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SANS NewsBites is a semiweekly high-level executive summary of the most important news articles that have been published on computer security during the last week. Each news item is very briefly summarized and includes a reference on the web for detailed information, if possible.

Spend five minutes per week to keep up with the high-level perspective of all the latest security news. New issues are delivered free every Tuesday and Friday.

Volume XVII - Issue #76

September 29, 2015

The National Cyber Career Fair Opens November 19. See short blurb at the
end of this newsletter.


BitPay Sues Insurance Company After Cyberattack Claim is Rejected
US and China Announce Cyber Espionage Agreement
Women Underrepresented in Cybersecurity


US Defense Department Hires Breach Notification Management Help
DARPA Seeking Research Proposals for Analysis of Involuntary Analog Emissions
Chinese Smartphone Browsers Hijacked to Launch DDoS Attack
Facebook Outages
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Public Advocate Named
Hilton Investigating Point-of-Sale System Breach Claims





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BitPay Sues Insurance Company After Cyberattack Claim is Rejected (September 18 & 21, 2015)

Bitcoin payment processor BitPay is suing Massachusetts Bay Insurance Company (MBIC) for refusing to pay a claim after the BitPay lost US$1.85 million in fraudulently conducted transactions. MBIC maintains the claim does not satisfy the criteria of the policy because the attack was initiated by compromising the account of a BitPay business associate, which was used to send a spear phishing email to BitPay's CFO.


[Editor's Note (Murray): Cyber insurance is very profitable for insurance companies. Premiums are not comparable or competitive; they are not paying many claims. Policies are artfully written. (Pescatore): This demonstrates several of the many reasons why cyber insurance has shown to be ineffective in bounding risk with any positive ROI: (1) The policy specifically excluded the common attack pattern of a business partner or trusted third party getting compromised and then spear phishing being launched from there; (2) the policy would have only paid off half of the direct loss and it seems like it would cover none of the indirect costs of the breach, which are often larger than the direct costs. Cyber insurance does *not* increases security and in many cases is not even reducing liability, because premium costs and deductibles often add up to more than what will be paid out in the event of a breach. And that doesn't even include the lost opportunity costs if the premiums were instead spent on actually getting more secure instead. ]

US and China Announce Cyber Espionage Agreement (September 25, 27, & 28, 2015)

At a press conference last week, US President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinxing announced that they had reached a "common understanding" regarding cyber espionage. The leaders agreed that both countries will not "conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled threat of intellectual property." There is skepticism that the agreement will result in change.



Women Underrepresented in Cybersecurity (September 28, 2015)

According to a study from (ISC)2 and Booz Allen Hamilton, women make up just 10 percent of the cybersecurity workforce, a drop of one percent from last year's numbers. The report also notes that the number of women moving into the industry is increasing, but is not keeping pace with the growing workforce. The report also notes that there are more women than men in the areas of governance, risk, and compliance.



[Editor's Note (Murray): When I was managing development, my "go to" engineers were women. (Paller): Echoing Murray, the two best intrusion detection analysts in the early days of cybersecurity were named Vicki and Judy. By not recruiting women for critical technical cybersecurity roles, we are depriving ourselves of at least 50% of the most talented candidates (some would argue far more). One step in the right direction is being led by Ruthe Farmer at the National Center for Women in Technology. She has identified more than 16,000 young women who are proud to be geeks through a program called Aspirations in Computing (AiC). She is inviting college juniors and seniors in AiC to test their cyber aptitude and talent to be among 30 women chosen for $360,000 in scholarships for accelerated immersion training in key areas of cybersecurity plus interviews with their favorites among the 50 employers recognized as the "nation's best employers for high performance cybersecurity professionals." We'll cover the public announcement of the program in NewsBites next week so readers can let other talented women graduating from college know about the program. ]

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US Defense Department Hires Breach Notification Management Help (September 28, 2015)

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has hired a company to help notify the 21.5 million people whose personal data were compromised in the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) breach. The contract was awarded without open competition because the Pentagon was having trouble meeting breach notification deadlines and needed support quickly. The plan is to have a tool for determining why mail was returned in place by October 9 and a functional website for people to check whether or not their data were compromised by November 17.

[Editor's Note (Murray): Few enterprises have sufficient resources to remediate a major breach. However, a contingency plan, with resources identified and contracted for in advance of what is now a foreseeable event, may well be efficient. ]

DARPA Seeking Research Proposals for Analysis of Involuntary Analog Emissions (September 28, 2015)

The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking for technology capable of monitoring Internet connected devices like refrigerators and thermostats, often referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT). Specifically, DARPA is seeking "algorithms, tools, and devices for mapping analog emissions of digital devices."


Chinese Smartphone Browsers Hijacked to Launch DDoS Attack (September 28, 2015)

Browsers on at least 650,000 Chinese smartphones have been recruited via malware to help launch a distributed denial-of-service attack against a web server. The malware was hidden in advertisements that were displayed on the phones.



