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Ontario and BC Privacy Commissioners Find LifeLabs Failed to Protect Personal Health Information of Millions of Canadians
Ontario and BC Privacy Commissioners Find LifeLabs Failed to Protect Personal Health Information of Millions of Canadians
A joint investigation by the Information and Privacy Commissioners of Ontario and British Columbia (BC) has found that Canadian laboratory testing company LifeLabs failed to protect the personal health information of millions of Canadians resulting in a data breach in 2019.
In a statement, the Information and Privacy Commissioners of Ontario and BC said the two offices found that LifeLabs failed to take reasonable steps to protect the personal health information in its electronic systems; failed to have adequate information technology security policies in place; and collected more personal health information than was reasonably necessary. LifeLabs is the largest provider of general health diagnostic and specialty laboratory testing services in Canada. It conducts over 100 million laboratory tests annually and supports 20 million patient visits annually. Its website is visited by more than 2.3 million Canadians to access their laboratory results each year.
According to the Information and Privacy Commissioners of Ontario and BC, on November 1, 2019, LifeLabs reported a cyberattack on their computer systems to the two offices. The cyberattack affected approximately 15 million LifeLab customers, including name, address, email, customer logins and passwords, health card numbers, and laboratory test results. Affected customers were mostly from Ontario and British Columbia.
The two offices issued the following orders to LifeLabs: improve specific practices regarding information technology security; put in place written information practices and policies with respect to information technology security; and cease collecting specified information and to securely dispose of the records of that information which it has collected.
“Our investigation revealed that LifeLabs failed to take necessary precautions to adequately protect the personal health information of millions of Canadians, in violation of Ontario’s health privacy law," Brian Beamish, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, said in a statement. "This breach should serve as a reminder to organizations, big and small, that they have a duty to be vigilant against these types of attacks."
“LifeLabs exposed British Columbians, along with millions of other Canadians, to potential identity theft, financial loss, and reputational harm,” Michael McEvoy, Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia, said in a statement. “The orders made are aimed at making sure this doesn’t happen again. This investigation also reinforces the need for changes to BC’s laws that allow regulators to consider imposing financial penalties on companies that violate people’s privacy rights. This is the very kind of case where my office would have considered levying penalties.”
Last March 25, the Ontario government amended its health privacy law, making it the first province in Canada to give the Information and Privacy Commissioner the authority to levy monetary penalties against those who violate Ontario's Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA).
According to the Ontario and B.C. privacy commissioners, to date, they still can't release the full report of their findings as LifeLabs asserted that the information that it provided to the commissioners is privileged or otherwise confidential. The privacy commissioners said they intend to publish the full report unless Lifelabs takes court action.
LifeLabs, for its part, said it's reviewing the report’s findings of the Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia. "We cannot change what happened, but we assure you that we have made every effort to provide our customers with service they can rely upon," LifeLabs said.
According to LifeLabs, one of the changes made as a result of the cyberattack on its IT systems is the appointed of a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Chief Privacy Officer and Chief Information Officer. The company added that it has enhanced and accelerated its Information Security Management program with an initial $50 million investment to achieve ISO 27001 certification – a gold standard in information security management.
Stealing of Data and Ransom Demand
According to the Information and Privacy Commissioners of Ontario and BC, LifeLabs told the two offices in November 2019 that the cyberattacker or cyberattackers on LifeLabs penetrated the company’s systems, extracted data and demanded a "ransom".
In December 2019, Charles Brown, LifeLabs' president and CEO, in a statement, admitted to "retrieving the data by making a payment". "We did this [paying the ransom] in collaboration with experts familiar with cyber-attacks and negotiations with cyber criminals...."
To date, based on the statements of the Information and Privacy Commissioners of Ontario and BC as well as LifeLabs, there’s no mention of the word "ransomware". Due to this lack of information, the cyberattack on LifeLabs may or may not be a ransomware attack.
