United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Announces New Grant Plan to Slow Epidemic Spread of Cyber Attacks

United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Announces New Grant Plan to Slow Epidemic Spread of Cyber Attacks

Businesses may be able to take a little sigh of relief that some help may be coming to the persistent threat of ransomware attacks.  The DHS announced that significant funds will be provided to a number of public and private sectors to help improve the nation’s protection against data security attacks and other crises.

The Feb. 25 Announcement

On February 25, 2021, DHS announced its funding notice for several different types of cyber preparedness grants worth nearly $1.87 billion.  After noticing a rise in both the number and complexity of cyber threats faced by communities, including targeted ransomware attacks on our infrastructure, hospital, transportation systems, DHS identified five critical priority areas for attention for its fiscal 2021 grant cycle: 1) cybersecurity; 2) soft targets and crowded places; 3) intelligence and information sharing; 4) domestic violent extremism; and 5) emerging threats.  These grant programs provide funding to state, local, tribal/territorial governments, transportation authorities, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector to improve the nation’s readiness in preventing, protecting against, responding to, recovering from terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies.

The DHS announced several non-competitive grants which are to be awarded to recipients based on several factors:

  • State Homeland Security Program – The State Homeland Security Program provides $415 million to support the implementation of risk-driven, capabilities-based state homeland security strategies to address capability targets;
  • Urban Area Security Initiative – The Urban Area Security Initiative provides $615 million to enhance regional preparedness and capabilities in 31 high-threat, high-density areas; and
  • Emergency Management Performance Grant (“EMPG”) – EMPG provides more than $355 million to assist state, local, tribal, and territorial governments in enhancing and sustaining all-hazards emergency management capabilities; and
  • Intercity Passenger RailAmtrak Program – The Amtrak Program provides $10 million to Amtrak to protect critical surface transportation infrastructure and the traveling public from acts of terrorism and increase the resilience of the Amtrak rail system.

Moreover, the DHS announced several competitive grants, including:

  • Operation Stonegarden – Operation Stongarden provides $90 million to enhance cooperation and coordination among state, local, tribal, territorial, and federal law enforcement agencies to jointly enhance security along the United States land and water borders;
  • Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program – The Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program provides $15 million to eligible tribal nations to implement preparedness initiatives to help strengthen the nation against risk associated with potential terrorist attacks and other hazards;
  • The Nonprofit Security Grant Program – The Nonprofit Security Grant Program provides $180 million to support target hardening and other physical security enhancements for nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of a terrorist attack;
  • Port Security Grant Program – The Port Security Grant Program provides $100 million to help protect critical port infrastructure from terrorism, enhance maritime domain awareness, improve port-wide maritime security risk management, and maintain or re-establish maritime security mitigation protocols that support port recovery and resiliency capabilities;
  • Transit Security Grant Program – The Transit Security Grant Program provides $88 million to owners and operators of public transit systems to protect critical surface transportation and the traveling public from acts of terrorism and to increase the resilience of transit infrastructure; and
  • Intercity Bus Security Program – The Intercity Bus Security Program provides $2 million to owners and operators of intercity bus systems to protect surface transportation infrastructure and the traveling public from acts of terrorism and to increase the resilience of transit infrastructure.

Impact on Business

Private sector businesses can apply for these grants, especially if they are in the process of developing and creating cyberwarfare and other data defense tools.  Grant  information can be found here.

Beckage has responded to countless data breaches and is always comforted to see more dollars that foster collaboration between public and private sectors to help defend and protect U.S. business and more.

If you have questions about the grant dollars or how to apply, please contact a Beckage attorney at 716.898.2102.

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Cyber InsuranceDFS February 2021 Guidance To Cyber Insurers

DFS February 2021 Guidance To Cyber Insurers

On February 4, 2021, the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) issued specific guidance to property/casualty insurers writing cyber insurance policies, known as the Cyber Insurance Risk Framework (“Framework”). The DFS promoted itself as the first US regulator in the nation to issue a specific guidance on cyber insurance, explaining the suggestions of the Framework are based on continued dialogue with the insurance industry and experts in cyber insurance regarding the shifting landscape of cybersecurity.

With the Covid-19 pandemic forcing companies to shift to an online workforce, cybercrimes, like ransomware and malware attacks, have drastically increased in frequency, severity, and cost to victimized companies. Cybercriminals use payments extorted from ransomware to fund more frequent and sophisticated ransomware attacks, emboldening them to target other organizations and widen their campaigns. The widespread use of ransomware has pressured cyber insurers to increase rates and tighten underwriting standards for cyber insurance.

