Cayman Islands: Cyber Security In The Mobile World

Last Updated: 29 February 2016
Article by Alexandra Simonova and Nick Kedney

Most Popular Article in Cayman Islands, March 2016

Mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets, e-readers, etc. have become an important and inevitable part of our lives. In the past decade mobile technologies have advanced to the point where individuals and organisations can take advantage of everything true mobility has to offer.

Employees, including senior executives, are demanding greater choice, flexibility and capabilities as they rapidly adopt and extend their use of smart phones and tablets, and increasingly leverage these devices in their day-to-day work and personal lives.

For the enterprise, application enhancements extend the desktop to handheld devices and deliver more powerful tools to employees, potentially increasing productivity and improving bottom line performance. Organisations are motivated to utilise the maximum efficiency from its employees, so they are supporting Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies.

Additionally, companies take advantage of mobile technologies to extend their current online business models, open up new channels and expand their reach into new and existing markets. We see organisations across the industries developing internal and externalfacing mobile applications that drive revenue, build brand loyalty and create tighter partner and customer relationships.

However, increased dependence on mobile devices for carrying out financial, business transactions has made these devices an attractive target for cyber criminals which in turn has put mobile security on the radar of the enterprise board. In considering the current environment we have below outlined the key threats and their impact, which enterprises should take into account when developing a go-forward strategy. We also examine incident response and litigation support issues from the perspective of collecting mobile device data.

Mobile Security Challenges

What makes mobile devices valuable from a business perspective – portability, usability and connectivity to the internet and corporate infrastructure – also presents significant risk. In the past decade new risks have been introduced at the device, application and infrastructure levels, requiring changes in security policy and strategy. There are also a number of challenges that organisations face when implementing security programs related to mobile devices.

As the number of devices grow and increasing numbers of employees use their personal devices for work, significant challenges for the enterprises may arise relating to data ownership on BYOD devices, as well as complex operations management with entropy of supported devices, and customised Operating Systems. We see a continuing evolution of the landscape of Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Mobile Application Management (MAM) platforms, whilst the scope of control is significantly reduced for IT and traditional methods of operations including configuration management policies and procedures. Those challenges are magnified by a lack of security awareness, training and security policies governing usage of data, as well as inadequate security controls to protect sensitive data.

Looking at the history of mobile devices, we can see that most common smartphones and tablets in use only appeared on the market in the last decade in conjunction with rapidly increasing demand in applications. Mobile application development is a relatively immature science and a developer's simple mistakes can lead to vulnerabilities that are easily exploited and not yet addressed, as more mature technologies have been. Multiple examples have already been identified and as applications are proliferating at astonishing rates, trust models and secure software development lifecycle capabilities are struggling to keep pace.

Unfortunately, traditional anti-virus and anti-spyware programs have not tended to address the needs of mobile devices. Further, mobilebased anti-virus solutions, which are primarily based on file patterns, can often be ineffective when malware – short for "malicious software" – is "packed" or custom designed. To address this, specific configuration baselines need to be developed in order to harden the mobile platform and prevent infection or compromise. In addition, traditional end-point security and network based prevention/detection mechanisms do not address the security requirements of mobile devices. A thorough assessment and a sandboxed environment needs to be implemented on the device in order to prevent infection and propagation of malware through mobile devices.

From an overall organisational perspective, existing policies and procedures may fall short in addressing the security gaps raised through the use of mobile devices in the corporate environment. Mobile malware is an emerging threat that requires dynamic security controls and comprehensive security policies and procedures.

The Mobile Device Attack Surface

The attack surface – the way by which the system could be successfully attacked – on mobile devices may seem small from a traditional network security perspective but is very deep – in terms of both services (e.g., applications, messaging, push and web services), and attack vectors targeting the user. Those vectors include exploiting Bluetooth, Wi- Fi and mobile operating system vulnerabilities, browser based attacks, social engineering attacks, phishing attacks targeting small screens, mobile malware, removable storage attacks, email attacks etc. In addition, backups and device synchronisation present additional threats to the data stored on the mobile devices.

From viruses and worms to rootnets, trojans, bots and more, malware has become the cybercriminal's weapon of choice for subverting digital devices. One thing to remember is that no device is immune: malware can infect anything that accepts electronic information, including such unconventional targets as cash registers, cameras and even cars. Mobile devices, especially, have seen a boom in malware infections as their popularity has grown. This increase may represent a significant vulnerability in environments where employees use smartphones, tablets, laptops and other mobile devices for both personal and business purposes.

Highly standardised, rich, native application programming interfaces (APIs) make malware writing easier and distribution more scalable than on traditional computers. For instance, it is very easy for malware to access browser history, location data, SMS and email data, address book contacts etc. on mobile devices. There are millions of devices running each of the major mobile Operating Systems, making them attractive targets for malware attacks, and the clear trend shows the number of those devices increasing every year.

