LegalSEC: Email Security is Priority One for Law Firms

By Joseph Raczynski

BALTIMORE, Md. — “Three strikes and you are out of the firm.” This is the mantra of one law firm when dealing with employees who click on spear-phishing emails, according to Mounil Patel, Strategic Technology Consultant at Mimecast, an email and cloud security firm.

Patel’s comments came at the recent gathering of legal tech and cybersecurity officials, the LegalSEC Summit, presented last week by the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) in Baltimore.

Simply stated, email is currently the largest hole in law firm and corporate security. Most other aspects of the firm have been shored up over the last several years, including firewall and antivirus protection, malware defenses, and monitoring of networks. However, as Patel pointed out, a law firm can have every monitoring and protection application in place, but email’s reliance on the human decision factor creates major headaches for the firm’s IT staff.

emailTo illustrate, Patel described one incident where he received an email from someone with whom he had worked years ago at a previous company. The email was directed to him and clearly appeared to be from his old colleague’s email address. The cordial note brought up some of their old connections at the previous company and then asked if he would kindly review the attached resume to see if there might be a fit for him at his new company. Patel naturally opened the PDF and the virus payload was released. The point is, with today’s more sophisticated email attacks, there is almost no way for people to know what are genuine correspondences from friends or colleagues and what is a “virus bomb”.

Patel’s advice:

  • Be suspicious of everything that comes into your inbox especially from the outside;
  • .EXEs and .ZIPs files should always be blocked or deleted;
  • PDFs can be difficult — be sure to run the latest patches from Adobe (creator of PDFs);
  • Be aware of where links and URLs are taking you;
  • Law firm or company IT departments should send weekly notes to remind people to be cautious; and
  • For finance, use internal non-email based systems for wire transfers and notifications.

 

It is interesting to note that many law firms and corporations are internally testing their own employees with such targeted spear-phishing attacks similar to the one Patel received. A client of Patel’s ran one such email security campaign and when an attorney was caught opening the attached files or following the links, that person immediately received a pre-recorded message via voicemail from the entire executive partnership that such behavior was unacceptable.

The message went on to state if they were caught twice more they would be terminated — three strikes and they were out.

One best practice noted by one chief information officer at the Summit was that before you start your phishing campaign, let the firm know you are conducting this. She found that attorneys began sending IT suspicious emails proactively. In addition, reaffirm those who do not click the phishing emails, by not noting that they are doing good work.

Email will continue to dog corporations and law firms for the foreseeable future. Ultimately it comes down to humans making decision on what to open and click on. At this point in time, a well-crafted targeted email attack appeals to most people, unfortunately. (In fact, the likelihood of an executive clicking on one of these attacks is at a stunning 96%, according to McAfee.)

So, heeding some of Patel’s advice could save your organization the pains of another attack launched via email.

LegalSEC: Shedding Light on the Dark Net 

By Joseph Raczynski

The importance of law firms understanding the dark web

Your very sensitive private client data could be available for all to see on the Internet right now.  Technically this data would be on the Dark Net or Dark Web.  It is the portion of the World Wide Web that is hidden or inaccessible from normal browsers.  As corporations and law firms grapple with larger and more profound attacks, I think it is important to be aware of how individuals access it and what occurs there to better safeguard your firm from what is happening now.  At the cybersecurity LegalSEC Summit last week in Baltimore, Kevin Lancaster CEO of Winvale, Todd Nielson, President at ‎Secuvant Cyber Security, and Will Nuland, Sr. Security Researcher at Dell SecureWorks, spoke about the nuances around the Dark Net.

The Dark Web, born from a United States government program had positive intent from the onset.  It created a cyberspace where people in disaffected regions could anonymously visit and share ideas freely.  North Koreans and Iranians use this to congregate and postulate new ways to live.  They could then visit this space in the ether and share ideas freely without the fear that they would be persecuted for espousing ideas incongruous with their government point of view.

How to get there:

The following is not advised, but is here as an awareness of how people access the Dark Web.

Mozilla Firefox has a plugin (Tor Project), a simple free application run by a nonprofit organization which turns your normal browser into a Tor Onion enabled browser.  What that means is that the plugin creates a tunneled Internet to a minimum of 100 other locations around the world.  You are essentially establishing a proxy connection to other computers who are running the same Tor software.  This establishes a very strong sense of anonymity and security that no one knows who you are or where you live (IP address).   If I live in Washington, DC after running the plugin I may show up as living in Prague, but first being routed through 99 other cities.

darkweb

Once the application is launched you would need to find an index page, like the Hidden Wiki, which gives users a general launching off point for perusing the Dark Web websites.  It is not a pure search and find environment like Google, though some sites are indexed.  Sites are not set up with URL structure like we have on the Open Web, http://www.thomsonreuters.com.  In fact they appear to be hashed with letters and numbers in a random pattern.  They also end in an .onion compared to the normal .com that we tend to see.  So an example address might be: ijfije856ya5lo.onion.

