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US bans major Chinese telecom over national security risks

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has revoked China Unicom Americas’ license, one of the world’s largest mobile service providers, over “serious national security concerns.”

This effectively bans the telecom company from providing domestic and international telecommunication services within the United States.

China Unicom Americas is the largest foreign subsidiary of China Unicom (short for China United Network Communications Group), a Chinese state-owned telecom company. Its network infrastructure covers over 30 countries and regions, and it owns more than 40 submarine and 20 terrestrial cable systems.

The order, issued on Thursday, instructs the Chinese telecom company to stop providing its services in the US within 60 days.

FCC instructed China Unicom Americas to terminate any domestic or international services within 60 days after the release of its order.

“The Order finds that China Unicom Americas, a US subsidiary of a Chinese state-owned enterprise, is subject to exploitation, influence, and control by the Chinese government and is highly likely to be forced to comply with Chinese government requests without sufficient legal procedures subject to independent judicial oversight,” the FCC said.

“The Order finds that China Unicom Americas’ ownership and control by the Chinese government raise significant national security and law enforcement risks by providing opportunities for China Unicom Americas, its parent entities, and the Chinese government to access, store, disrupt, and/or misroute US communications, which in turn allow them to engage in espionage and other harmful activities against the United States.”

FCC’s vote to revoke China Unicom America’s license to operate in the US based on national security concerns comes after several other decisions to block Chinese telecom giants’ services in the US.

In May 2019, the FCC denied China Mobile USA’s application to provide international telecommunications services in the US. Two years later, the agency revoked China Telecom Americas’ license, banning it from providing telecom services within the US.

The decisions were taken after US Senators Tom Cotton and Charles Schumer urged the FCC in September 2019 to review the approvals of China Telecom and China Unicom that allowed them to operate in the United States.

Six US Executive Branch agencies (i.e., the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, State, Commerce, and the United States Trade Representative) also asked the FCC to ban China Telecom Americas in April 2020 from operating in the country over significant cybersecurity risks.

These are not the first threats to the US national security coming from Chinese-backed telecoms that made the news in recent years.

Two years ago, in February 2020, Huawei and two of its US subsidiaries were also charged by the US Department of Justice with conspiracy to steal trade secrets and violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).



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Threat Notification Isn’t the Solution – It’s a Starting Point

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Most organizations have the tools in place to receive notification of attacks or suspicious events. But taking the information gleaned from cybersecurity tools is only step one in handling a security threat.

“The goal of a security practitioner is to link those data sets together and do something with the information,” says Mat Gangwer, VP of managed detection and response at Sophos. “The threat notification is just the beginning.”

It’s a common misconception that a tool has effectively blocked or remediated an issue simply because the IT or security team have received a notification of malicious activity.

“Practitioners often think notification also means prevention, but it doesn’t,” Gangwer says. “It doesn’t mean the threat has been neutralized. That’s the start of your investigation.”

Gangwer offers these 3 essential steps for moving beyond threat detection.

1 – Minimize the damage

To prevent widespread damage, organizations, or a managed security services provider (MSSP) acting on their behalf, should take certain targeted actions to neutralize threats after detection, including:

  • Triaging and validating the threat or incident
  • Determining the scope and severity of the threat
  • Seeking information on the threat’s context and potential impact
  • Acting to remotely disrupt, contain, and neutralize the threat
  • Determining the root cause of the incident to prevent future breaches or attacks

2 – Incorporate new learnings

Once a threat has been neutralized and remediated, organizations should seek to incorporate any new learnings back into incident preparedness and ongoing monitoring and threat hunting efforts. It’s critical to leverage these new learnings so processes and procedures can be quickly adapted. Updating documented policies and your incident response plan allows teams to know what is necessary to do in the future, the next time a threat is detected.

“It’s better to make sure everybody’s on the same page and aware of expectations going into an event rather than trying to figure it out when it happens and scrambling around trying to remedy and fix what’s going on,” he says.

3 – Enlist additional resources

But what if you lack the in-house tools, people, and processes to defend against cyber threats once they are uncovered? An ongoing skills gap in security has made it difficult for many companies to fill their security ranks and support a robust security program.

The good news: An MSSP can assist with managed detection and response. Most MSSPs and MDR providers offer the necessary skills and expertise to fill the gaps.

What’s more, an MSSP can bring in outside experts while still allowing practitioners to control how potential incidents are handled and what response to take.

Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Financial services increasingly targeted for API-based cyberattacks

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A report published Monday by cloud services and CDN (content delivery network) platform Akamai said that the financial services industry is an increasingly popular target for a wide range of cyberattacks, with application and API attacks against the vertical more than tripling in the past year.

APIs are a core part of how financial services firms are changing their operations in the modern era, Akamai said, given the growing desire for more and more app-based services among the consumer base. The pandemic merely accelerated a growing trend toward remote banking services, which led to a corresponding growth in the use of APIs.

With every application and every standardization of how various app functions talk to one another, which creates APIs, the potential target surface for an attacker increases, however. Only high-tech firms and e-commerce companies were more heavily targeted via API exploits than the financial services industry.

“Once attackers launch web applications attacks successfully, they could steal confidential data, and in more severe cases, gain initial access to a network and obtain more credentials that could allow them to move laterally,” the report said. “Aside from the implications of a breach, stolen information could be peddled in the underground or used for other attacks. This is highly concerning given the troves of data, such as personal identifiable information and account details, held by the financial services vertical.”

Beyond attacking financial services firms themselves, the report said, cybercriminals have customer accounts in their sights as well. More than 80% of attacks against companies in the industry target customers, instead of institutions, via phishing or direct attack.

