Startups

As war escalates in Europe, it’s ‘shields up’ for the cybersecurity industry

Comment

Cropped Hand Holding Umbrella During Rainfall
Image Credits: Rosley Majid / EyeEm / Getty Images

Yaron Tal

Contributor

CTO and founder of Reposify, Yaron Tal is a tech entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert with nearly two decades of experience developing cybersecurity software solutions.

In unprecedented times, even government bureaucracy moves quickly. As a result of the heightened likelihood of cyberthreat from Russian malactor groups, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) — part of the Department of Homeland Security — issued an unprecedented warning recommending that “all organizations — regardless of size — adopt a heightened posture when it comes to cybersecurity and protecting their most critical assets.”

The blanket warning is for all industries to take notice. Indeed, it’s a juxtaposition of sorts to think the cybersecurity industry is vulnerable to cyberattack, but for many nation state groups, this is their first port of call.

Inspired by the spike in attacks on cybersecurity agencies globally, a report from Reposify assessed the state of the cybersecurity industry’s external attack surface (EAS). It coincides with CISA’s warning, and highlights critical areas of concern for the sector and how they mirror trends amongst pharmaceutical and financial companies, providing vital insight into where organizations can focus their efforts, and reinforce the digital perimeter.

The report examined 35 cybersecurity companies and their 350+ subsidiaries with shocking results: during only a two-week period in January 2022, more than 200,000 exposed assets were uncovered at top firms, 42% of which were identified as high-severity issues.

As CISA outlines in its “Shields Up” guidance, the first step to resiliency is to reduce the likelihood of a damaging cyber intrusion in the first place. Recognizing the problem is only the first in a series of actionable moves organizations can make to minimize their external weaknesses to bad actors.

If addressing digital perimeter exposures is the foundation, zoning-in on problem areas is the framing. A deep dive into these deficiencies points to clear solutions all industries – cybersecurity or otherwise – can embrace to protect themselves.

What do companies need to do?

Many factors, including the transition to remote work environments, increased reliance on third-party vendors, digital transformation and offloading services onto the cloud, have significantly increased companies’ external attack surface.

According to the report, the rise of remote access sites saw 89% of identified assets classified as part of the unofficial perimeter. Similarly, 87% of databases were unaccounted for, along with 67% of development tools and 62% of all network assets.

Databases were found to be among the most vulnerable to cybersecurity threat, with over half (51%) of cybersecurity companies hosting an exposed database. Nearly all (97.14%) of security agencies have exposed assets on their Amazon Web Services (AWS), and 86% of those analyzed have at least one sensitive remote access service exposed to the internet.

Now that the problem areas have been identified – remote access servers, open network computing remote procedure call (ONC RPCs), service message block services, and databases among them — the best tool in any CISOs arsenal is anticipation and mitigation.

Leveraging cybersecurity best practices across infrastructure, applications and user management should be the first port of call before deploying tools to support in minimizing an organization’s EAS.

Best practice for OpenSSH and remote access servers like RDP and Telnet is to ensure access only via VPN. This provides critical protection through proxy walls and will properly shield internal data. Furthermore, ONC RPCs like Portmapper should only service data on internal networks (intranet). If it holds any two-way connection to the internet, it should be bound only to non-confidential data.

Unmaintained web servers (e.g., Apache, NGINX and IIS) also represent a major risk to any organization, potentially exposing networks to exploitations that could result in a data leak or remote code execution (RCE).

Similarly, databases are today’s treasure chests. Without adequate protection via MFA, SSO, VPN or proxy, valuable corporate information, intellectual property and privacy data could all be lost to the work of malactors. Exposed storage and backup sites like FTP, rsync, S3 and Azure Blob should be stored off public IP to prevent a doorway for cyber-attack, as opportunists could use this as a means to compromise or tamper with corporate data, potentially leveraging ransomware to generate profit.

DevOps tools where companies may store software and information-critical documents should, at the very least, leverage two-factor authentication for employee use. Ensuring these tools, and web servers, are patched with the latest software is another example of simple-fix companies can use to protect themselves and minimize their EAS.

In the same vein, the reliance on cloud computing can potentially put company assets at risk. Contrary to popular belief, the onus to protect cloud data falls on the customer, not the service provider.

There are a number of ways corporations can become vulnerable through cloud service providers: Incomplete control over who can access sensitive data, cloud misconfiguration, cloud applications provisioned outside IT visibility, lack of staff with skills to manage security for cloud applications, among others.

We’ve anticipated and mitigated. Now what?

Even with these critical steps, the EAS still exists and is therefore not immune to threat. EASM tools can help. Before, online assets had to be cleared and itemized by a central IT team. Now, product, marketing and technology teams have the ability to create and own online assets – everything from test pages to entire databases – often without informing IT departments.

In addition to rendering central control of asset inventory near useless, decentralization of asset management has brought about significant changes in the types of threats that organizations can expect, and highlighted an issue for every industry: human error.

For maximum effectiveness, assets must be continuously monitored in real time. Often, subsidiaries and partner companies are overlooked when mapping the external attack surface. Critical asset identification must extend to all associated companies.

This is particularly important in the case of mergers and acquisitions, where a parent company may overlook critical exposed assets at a subsidiary. If the chosen EASM tool can’t recognize the link between the two companies, an unknown asset becomes far more likely to be exploited and could become a significant cybersecurity threat.

The cybersecurity industry is no exception to human error

At the end of the day, security company CISOs are no different from those in any other industry. They, too, are subject to budgeting issues that may not allow for adequate infosec resources, leaving small teams to manage a growing number of assets.

Automated cybersecurity tools are thrown at problems as a half-hearted fix, potentially creating new attack vectors in the process. It’s a lot to keep track of for anyone, and so, human error kicks in and systems are unintentionally missed or overlooked.

As reinforced by CISA’s “Shields Up” warning, we live in a world where cybercrime is a weapon to be yielded. Battles are being fought online in retaliation to sanctions, or other penalties, often alongside ground or fiscal war.

Cybersecurity companies house valuable assets of U.S. businesses, and we must do everything in our power to protect them. We can begin with our digital perimeter by being watchful, ultimately leading to a safer world for all.

To read “The State of External Attack Surface 2022” report, click here (registration required).

More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

17 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

19 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android