What is clear though is that the cyberattack on LifeLabs involved stealing of data, ransom demand, and in this case, a ransom payment. There are currently over a dozen ransomware groups that openly admit that they don't merely demand ransom to decrypt (unlock) encrypted (lock) files, but they also steal data and leverage this stolen data in case the ransomware victim refuses to pay ransom for the purpose of decryption.
Several months ago, the ransomware called "Maze" started the trend of naming and shaming ransomware victims that refuse to pay ransom for the purpose of decrypting the encrypted files. The group behind the Maze ransomware created a website that names ransomware victims that refuse to pay ransom and further threatens victims that continued refusal to pay ransom will result in the publication of the data stolen prior to the data encryption.
The group behind the ransomware called "REvil", also known by the name "Sodinokibi", recently created an e-bay-like auction site, auctioning the files of ransomware victims that continued to refuse to pay ransom. The REvil ransomware group auctioned the stolen files of a Canadian agricultural production company, one of its ramsomware victims that continue to refuse to pay ransom. The group offered 3 databases and 22,000 files stolen from the agricultural company to the successful bidder.
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Amazon Records 2.3 Tbps DDoS Attack, Largest To Date
Amazon recently revealed that it detected and mitigated the largest distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack to date, targeting one of Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers.
In the "AWS Shield Threat Landscape Report – Q1 2020", Amazon said its threat protection service called "AWS Shield" detected and mitigated a DDoS attack in one of AWS customers with a previously unseen volume of 2.3 Tbps (terabytes per second). TBps refers to a data transmission rate equivalent to 1,000 gigabytes or 1,000,000,000,000 bytes per second.
In March 2018, NETSCOUT Arbor reported that it detected and mitigated the previous record holder for the largest DDoS attack which peaked at 1.7 Tbps, an attack targeted at a customer of a U.S. based service provider. The 1.7 Tbps DDoS attack came just heels after the previous record holder of the largest DDoS attack – an attack that specifically targeted GitHub in February 2018.
The AWS DDoS Attack
In a DDoS attack, multiple computers act as one unit to attack one target. Attackers often hijack and take control of vulnerable computers for the purpose of DDoS attacks by taking advantage of the security vulnerabilities or misconfigurations on these computers.
According to Amazon, the DDoS attack that targeted one of the company's AWS customers "caused 3 days of elevated threat during a single week in February 2020 before subsiding". Amazon said that the unnamed DDoS attacker or attackers utilized an amplification technique that takes advantage of the Connectionless Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (CLDAP) in launching the DDoS attack.
CLDAP is a cross-platform protocol and often used on Microsoft Active Directory networks to retrieve server information. From October 2016 to January 2017, Akamai reported that it detected and mitigated a total of 50 CLDAP reflection attacks, 33 of which exclusively used CLDAP reflection.
On January 7, 2017, Akamai said it detected and mitigated the largest DDoS attack using CLDAP reflection as the sole vector at the time, reaching peak bandwidth of 24 gigabytes per second (GBps), and peak packets per second of 2 million packets per second. Akamai added that the CLDAP protocol allows DDoS attacks to amplify 56 to 70 times.
"The query payload is only 52 bytes ...," Akamai said regarding thisJanuary 7, 2017 CLDAP reflection DDoS attack. "This means that, the Base Amplification Factor (baf) for the attack data payload of 3,662 bytes, and a query payload of 52 bytes, was 70x, although only one host was revealed to exhibit that response size. Post attack analysis showed that the average amplification during this attack was 56.89x."
The DDoS attack detected and mitigated by NETSCOUT Arbor and the DDoS attack on GitHub in 2018, meanwhile, were launched by taking advantage of internet-exposed Memcached protocol – a general-purpose distributed memory-caching system. Attack vectors of the topmost DDoS attacks are often used by DDoS-for-hire services in launching DDoS attacks.
In the case of the DDoS attack on GitHub, the amplification factor reached up to 51 times, which means that for each byte sent by the DDoS attacker, up to 51KB is sent toward the target. At the time of the GitHub DDoS attack, Shodan – a search engine that allows users to find specific types of computers connected to the internet using filters – reported 88,000 internet-exposed memcached servers.
