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Cybersecurity requirements for Department of Defense (DoD) contractors continue to evolve. However, NIST 800-171 compliance is as much required by law today as it was on the December 2017 deadline. In fact, with the introduction of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) we are fast approaching a major change in how government contracts are bid. Recently, Katie Arrington, Chief Information Security Officer for the Assistant Defense Secretary for Acquisition, spoke at the Billington CyberSecurity Summit where it was noted,  “the new Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification framework, or CMMC, is out in draft form for public comment. It would start appearing as a requirement in pre-solicitation acquisition documents like RFIs in June. ‘In the fall, we will start putting it into [actual bid solicitation documents like] RFPs,’ Arrington said.”  

With the proposed CMMC requirements contractors will be required to demonstrate compliance as referenced in section L and M of a government Request for Proposal (RFP). Demonstration of compliance will require a third-party certification as self-certification will no longer be allowed. This update is critical, noncompliance with a requirement in section L and M means you are not qualified to bid a proposal. The risk of not meeting compliance with NIST 800-171 pre-RFP will mean the loss of existing and potential work with the DoD.  

Prepare yourself by understanding the latest updates and, more importantly, how your business should respond to achieve documented, audit-proof evidence of compliance. Listen to Eric Noonan, CyberSheath CEO, in this recorded webinar as he explains how to cut through the noise and jump-start your DFARS compliance efforts.

 In this webinar you will learn:

  • What’s New: Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), NIST 800-171 Revision 2, and NIST 800-171B
  • What’s Not: Understanding DFARS Clause 252.204-7012 and NIST 800-171
  • What To Do Now and Why: How to stay competitive in the DoD acquisition process and comply with DFARS Clause 252.204-7012 and NIST 800-171

No matter where you are in your journey towards NIST 800-171 compliance this webinar is guaranteed to better equip you in understanding, implementing, and maintaining compliance!

Register Now to gain your access to the webinar.

Have contractors implemented the NIST 800-171 controls? DoD Inspector General (IG) audit suggests not, recommends third-party audits. Are you ready?

A recent audit conducted in response to a request from the Secretary of Defense determined that DoD contractors did not consistently implement DoD‑mandated system security controls for safeguarding Defense information. Specifically, Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) clause 252.204-7012 requires contractors that maintain Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) to implement security controls specified in National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-171, which lists security requirements for safeguarding sensitive information on non-Federal information systems. The requirements include controls for user authentication, user access, media protection, incident response, vulnerability management, and confidentiality of information.

DoD IG Report Findings

The findings across the DoD contractors audited included deficiencies related to:

  • Multifactor authentication;
  • Enforcing the use of strong passwords;
  • Identifying network and system vulnerabilities;
  • Mitigating network and system vulnerabilities;
  • Protecting CUI stored on removable media;
  • Overseeing network and boundary protection services provided by a third-party company;
  • Documenting and tracking cybersecurity incidents;
  • Configuring user accounts to lock automatically after extended periods and unsuccessful login attempts;
  • Implementing physical security controls;
  • Creating and reviewing system activity reports, and granting system access based on the user’s assigned duties.

The audit also found that while DoD requires contractors to protect CUI by complying with NIST 800-171 requirements, DoD contracting offices did not establish processes to:

  • Verify that contractors’ networks and systems met National Institute of Standards and Technology security requirements before contract award;
  • Notify contractors of the specific CUI category related to the contract requirements;
  • Determine whether contractors’ access, maintain, or develop CUI to meet contractual requirements;
  • Mark documents that contained CUI and notify contractors when CUI was exchanged between DoD agencies and the contractor; and
  • Verify that contractors implemented minimum security controls for protecting CUI.

The effect of these findings is that DoD does not know the amount of DoD information managed by contractors and cannot determine whether contractors are protecting unclassified DoD information from unauthorized disclosure.

The results of the audit probably don’t surprise the DoD or its many contractors but the recommendations in the DoD IG report, combined with the proposed Cybersecurity Model Certification (CMMC), should have contractors making plans to immediately implement the NIST 800-171 security requirements. All signs point to a game-changing, pre-RFP validation of compliance making cybersecurity a “go/no-go” factor for DoD contract awards.

DoD IG Report Recommendations

Recommendations out of the DoD IG report included:

  • Revise its current policy related to assessing a contractor’s ability to protect DoD information to require DoD Component contracting offices, as part of the Request for Proposal and source selection processes, and requiring activities, during the contract performance, to validate, at least annually, that contractors comply with security requirements for protecting CUI before contract award and throughout the contract’s period of performance.
  • Develop and implement a policy requiring DoD Component contracting offices and requiring activities to maintain an accurate accounting of contractors that access, maintain, or develop controlled unclassified information as part of their contractual obligations.
  • Revise its current policy to include language that would require DoD Component contracting offices to validate contractor compliance with minimum security requirements. We also recommend that the DoD Component contracting offices, in coordination with requiring activities, implement a plan to verify that the internal control weaknesses for the contractors discussed in this report are addressed.

All these recommendations are in alignment with the proposed CMMC efforts led by Katie Arrington, and DoD contractors who have delayed NIST 800-171 implementation should take notice and act now. Mandatory third-party validation of security requirements is coming in 2020 and failing to act will likely result in exclusion from contracting with the DoD. Both the recommendations from the DoD IG audit and CMMC are proposing third-party validation of control implementation as part of the Request for Proposal and source selection processes – self-certification and implementation after you win the work are going away. Contractors will need to demonstrate compliance before responding to an RFP and that means taking the necessary steps now before these inevitable changes are implemented in 2020.

Prepare for CMMC and NIST 800-171 Third-Party Verification

CMMC proposes that all companies conducting business with the DoD must be certified. The level of certification required depends upon the Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) a company handles or processes and the intent of CMMC is to combine various cybersecurity control standards such as NIST SP 800-171 into one unified standard for cybersecurity. Given NIST 800-171 security requirements are at the core of CMMC, and NIST 800-171 implementation has been mandated for nearly two years now, that’s where DoD contractors should focus their efforts. Under CMMC the DoD is building on and strengthening, not abandoning NIST 800-171. Implementing the NIST 800-171 security requirements now is the best way to prepare for CMMC and meet your existing contractual requirements around DFARS 252.204-7012 Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting and NIST 800-171.

Implementing the NIST 800-171 requirements includes writing a System Security Plan (SSP) and with 110 security requirements, you can expect to be out of compliance with some number of those individual requirements. For requirements not yet implemented you will need to also document Plans of Action & Milestones (POA&Ms). The heavy lifting is in implementing the security requirements as you prepare for CMMC and controls like Multi-Factor Authentication and Incident Response which require time to fully implement. With 2020 less than six months away implementing all 110 security requirements will be a challenge and DoD contractors, subcontractors and vendors taking a wait and see approach to CMMC are ignoring the last decade of clear warning signs that security has become the foundation of acquisition. The DoD IG audit and recommendations are simply the most recent in a flurry of activity that should have contractors taking immediate action to comply.

5 Steps to CMMC Preparation

Download our 5 Step Guide to CMMC Preparation to plan and enable certification as a documented, automated outcome of day-to-day operations. This easy to follow guide presents a plan to prepare for CMMC in a way that fits your business and budget. Third-party certification is coming in 2020, get the compliance and control implementation expertise you need to stay competitive!

5 Steps to CMMC Preparation

CyberSheath has attended multiple listening sessions and events with DoD leadership revealing more information regarding the DoD Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC).  I want to expand on our previous blog with the additional details and actionable plans on what DoD contractors need to do to prepare for the changes.

What We Understand about CMMC so Far

CMMC stands for “Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification” and will encompass multiple maturity levels that range from “Basic Cybersecurity Hygiene” to “Advanced”. The intent is to identify the required CMMC level in Request for Proposals (RFP) sections L and M to be used as a “go / no go decision.” This means that instead of the ability to bid and win a contract and then comply post-award with cybersecurity requirements, DoD contractors will have to be certified to the CMMC level required in advance, pre-bid, to even be eligible to bid. DoD will determine the appropriate tier (i.e. not everything requires the highest level) for contracts they administer and the required CMMC level will be contained in sections L & M of the RFP making cybersecurity an “allowable cost” in DoD contracts. CMMC level requirements will begin appearing in DoD RFP’s as soon fall 2020 and Version 1.0 of the CMMC framework will be available January 2020 to support training requirements. In June 2020, the industry should begin to see the CMMC requirements as part of Requests for Information. DoD contractors are expected to begin achieving certification sometime after June 2020. That is less than 12 months away so if you have not started implementing the NIST 800-171 security requirements, you had better get moving.

How to Best Prepare for CMMC and Stay Eligible for DoD Contracts

All companies conducting business with the DoD must be certified. The level of certification required depends upon the Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) a company handles or processes. The intent of the CMMC is to combine various cybersecurity control standards such as NIST SP 800-171, NIST SP 800-53, ISO 27001, ISO 27032, AIA NAS9933 and others into one unified standard for cybersecurity. In addition to cybersecurity control standards, the CMMC will also measure the maturity of a company’s institutionalization of cybersecurity practices and processes. If you have worked to implement NIST 800-171, your hard work will not go to waste. Unlike NIST SP 800-171, CMMC will implement multiple levels of cybersecurity and does not allow for self-certification. There will be no CMMC self-certification, instead, DoD contractors will coordinate directly with an accredited and independent third-party commercial certification organization to request and schedule your CMMC assessment.

