (destructive) malware, rather than ransomware. Some security researchers are now looking at the Norsk Hydro attack as a nation-state hacker group which noticed that it had been detected and decided to mask their presence by deploying LockerGoga on Hydro’s network, in an attempt to fool incident responders. However, this is only a theory, with no supporting evidence, which mainly took shape after another Norwegian company, cloud provider Visma, admitted last month of getting hacked by Chinese state hackers.

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Work from Home Security



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



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



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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