In 2018, DDoS-for-hire services took advantage of the close to 100,000 memcached servers exposed to the internet. Since 2016 also, DDoS-for-hire services have been taking advantage of exposed CLDAP protocol.
In taking advantage of vulnerable computers with higher amplification or reflection factor, significant attack bandwidth can be produced with fewer compromised computers. Taking advantage of servers using CLDAP protocol and memcached protocol for reflection/amplification DDoS attacks work the same by sending spoofed requests to a vulnerable server, which then responds with a larger amount of data than the initial spoofed request, amplifying the volume of traffic.
Preventive and Mitigating Measures Against DDoS Attacks
DDoS attacks that are taking advantage of the CLDAP protocol start with servers that are exposed to the internet with port 389 open and listening. DDoS attackers simply scan the internet for these open port 389 and add these to a list of amplifiers or reflectors.
Don't be a part of the bigger DDoS reflection/amplification problem. If your organization doesn't need the CLDAP protocol, close this DDoS amplification egress by not exposing this protocol to the internet, that is, by blocking port 389. In the case of DDoS attacks taking advantage of exposed memcached servers, one of the prevented measures in preventing attackers in hijacking memcached servers for DDoS attacks is by disabling UDP.
Most often, however, DDoS attacks don’t reach the terabyte. According to Amazon, most of the DDoS events involving CLDAP protocol in the first quarter of 2020 was 43 Gbps.
While many DDoS attacks are non-terabyte attacks, such attacks still disrupt normal business operations and denying legitimate users access to victims’ IT infrastructure. Imperva’s 2019 Global DDoS Threat Landscape Report showed that most DDoS attacks were short, with 51% lasting less than 15 minutes. While most DDoS attacks were short, Imperva reported that the vast majority of DDoS attacks were persistent and aimed at the same targets. “Attackers either launched DDoS assaults in short streaks – two-thirds of targets were attacked up to five times – or were ultra-persistent, with a quarter of targets attacked 10 times or more,” Imperva reported.
Cyberattack Surface Widens As World Sees Increase in Remote Work
With much of the world now working remotely and likely to remain this way after the COVID-19 pandemic, the attack surface that could be exploited by cyberattackers has widened, a new study showed.
A new study by RiskIQ showed that with much of the global economy being run from homes, attackers now have far more access points to probe and exploit. Attack surface, as defined in the study, refers to everything that needs defending, starting from inside the corporate network and extending all the way to the internet and into the homes of workers working from home. RiskIQ identified the following attack areas:
Web-Based Attack Surface
Across the internet in just over two weeks, RiskIQ observed 2,959,498 new domains (equivalent to 211,392 per day) and 772,786,941 new unique hosts to the web (equivalent to 55,199,067 per day). New domains, also known as new websites, and new unique hosts to the web, according to RiskIQ, represent as possible targets for threat actors.
RiskIQ found that 2,480 of the Alexa top 10,000 domains were running at least one potentially vulnerable web component, and 8,121 potentially vulnerable web components in total were found in the Alexa top 10,000.
To highlight the attack surface faced by organizations, RiskIQ conducted a study on the companies that comprise the FTSE-30 – a group of 30 large-cap organizations in the UK. RiskIQ found that on average, each FTSE-30 organization has 324 expired certs, 25 SHA-1 certs, 743, potential test sites, 28 insecure login forms, 385 total insecure forms, 46 web frameworks with known vulnerabilities, 80 PHP 5.x instances with end of life (EOL) end of the year, and 664 web servers at release levels with known vulnerabilities.
In addition, last March, with the spike of online shopping due to COVID-1, RiskIQ reported that it detected a 30% increase in Magecart skimmers – a type of cyberattack that involves digital credit card theft by skimming online payment forms.
Modern websites are made up of common features such as underlying operating systems, frameworks, third-party applications, plugins, and trackers. "This commonality of approach is attractive to malicious actors, as a successful exploit written for a vulnerability or exposure on one site can be reused across many sites," RiskIQ said.