Everything You Should Do to Effectively Prepare for Certification

All the information shared to date on CMMC maturity levels aligns with the implementation of the 110 security requirements of NIST 800-171. The DoD is building on and strengthening not abandoning NIST 800-171. While the specific maturity levels for individual contracts have not been determined it’s understood that implementing the NIST 800-171 security requirements is the best way to prepare for CMMC. Meeting your existing contractual requirements around DFARS 252.204-7012 Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting and NIST 800-171 implementation is how you prepare for CMMC.

Implementing the NIST 800-171 requirements includes writing a System Security Plan (SSP) and with 110 security requirements, you can expect to be out of compliance with some number of those individual requirements. For requirements not yet implemented you will need to also document Plans of Action & Milestones (POA&Ms). The heavy lifting is in implementing the security requirements as you prepare for CMMC and controls like Multi-Factor Authentication and Incident Response which require time to fully implement. DoD contractors, subcontractors and vendors taking a wait and see approach to CMMC are ignoring the last decade of clear warning signs that security has become the foundation of acquisition. Act now!

5 Steps to CMMC Preparation

Download our 5 Step Guide to CMMC Preparation to plan and enable certification as a documented, automated outcome of day-to-day operations. This easy to follow guide presents a plan you can follow to prepare for CMMC in a way that fits your business and budget.

5 Steps to CMMC Preparation

When shopping for a Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP), there are plenty of checklists that you can download to help funnel you right to that vendor’s particular product. This isn’t that blog post, although at some point I am sure we have published one too. While checklists are helpful in narrowing down the capabilities and tools that you want to add to your probably already too big portfolio of tools, the focus should really be on the services that you will be adding to your existing team.

Candidly, the capabilities are generally similar across MSSP’s and cover some kind of SIEM platform, monitoring, incident response (IR), vulnerability management (VM) and a number of other competencies that are bundled into a managed service offering. They are bundled in part because these are what the vast majority of business lack and need, but also because the bundling enables sales, at scale, for product vendors and MSSP’s. It’s been our experience that the material difference from one product vendor or MSSP to the next, in your favorite version of a Magic Quadrant, covers features and capabilities that don’t ultimately make your business more secure or compliant. Often, it’s a distinction without a difference, especially for a security program that is still struggling with the blocking and tackling of cybersecurity-related patching, asset management, and incident response. So, beyond checklists, “threat hunting” and “advanced intelligence platforms”, where should your business focus when trying to make a mid to long term commitment with your first or a new MSSP?

Where Should Your Business Focus When Deciding on an MSSP?

Start with service, as in the service your business specifically needs to extract value from the MSSP relationship. The service your business needs are, in fact, unique to your business. If it wasn’t, you could pick the first Google Ads result that comes up (which isn’t the best MSSP for your business, just the best MSSP at creating Google Adword campaigns on any given day). Instead of analysis that is overly focused on the most advanced capabilities and toolsets, it will pay dividends to meet with a potential MSSP and align their offering with your business requirements. Selecting an MSSP is a business decision, even if the vendor marketing is geared towards making it a technology decision. For example, if you are in a highly regulated industry like Defense Contracting, and NIST 800-171 compliance is fundamental to your ability to win business, your MSSP should have core expertise in delivering on these security requirements. The technology, SIEM, VM, IR, etc. are a given but the ability of your MSSP to enable documented, automated and auditable compliance with your customer requirements isn’t. Ultimately, the MSSP you choose in this scenario should make compliance a natural outcome of day-to-day security operations so that over time you can focus more resources on actual defense. What does this look like in practice?

Achieving Compliance as a Natural Outcome of Day-to-Day Security Operations

For most businesses, it doesn’t look like a laundry list of acronyms and industry jargon about threat intelligence and advanced threat hunting capabilities. It looks like an integrated team, your internal staff (to the extent you have one) and that of your MSSP, working together on a weekly basis to deliver measurable outcomes over time. The tools leveraged by your MSSP can produce beautiful charts and endless trends but the critical questions to answer relate to outcomes achieved. It’s nice that an MSSP can tell you the top 10 vulnerabilities in your environment, but the outcome you should be focused on is remediating those vulnerabilities. If your team is too busy to patch or otherwise remediate the “top 10 vulnerabilities”, you just end up with a pretty graphic that doesn’t make you more secure or compliant.

To drive outcomes, instead of charts and trendlines, you must have a regular cadence of meetings with your MSSP focused on the things that matter most at any given point in time to your business. Ideally, these meetings are weekly and are more aligned with the initiatives underway within IT and Security and not just focused on the tools that the MSSP brought to the party. In our experience, the MSSP relationship is a combination of managed services and staff augmentation. Staying with the same example of NIST 800-171 compliance, if you are struggling to implement all 110 security requirements then drive your MSSP to help at a minimum, but ideally lead the efforts. Eliminate redundant meetings for your already oversubscribed team by incorporating your compliance and operational project management meetings into your weekly MSSP meetings. Create an integrated project plan with specific accountabilities for your team and the MSSP. Your MSSP should be working on your agenda and not driving theirs. If implementing Multi-Factor Authentication or Privileged Account Management is an internal priority for your business, a great MSSP will make it a priority for their business.

Partnering with the Right MSSP for Your Business

None of this is easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. Contractually it’s hard to create this kind of defined yet flexible arrangement and it generally requires an acceptance that outside of the core service offerings there will be a shifting list of priorities that you are going to rely on your MSSP to tackle. Not every MSSP is going to have the staff or program management skills to partner this way. If you have had a series of successful engagements and measurable outcomes with a professional services partner that knows your people, processes, and technologies but doesn’t show up on the “Top MSSP” list of the day, weight your personal experience over the pay to play marketing that dominates our industry.

To better understand what it means to contract for Managed Security Services that matter and what that experience can look like for your business, schedule a 30-minute introductory call with CyberSheath today and start your journey by focusing on outcomes instead of checklists.


A recently released 10-month review consisting of 10 years’ worth of inspector general’s (IG) reports across eight federal agencies by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Homeland Security Committee found that “Agencies currently fail to comply with basic cybersecurity standards.” The full report can be found here and the major themes identified in the report highlighted yet again the fundamental work that isn’t being done to comply with basic cybersecurity standards. So why isn’t the work being done? Is it a lack of money, tools, people, all the above? Buried on page 46 of the report then-DHS CIO Richard Staropoli is quoted in a 2017 interview with the Subcommittee on the state of the OCIO saying, “You can write this down and quote me, the problem is piss-poor management.”

That blunt assessment, it’s a management problem, is worth considering. Better outcomes can be achieved, across the Federal government and industry, with a disciplined, framework-based approach to cybersecurity. This approach and the guaranteed better outcomes that will follow require a recognition that many of the management disciplines inherent in other business supporting functions like finance and engineering are missing in cybersecurity. The problems in cybersecurity are different but the principles required to improve them are not. Said another way by the late W. Edwards Deming:

“A common disease that afflicts management and government administration the world over is the impression that “Our problems are different.” They are different, to be sure, but the principles that will help to improve quality of product and of service are universal in nature.” W. Edwards Deming

Many of the failures identified in the Subcommittee review focused on people and processes, management, rather than the need to buy more vendor tools and products. Too often the answer to a cybersecurity failure is a procurement activity. Instead of focusing on the root cause, a breakdown in process, lack of auditable process or some other management issue.

The Audit Results

The agencies reviewed included the Department of Homeland Security and seven other agencies cited by OMB as having the lowest ratings regarding cybersecurity practices based on NIST’s cybersecurity framework in the fiscal year 2017.  The IGs identified several common, repeat historical failures at the eight agencies reviewed by the Subcommittee including:

Protection of PII. Agencies failing to properly protect the PII entrusted to their care included State, DOT, HUD, Education, and SSA. The HUD IG has noted this issue in nine of the last eleven audits.

Comprehensive list of IT assets. A persistent, recurring issue with agencies failing to maintain an accurate and comprehensive inventory of its IT assets is a recurrent problem for State, DOT, HUD, HHS, and SSA.

Remediation of cyber vulnerabilities. Over the past decade, IGs for all eight agencies reviewed by the Subcommittee found each agency failed to timely remediate cyber vulnerabilities and apply security patches. HUD and State IGs identified the failure to patch security vulnerabilities seven of the last ten annual audits. HHS and Education cybersecurity audits highlighted failures to apply security patches eight out of ten years. For the last nine years, USDA failed to timely apply patches. Both DHS and DOT failed to properly apply security patches for the last ten consecutive years.

Authority to operate. Failure to ensure systems had valid authorities to operate were observed at DHS, DOT, HUD, USDA, HHS, and Education. Again, a recurring issue, HHS systems lacked valid authorities to operate for the last nine consecutive audits and DHS operated systems without valid authorities in seven of the last ten audits.

Overreliance on legacy systems. All eight agencies examined by the Subcommittee relied on legacy systems. The DHS IG noted the use of unsupported operating systems for at least the last four years, including Windows XP and Windows 2003.

If these findings sound all too familiar what is the solution?