Attackers have been quick to leverage zero-day vulnerabilities discovered in systems used by financial services companies, noted Akamai. One example from this year is the remote code execution vulnerability found in Atlassian’s Confluence Server and Data Center products—less than a week after the flaw was publicly disclosed, Akamai recorded nearly 80,000 Confluence-based attacks per hour during one period in the evening of June 7.

The company said the speed with which Confluence and other flaws of its type can be exploited by bad actors underlines the need for businesses to remain up-to-date with patching.

While application and API attacks against financial services companies have risen most sharply, Akamai said that other techniques are also becoming more and more common, with botnet activity up 81% year-on-year, and DDoS attacks up by 22%.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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5 Reasons to Protect the Performance and Security of Your Pharmaceutical Business

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One of the greatest lessons resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic is to expect the unexpected and proactively prepare for future unknowns. Like many others, the pharmaceutical industry has been revolutionized by accelerated digital transformation over the last few years. Research has shown that pharma leaders investing in the Internet of Things (IoT) are better equipped to overcome unforeseen challenges.

For these proactive pharmaceutical leaders, two major areas have become increasingly important: preventing network outages and increasing security against cyberattacks. The 2021 State of Pharmaceuticals and Cybersecurity Report from Fortinet found that in the last year, 40% of businesses experienced outages affecting productivity, safety, compliance, revenue, or brand image. These outages are no small glitches: Industry experts estimate the total downtime cost (TDC) of a production disruption ranges from $100,000 to $500,000 per hour. A few disruptions a year can have a massive effect on the bottom line. This necessitates network and application performance management to minimize downtime.

If the impact of network outages on reputation, output, and the bottom line were not enough, pharmaceutical companies also have had to combat rampant cyberattacks. The rapid expansion of their attack surface has created visibility gaps and increased their risk. There has long been a growing desire for network operations (NetOps) and security operations (SecOps) teams to collaborate and share information. In some cases, early-stage planning, common budgets, and project-level cooperation have improved and enhanced cross-team collaboration. In fact, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) studies have shown that 78% of enterprises have some formal collaboration between the two groups, with 47% fully converging the groups with shared tools and processes.

NETSCOUT solutions help collaboration between NetOps and SecOps as they proactively protect businesses from both a security and network and application performance management standpoint. Here are five major reasons this is important for pharmaceutical companies:

  1. Understand your attack surface. Your proprietary information, such as secret formulas, trial results, and other strictly confidential company information, are attractive targets for bad actors to gain access to and either sell on the dark web or ransom back for potentially millions of dollars. Know where that information is and protect it. NETSCOUT’s scalable packet-level network visibility with patented Adaptive Service Intelligence (ASI) technology converts packet data into a rich source of unique layer 2–7 metadata that we call Smart Data. Smart Data enables you to see the data that matters so you can assure the application performance of your critical services for authorized employees, while also protecting it from security threats.
  2. Comply with manufacturing regulations. Network uptime is essential to meet the production standards in the pharma industry. If monitoring, processing, shipping, and tracking of goods through manufacturing ecosystems were not complex enough, you also must meet strict regulations to maintain compliance. NETSCOUT network and application performance management provides advanced warning of system degradations and empowers NetOps teams to determine the scope and impact of issues via problem isolation and triage. Our solutions allow for “back in time” investigation to ensure gaps in compliance are addressed as quickly as possible. 
  3. Secure customer data. As pharma companies move toward more digitization and storing of information online, they are becoming an easier target for bad actors looking to steal customer records that can be sold on the dark web for multiple nefarious purposes. Losing your customer data can cost lives, create identity theft, impact brand reputation, and subject you to massive fines for not meeting compliance requirements. Being able to detect known and unknown threats is critical, and network visibility is fundamental. NETSCOUT’s solutions provide better network visibility in combination with continuous threat intelligence feeds, empowering you with multiple types of detection for both known and unknown threats.
  4. Maintain uptime and protect the bottom line. Reliability and maximum productivity are always top priorities for businesses. Pharmaceutical manufacturers that make smart investments in advanced technologies can benefit from improved operational efficiency, reduced downtime, and improved visibility and analytics. NETSCOUT’s solutions provide end-through-end visibility into network and application performance, leveraging Smart Data to identify the root cause of issues directly impacting the bottom line.
  5. Consider the cost of a breach. According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report, the healthcare industry ranks highest in terms of cost, with an average price tag of more than $10 million per breach and an 11-month cycle to identify and contain the breach. It is more important than ever to be able to reduce the mean time to knowledge (MTTK) and mean time to response (MTTR) to reduce the potential impacts of these breaches. NETSCOUT’s Omnis Cyber Intelligence solution is designed for seamless integration with your existing cybersecurity toolset to make your entire security stack stronger and more effective. Omnis Cyber Intelligence also integrates with your firewalls to instruct immediate blocking at the edge, and NETSCOUT’s Smart Data can be exported and combined with your other sources of data for custom analysis, filling the gaps in visibility to increase incident investigation efficiency and decreasing MTTR.

NETSCOUT believes in achieving what we call Visibility Without Borders by enabling a single source of smart packet-derived layer 2–7 metadata—NETSCOUT Smart Data—for more efficient service assurance and cybersecurity. NETSCOUT gives you the most comprehensive attack surface observability in the industry and provides continuous intelligence, with real-time detection of all network activity, so you can halt attackers in their tracks.

See how NETSCOUT network and security solutions can make a difference in your organization.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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