[Editor's Note (Murray): The major risk of the IoT is that gratuitous functionality in the appliances will be turned against the network and its users. ]

Facebook Outages (September 28, 2015)

Facebook was temporarily unavailable on Monday, September 28, the third time in a month that the site has experienced an outage. In a post on the Facebook developer site, an engineer wrote that Monday's outage was due to a problem with the Facebook Graph API.


Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Public Advocate Named (September 26 & 28, 2015)

The first of five amici curae, friends of the court, has been appointed for the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Preston Burton will serve as a public advocate at the court. The amici curae are being appointed as required in provisions of the USA Freedom Act, which passed in June 2015. Until the change, FISC hearings involved testimony only from the government.


Hilton Investigating Point-of-Sale System Breach Claims (September 25, 2015)

Hilton Worldwide is investigating claims that a breach of point-of-sale systems may have exposed customers' payment card information. Sources within the banking industry said they noticed a pattern of fraudulent transactions that points to the likelihood that point-of-sale registers at Hilton restaurants and gift shops were compromised.


ATM Malware Dispenses Cash

Belkin Leaves Secret PGP Key in Light Switch Firmware

More Anti-Virus Vulnerabilities: ESET

Ad Networks Used for DDoS

Traffic Ticket E-Mails

Cisco Midyear Security Report

Alcatel Lucent Report on Infected Systems Connected to Mobile Networks


On November 19, SANS will host its fourth online career fair to help employers and cybersecurity jobseekers connect in a virtual setting. The SANS CyberTalent Fair (
opened registration last week and includes employers such as the US Army's INSCOM, Stroz Friedberg, L-3 Communications, and many others. The CyberTalent Fair is open to interested job seekers and any employer who has cyber vacancies. All registrants also have the opportunity to take the SANS CyberTalent Test at no cost. Please contact mshuftan@sans.org or visit
to sign up.

The Editorial Board of SANS NewsBites

John Pescatore was Vice President at Gartner Inc. for fourteen years. He became a director of the SANS Institute in 2013. He has worked in computer and network security since 1978 including time at the NSA and the U.S. Secret Service.

Shawn Henry is president of CrowdStrike Services. He retired as FBI Executive Assistant Director responsible for all criminal and cyber programs and investigations worldwide, as well as international operations and the FBI's critical incident response.

Stephen Northcutt teaches advanced courses in cyber security management; he founded the GIAC certification and was the founding President of STI, the premier skills-based cyber security graduate school, www.sans.edu.

Dr. Johannes Ullrich is Chief Technology Officer of the Internet Storm Center and Dean of the Faculty of the graduate school at the SANS Technology Institute.

Ed Skoudis is co-founder of CounterHack, the nation's top producer of cyber ranges, simulations, and competitive challenges, now used from high schools to the Air Force. He is also author and lead instructor of the SANS Hacker Exploits and Incident Handling course, and Penetration Testing course.

Michael Assante was Vice President and Chief Security Officer at NERC, led a key control systems group at Idaho National Labs, and was American Electric Power's CSO. He now leads the global cyber skills development program at SANS for power, oil & gas and other critical infrastructure industries.

Mark Weatherford is a Principal at The Chertoff Group and the former Deputy Under Secretary of Cybersecurity at the US Department of Homeland Security.

William Hugh Murray is an executive consultant and trainer in Information Assurance and Associate Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School.

Sean McBride is Director of Analysis and co-founder of Critical Intelligence, and, while at Idaho National Laboratory, he initiated the situational awareness effort that became the ICS-CERT.

Rob Lee is the SANS Institute's top forensics instructor and director of the digital forensics and incident response research and education program at SANS (computer-forensics.sans.org).

Tom Liston is the Principal Information Security Architect for Warner Brothers Entertainment, a handler for the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Center, and co-author of the book Counter Hack Reloaded.

Dr. Eric Cole is an instructor, author and fellow with The SANS Institute. He has written five books, including Insider Threat and he is a founder with Secure Anchor Consulting.

Mason Brown is one of a very small number of people in the information security field who have held a top management position in a Fortune 50 company (Alcoa). He leads SANS' efforts to raise the bar in cybersecurity education around the world.

David Hoelzer is the director of research & principal examiner for Enclave Forensics and a senior fellow with the SANS Technology Institute.

Gal Shpantzer is a trusted advisor to CSOs of large corporations, technology startups, Ivy League universities and non-profits specializing in critical infrastructure protection. Gal created the Security Outliers project in 2009, focusing on the role of culture in risk management outcomes and contributes to the Infosec Burnout project.

Eric Cornelius is Director of Critical Infrastructure and ICS at Cylance, and earlier served as deputy director and chief technical analyst for the Control Systems Security Program at the US Department of Homeland Security.

Alan Paller is director of research at the SANS Institute.

Brian Honan is an independent security consultant based in Dublin, Ireland.

David Turley is SANS operations manager and serves as production manager and final editor on SANS NewsBites.

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