The DFS advises New York regulated property/casualty insurers offering cyber insurance to establish a formal strategy for measuring cyber insurance risks that can be approved by a board or a governing entity. The Framework acknowledges that strategies should be proportionate with each insurer’s risk based on the insurer’s size, resources, geographic distribution, market share, and industries insured.  It is important to note the Framework constitutes a list of best practices and suggested approaches and does not yet constitute rules or regulations for the insurance industry.

The Cyber Insurance Risk Framework encourages cyber insurers to formalize a Cyber Insurance Risk Assessment Strategy that is managed by a governing body and establishes and/or formalizes qualitative and quantitative measures and goals for cyber risk that incorporate six best practices identified by DFS:

  1. Manage and Eliminate Exposure to “Silent” Cyber Insurance Risk

Cyber insurers should determine whether they are exposed to silent or non-affirmative cyber insurance risk, an insurer’s obligation to cover cyber incident losses under a policy that does not explicitly mention cyber incidents. The Framework suggests that insurers evaluate their silent risk exposure and take steps to minimize that exposure.

2. Evaluate Systemic Risk

Cyber insurers should conduct regular systemic risk evaluations and plan for potential losses. Increased reliance on third-party vendors has caused systemic risk to grow exponentially and thus, insurers should understand the third parties used by their insureds and model the effect of catastrophic cyber events that may result in simultaneous losses.

3. Rigorously Measure Insured Risk by Using Data

Cyber insurers should use a comprehensive, data-driven approach to assess their insured’s potential gaps and cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

4. Educate Insureds and Insurance Producers

Cyber insurers should educate their insureds and insurance producers about the value of cybersecurity measures and the need for, benefits of, and limitations of cyber insurance.

5. Obtain Cybersecurity Expertise

Cyber insurers can use strategic recruiting practices to hire employees with cybersecurity experience and invest in their training and development.

6. Require Notice to Law Enforcement

In the event of a cyberattack, cyber insurance policies should require victims notify and engage law enforcement agencies to help recover lost data and funds.

This guidance brings operational and other challenges to those in the property/casualty insurance market. It also adds new potential requirements to pass along to their insureds. For example, insureds may not know that their policy will require notification of law enforcement, and they may have reasons not to notify law enforcement, but if they choose not to it can lead to a coverage dispute.

Beckage advises those in the insurance industry on risk management, cybersecurity best practices and measures, third-party vendor management, and incident response.  Beckage also works with global clients to evaluate risk management, including opportunities to obtain various cyber and tech related coverage. We can be reached 24/7 via our data breach hotline at 844.502.9363 or IR@beckage.com.

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RansomwareRansomware Activity Targeting the Healthcare and Public Health Sector

Ransomware Activity Targeting the Healthcare and Public Health Sector

Beckage is notifying organizations in the healthcare sector of a potential threat that may occur this weekend. We will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates as they occur.

Late last night the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a warning about an imminent cybercrime threat to hospitals and healthcare providers. These organizations have credible information to suggest that there will be a widespread Ryuk ransomware attack this weekend. The threat is currently being investigated by the FBI, DHS and the NSA’s Cybersecurity Threat Operations Center.

What We Know

The cybercrime organization Ryuk is targeting the Healthcare and Public Health sector with Trickbot malware that may lead to ransomware attacks, data theft, and the disruption of healthcare services, a particularly concerning possibility considering the nation is still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on what we know about Ryuk, it is possible that the targeted healthcare entities have already implemented the encryption malware on healthcare organizations’ systems and the threat actors just have not commanded it to activate.  Given the threat, we urge all healthcare organizations to review the measures recommended by the FBI as consider some practical incident response measures.

What To Do Next

Beckage recommends that hospitals and healthcare providers implement several preventative steps to safeguard their organization including of the following measures: reviewing current incident response protocols and processes within the next 24 hours, and carefully crafting internal drafting internal and external messaging and FAQs with an experienced data breach attorney to help minimize legal risk as well as making sure employees know who to contact if they have reason to believe there is suspicious activity.

Beckage is available to discuss additional best practices that should be taken over the next 24 to 72 hours. Our team will continue to monitor this for new developments and provides updates as appropriate.  If an attack is detected and additional resources are needed, Beckage can be reached using our 24/7 Data Breach Hotline at 844-502-9363.

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Small BusinessData Breach Risks for Small & Medium Sized Businesses

Data Breach Risks for Small & Medium Sized Businesses

Today, small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are sometimes at a greater risk of cyber-attacks and security breaches than large enterprises and corporations. Seventy-one percent of cyber-attacks happen at businesses with less than one hundred employees due to less secure networks, lack of time, budget constraints, and limited resources for proper security. Other factors, such as not having an IT network specialist, being unaware of risks associated with cyber security, lack of employee training on cyber security practices and protocols, failure to update security programs, outsourcing security, and failure to secure endpoints may play a role in the increased cyber-attacks on SMBs.

