The infamous 1930’s-era bank robber Willie Sutton notoriously said he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.” Today’s cybercriminals disrupt state, local and education networks with phishing and ransomware attacks for much the same reason — because that’s where the most valuable data is.
Awareness and information from a network of people put Sutton behind bars permanently. Both can also be key factors in slowing cybercriminals’ activities these days.
State, local and education networks face a rising tide of phishing and ransomware attacks, in which cyber criminals try to steal a rich trove of detailed personal identifiable data, like Social Security numbers, voting data, credit card numbers, even patent files. Data on government and education networks is valuable by itself, but it is also critical for government and educational organizations to provide services. It is irreplaceable.
Data breaches can take a heavy toll. Schools sometimes have to shut down in the wake of a ransomware attack. Local and state governments have to inform constituents of the attack, spend money for credit monitoring, have a remediation policy in place and potentially face losing services.
In his time, “Slick Willie” Sutton was known not only for being a very innovative thief, but also for being a snappy dresser and owner of many custom-made suits.
It was his predictable behavior that finally got him caught. Law enforcement knew his weaknesses enough to know what to look for.
Sutton was captured in New York City because a clothing salesman recognized him from a photo sent out on a wanted poster to tailors within the five boroughs. Law enforcement knew tailors and clothing stores might be a good place to look for information on the sharply dressed criminal. It sent posters directly to them hoping to get information on Sutton’s whereabouts.
In today’s cyber security language, Sutton’s capture was a result of analyzing data about a threat, then passing that information along to a network that could spread that threat data most efficiently.
Like Sutton, ransomware and cyber scammers can be stopped from getting into networks if they’re recognized by their behavior and the snippets of electronic traces they left behind in previous attacks, said Brenna Plesich, head of public sector sales at Check Point Software Technologies.
Increasing remote work, proliferation of devices, and the use of secondary Wi-Fi networks used to access public-facing government and educational networks all add to increased vulnerability of government and education network assets, she said. Along with that increasing complexity, networks and their users face a deluge of information, including a flood of emails, which can give attackers a way in. Software supply chains have also become a pathway into networks in recent years.
Ransomware has become more sophisticated as criminals move to off-the-shelf, as-a-service software that is constantly updated and weaponized for more effective attacks, as well.
Use Data to Find and Flush Cyberthieves
Attackers can be found and blocked using the electronic traces attackers leave behind that can be recognized by network defenders and acted on — if the network has the resources.
Solutions that provide a single unified security capability across hybrid networks and growing numbers of devices can help these organizations’ operations and bottom lines, according to Plesich.
Check Point provides a platform that consolidates cybersecurity solutions across cloud, networks, endpoints, mobile and IoT. The company’s Infinity platform can help state, local and education networks that may have limited resources and staff to do the legwork required to do in-depth network security. It has also excelled at email security, deploying its ThreatCloud threat intelligence capabilities. That allows protection against phishing attacks from endpoints to browsers and software-as-a-service applications.
Check Point’s ThreatCloud is the brain behind the platform, storing the traces hackers leave behind. It combines artificial intelligence technologies with big data threat intelligence that can prevent the most advanced attacks while reducing false positives.
ThreatCloud aggregates and analyzes big data telemetry and millions of indicators of compromise every day. Its threat intelligence database is fed from 150,000 connected networks and millions of endpoint devices, as well as Check Point research and dozens of external feeds. Those capabilities allow the system to catch “Zero Day” attacks, which haven’t been seen before and disseminate the threat data across the globe.
“Maybe we catch a Zero Day threat at the end point level. We can then share that with every other security system, including network security and email security, through ThreatCloud and propagated down to all other security devices in the network,” said Plesich. “It enables them to be protected using information from one vector across multiple vectors.”
Consolidated Platform Saves Resources and Time
A consolidated security platform, said Plesich, can save agency IT managers more than just the public services they provide, it can also save time and money for the agency internally.
A singular platform, she said, doesn’t require individual staff to monitor each device, or end point, for instance. “There’s a constant shortage of cybersecurity workers. That makes it challenging to manage disparate solutions and different layers of management, particularly with a large number of individual tools,” she said. Consolidation of those tools into a single platform insures a centralized management console. You only have to understand one system, she added.
Check Point, said Plesich, looks to prevent attacks from getting to a network, or end user, so there are fewer things to remediate.
“We’ve been doing this for 30 years and we have network and end point devices and third parties that are bringing us threat information from all over the world,” said Plesich. Check Point aggregates that data and uses artificial intelligence and its resource staff to help identify what looks similar to another threat and what looks like it could be a new threat, according to Plesich. The group combs through 1 billion websites and looks at 30 million file emulations — which imitate what a suspect application might do — a day, she said.
The company shares the results of that research through its network structure to defend against attacks.
Learn more about how Checkpoint can help your state or local agency tap data to thwart cyberattacks.
This content is made possible by our sponsor Checkpoint. The editorial staff of Route Fifty was not involved in its preparation.