My Top 5 Predictions for 2015

Predicting the future is almost impossible especially with such a fast evolving topic like cybersecurity. Nevertheless I’ll give it a try and share some of my thoughts with you.

I had a lot of chats with CIOs, CEOs and COOs as well as journalists talking about what we all see what our biggest fears are and what they and I expect to see in the near future.

Here are my thoughts about theTop 5 challenges our world will face in 2015. Just in case you would like to add something feel free to drop me a line and I will add your thoughts / comments promptly.

Top 1: Rent-A-Botnet
As we all saw in the past that botnets seem easy to rent (1.000 for some 100 USD down to 10 USD for an hour accesstime) the service quality is dramatically increasing while prices are decreasing. The service quality is key to the evolution of this market. When selling services to the “normal” world credentials are important. Selling services on the dark side means that delivering cybercrime services is only possible when having top credentials and a hard proof of delivery and 100% reliability. These requirements drive service quality enhancements that even lead to service desk support with your rented bot net, customization support and other services most people can hardly imagine when talking about a crime scene. We even see that targeted attacks lead to new customer creation efforts. An example is that DDoS targets sometimes receive blackmail eMails with 3 key messages:


1.      Pay the fee to avoid DDoS attacks leading to unavailability of your services

2.      Do not contact any cybersecurity specialist to defend your services because this will lead to a dramatical increase in bots attacking you

3.      Order your own botnet attack against attackers and you will receive a discount of 20-40%

Top 2: Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 discussions very often end up in security concerns. On one hand companies fear that SCADA systems, PLCs and Industry devices could come under fire. This is a serious concern and it is very realistic when considering that a lot of industry devices are not hardened but connected to office networks having no virus scanners and very often being protected by firewalls having more communication exceptions than limitations.

Imagine that in combination with IP V6 internet structures become more stable and reliable and your refrigerator, lightbulb or industry roboter is infected and becomes part of a botnet or is in other ways involved in cybercriminal activities.

Top 3: Data Destruction
2014 ended up with a huge security incident at Sony pictures. We saw problems at Sony companies before like the PSN hack. Nevertheless the hack shows a new quality in cyberattacks. It became very common to hack companies and to leak information as a “proof of hack” to make the cybercriminal business plan work. During this hack we saw that users couldn’t use their workstations any more and data destruction seemed to be part of the game. Also in other security incidents we became aware of the fact that data loss is common but data manipulation and data destruction become even more serious and are on the rise.

Top 4: Supply Chain Security
In the past we already recognized the supply chain security seems to be important but the headlines have not been filled with stories about companies being attacked using supply chain connections. One of the most remarkable stories has been the virus problem on Predator and Reaper drones in 2011. Other hacks we saw in 2014 demonstrated that very often companies rely on their security measures like firewalls, awareness trainings, encryption and so forth. But as we all know is the strength of a chain determined by the weakest link which is very often a supplier. A “good” example is the “Target” breach where Fazio Mechanical, an air condition and heating maintenance company, was compromised. As we all know for various investigation reports on Targets incident the attack on their supplier seemed to be high sophisticated.

With research on this topic we see this threat on the rise and being more and more successful.

Top 5: Mobile Device Exploit Kits 
Years ago mobile devices have been pretty safe. But with the trend showing that mobile devices may replace notebooks and “thick clients” in general Exploit kit developers seem to start focussing on mobile device exploit kits. The mobile world seems to know several Operating Systems but in the end these are only 3 (IOS, Windows and Android). At least IOS shows only few variants – users keep their IOS up to date so that creating one exploit kit has a huge impact in the user community. Also with spyware for smartphones increasingly being thrown on the market a baseline software repository to duplicate calls, copy WhatsApp conversations as well as SMS messages is available. The step from “legal spyware” (in Germany it is not legal but in other jurisdictions its use is pretty common) to an exploit kit is pretty small.

Right now effective antivirus and other prevention software is hard to find and only few users even care about this problem leads to millions of vulnerable devices being in the focus of cybercriminals.

Incident Detection and Cloud Forensics

Overview (By Georg Beham – see the Bloggers)

Detecting security incidents is often a difficult task for cloud users. Conventional IT environments, with on-premises data-processing, can rely on an internal security incident management process which uses monitoring, log file analyses, intrusion detection systems as well as data loss prevention (DLP) to detect hacker attacks and data loss.