Common Cyber Attacks on SMBs:

  1. Advanced Persistent Threats. These are passive cyberattacks in which a hacker gains access to a computer or network over a long period of time with the intent to gather information.
  • Phishing. Criminals utilize phishing, via email or other communication methods, to induce users to perform a certain task. Once the target user completes the task, such as opening a link or giving personal information, the hacker can gain access to private systems or information.
  • Denial of Service Attacks (DoS, DDoS). Hackers will deny service to a legitimate user through specially crafted data that causes an error within the system or flooding that involves overloading a system so that it no longer functions. The hacker forces the user to pay a fee in order to regain working order of the system.
  • Insider Attacks. An insider attack may occur when employees do not practice good cyber safety resulting in stolen and/or compromised data.
  • Malware. Malware may be downloaded to the computer without the user knowing, causing serious data or security breaches.
  • Password Attacks. Hackers may use automated systems to input various passwords in an attempt to access a network. If successful in gaining network access, hackers can easily move laterally, gaining access to even more systems.
  • Ransomware. Ransomware is a specific malware that gathers and encrypts data in a network, preventing user access. User access is only restored if the hacker’s demands are met.

To help ensure your business is protected, it is important to know and understand the different ways hackers can gain access to a network and pose a threat to the data security of the business.

Some Ways SMEs Can Help Avoid Being a Victim of Cyber-Attacks

  1. Understand Legal Requirements

Often, SMBs are unaware of cybersecurity best practices, so they rely on vendors without first determining what their legal obligation is to have certain cybersecurity and data privacy practices in place. Some laws dictate what steps an organization are required to take. Thus, it is prudent for a company to develop a plan with legal counsel and then identify the ideal vendors to help execute that plan.

  • Use a Firewall

Firewalls are used to prevent unauthorized access to or from a private network and prevent unauthorized users from accessing private networks connected to the internet, especially intranets. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends all SMBs set up a firewall, both externally and internally, to provide a barrier between your data and cybercriminals.

  • Document Cybersecurity Policies

It is critical as a business to document your cybersecurity protocols. As discussed above, there may even be legal obligations to do so. There are many sources available that provide information on how to document your cybersecurity. The Small Business Administration (SBA) Cybersecurity portal provides online training, checklists, and information specific to protecting small businesses. The FCC’s Cyberplanner 2.0 provides a starting point for security documents and the C3 Voluntary Program for Small Businesses contains a detailed toolkit for determining and documenting the cybersecurity practices and policies best suited for your business.

  • Plan for Mobile Devices

With technology advancing and companies allowing employees to bring their own devices to work, it is crucial for SMBs to have a documented written policy that focuses on security precautions and protocols surrounding smart devices, including fitness trackers and smart watches. Employees should be required to install automatic security updates and businesses should implement (and enforce) a company password policy to apply to all mobile devices accessing the network.

  • Educate Employees on Legal Obligations and Threats

One of the biggest threats to data security is a company’s employees, but they also can help be the best defense. It is important to train employees on the company’s cybersecurity best practices and security policies. Provide employees with regular updates on protocols and have each employee sign a document stating they have been informed of the business’ procedures and understand they will be held accountable if they do not follow the security policies. Also, employees must understand the legal obligations on companies to maintain certain practices, including how to respond to inquiries the business may receive from customers about their data.

  • Enforce Safe Password Practices

Lost, stolen, or weak passwords account for over half of all data breaches. It is essential that SMB password policies are enforced and that all employee devices accessing the company network are password protected. Passwords should meet certain requirements such as using upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. All passwords should be changed every sixty to ninety days.

  • Regularly Back Up Data

It is recommended to regularly back up word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resource files, and accounts receivable/payable files, as well as all data stored on the cloud. Make sure backups are stored in a separate location not connected to your network and check regularly to help ensure that backup is functioning correctly.

  • Install Anti-Malware Software

It is vital to have anti-malware software installed on all devices and the networks. Anti-malware software can help protect your business from phishing attacks that install malware on an employee’s computer if a malicious link is clicked.

  • Use Multifactor Identification

Regardless of precautions and training, your employees will likely make security mistakes that may put data at risk. Using multifactor identification provides an extra layer of protection.

Both technology and cybercriminals are becoming more advanced every day. Cyber security should be a top priority for your SMB. The right technology experts can help identify and implement the necessary policies, procedures, and technology to protect your company data and networks.

Beckage is a law firm focused on technology, data security, and privacy. Beckage has an experienced team of attorneys, who are also technologists, who can help educate your company on the best practices for data security that will help protect you from any future cyber-attacks and data security threats.

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