The issues above will look familiar to almost any cybersecurity professional and the problems generally lend themselves to the same solution. The principles required, both in the private sector and across the Federal government, truly are universal in nature.

The solution, choose a Cybersecurity Framework.  There are many to pick from and we recommend one that best aligns with your existing regulatory requirements. There are many frameworks and standards and if you can’t decide which one best fits your business ask for help. Regardless of your industry, there is a suitable framework and the time wasted debating best fit is time that should be spent remediating issues. When all else fails the NIST Cybersecurity Framework is flexible and detailed enough to meet just about any business requirements that you might have and should easily map to all your regulatory and compliance requirements.

Assess Yourself Against the Framework

The assessment is not an audit so don’t describe it that way; socialize it appropriately with your management and your team. How? Every culture and set of circumstances is different but something along the lines of, “We’ve got a good understanding of what we need to do in security to better align with the business and we are using this assessment to validate that thinking and create a multi-year investment strategy that will drive measurable improvement as opposed to the one-off point solution improvements.”  If this assessment is going to be transformative you need to build support before it starts and ultimately you will have a burning platform off which you can launch your strategy. The assessment is a tactic that will enable the execution of your strategy.

Don’t do the assessment yourself; you won’t have the time to do it justice and somehow having a third party conduct the assessment is always more effective. When you select a third party make sure they invest the time to know what you want to get out of this assessment. Many mediocre companies can produce assessments that follow a boilerplate template and answer all your obvious questions leaving you no better off than where you started and a little poorer. Take the time up front to write a statement of work that forces your provider to deliver real value and not just a 100-page report. Define the value for your business in doing the assessment and the expected outcomes. Need help? CyberSheath has delivered hundreds of framework-based assessments that deliver compliance and improved operational security, find out how here.

Create a Project Plan, Remediate Assessment Findings, and Track Progress

Once you have the assessment completed you can prioritize the findings and give management a detailed, multi-year plan for how you are going to transform security into a transparent, measurable business supporting function. Your assessment results should change security conversations from procurement driven discussions around products to strategic discussions around compliance and enabling more resources to be spent on actual defense. You will have objective, fact-based data to articulate risk and prioritize resources.

Remediation efforts should be actively managed in a project plan and briefed to business stakeholders on a recurring basis. Take this opportunity to transform the security discussion from event-driven fire drills to documented, measurable progress against a prioritized list of cybersecurity improvements. Depending on the size and culture of your business the project plan related to remediation can be part of a company-wide strategy that the security function can be measured against.

Obviously, none of this is simple but it is critical if you want to transform from a reactive event-driven cybersecurity organization into a strategic business partner. Don’t Fight Phishing Attacks Alone.

With the federal agencies and commercial companies facing many of the same cybersecurity problems year in and year out, it’s time to try a better approach. Get hands-on professional and managed security services from CyberSheath and apply the universal principles that will improve the quality and effectiveness of your cybersecurity efforts. Contact us now to find out how we can help.


NIST 800-171 Revision 2 and 800-171B drafts were released for comment last week, and as expected there have been no major changes proposed to the controls in NIST 800-171 Revision 2. For DoD contractors waiting to implement the required security requirements of NIST 800-171 Revision 1 pending the latest updates, the proposed updates won’t buy you any time. The fact is enforcement is underway and compliance with DoD cybersecurity requirements is a go/no go decision if you are serious about being eligible to do business with the DoD.

The 800-171B draft enhanced security controls are in addition to 800-171 controls, in cases where the information held by the contractor is determined to be a high-value target. The enhanced requirements are to be applied to nonfederal systems and organizations processing, storing, or transmitting controlled unclassified information (CUI), when such information is contained in a critical program or designated high-value asset. The enhanced security requirements of the 800-171B draft were designed to address advanced persistent threats (APTs) and are mapped to the security controls in NIST 800-53. The implied maturity level required and associated costs with implementing the 800-171B draft enhanced security controls is significant.

The enhanced security requirements include three, mutually supportive and reinforcing components:

(1) penetration resistant architecture;

(2) damage limiting operations; and

(3) designing for cyber resiliency and survivability.

The Path Forward for DoD Contractors

With a tremendous amount of activity related to The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), DCMA audits of NIST 800-171 compliance, False Claims Act litigation, and the 800-171 revisions and supplements, the path forward for DoD contractors is clear:

Fund and execute compliance with NIST 800-171 now. Despite all of the proposed changes, the fact remains that the DFARS 252.204-7012 clause in ANY of your contracts requires the implementation of NIST 800-171. That is your contractual requirement and all changes proposed so far rely on NIST 800-171 as a foundation of compliance.

There has been a level of paralysis by analysis across industry caused by the questions of cost reimbursement, proposed changes and uneven auditing of compliance. This is the kind of noise that has caused many DoD contractors across the supply chain to delay their DFARS compliance efforts but that high-risk approach invites legal and competitive pain that should be avoided. While there are many changes to be aware of CyberSheath advises focusing on what you are required to do today as the best approach to current and future compliance requirements. Nothing that has been proposed eliminates the requirement to implement NIST 800-171.

Compliance with the DFARS and NIST 800-171 requirements involves much more than writing a System Security Plan (SSP) and vendors selling you a tool to get compliant are misleading you. There are 110 security requirements in NIST 800-171 and you have to actually implement them, there isn’t a single product to solve this problem.

5 Steps To DFARS Compliance

Download our 5 Steps to DFARS Compliance Guide to plan and enable compliance as a documented, automated outcome of day-to-day operations. This easy to follow guide presents a plan you can follow to achieve compliance in a way that fits your business and budget. DoD contractors, subcontractors and vendors taking a wait and see approach before achieving compliance are ignoring the last decade of clear warning signs that security has become the foundation of acquisition. Act now!

5 Steps to DFARS Compliance


The recently announced Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) scheduled for completion by January 2020 has many DoD contractors scrambling to anticipate how to prepare (learn more about the CMMC announcement here). While there are many unknowns regarding what the CMMC will ultimately look like, DoD contractors should focus on what is already known and currently mandatory with DFARS 252.204-7012, which requires the implementation of NIST 800-171. Stop trying to read the tea leaves and doing the bare minimum by writing System Security Plans (SSP’s) and start implementing the 110 security requirements of NIST 800-171. Demonstrable action, that is NIST 800-171 control implementation, is the best way to prepare for the CMMC.

Katie Arrington, the special assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition for Cyber in the Office of the Under Secretary of Acquisition and Sustainment in DoD, recently said that only 1% of the Defense Industrial Base has implemented the required controls.  “If we were doing all the necessary security controls, we wouldn’t be getting exfiltrated to the level that we are. We need to level set because a good portion of our defense industrial base doesn’t have robust cyber hygiene. Only 1% of [Defense Industrial Base] companies have implemented all 110 controls from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. We need to get to scale where the vast majority of DIB partners can defend themselves from nation state attacks.”

Why are Contractors Delaying NIST 800-171 Implementation?

Across hundreds of NIST 800-171 implementations, CyberSheath has found the most common reason for delay by DoD contractors has come down to, “Who is going to pay for this?”

Arrington clearly spoke to that concern last week at an event sponsored by the Professional Services Council in Arlington, Virginia, saying “I need you all now to get out your pens and you better write this down and tell your teams: Hear it from Katie Arrington, who got permission to say it from Mr. [Kevin] Fahey [the assistant secretary of Defense for Acquisition in the Office of the Under Secretary of Acquisition and Sustainment] security is an allowable cost. Amen, right?”

After more than a decade of policy, law, memorandums and continued momentum towards enforcement businesses who continue to delay actual implementation of the 110 security requirements will be in a far worse position come January 2020 when the CMMC rolls out. Don’t wait, implement the NIST 800-171 security requirements in a way that is actionable, measurable and audit ready.

Beyond Your SSP’s and POA&Ms

Compliance with the DFARS and NIST requirements involves much more than writing a SSP’s and vendors selling you a tool to get compliant are misleading you. There are 110 security requirements in NIST 800-171 and you have to actually implement them, there isn’t a single product to solve this problem. Implementing security requirements like multifactor authentication, incident response, encryption and more require thoughtful decisions leveraging what you already own. For the gaps identified in your existing people, processes, and technologies a product purchase, if required, needs to be part of the larger plan to achieve compliance. Too often businesses are over-sold on silver bullet product purchases that aren’t thoughtfully integrated into a system of documented and repeatable control implementation.

5 Steps to DFARS Compliance

To enable compliance as a documented, automated outcome of day-to-day operations download our 5 Steps to DFARS Compliance Guide. This easy to follow guide presents a plan you can follow to achieve compliance in a way that fits your business and budget. Act now to move from thinking about implementation to taking action towards full compliance.



The window of opportunity for achieving compliance with DFARS 252.204-7012, which requires the implementation of NIST 800-171 across the DoD supply chain, continues to get smaller as the ability to self-certify is set to expire.

CyberSheath attended the Professional Service Council’s 2019 Federal Acquisition Conference where Special Assistant to DoD’s Assistant Secretary of Defense Acquisition for Cyber Katie Arrington stated clearly that “…cost, schedule, and performance cannot be traded for security.” Security is the foundation of defense acquisition.

