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Midyear Security Report: Exploit Kits and Ransomware Get Creative

The modern online adversary is out to make money, not simply hack networks for the fun of it. In the Cisco 2015 Midyear Security Report, there’s yet more evidence that criminals are using tools with ever-increasing sophistication to steal valuable personal or financial data and sell it, coerce users into paying ransoms for their own data, and generally reap financial rewards for their exploits.

The Angler exploit kit continues to lead the market in terms of sophistication and effectiveness. As explained in the Cisco 2015 Midyear Security Report, Angler packs a significant punch because it uses Flash, Java, Internet Explorer, and Silverlight vulnerabilities to achieve its objectives. Angler is very effective, in part due to its ability to compromise users by using multiple vectors: Cisco found that 40 percent of users who encounter an Angler exploit kit on the web are compromised, compared to just 20 percent of users who encounter other widely used exploit kits.

Angler successfully fools users and evades detection with several innovative techniques. For example, as we discuss in the report, our researchers believe Angler’s authors use data science to create computer-generated landing pages that look normal enough to pass muster from heuristic scanners. In addition, Angler has recently started using “domain shadowing” to dodge detection—the exploit kit authors compromise a domain name registrant’s account, and then register thousands of subdomains under the legitimate domain of the compromised user. While domain shadowing isn’t new, we’ve monitored growing use of this technique since last 2014: according to our researchers, more than 75 percent of known subdomain activity by exploit kit authors since that time can be attributed to Angler. Read More »

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Announcing the 2015 Midyear Security Report

Our 2015 Midyear Security Report (MSR) is out this week, and it’s been a bumpy year when you consider the innovative, resilient, and evasive nature of the global cyber attacks we’ve seen in recent months. Our team continues to see adversaries who rapidly refine their ability to develop and deploy malware that evades detection. It is sobering to note that our MSR confirms that the security industry is just not keeping pace with the attackers.

The MSR is our follow-up to the Cisco Annual Security Report (ASR), which we publish in January. The 2015 MSR updates you on what we’ve seen in the first half of 2015, with analysis and insights about the latest attack trends and advice on what to do about them.

Some of the top troubling trends in this year’s six-month update include: Read More »

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The Best Defense is a Good Offense? Why Cisco Security Researchers Attack Cisco Technologies

This week, Cisco provided comments on the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) proposed cybersecurity regulations. These comments reflect the realities of how Cisco looks to protect both our customers and our products. They also emphasize the critical role that security researches, access to tools, and qualified talent have in cybersecurity.

Cisco has hundreds of dedicated security engineers and researchers throughout the company and around the globe, who use the latest and greatest tools and techniques to test our technology. We proactively attempt to break into our own products, our own services, and our own networks, in order to close identified weaknesses and vulnerabilities as soon as possible and to develop better protections against attack. Many of these same people are responsible for investigating reported vulnerabilities or compromises of our products and running these reports to ground with absolute certainty. In doing this, we have resolved countless bugs and vulnerabilities and continue to improve the security of our products with what we learn. Along the way we have discovered many interesting and creative adversaries and certainly learned that there are some very resourceful people out there.  Read More »

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Securing the Supply Chain Throughout the Product Lifecycle

In this environment of advanced threats along every point of the value chain, I’d like to talk about what it means for you, our customers and partners, to have supply chain security throughout the product lifecycle.

I’ve just finished a short video on this topic. I’d love to hear your feedback, insights and suggestions on securing the product supply chain.

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Security and the Board

Not long ago I was asked to attend a quarterly Board meeting of one of my healthcare clients and to present the recommendations of a Strategic Security Roadmap (SSR) exercise that my team and I had conducted for the organization. The meeting commenced sharply at 6am one weekday morning and I was allocated the last ten minutes to explain our recommendations and proposed structure for a revised Cybersecurity Management Program (CMP).


The client Director of Security and I waited patiently outside the Board Room while other board business was conducted inside. As is the case with many organizations, information security was not really taken seriously there, and the security team reported into IT way down the food chain, with no direct representation in the C Suite. The organization’s CMP had evolved over the years from anti-virus, patching and firewall management into other domains of the ISO27002 framework but was not complete or taken seriously by those at the top. Attempts at building out a holistic security program over the years had met with funding and staff resource constraints and Directors of Security had come and gone with nothing really changing. Read More »

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