A recent report from Verizon Data Breach Report, showed that external-facing web applications, in which network security tools have no visibility, were exploited the most by cyberattackers.
Remote Access Attack Surface
According to RiskIQ, the rush to stand up new systems outside the firewall to enable a remote workforce has expanded attack surfaces quicker, with virtual private network (VPN) usage surged 112% over just six weeks, and a 26.11% increase in Microsoft Remote Access Gateway instances, peaking around March 20 when stay-at-home orders took full effect.
RiskIQ found that on average, each FTSE-30 organization has 45 mail servers, 7,790 cloud-hosted apps (Amazon and Azure), 26 potentially vulnerable Citrix Netscaler instances, 8 potentially vulnerable Palo Alto GlobalProtect instances, 9 potentially vulnerable Pulse Connect instances, 25 potentially vulnerable Fortinet instances, and 1,464 remote access service instances.
Mobile Attack Surface
There's more to mobile apps than Apple and Google Play Mobile App Stores as there are hundreds of online stores in which threat actors sell their mobile apps. RiskIQ said malicious actors compromise legitimate apps and launch fake apps in other app store ecosystem and the open internet.
In 2019, RiskIQ found 170,796 blacklisted mobile apps across 120 mobile app stores and the open internet. Eighty-six percent of the blacklisted apps, RiskIQ said, claimed the READ_SMS permission, which allows the app to read messages and can be used for nefarious activities such as circumventing two-factor authentication.
Social Engineering Attack Surface
Social engineering refers to the impersonation of domains, subdomains, landing pages, websites, mobile apps, and social media profiles to trick employees and consumers in installing malicious software (malware) or into giving up login credentials and other personal information.
In the first quarter of 2020, RiskIQ identified 21,496 phishing domains impersonating 478 unique brands. For the same period, it also identified 720,188 instances of domain infringement across 170 unique brands. RiskIQ noted that 317,000 new websites related to “COVID-19” or “coronavirus” in the two weeks between March 9 and 23.
Cybersecurity Best Practices in Securing Your Organization's Attack Surface
Traditional cybersecurity measure uses a firewall that acts as a barrier between a trusted internal network and untrusted external network such as the internet. The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting government-mandated stay-at-home measure leaving organizations no option but to allow workers to work from home, has widened the attack surface as the boundaries of what are inside the firewall and what are outside the firewall are no longer clear.
Here are some cybersecurity best practices in securing your organization's attack surface:
Whether it's for the web, mobile or operating systems, all software used for these platforms should be kept up to date. Failure to apply the latest software update leaves this attack surface vulnerable for attack.
Malicious actors can simply probe into your organization's vulnerable internet-connected assets by conducting a simple internet scan. It's important to conduct a regular full inventory of these internet-connected assets, determining, for instance, what assets need software update.
Early detection of social engineering attempts that impersonate your organization's domains, subdomains, landing pages, websites, mobile apps, and social media profiles that target your employees and customers and letting them know about these social engineering attempts is one of the effective measures in disrupting
REvil Ransomware Group Resorts to Auctioning Stolen Data
It's now a known fact that ransomware groups steal data prior to encrypting files and demanding ransom from victims.
The group behind the ransomware called "REvil", also known by the name "Sodinokibi", has recently flaunted its data-stealing capability by auctioning the stolen data of one of its ransomware victims that refuses to pay ransom.
On the dark web, the group behind the REvil ransomware created an e-bay-like auction site, auctioning the files of one of its victims that continued to refuse to pay ransom: a Canadian agricultural production company. The newly created auction site of REvil says that a successful bidder will receive 3 databases and 22,000 files stolen from the agricultural company.
The minimum deposit is set at USD$5,000 in virtual currency Monero, and the starting bidding price is USD$50,000. To date, the Canadian agricultural production company hasn't acknowledged the ransomware attack and the related stolen data.