Much has been written about The Defense Department (DoD) Office of the Under Secretary Acquisition of Sustainment creation of a new certification model to enforce compliance, but the fact is compliance is already required. So, while it is important to understand where the DoD is headed in enforcing compliance, it’s more important to stop delaying and act now. The DoD has been working with industry for more than a decade to address the cybersecurity problem across the supply chain and contractors who continue to self-certify with Plans of Action & Milestones (POA&Ms) that never actually get implemented will be frozen out of acquisition as DoD makes cybersecurity a “go/no-go” part of procurement.

Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) and the New Certification

The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) and the new certification will have required CMMC levels once the certification is released, with levels ranging between one and five –from basic cyber hygiene requirements through “state-of-the-art” cybersecurity capabilities.

Arrington is moving quickly to complete the CMMC by January 2020, and contractors can expect to start seeing the certification in contract requests for information by June 2020.

Within CMMC, a third-party cybersecurity certifier will also conduct audits, collect metrics, and information risk mitigation for the entire supply chain.

“With 70 percent of my data living in your environment, I’m home, so we need to work together to secure it,” Arrington said. “Who is the government? You are when you’re the taxpayer. That’s your money. That’s your data that you have paid for that our adversaries are taking and using it against us. We should be infuriated as a nation about our data. With $600 billion a year being expelled by our adversaries; this room should be irate.”

All of these developments, coupled with the May 8, 2019, California court Civil False Claims Act decision as the first reported FCA decision involving allegations of non-compliance with DFARS 252.204-7012 should spur action towards immediate compliance. Checklist compliance and continued delays of actual control implementation will absolutely cost you more in the long run so get started now, make a plan and execute.

5 Steps To DFARS Compliance

Compliance with the DFARS and NIST requirements involves much more than writing a System Security Plan (SSP) and vendors selling you a tool to get compliant are misleading you. There are 110 security requirements in NIST 800-171 and you have to actually implement them, there isn’t a single product to solve this problem.

Download our 5 Steps to DFARS Compliance Guide to plan and enable compliance as a documented, automated outcome of day-to-day operations. This easy to follow guide presents a plan you can follow to achieve compliance in a way that fits your business and budget. DoD contractors, subcontractors and vendors taking a wait and see approach before achieving compliance are ignoring the last decade of clear warning signs that security has become the foundation of acquisition. Act now!


You may have heard of phishing, which is the practice of sending fraudulent texts or emails that appear to come from a legitimate source, with the intention of encouraging the recipient to provide personal information.

Businesses have been struggling to protect their networks from phishing, and with attacks up 65% in the past year, it seems the fight is far from over. To make matters worse, a more sophisticated and destructive offshoot of phishing has recently emerged — spear phishing.

What is Spear Phishing?

Phishing messages are usually generic, sent to a large number of people in order to cast a wide net in the hopes that somebody will bite. Spear phishing, as the name implies, is much more precise and is targeted at a specific victim.

The spear phisher gathers personal information about the target, such as an employer, hometown, or friends, in order to craft messages that seem more credible. No red flags are raised, and the recipient happily does as the phisher requests, sharing highly sensitive data and information about themselves in the process.

What Spear Phishing Means for Your Business

Spear phishing presents a major problem for businesses. Phishers are increasingly seeing businesses like yours as lucrative targets, with a staggering 95% of all attacks on business and enterprise networks thought to be the result of successful spear phishing. How does this happen?

The Weak Link in Your Network Security

Spear fishers usually gain access to your sensitive data and business networks via your employees. For example, they might gather information on your employee and use it to craft an email to them appearing to come from your IT team, asking them to click on a link and re-submit their credentials to access one of your network systems.

The link leads to a dummy site that’s barely distinguishable from yours. When your employee logs in, the phisher records their credentials and uses them to access your real system. There, they can steal data, spy on your business, or bring your system crashing down, and you likely won’t even know it’s happened until the damage has been done.

4 Steps to Keep Your Business Safe from a Spear Phishing Attempt

Despite your best efforts to secure your business, you’re only as strong as your employees. Adequately protecting yourself from spear-phishing, then, relies on comprehensive training and awareness. Here are four steps you can take to keep your business safe…

Step 1 – Educate Your Employees

Knowledge is power, so train your employees on how to spot spear phishing and what to do about it. And because threats like spear-phishing evolve rapidly, ensure that your training and awareness programs are refreshed and updated at least annually to stay ahead of phishers.

Step 2 – Practice Good Password Hygiene

Passwords are at the very core of your network security and as such, they deserve the utmost attention. For each of your systems, require that users create long, complex passwords and change them on a regular basis. Don’t just ask users to do this and trust that they’ll comply; make it a mandatory requirement for using the system. And of course, the sharing of company passwords should be discouraged in the very strongest terms, even between other employees.

Step 3 – Implement Multi-Factor Authorization

Multi-factor authorization, or MFA, adds an extra layer of security to your systems. After the user enters their password, they’re typically required to pass through a further verification stage by entering another password/code, answering a question, submitting biometric information, or responding to an email or text. If somebody does obtain the user’s password, MFA means they’ll usually be thwarted at this second stage.

Step 4 – Take Good Practices Home

In order to be effective, good security practices must go beyond the office. Spear phishers will usually target a victim outside of work too, so your employees must be encouraged to apply the same awareness, caution, and protection to their personal and home networks.

That means practicing good password hygiene on any devices or online systems they use outside of work, from banking to social media to online grocery shopping and everything in between. Where available, they should be encouraged to set up multi-factor authorization, too.

Personal phones, computers, and other devices should be password-protected, encrypted, and secured with up-to-date antivirus and malware programs. This is especially true if they use these devices for business-related activity, in which case you should embed usage rules into company policy.

Your employees should be encouraged to take all reasonable measures to protect company data that’s taken outside of the workplace, whether on a business trip or to a home office. Physical documents and devices should be stored securely when not in use, such as in a locked briefcase or filing cabinet.

Finally, employees should think carefully about the work information they share with their personal network. Your employee might think they’re bringing their old high school buddy up to speed on all the exciting projects they’ve been working on, but there could be a phisher on the other end of the email conversation, gathering data about your business.

Don’t Fight Phishing Attacks Alone

With 76% of businesses falling victim to a phishing attack last year, it seems phishers are winning the fight for your sensitive data. That doesn’t have to be the case. Protect your business now with expert training and managed security services from CyberSheath. Contact us now to find out how we can help.

A privileged account is one used by administrators to log in to servers, networks, firewalls, databases, applications, cloud services and other systems used by your organization.

These accounts give enhanced permissions that allow the privileged user to access sensitive data or modify key system functions, among other things. You can imagine, then, why they’re such an attractive target to hackers.

By gaining access to a privileged account, a hacker can wreak havoc on your business. For example, they can steal customer data, bring down your website, or shut you out of critical systems. And because the hacker is using legitimate credentials, it’s often difficult to pinpoint where an attack is coming from — if you detect it at all.

3 Reasons to Consider a Privileged Access Risk Assessment

To improve security posture and meet regulatory compliance, consider these three reasons why your business should conduct a detailed privileged access risk assessment:

Reason #1 – A Glaring Security Loophole

With the potential for exposure so high, you’d assume that businesses would be way ahead of this threat. However, many organizations are failing to devote the proper attention to closing the glaring security loophole that is privileged account management.

In many cases, weak passwords are used to protect these highly sensitive accounts. In fact, some use the default password — literally ‘password’ in some cases — and some use none at all. Others use stronger passwords, but share the same account between multiple users, increasing the account’s risk profile.

Even when privileged accounts are assigned to single users and adequately protected, they’re often not revoked when a user no longer needs them. Depending on the size of the organization, it’s estimated that there are up to four times as many privileged accounts as regular user accounts, many of them no longer in use. With every single account presenting hackers with an avenue of attack, this means that organizations are exposing themselves to a staggering amount of unnecessary risk.

Reason #2 – The Consequences of Exposure

A data breach costs the average organization as much as $150m in losses. At least one-third of customers take their business elsewhere when a breach is made public, even if they’re not personally affected. Then there is the cost of legal penalties that can result from failure to comply with security measures around the protection of sensitive data.

Many businesses can’t survive these legal and financial blows and quickly find themselves in the ground, but securing privileged accounts is not as simple as merely changing your passwords.

Reason #3 – The Problem with Privileged Account Security

The first step to securing privileged accounts is to perform a detailed audit. However, with so many of these accounts scattered across networks, servers and other key infrastructure, it can be almost impossible to get a true picture of how many there are, how (and if) they’re being used, and how secure they are.

Traditionally, a privileged account audit was a manual job requiring hundreds and hundreds of hours of IT man-hours, which of course carried a significant financial cost, too. The process was long and complex, and many organizations avoided it because they simply found it too daunting, expensive, or both. Today, that doesn’t have to be the case.

That’s Where CyberSheath Comes In

CyberSheath’s expert team uses advanced technology to perform privileged access risk assessments in a fraction of the time, helping you to:

  • Identify all privileged accounts on-site, in the cloud, and in your dev-ops environments.
  • Locate all privileged credentials, such as passwords, access keys, and SSH keys.
  • Discover weaknesses and highlight accounts that are vulnerable to credential theft.

