Many companies and organizations have set up defenses to keep hackers on the outside, protecting the information of their customers and clients. However, with increasingly sophisticated use of malware, some hackers can sit silently within a company’s information systems for years without being detected.
A new report from the Temple University Institute for Business and Information Technology (IBIT), at the Fox School of Business, examines advanced persistent threats to information assets by using the medieval analogy of barbarians inside the gate.
In December 2013, retail chain Target announced a security breach resulting in 40 million credit and debit card records being compromised. Other retail chains such as 7-Eleven and Carrefour have also suffered attacks, having 160 million credit and debit card numbers exposed. Hackers have also targeted Nasdaq and bank accounts at Citigroup and PNC.
“My goal with the article was to raise people’s awareness, which is the most powerful tool [for security enhancement],” said Gregory Senko, associate director of the Fox School’s Master of Science in Information Technology Auditing and Cyber-Security program. “I wanted to make people aware that there is a risk and they need the proper tools to know when they are being attacked.”
While working on a book, Security Intelligence – How Big Data and Machine Learning can tackle the increasingly complex world of Cyber Security, Senko realized that the rate of persistent polymorphic attacks is growing and that more vendors are developing tools intended to address these threats.
Symantec, a leading information security company, noted the escalated rate of reported Advanced Persistent Threats (APT). In November 2013, the number of reported APT attacks increased to about 118 from only 57 in November 2012. “We’re likely to see a
big wave of aggressive attacks,” Senko said.
The Stuxnet virus in 2010-11 served as the first well-publicized appearance of a successful, state-sponsored act of modern cyber warfare. This virus inspired hackers to employ analytics, reverse engineering and code cannibalization to design malware that was able to circumvent traditional security arrangements that recognize threats as patterns in digital transmissions. This allowed hackers to penetrate networks that seemed secure,
operating stealthily over extended periods of time. These attacks are known as Advanced Persistent Threats.
Senko recommends four transformative steps to achieve even more robust enterprise security.
First, he urges companies to strengthen their fundamental security processes. This means spending money to pay for up-to-date perimeter security and employing well-educated security engineers and well-informed employees.
Second, Senko recommends companies to look at metrics used for performance management, issue identification and problem mitigation, from a more security-oriented perspective. According to the report, “this same data may yield opportunities to identify
subtle changes in activity that underlie a persistent attack.”
Third, a culture must be created that promotes information security organizations to act proactively. Procedural and structural approaches to deal with day-to-day prevention need to be set in place, versus waiting to react to emergencies.
Finally, Senko suggests companies should invest in tools such as cloud-based, Big Data-driven offerings that allow for more enhanced network performance management and improved network management.
“Companies will find this preventive approach can be expensive. But they will end up dealing with the problem sooner or later. The question is: Will spending now avoid even greater spending later if they don’t take steps to protect themselves,” Senko said.
The ongoing IBIT Report series is based on rigorous, vendor-neutral academic research that provides actionable knowledge on topics relevant to industry partners. To download Senko’s full report, visit http://ibit.temple.edu/blog/2014/02/20/barbarians-inside-the-gate-dealing-with-advanced-persistent-threats/
As the saying goes, “A group that works together, stays together.” Therefore, a group or community based on trust can reap benefits from one another. Trusting communities tend to foster self-employed people or entrepreneurs whose successes are one in the same with the community. Self-employment ranges from about 5.7 percent in areas with very low social trust to about 8.4 percent in areas with very high social trust.
Community Social Capital and Entrepreneurship, published in the American Sociological Review, examines the public good of what is called social capital — the relationship and networks of a group of people who live in and work in a particular community — to see how the benefits of social trust and organizational membership help not only the individual but also the community at large.
Seok-Woo Kwon, assistant professor in the Department of Strategic Management at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, started the research for this project 10 years ago with Colleen Heflin from the University of Missouri and Martin Ruef of Duke University.
“People have been researching a lot about the ‘If I have a lot of social capital, then I benefit from it,’” Kwon said. “For example, I get a better job, I get a quick job referral, or I have a higher chance of starting my own business. But I thought, what if I don’t have a high social capital but I’m surrounded by people who do. Their benefits are going to spill over to me.”
Kwon and his research partners tested their arguments about the communal benefits of social capital using data from the 2000 Census, Robert Putnam’s Social Capital Benchmark Survey and the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey.
Their study suggests that the role social trust plays in entrepreneurship is crucial at the community level of analysis in two of the following ways: it encourages social groups to engage in the free flow of information and it helps small entrepreneurs to overcome a lack of recognizability.
Participating in voluntary associations produces social capital that benefits both the entrepreneur and the community. Because potential partners and customers for independent business owners are connected rather than isolated, they are encouraged to socialize and share ideas outside of their circles. Furthermore, these shared memberships between voluntary associations and organizations allow for the flow of word-of-mouth information.
There is a downside to this type of connectedness, however. Communities that are polarized by ethnic, political, religious or class differences tend to create homogenous organizations. Network expansion does not extend past the organization itself.
As the researchers were determining whether everyone receives an equal kind of spillover from neighbors, they found that that whites benefited from community social capital to a greater extent than minorities in the same community.
The same lack of spillover could also be seen among immigrants. This is for two reasons: immigrants have less individual-level social capital at the start than non-immigrants, and individual-level social capital is less generously compensated if a community social capital exists. This means that community-level social capital fails to spillover as much positive impacts and influences to marginal groups in the community, because some of these groups tend to be newer.
“The immediate, direct translation of this is that you’ve got to build a community with high social capital,” Kwon said. “That means building a community with a lot of trust, where people get to meet and socialize with each other. If you build that community, then everyone, not just a select few, benefits and can get information to start their own businesses.”