When outsourcing to the cloud, not only the cloud service itself but also significant aspects of security incident management are outsourced. Security incident management should therefore be included in the contract with the cloud provider.

Cloud users should inform themselves about the provider’s detection capabilities before migrating to the cloud. The existence of a security operation centre (SOC) and suitable security incident management is an important selection criterion for a cloud service. Cloud users and providers should have the same idea about what qualifies as a security incident. In fact, the definition of a security incident is mandatory in international cloud computing as cloud users and providers may be located in different jurisdictions and e.g. the loss of personal data could have different implications. The loss of certain personal data may be immaterial to a US provider, but it could be consequential to a European cloud user. The process for communicating security incidents and their escalation should also be set down.

A look at the tools for detecting and clearing security incidents can also provide clues as to the maturity of the provider’s security incident management.

Security incident reaction – Computer forensics

Computer forensics pertains to the identification, collection, analysis and presentation of digital data in order to establish the facts of the case. In the identification stage, possible evidence is identified together with the client, depending on the actual case. Data collection entails establishing the ‘scene of the crime’ and area of investigation, carefully preserving any evidence and safeguarding and verifying the integrity of the collected data. During analysis, the evidence is carefully analysed and the results objectively evaluated; the resultant conclusions are then reviewed. The findings are finalised and conclusively documented in the presentation (source:  ‘Computer Forensics: Recognising, detecting and resolving system intrusions’; Alexander Geschonneck) .

Cloud challenges

Nothing short of the ‘data collection’ stage constitutes a major cloud challenge for forensic experts. While conventional computer forensics often starts with the storage medium in order to construct bit-by-bit copies if they are lucky, that is nearly impossible to do in the cloud. For cloud users – not to mention forensics experts – there is usually no way to tell which storage media were used to store the data and where those storage media are physically located. Forensic data collection in the cloud calls for alternative – as well as qualitative – procedures. The forensic expert must collect the data via logical interfaces (e.g. virtual directories, databases). Today already, some cloud providers save hashes (digital fingerprints) along with each data record which are ready for use in the event of a forensic analysis. Here, however, it is important for cloud users and providers to set down such procedures in advance in a Service Level Agreement (SLA). In addition, they also require related technical documentation to ensure the credibility of the data.

A key success factor for computer forensic investigations is the existence of sufficient log data. Similar records should also be available for networks, systems and applications. The availability of log data to forensic experts and the retention period should also be set down in accordance with statute and internal agreements. Here, the synchronisation of system times for all systems is key. The log data from different systems are often merged for analysis purposes. Only with synchronised records can operations be reconstructed and the sequence of events be understood.

Cloud providers could even add extra services to their existing cloud services as proactive support for forensic investigations. These service packets could offer data versioning, alternative storage of forensic data (e.g. copies of emails), automatic hashes, relevant data interfaces as well as analysis tools.

Clouds can span many countries. Forensic investigations can therefore fall under different legal systems. This should also be considered, along with which measures to take in such cases. Rules for house searches (disclosure management) should be set down to ensure an orderly and controlled procedure.

An organisational structure encompassing cloud users, cloud providers and other interested parties should be created as well. Such a cloud forensics organisation should contain people with forensic, cloud, organisational and legal expertise.9

After all, forensic analyses have legal implications. Requirements ensuing from the Data Protection Act, Telecommunications Act or labour law must be taken into account. Enterprises that avail themselves of cloud services should ask these questions before an investigation proves necessary. Arrangements should be made with lawyers and staff councils on how these investigations should proceed. A procedure should then be set down with the cloud provider that can be initiated in the event of an investigation.

Cloud opportunities

Thus far we have seen the cloud in relation to computer forensics as the ‘scene of the crime’ from which data are collected and analysed. Yet the cloud may actually prove to be more of a solution for computer forensics, i.e. Forensics as a Service. After all, the analysis of mass data requires loads of storage space and machine time. Because the cloud is so scalable and flexible, it could amply satisfy those requirements in a relatively short span of time. In addition, it can be quite costly to acquire the necessary software and train staff. Enterprises could purchase these services from the cloud for the duration of the project.