With our technology and expertise, there’s no reason to shy away from a privileged account security audit — and no excuse to put your business at risk. Contact us today to find out how we can help keep your privileged accounts and your business safe and secure.

“Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”

Over the years, variations of this famous quote have been spoken by everyone from philosophers to world leaders. The message — that we must learn from our mistakes or continue to repeat them — is also highly relevant to cybersecurity.

Both the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the SANS Institute describe the learning phase of incident response as one of the most crucial steps, helping businesses to refine and strengthen both their prevention and response protocols.

However, 42% of businesses fail to review and update their incident response plans on a regular basis. If you find yourself experiencing the same security breaches over and over again, you might be one of them. Here’s why you should actively learn from the experience, and how to go about it.

Lessons Learned Session

A lessons learned session takes place after the resolution of a security incident. It involves taking stock of the incident; getting to the root of how and why it happened; evaluating how well your incident response plan worked to resolve the issue; and identifying improvements that need to be made.

Identifying Areas of Weakness

The most obvious benefit of a lessons learned session is that it helps you to identify gaps in your organizational security practices. Was the lapse due to human error? Systems failure? Inadequate security practices? If you don’t know these problems exist, you can’t take the appropriate action to fix them.

Improving Incident Response

Lessons learned sessions help you to understand not only why the incident occurred, but also how effective your response was. For example, were you able to respond quickly and effectively, or did red tape get in the way? Did your team know exactly what to do, or did they struggle to remember their training? Questions like these will highlight areas that need to be improved for next time.

Recognizing the Positive

Don’t just focus on what went wrong in a lessons learned session; it’s also important to highlight what went well. Taking the time to identify successful elements of your response can help to inform robust future security practices while acknowledging and rewarding positive employee performance will set a standard and incentivize similar behaviors in the future.

Lessons Learned Training

Just as frameworks like NIST 800-171 require you to periodically test your Incident Response processes using activities like tabletop exercises, incorporate your lessons learned sessions into these activities as well. Not only will that lead to improvements in your incident response plan, but it will train your teams in how to do effective lessons learned analysis.

The Lessons Learned Process

According to Lessons learned: taking it to the next level, an incident response paper by Rowe and Sykes, lessons learned sessions are most effective when they follow a well-defined five-step process:

  1. Identify and collect all comments and recommendations that may be useful for future projects.
  2. Document all findings and share them with key stakeholders.
  3. Analyze and organize all documentation for future application.
  4. Store documentation in a repository that can be accessed by all key stakeholder.
  5. Retrieve documentation for use on current or future incidents.

This process should be implemented as soon as possible after an incident when the particulars are still fresh in everybody’s minds. In fact, if the incident will take an especially long time to resolve, then beginning the process even sooner might uncover helpful information to support the resolution.

Stakeholders from as many key groups as possible should be present for lessons learned sessions. It’s especially important to have representatives from your IT and executive teams, as the former will be able to implement recommendations and the latter will be able to authorize action and remove bureaucratic obstacles.

We’ve Held a Lessons Learned Session — What Next?

Your lessons learned session will likely turn up numerous security gaps, weaknesses, and other areas that need attention. This is the part that often discourages businesses from lessons learned sessions in the first place — after all, if you go looking for problems to fix, then you must fix them! If you don’t have the time or money to do this, then it’s tempting to skip this step altogether and hope for the best.

With the financial impact of the average data breach running into hundreds of millions, this strategy is only going to cost you more money in the long run. Instead, face the incident head-on and use the lessons learned session as an opportunity to proactively fortify your business against future threats.

Here are some examples of actions you might take to improve your cybersecurity and incident response for next time:

  • If you found that the incident occurred because your staff missed the signs of a threat or were unsure how to respond, then you may invest in more comprehensive and/or frequent training.
  • If bureaucratic layers slowed down your response, you might meet with the C-suite to request executive delegation in future emergency situations, and enshrine this in your incident response plan.
  • If a loophole in one of your systems was exploited, conduct a thorough review of the system to ensure it is fit for purpose and replace if necessary.

Whatever you do, though…

Don’t Let History Repeat Itself

Every incident has a lesson to teach you, but we know that implementing these lessons isn’t always easy. That’s why CyberSheath specializes in providing comprehensive, affordable incident response solutions to businesses like yours. Contact us today to find out how we can help.


With the Department of Defense (DoD) promising the release of an update to NIST Special Publication 800-171, it is imperative defense contractors understand what DFARS 252.204-7012 and NIST SP 800-171 Clause is and how noncompliance with the Clause will impact their business.  Compliance is mandatory for contractors doing business with the DoD and the incentives to act now are many and include:

  • Compliance was mandatory as of December 2017; regardless of when you found out about the requirement, it’s been on the books for several years now
  • Noncompliance penalties for failure to meet the requirements can lead to criminal, civil, administrative, or contract penalties that include:
    • Breach of Contract Damages
    • False Claims Act Damages
    • Liquidated Damages
    • Termination for Default
    • Termination for Convenience
    • Poor Past Performance
    • Suspension/Debarment

Ultimately the DoD has been preparing the contractor community for more than a decade and with audits underway there is little doubt that cybersecurity compliance is becoming a competitive discriminator.

Read more about DoD audits of cybersecurity compliance here.

Understanding DFARS 252.204-7012 and NIST SP 800-171

The Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement, or DFARS, has been working to encourage DoD contractors to proactively comply with certain frameworks in order to achieve this goal. Clause 252.204-7012, Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting, is the latest mandatory addition.

Under the Clause, all contractors must comply with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Special Publication 800-171 (NIST SP 800-171), a framework that lays out how contractors must protect sensitive defense information and report cybersecurity incidents.

The NIST framework requires you, as a defense contractor, to document how you have met the following requirements in particular:

  • Security requirement 3.12.4 requires the contractor to develop, document, and periodically update System Security Plans (SSPs) that describe system boundaries, system environments of operation, how security requirements are implemented, and the relationships with or connections to other systems.
  • Security Requirement 3.12.2 requires the contractor to develop and implement Plans of Action designed to correct deficiencies and reduce or eliminate vulnerabilities in their systems.

Read more about implementing SSPs and POAs.

Under the Clause, DoD contractors are obliged to submit evidence of their compliance with NIST SP 800-171 to the U.S. Government. However, the Clause goes beyond NIST compliance and sets out additional rules for the protection of Covered Defense Information (CDI).

Supply Chain Management

DFARS Clause 252.204-7012 aims to encourage you, as a contractor, to take a proactive role in the protection of CDI. Not only are you required to demonstrate compliance within your own business, but in order to strengthen the entire supply chain, you must take steps to ensure that your subcontractors comply, too.

It is the responsibility of your subcontractors to inform you if their practices deviate in any way from the DFARS and NIST 800-171 guidelines, and it is your responsibility to demonstrate that an equally secure alternative practice is in place before you share CDI with that subcontractor.

Reporting Cybersecurity Incidents

A cybersecurity incident is defined as a breach of security protocols that negatively impacts, compromises, or endangers CDI held on your systems or networks, or those of your subcontractors.

In the event of a cybersecurity incident, your responsibility under DFARS Clause 252.204-7012 is to report the incident to the DoD within 72 hours. You must present the affected data and all related data covering the 90 days prior to the date of the report, along with any infected software. You must also conduct a thorough systems review and identify ways in which you will prevent future breaches.

If a subcontractor experiences a cybersecurity incident, they must report it to you, or to the next highest tier of subcontractor, and present the evidence as required. As the prime contractor, you’re then required to report the incident to the DoD and submit the evidence, as detailed above.

Cloud Service Provision

If you offer your own cloud services as part of your DoD contract, then DFARS states that you must enact the safeguards set forth in the Cloud Computing Security Requirements Guide (SRG), unless waived by the Chief Information Officer of the DoD. If you use a third-party cloud service, then you’re required to ensure that your cloud service provider follows the security provisions therein.

Not DFARS Compliant?

A quick look at documents like the above and it’s clear to see why some contractors are still struggling with compliance long after the December 31st, 2017 deadline has passed. Bringing your business in line with these extensive regulations is required and the stakes are so high.

Download our 5 Steps to DFARS Compliance Guide to avoid penalties and make compliance a documented, automated outcome of day-to-day operations. This easy to follow guide presents a plan you can follow to achieve compliance in a way that fits your business and budget.

5 Steps to DFARS Compliance


The management of organizational risk is a key element in any organization’s information security program, particularly those like Department of Defense (DoD) contractors that process highly sensitive, critical data.

With this in mind, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed the Risk Management Framework (RMF), a set of processes for federal bodies to integrate information security and risk management into their systems development life cycles.

The Six Steps of the Risk Management Framework (RMF)

The RMF consists of six steps to help an organization select the appropriate security controls to protect against resource, asset, and operational risk. They are:

Step 1: Categorize the system and the information that is processed, stored and transmitted by the system.

Step 2: Select an initial set of baseline security controls for the system based on the categorization, tailoring and supplementing as needed.

Step 3: Implement the security controls and document how they are deployed.

Step 4: Assess the security controls to determine the extent to which they are meeting the security requirements for the system.

Step 5: Authorize system operation based upon a determination that the level of risk is acceptable.

Step 6: Monitor and assess selected security controls in the system on an ongoing basis and reporting the security state of the system to appropriate organizational officials.