So what are the attackers after? The most common source of value for the attackers are personal and financial information stored on the devices. Also one of the most popular ways for attackers to monetise SMS scams are sending SMS messages or make calls to premium rate numbers – attackers hire premium rate/short numbers and have the infected devices send SMS messages to these numbers without the user's knowledge. This allows for faster monetisation of mobile malware when compared to most PC malware attacks. While repackaging malware as part of 'legitimate' mobile apps is the favoured malware distribution mechanism, some malware, apart from carrying out their primary activity, also attempt to connect to a remote server and download additional malware.

Cyber Security Incident Response, Discovery and Forensics

It is an unfortunate fact of life for all enterprises that incidents will happen, and that the organisation will be required to take quick and decisive action to mitigate the effects of any compromise and to protect its data, infrastructure and interests. In order to respond rapidly, it is necessary not only to have adequate MDM and MAM policies and tools, but also to have an Incident Response Plan that addresses key risk areas in the organisation's operations and infrastructure. Such a plan should be part of the standard procedures of the organisation, and should be reviewed and updated regularly to address the continual change in technology usage by the firm and its employees. It also needs to address increasing regulatory interest in the risks posed to organisations by cybercrime – increasingly regulatory agencies are working to embed provisions addressing these risks in the rules and guidelines with which organisations are required to comply.

An incident response plan should consider the life-cycle of a typical response and investigation, and might encompass:

  • documented disaster recovery, business continuity and failover plans should an incident occur;
  • up to date and comprehensive mapping of the enterprise's information systems and data repositories, and a robust understanding of what devices are connecting to those systems – including devices which are not the property of the enterprise, such as BYOD;
  • a risk-based assessment of the company's data assets – to what data might an intruder be seeking access and how would a compromise of this data affect the company's ongoing organisation? For example, high risk data might encompass customer credentials and payment information such as credit card details, but other examples include intellectual property, market sensitive information or personal information which might assist in identity theft or other frauds, and which may have significant value in the illicit "market" for stolen information;
  • planning and provision for incident-specific penetration testing to be implemented rapidly if required after any compromise. Such planning and provision should include measures to address any business disruption that may be incurred;
  • documentation, regularly updated, identifying data such as security event logs, server logs, perimeter/access logs that may need to be collected to identify the nature of any compromise or intrusion;
  • documentation identifying which access credentials for key infrastructure and data repositories that may need to be changed immediately following any incident; and
  • an up to date data collection and investigation plan addressing not just core information systems and data repositories but also mobile devices, including those used by employees under BYOD policies and cloud-based systems.

Proper and comprehensive collection of data needed to investigate an incident (and to pursue subsequent legal remedies) can be a major challenge for the enterprise, and consideration should be given as to what the internal IT function is capable of delivering, and where external assistance will be required. Forensic collection of data may require a qualified external forensics team both to collect the data in the timeframe required for rapid incident response, and to perform the collection to the required forensic standard – i.e. reducing the risk of spoliation and loss of information that is potentially critical for investigations or subsequent litigation.

Collection of data from employee BYOD devices in particular can be challenging, and careful consideration by internal or external counsel may be required as to how this may be affected, should an incident occur. It can also be a major logistical challenge – in extreme cases collection may be required from hundreds or even thousands of smart-phones and tablets, both company issued and employee owned in organisations that permit BYOD. Relevant information may not just include traditional communications such as email, but SMS data, VOIP and instant messaging, social media data and OS and application related data. What should and indeed can be collected varies widely depending on the type of device, and the OS and version in use, and any MDM tools used by the organisation.

Summary and Future Outlook

As with any aspect of cyber security, enabling mobility is a balance of technology, risk and return on investment – all of which need to be driven by and aligned with business needs. Technology holds an enormous potential to improve the user experience and employee productivity while introducing new cyber security concerns. The threat is predicted to be increasing and organisations need to ensure the appropriate controls and incident response plans are in place.

Looking ahead it's worth mentioning an emerging trend – wearable technology. Whether it's smart fitness bands like the Nike+ Fuelband that track activity, calories burned and sleep quality; smartwatches like the Pebble that bring smartphone capabilities to your wrist; or smart pet trackers like the Whistle that monitor your pets' behaviour, the number and breadth of wearable devices we own continues to increase. Although wearables can offer enterprises a competitive advantage, companies should give careful consideration to the business problem they're solving, the users and environment involved and privacy and security concerns. In order to drive adoption, it's important for organisations to get their employees excited by demonstrating how wearable technology will benefit them and explaining what's being done to protect their information. It's also important to test out whether the company has enough bandwidth and the right network infrastructure in place to support the wearable technology trend.

About the Author

Alexandra Simonova is a Manager in the Deloitte Cayman Islands practice. She has over four years of experience in IT management prior to joining Deloitte and over five years of performing IT Consulting and Cyber Risk services for Deloitte's clients. This includes work in the financial services, private and public sector. Alexandra also presents at client facing Cyber Risk workshops in Cayman, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

About the Author

Nick Kedney is a Director for Deloitte Forensic in the Cayman Islands, and runs the Discovery and Analytic & Forensic Technology practice for Deloitte in the Caribbean and Bermuda. He has over 18 years experience of forensic and fraud investigation, asset recovery and multi-jurisdiction litigation support.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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