Ransomware: More than Encryption
Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) that encrypts victims' computers or files, rendering these computers or files inaccessible to legitimate users. In a ransomware attack, a ransom note is shown on the victim’s computer screen that the only way to access the computer or files again is by paying a ransom, typically in the form of virtual currency.
In the past, ransomware victims aren't hesitant to acknowledge ransomware attacks. Often though in the victims' cyber incident reports and press releases, they assure affected clients or costumers that there's no need to worry as there's no evidence of data exfiltration.
The ransomware called "Maze" openly exposed the data exfiltration process that comes along in a ransomware attack. Maze ransomware is the first ransomware that publishes online the names of the victims that refused to acknowledge the ransomware attack on their systems and/or continues to refuse to pay the ransom.
The group behind Maze ransomware threatens the "shamed" victims that continued refusal to pay the ransom will result in the publication of the data stolen prior to the data encryption. Publication of stolen data led one of the victims of Maze ransomware to file a case in court against the group behind Maze ransomware.
Close to a dozen of other ransomware groups, including REvil, followed Maze's tactic of naming ransomware victims and threatening to publish victims' stolen data – an open acknowledgment that these ransomware groups steal data prior to encrypting files.
Microsoft Threat Protection Intelligence Team, in the blog post “Ransomware groups continue to target healthcare, critical services; here’s how to reduce risk", said that “while only a few of these [ransomware] groups gained notoriety for selling data, almost all of them were observed viewing and exfiltrating data during these attacks, even if they have not advertised or sold yet.”
Getting to Know REvil Ransomware
REvil Ransomware first appeared in the wild in April 2019. Exploiting software vulnerabilities, brute-forcing RDP access and using third-party software are some of the known strategies used by the group behind the REvil ransomware in gaining access to victims’ networks and eventually drop the ransomware.
Researchers at Cisco reported that the group behind the REvil ransomware has been exploiting CVE-2019-2725 since at least April 17, 2019 in installing the ransomware. CVE-2019-2725 is a security vulnerability in Oracle WebLogic. Oracle first patched this vulnerability on April 26, 2019. "This vulnerability is easy for attackers to exploit, as anyone with HTTP access to the WebLogic server could carry out an attack," researchers at Cisco said.
Researchers at McAfee Labs, meanwhile, reported that the group behind REvil ransomware initially gains access to victims' networks by brute-forcing RDP access in installing the ransomware. Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is a proprietary protocol developed by Microsoft that allows a user to access Windows workstations or servers over the internet.
In a related report, McAfee Labs reported that the number of RDP ports exposed to the internet has grown from roughly three million in January 2020 to more than four and a half million in March. "RDP ports are often exposed to the Internet, which makes them particularly interesting for attackers," researchers at McAfee Labs said. "In fact, accessing an RDP box can allow an attacker access to an entire network, which can generally be used as an entry point for spreading malware, or other criminal activities."
Kaspersky Lab, meanwhile, reported that since the beginning of March 2020, the number of Bruteforce.Generic.RDP attacks has rocketed across almost the entire planet. In a brute force attack, attackers systematically try all possible username and password combinations until the correct combination is found.
Aside from exploiting software security vulnerabilities, brute-forcing RDP access, the group behind the REvil ransomware has also been known to install on the victims' networks the ransomware by using third-party software. In August 2019, the mayor of Keene, Texas revealed that the group behind the REvil ransomware managed to install the ransomware on the municipality’s network through a software that a third-party IT company used to manage the municipality’s network.
While the motive behind this new tactic of auctioning ransomware victims' stolen data isn't yet clear, the timing of the launching of this new tactic amid the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting government-mandated home quarantine could mean that ransomware victims are refusing to pay ransom as they could've hardened their backup systems or that victims are hard-pressed in paying out ransomware attackers due to the economic fallout resulting in the on-going pandemic. Falling in the wrong hands, the auctioned stolen files could be used against victims and the victims’ customers.
Cybercriminals are not playing by rules and are winning in most cases. Protect your organization today by engaging with our expert team. Connect with us today.
Steve E. Driz, I.S.P., ITCP