Who Needs to Implement the RMF and Why?

Industries with critical or highly sensitive data needs are increasingly adopting the RMF in an effort to cope with growing risk and comply with their strict legislation— think defense (DFARS), healthcare (HIPAA), and retail/payment (PCI).

However, it’s our professional opinion that every organization that handles sensitive data can benefit from adopting the RMF. Why?

First, the RMF functions as a very effective security planning tool that gives you a comprehensive picture of your organizational risk. This helps to inform a solid risk management strategy and focus your attention on the areas that matter most to your organizational security.

Second, the RMF is not specific to any one agency or body, which gives it the flexibility to be adopted and applied by organizations of all shapes, sizes, and industries — including yours.

Finally, the RMF is seen as the gold standard on which many risk management approaches are modeled. For that reason, it wouldn’t be surprising to see it mandated in some form in the near future, particularly for high-risk industries, but possibly across the board.

This happened recently with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which mandated that any and every company handling sensitive data comply with the regulations, regardless of industry.

By adopting RMF in your own organization, you’ll be automatically compliant if and when any similar legislation comes into force on our own shores, while your competitors will likely be scrambling to catch up.

RMF and Defense Contractors

Contractors of the DoD have a set of legal obligations under the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement, or DFARS. This legislation requires such contractors to demonstrate proactive compliance with, among other frameworks, the NIST Special Publication 800-171 (NIST 800-171), which lays out how they must protect sensitive defense information and report cybersecurity incidents.

So, if a contractor is already DFARS-compliant, and they’re already implementing the security controls set out in NIST 800-171, why do they need to adopt the RMF too? (Not DFARS Compliant? Download our 5 Steps to DFARS Compliance Guide to avoid penalties and make compliance a documented, automated outcome of day-to-day operation.)

In working with our defense clients on securing their acquisitions processes, we’ve consistently observed the need for security controls above and beyond what NIST 800-171 requires. That’s exactly what the RMF provides, paying attention to areas such as resilience enhancements and tailoring requirements.

It’s our opinion, then, that the RMF can help defense contractors to plan risk-based security control implementation in a much more broad, holistic manner than DFARS and NIST 800-171 compliance alone.

Limitations of RMF

Because it’s a framework, the NIST RMF doesn’t tell you how to achieve the recommended steps. That means that for small and medium organizations without significant information security experience, or the resources to obtain it, implementing the framework can be a challenge.

That’s Where CyberSheath Comes In

Our cybersecurity experts can help you to minimize your organizational risk with comprehensive risk management planning, including the implementation of the NIST Risk Management Framework. Contact us now to find out how we can help protect your organization.

As a subcontractor on a Department of Defense contract, you have likely had flow down requirements from your primes related to DFARS clause 252.204-7012, commonly referred to as NIST 800-171. Many subcontractors, as they scramble to secure their infrastructure to be in compliance before the December 2017 DFARS deadline, are also asking, “When should DFARS clause 252.204-7012 flow down to our subcontractors?”

To help you answer that question, here are some basics related to DFARS clause 252.204-7012: Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting (effective October 21, 2016) and NIST 800-171.

The Basics of DFARS Clause 252.204-7012

This clause is required in all contracts except for those contracts solely for the acquisition of COTS items. It requires contractors and subcontractors to:

  1. Safeguard covered defense information (CDI) that is resident on or transiting through a contractor’s internal information system or network.
  2. Report cyber incidents that affect covered defense information or that impact the contractor’s ability to perform requirements designated as operationally critical support.
  3. Submit malicious software discovered and isolated in connection with a reported cyber incident to the DoD Cyber Crime Center.
  4. If requested, submit media and additional information for damage assessment.

What is Covered Defense Information (CDI)?

This term is used to identify information that requires protection under DFARS Clause 252.204-7012. Covered defense information is unclassified controlled technical information (CTI) or other information as described in the controlled unclassified information (CUI) Registry that requires safeguarding or dissemination controls*, and is either:

  • Marked or otherwise identified in the contract, task order, or delivery order and provided to contractor by or on behalf of DoD, in support of the performance of the contract or
  • Collected, developed, received, transmitted, used, or stored by or on behalf of the contractor, in support of the performance of the contract.

* Pursuant to and consistent with law, regulations, and Government-wide policies

Does DFARS clause 252.204-7012 flow down to subcontractors?

The clause impacts subcontractors when performance will involve operationally critical support or CDI. You should determine in consultation with your contracting officer if necessary, if the information required for subcontractor performance is or retains its identify as CDI, and requires safeguarding or dissemination controls. Flowdown is to be enforced by the prime contractor. If a subcontractor does not agree to comply with the clause, CDI should not be on that subcontractor’s information system.

What does DFARS Clause 252.204-7012 require?

Simply stated, this DFARS clause mandates adequate security. The contractor shall provide sufficient security on all covered contractor information systems. To provide satisfactory security for covered contractor information systems that are not part of an IT service or system operated on behalf of the Government, at a minimum, the contractor must implement NIST SP 800-171, as soon as practical, but not later than December 31, 2017.

What is NIST SP 800-171?

This standard:

  • Enables contractors to comply using systems and practices likely already in place.
  • Significantly reduces unnecessary specificity, as requirements are performance-baseda, and more easily applied to existing systems.
  • Provides standardized, uniform set of requirements for all CUI security needs.
  • Allows non-federal organizations to consistently implement safeguards for the protection of CUI (i.e., one CUI solution for all customers).
  • Allows contractors to implement alternative, but equally effective, security measures to satisfy CUI security requirements.

If you are struggling with interpreting these requirements or need help implementing the security controls? CyberSheath can help you determine a path forward for achieving compliance by conducting a gap assessment of your compliance with NIST 800-171, writing the required System Security Plan (SSP) and leading your remediation efforts. Contact Us today to get started!

Who’s Been Playing Solitaire on the Domain Controller?

It’s a classic scene. You’re sorting through the attic and you end up browsing through old memories: photos from a forgotten road trip, souvenirs, and trinkets from your world travels, old board games you bought in a flash of excitement and only played once. Things you once loved, but that now sit unused, gathering dust and taking up space.

In the workplace, computer systems often end up cluttered in the same way. We end up with stacks of unnecessary software sitting around in files and folders where we’ve long stopped looking. But unlike the charming, nostalgic relics laying around the attic, that unused software sitting on your computer might be leaving you open to danger in the form of vicious cyberattacks.

Cybercriminals are constantly looking for ways into your system. Software like browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Edge), plug-ins (Java, Adobe Flash, Silverlight) and random applications (games, messaging apps, etc.) are well-known to be extremely vulnerable to malware and other forms of data hacking, particularly if they’re out of date.

This begs the question: how many useless apps are lying around on your system right now, putting your business at unnecessary risk? Here’s how to find out, and what to do about it…

Inventory Your Software Assets

The first step is to dig through your systems and figure out what’s absolutely necessary — and what’s not. If you have a contract that requires compliance with DFARS 252.204-7012, a software inventory is required, but further, it’s just common sense: You have to know what you have before you can protect it.

Nowadays, there’s an app for everything. Chances are that you and your employees have loaded up on them in an attempt to find more efficient ways to manage time, stay connected, or even have more fun at work.

That schedule management software you downloaded may have seemed useful at the time, but if it’s no longer in use then it’s time to send it to the trash.

Any piece of software not essential to your business should be considered potentially harmful and promptly cleared from your system. Delete software installers, remove unnecessary browser add-ons and extensions, and of course, make sure to update any apps that will be sticking around.

Eliminate Redundant Apps

There are so many solutions available for every problem that you’ll often discover you have several applications doing the same job. Figuring out what pieces of software are currently being used to solve the same problem can help you see where you need to cut the fat.

Do you need three browsers, or would one be sufficient? If you’re using Google Hangouts for video conferencing, do you need to have Skype on your system as well?

It’s also a good idea to take a look at the software that was already installed on your device when you took it out of the box. Known as bloatware, many new computers, tablets, and mobile devices come pre-packaged with lots of this third-party software to increase revenue for the vendor.

If you have bloatware on your systems, you might find that many of these extra apps have sat unused since day one. And some bloatware behaves like spyware, sending information about you and your system to outside agents without your knowledge. If they’re not currently in use, or they’re performing simple functions you can do through more essential applications, consider getting them off of your systems ASAP.

Limit Access

Sometimes system clutter grows out of control simply because we’ve given too many people the green light to do whatever they please. For this reason, it’s probably best to adopt a tougher approach to access privileges.

Keeping your systems clean and organized is undoubtedly easier if you allow fewer people to access and install software. Consider using special permissions to allow only top-level decision-makers to install new software. Carefully monitor who is adding new applications and require that they justify why these programs are needed. And finally, terminate dormant accounts so that hackers can’t use them to infiltrate your system and install harmful malware.

Get Superior Protection Today

If cleaning house feels like a major job, it’s time to call in reinforcements! CyberSheath’s comprehensive managed cybersecurity services can help you to conduct a professional software risk assessment, simplify your systems, and save you from putting your business at unnecessary risk. Contact Us now to find out how.

