Technology Giving Companies a False Sense of Security, says F-Secure Red Team
March 2017 by F-Secure
“Using technology to solve human problems just doesn’t work, and anyone telling you different is selling magic beans,” said Tom Van de Wiele, Principle Security Consultant at F-Secure. “Real-life attackers, especially criminals, live off perfecting subtle social engineering tricks that trick human beings into letting their guard down. And letting employees believe that cutting edge security technologies will handle everything gives a false sense of security, which is something today’s attackers are counting on.”
Phishing exemplifies what Van de Wiele says are failings related to overconfidence in technology. According to PwC’s Global State of Information Security Survey 2017,* phishing was the #1 vector for cyber attacks targeting financial institutions in 2016. And based on the spread of managed phishing-as-a-service bundles on the dark net,** these attacks are likely to become more prevalent going forward.
“You’d be amazed by what people click on while they’re working. They’re not stupid, just caught off-guard, not necessarily expecting to be duped,” said Van de Wiele. And indeed, simulated phishing attacks have high success rates in F-Secure’s Red Teaming Tests.
For example, in a recent job, F-Secure red team experts sent out a fake LinkedIn email to see how many of the organization’s employees would click on a link in an unsolicited email. 52% of employees clicked. In another test, F-Secure’s red team created an email leading to a fake portal where employees would need to log in using their domain credentials. 26% of recipients followed the email link to the portal, and 13% actually entered their login credentials.
Nothing is off limits
The Red Teaming Tests Van de Wiele and his colleagues conduct involve a comprehensive series of tests designed to highlight what companies are doing right and wrong when it comes to security. The tests challenge companies to successfully detect, contain, and respond to simulated cyber attacks intended to steal financial data and intellectual property, or control key parts of a company’s IT infrastructure.
According to Van de Wiele, these tests often surprise companies by revealing just how exposed they are. “Internal views of security rarely match the weaknesses attackers actually see,” he said. The tests encompass a company’s entire attack surface, not just digital but physical too – or anything under the company brand.
“Many companies are surprised when we gain access to offline servers, as many CISO’s are unprepared to deal with an attacker who gains physical access to their company’s premises. And that’s surprisingly easy to do: All you need is a safety vest and physical work order. Safety vests are better than Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. Put it on and you can get anywhere, no questions asked.”
With Red Teaming Tests, organizations can:
• Ensure that security controls are working and are aligned with their intended function
• Measure the return of cyber security investments
• Obtain an overview of how efficiently core assets or intellectual property are protected
• Clarify if security processes need to be updated or if more security awareness training is required
• Raise IT security awareness within relevant departments
• Ensure that security monitoring works as intended
• Test their ability to contain an attack