Once there:

Unfortunately, once a user passes into this realm, there is a minefield awaiting.  The Wiki page starts with the benign and dives headlong into the frightening and disturbing.  You can buy $10,000 of fake US dollars for the equivalent of $5,000 in Bitcoin, the currency of choice.  The cryptocurrency Bitcoin is also generally considered anonymous.   Other possibilities include, hiring a hacker, buying prescription drugs, and buying illegal drugs, and acquiring arms or if you so desired, get involved in unregulated medical trials.  On the darker side, you can even hire a hit man.

Law Firm Perspective on Dark Web:

The key important piece to this post is that law firms are now being brought into the dark side.  Criminals are stealing IP information, M&A information and dropping off onto the Dark Web.  Other groups are grabbing proprietary information or sensitive client information from law firm networks and saving it onto the Dark Net to either expose the firm, or to hold at ransom.  Hackers for hire have been used to target corporations and law firms.

One of the subjects that was asked of the panel, how should firms handle the Dark Web?   In my time consulting around this subject, I was curious about the response.  The group was split.  Some thought that companies should not use their own networks to access the environment, others stated that in a controlled access situation, they could monitor what is going on the Dark Web to protect their brand.  In fact, it was stated that nearly two million people a day visit, but most are monitoring what is happening.  Law firms and corporations should be looking for client names, login and passwords, email address of their respective company.

With the increase in cyber-attacks, all entities have to be aware of how the hackers operate.  Understanding the Dark Web in the context of this is part of the due diligence for any corporation or law firm today.  Fortunately a new wave of companies are surfacing which can monitor the Dark Net on behalf of your organization.

LegalSEC: Cybersecurity, Rooted in 500 Years of History

By Joseph Raczynski

Learning from colonial piracy about the war on cybersecurity 

“It is a small world.  It’s a fragile world.  No one is safe until everyone is safe.”  These are the cautionary words of Rod Beckstrom of The Rod Beckstrom Group, the keynote speaker at the cybersecurity LegalSEC Summit last week in Baltimore.  With over 350 legal technology professionals leaning into his every word, he set the stage for where cybersecurity is headed with an advisory tale from history now repeating itself on the Internet.  His intent, to arm the guardians overseeing 80-90% of the country’s IP information all sitting in the same room at that moment in time.

History of Pirates

In 1491, the “Erdapfel” of Martin Beheim was created.  It is the oldest surviving terrestrial globe – excluding the Americas.  This sphere was cutting edge technology of the day.  Like any technology its uses can be for the betterment of humanity or its decline.  Not surprisingly, around the release of the globe, piracy began to flourish.  Seafaring scoundrels viewed the world anew with this technology and seized upon its bounty.

These salty scofflaws took four unique forms in their day.  One group of pirates were sponsored by the Dutch, Spanish, and British empires respectively.  Another group realized they could band together using their private ships to attack on the high seas for gems and precious metals.  The third formed a coalition around pirating for a cause.  The last group were one-off ships that would attack others for jewels or money.  These four pirating entities have a present day adaptation.  They translate to State Actors (e.g. China, Iran, North Korea), Organized Crime (e.g. in Russia or Estonia), Hacktivist (e.g. Anonymous) and Lone Hackers (e.g. anyone and everyone).  One new addition, in the Cyber Age there is also the internal threat to organizations known as “Insider Joe” attacks which are very prevalent.

keynote

Present and Future

As Beckstrom described in this presentation, the wars over the years require time for forces to align.  During the Nuclear era, once the major powers acquired these arms, everyone realized it was in the best interest of each country not to use them, i.e. mutually assured destruction.  This is ongoing right now with Cyberwar.  He said that China or Russia could hobble the infrastructure of the United States tomorrow, but they realize that if they did that, the US would do the same to them, therefore no one conducts this sort of cyber-attack.

Law firms are not a sovereign territory so all aforementioned groups are threats and in turn are seeking them out.  These groups have tools which are sold on the Dark Web as out of the box solutions and can wreak havoc for firms in very little time.  In the graphic below Beckstrom outlines an ecosystem where various parties work together but in isolation to earn money or take down a company.  The scripts are created by people and sold to criminals.  While another sets of criminals have harvested millions of credentials.  In conjunction the Criminal Operator uses both to target a law firm or corporation.  Those proceeds or goods are then routed through Mules.  These are everyday people who simply accept packages and send them along to someone else which keeps the money flowing. In most of the law firm attacks, mules are not used, instead data is either released or held at random by the Criminal Operator.

rod1

The only way to combat this said Beckstrom will be a new world of robots fighting robots (computer bots), which is now occurring.  This next era defense is sifting through huge amounts of data and applying cognitive computing and artificial intelligence with a layer of deep learning on top.  In this light he underscored the importance of preparedness.  One of the world’s largest banks, JPMorgan, has decided to pledge a half billion dollars toward the fight on cybersecurity.

Beckstrom closed with the warning to each firm CIO that the time is now to invest heavily in cybersecurity.  Every one of the attacker profiles mentioned are attempting to break in and get access to law firm and corporate information.  Prepare now because time is short – we are not safe until everyone is safe – by taking the responsibility to invest.