Companies are becoming increasingly enamored with the advantages offered by cloud computing. However, many mistakenly assume that once you upload your data, it’s up to the cloud service provider (CSP) to keep it all safe and sound. In reality, most CSPs use what’s known as a shared responsibility model for security, meaning that only certain aspects of your cybersecurity plan are their responsibility. Ultimately, YOU are responsible for the security of YOUR data.

With cybercriminals attacking from every direction, it’s your responsibility to prevent misunderstandings that might lead to damaging data breaches. For this reason, having a full picture of the risks associated with your chosen CSP, along with a clear agreement on roles and responsibilities, is paramount if you hope to keep your sensitive data protected.

Review Your Security Documentation

In the excitement of exploring the capabilities of the cloud, it’s easy to be less than thorough in your assessment of your CSP’s security practices.

However, you need to be sure that your CSP is employing industry-leading incident response tools, consistently auditing its security systems, rigorously testing for weaknesses, and protecting against emerging threats. You can do this by taking a look at your provider’s System Security Plan (SSP).

Reviewing an SSP is the most accurate way to assess the security controls your CSP is implementing. As the main document in a security package, an SSP gives you a detailed report on security protocols and highlights any gaps that may need to be addressed.

If you have a contract that requires compliance with DFARS 252.204-7012, then your CSP must meet the standards set by the FedRAMP moderate level of protection, and support government incident response efforts.

Doing your due diligence and insisting on rigorous compliance certifications, such as SOC Type II or PCI DSS, will give you peace of mind that your CSP is following the latest regulatory measures and maintaining the highest levels of data security.

Treat the Cloud like It’s Your Home

Some businesses are under the illusion that, since the cloud is not an on-site system, it doesn’t need to be treated in the same way they’d treat their personal systems. If you’ve made that mistake, then it’s imperative that you start viewing the cloud like the extension of your business it truly is.

It’s critical to be proactive in this regard, as opposed to waiting for a problem to occur and then addressing your security gaps. In the same way that you don’t allow every employee unrestricted access to your in-house systems, it’s essential to manage and control access to the cloud within your company.

Create written guidelines that specify who can use which cloud services, what data can be stored there, and for which purposes the cloud is to be used. Train your staff on the risks of cloud use and make sure they are aware of the latest trends in cybercrime that affect cloud users.

Encrypting the data you move to and from the cloud is also an absolute must. You want to take particular care to ensure that data is encrypted during transit when it is most open to attacks. Also, verify that your CSP encrypts your data at rest and on backup media to prevent data leaks.

In short, make sure you’re treating the cloud-like you would your own home. Lock the doors, turn on the alarms, and train yourself on how to respond to emergencies, so you can sleep easy knowing you’re adequately protected.

Stay Alert About Your Cloud Vendor

The world of cybersecurity moves quickly and, in the event that there’s a breach or a threat concerning your specific vendor, it’s best that you know as soon as possible. If your cloud provider has security alerts, make sure you have notifications enabled, and check resources such as the US-CERT for announcements about threats that have been reported.

Looking for Secure Cloud Solutions?

If you want to stay ahead of developing cyber threats and you’re wondering how to implement strong security measures for your cloud services, let the cloud experts help you. CyberSheath’s cloud solutions are second to none, so contact us now and let us give you a helping hand to keep your business secure.

The demand for cybersecurity talent far outstrips the supply at present, something which will likely continue for the foreseeable future. This insatiable demand has created more and more opportunities than ever before for those interested in a career in cybersecurity.

That said, many aspiring cybersecurity professionals are left wondering how to make the transition. Where do I start? What should I read? Should I get certified? What qualifications do I need? These are just some of the questions I’m frequently asked by Uber drivers, waiters, and a host of other people looking to make the jump.

The good news is that, if you’re willing to put in the sweat equity and spend your free time working hard to learn what you need to know, there is a clear and rewarding path to your goal.

I’ve helped dozens of people get into cybersecurity over the years, largely by sharing my own personal experience of career transition. I’ve introduced people to potential mentors, pointed them towards self-paced educational tools and, many times, allowed them to use CyberSheath training resources at no cost.

In fact, one of the greatest joys of working at CyberSheath for me is being able to give smart, motivated people the opportunity and the tools to make career transitions, and then watching them go on great success in their new field. We have dozens of these success stories, so read on if you’d like to be one of them…


First, you must have initiative and drive. If you need to be spoon-fed instructions, you make excuses, or you’re too busy with work, life, school, kids, etc., then you’re simply not going to be able to put in the blood, sweat and tears needed to make this transition. If, on the other hand, you can think for yourself and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make it work, you’ll likely find yourself reaping the rewards in no time.


Read incessantly and voraciously. If you’re looking for the magical reading list that will transform you into a cybersecurity pro, well…there isn’t one. Just take the initiative, pick up a book, and then pick up another, and read everything you can about cybersecurity.

You’ll have a slew of acronyms to learn, along with vendor jargon and security concepts, so any reading material that helps you to become familiar with these basics will give you a good foundation on which to build your cybersecurity knowledge. Vendor marketing materials, product installation manuals, blogs, research reports, and security frameworks are a great place to start.


You can’t become a security practitioner without practice. Set up a lab with whatever resources you can cobble together and do something, anything — it doesn’t matter what at this stage. If you’re stuck for ideas, there are endless online resources to help you get started.

I personally started in cybersecurity by approaching a company owner and convincing him that if he trained me, I could be a great employee. He provided the training, including the lab equipment and training materials, and I provided the sweat equity.

That was almost 20 years ago and nothing has changed. CEOs and company executives are still willing to invest in motivated people who are taking the initiative to better themselves. In fact, just like me, many of them will be happy to help if asked.

If you’re willing to take the steps outlined above, then you have the ingredients required for a successful career transition. If you’d like help making that transition, contact us today to learn about CyberSheath’s cybersecurity training and education resources.



With the deadline for compliance with DFARS Clause 252.204-7012 having passed on December 31st 2017, many companies are still scrambling to catch up. But in their haste, many may be ignoring a vital aspect of the mandate.

Chiefly designed to ensure adequate security in safeguarding “covered defense information” (CDI), DFARS requires Department of Defense (DoD) contractors and subcontractors to implement controls to protect sensitive data “collected, developed, received, transmitted, used, or stored by or on behalf of the contractor in support of the performance of the contract.”

However, it also includes clearly specified mandates for cyber incident reporting, when a contractor or subcontractor discovers that CDI has been compromised or adversely affected within their networks. In addition to safeguarding CDI, it is imperative that companies follow these prescribed reporting requirements if they experience a cyber incident.

Report Rapidly

Collecting information on cyber incidents allows the government to investigate key details in order to monitor and hopefully contain future cyber threats. As such, DFARS cyber incident reporting mandates are designed to assure businesses turn over this information quickly.

According to DFARS, a cyber incident is defined as “actions taken through the use of computer networks that result in a compromise or an actual or potentially adverse effect on an information system and/or the information residing therein.” If you have determined that a cyber incident has taken place, then in accordance with the “Rapid Reporting” requirement you must:

(i) Conduct a review for evidence of compromise of covered defense information, including, but not limited to, identifying compromised computers, servers, specific data, and user accounts. This review shall also include analyzing covered contractor information system(s) that were part of the cyber incident, as well as other information systems on the Contractor’s network(s), that may have been accessed as a result of the incident in order to identify compromised covered defense information, or that affect the Contractor’s ability to provide operationally critical support; and

(ii) Rapidly report cyber incidents to DoD at within 72 hours of discovery.

The DFARS provision defines a compromise as the “disclosure of information to unauthorized persons, or a violation of the security policy of a system, in which unauthorized intentional or unintentional disclosure, modification, destruction, or loss of an object, or the copying of information to unauthorized media may have occurred.”

Although there has been some debate as to what reporting triggers define the start of the 72-hour timeframe, implementing a clear cyber incident response plan can create a track record of internal consistency that would prove responsibility if a contractor’s reporting methods were ever to be scrutinized.

A full list of what to report can be found on this page of the DoD’s DIB Cyber Incident Reporting & Cyber Threat Information Sharing Portal.

Detect Malware

In the event that malicious software (malware) is found on a compromised system, the contractor must also collect information about the malware and submit it using a malware submission form to the DoD Cyber Crime Center (DC3) “in accordance with instructions provided by DC3 or the Contracting Officer.”

Preserve Your Media

The DoD may also choose to conduct a thorough post-incident investigation, also known as a damage assessment. To allow for this, they require companies that have been breached to “preserve and protect images of all known affected information systems” and “all relevant monitoring/packet capture data” for at least 90 days following the discovery of an intrusion.

Advice on Reporting

Opening up the lines of communication with the DoD prior to any incident ensures that the process is less complicated and helps you to report in a timely fashion.

In addition, making sure your forensics tools and procedures meet the DoD collection requirements will also ensure that you’re able to quickly gather the required information and report all the pertinent details in full.

Preparation is key. Make sure to practice using your forensics collection procedures so you can quickly report and recover without missing a beat. It’s also important to note that any report of a cyber incident must have a DOD-approved medium assurance certificate. Information on how to obtain this certificate can be found at

Need Assistance?

If you’re looking for someone to stay on top of your reporting so you don’t drop the ball, or if you just need further assistance understanding the complex process of reporting a cyber incident, Contact Cybersheath today for a free consultation.



In today’s digital world, no matter what type of sensitive data you handle, attackers are hard at work developing ways to access it. The rash of high-profile security breaches making headlines every day is clear evidence of the struggle businesses face in trying to stay ahead of these sophisticated cyber attacks.

In response to these threats, local and federal governments around the world have begun to impose increasingly stringent regulations to force companies to re-examine their internal cybersecurity standards.

DFARS clause 252.204-7012, HIPAA, PCI DSS, and GDPR are just some of the many compliance mandates that companies are currently juggling. And considering the disastrous fallout of even the smallest breach, not to mention the heavy penalties associated with non-compliance, there’s no time to waste in getting up to date.

The Risks of Non-compliance

As early as 2005, former U.S. President Barack Obama voiced his concern about cyberattacks, calling them a “national emergency.” In the years following this call to action, Federal agencies continually increased the regulatory mandates for private contractors, and over half of the state governments in the U.S. passed laws to put in place punitive measures for companies that fail to sufficiently protect sensitive data.

These include hefty fines and in some cases, jail time. Of course, these punishments are minuscule when compared to the consequences of actually being hacked. The costs of penalties, legal fees, and possible compensation for damages pile up quickly and can completely change the financial outlook of your company. Most damaging, however, is the subsequent destruction of your company’s reputation and the irreparable loss of confidence from your customer base.

Entities with the proper vision and intelligence work exceptionally hard to avoid these outcomes at all cost by prioritizing day-to-day operational security. Not only does this protect the company as a whole, but it ensures that the satisfaction of government or contractual requirements is a natural outcome of day-to-day security practices.

An Industry Leader in Cyber Protection

The unfortunate truth is that, even though compliance is absolutely essential, it’s not easy. Combing through the myriad of regulatory requirements to assess which apply to your business, coupled with the complex processes of then actually meeting these standards, leaves many companies lost.

With the right support, businesses can dramatically simplify this process. An industry leader in cybersecurity, CyberSheath has developed the one-of-a-kind systematic Measure Once, Comply Many ® approach to cybersecurity, enabling companies to reach compliance by implementing a specifically tailored security strategy.

CyberSheath starts by expertly identifying the vulnerabilities in your network and then uses this information to plan and build a strategic security organization that optimizes your personnel, security processes, and technology. We then monitor your systems in real-time, providing you early threat recognition and proactive prevention that helps eliminate the risk of attacks.

By using this proven and patented method, CyberSheath paves the way towards both reaching regulatory milestones and achieving optimal operational cybersecurity.

Measure Once, Comply Many ® utilizes the following services to provide a full-service comprehensive security platform, keep your data safe and secure, and assure across-the-board compliance:

• Centralized 24/7/365 Security Operations Center (SOC) capabilities.
• SIEM, network IDS, host IDS, file integrity monitoring, vulnerability reporting and management, and more.
• Real-time security intelligence, including correlation directives, IDS signatures, NIDS signatures, and asset fingerprints.
• Full suite of compliance reporting, including DFARS clause 252.204-7012, NIST 800-171, HIPAA, PCI DSS, GDPR, and state data breach laws.
• Instant detection and notification of ransomware and other malware variants.
• Managed Privilege Account Management Services to stop security breaches involving privileged accounts.

With these advantages in place, you’ll never be caught off-guard, regardless of the current regulatory measures. Your business will not only take the necessary steps towards compliance, but you’ll also be able to continually read and react to the latest state-of-the-art threats. It’s all part of our patented system designed to achieve compliance as a result of committing to optimal operational security.

Assure Your Cybersecurity Now

Staying on top of your cybersecurity requirements can be overwhelming, but being hacked is undoubtedly even worse. Partnering with CyberSheath can help you gain peace of mind by putting a proactive plan in place to ensure your business is not just compliant, but also efficient and thorough in every aspect of cybersecurity. Contact us today to learn more about Measure Once, Comply Many ®.



On December 31, 2017, the deadline for compliance with the NIST 800-171, a mandate for contractors serving local and federal governments, came and went.

This Special Publication provided guidance on the processes and procedures needed to adequately safeguard controlled unclassified information (CUI), defined as any information created by the government or entities on behalf of the government that is unclassified, but still must be appropriately safeguarded.

While some companies were quick to adapt to these new regulatory measures, many companies fell behind because of a lack of resources, confusion over the head-spinning compliance process, or just downright procrastination.

With the deadline long gone and the Department of Defense (DoD) making it crystal-clear that NIST 800-171 is here to stay, becoming compliant is an absolute must for those looking to remain competitive in the industry.

A Common Problem

Unlike previous security mandates, this is the first that impacts sub-contractors working further down the federal supply chain. This means that for many companies, it’s the first time they’re having to figure out compliance.

If this describes your company, you’re by no means alone. Because these standards must be met by anyone who stores, processes, or transmits CUI for the DoD, General Services Administration (GSA), NASA, or other federal or state agencies, many contractors are struggling to wrap their heads around the complex process ahead.

As it’s critical to a supplier’s ability to win new business and keep current defense contracts, both prime and sub-contractors will want to confirm that they are, at the very least, on the path to compliance with NIST 800-171.

Achieving Compliance

Of course, becoming compliant is easier said than done. The fact that there is no certification process for NIST means contractors work on the honor system, attesting that they have reviewed and heeded the applicable requirements specified in the regulation.

This also means that becoming compliant is not a one-time achievement. Rather, it’s an ongoing process of continuous evaluation. Here are the three key actions you can take to get started…

Assess Your Compliance Level

First, you’ll need to do due diligence in identifying CUI as it applies to you. Check with your contracting officers or look through your contract to see if CUI has been clearly defined. In many cases, it may not be, and you’ll have to review the CUI registry to find similar examples of CUI.

Once you’ve clearly defined what you need to protect, you can begin to figure out if it’s actually being protected sufficiently. You’ll have to carefully review your critical systems, including servers, laptops, storage devices, network devices, end-user workstations. You’ll also need to assess the physical security of those devices that contain CUI to make sure they are properly safeguarded.

Design a Plan of Action

Chances are there will be a gap between where you are now and where you need to be. This is common so don’t worry!

Fortunately, clause 3.12.4 allows for the submission of a Security System Plan (SSP) and a Plan of Actions and Milestones (POA&M) to buy yourself some time as you work towards your compliance goal. Since many contractors are not yet compliant, these documents are required to show procurement officials you are heading in the right direction.

An SSP will provide an overview of the security requirements needed for every system you use, describe the curent controls you have in place, and outline the expected behaviors of all who access them. Your POA&M will show a clearly defined corrective strategy for exactly when and how you plan to resolve any security weaknesses. 

Begin Implementation  

All this planning and assessing means nothing if you don’t step up and deliver! Once you’ve put milestones in place, you’ll need to train your staff and ensure they adhere rigorously to these deadlines. You’ll also need to document critical advancements in your quest for compliance, properly maintaining your records as you go.

Still Nowhere Near Compliance? Don’t Panic!

If you missed the December 2017 deadline and you’re starting to feel the pressure, don’t panic. CyberSheath’s Managed Security Services can help you to define your CUI obligations, create a plan of action, and move step-by-step towards full compliance. Contact us today for a free consultation.



More than two years ago, the Department of Defense (DoD) sounded the alarm for increased cybersecurity with a new set of controls designed to raise the level of safeguarding standards across the industry.
The requirements specified in Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) provision 252.204-7012, “Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting”, were gleaned from Special Publication (SP) 800-171, authored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
A non-regulatory government agency designed to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness, NIST identified a set of 110 security control requirements, appropriate for non-government organizations, to be implemented by December 31st of 2017. But even with the deadline long since passed, many contractors are still struggling to meet these standards. Here are the three main reasons why…

Lack of Resources

NIST’s daunting to-do list has left many small to medium companies wondering how they’ll close the gap between what is required and what they can afford to implement.
Put at a disadvantage by budget and workforce limitations, companies find themselves falling behind due to a lack of cost-effective solutions and an inability to dedicate the manpower to keep their cybersecurity standards up-to-date.
Companies must report any shortcomings or gaps in their compliance to the DoD’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) within 30 days of any contract award. That means that the time and resource constraints are only exacerbated if the people in charge don’t have an intimate understanding of the NIST SP 800-171 security controls.
These companies need help but don’t know where to turn. As a result, they’ve found themselves exposed to increasingly advanced cybersecurity threats and will continue to accrue non-compliance penalties until they can find the assistance they need.


In an attempt to provide flexibility, make the controls technology-neutral, and allow for contractors to implement whatever solutions best fit their company, NIST has inadvertently made it difficult to know whether your company has actually achieved compliance or not.
The first challenge contractors face is assessing whether or not an information system is processing covered defense information (CDI). CDI is defined by the registry maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration and includes Controlled Technical Information (CTI) and Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI).
If these information systems are precisely specified in the awarded contract, the process is simplified. But DFARS has also included CUI that is “collected, developed, received, transmitted, used, or stored by or on behalf of the contractor in support of the performance of the contract.”
This opens the door for large chunks of information that have been created or are received by contractors, but not marked, to also be considered CDI, making the process of identifying which systems process this information much more difficult.
On top of this, the DoD does not currently have any system in place to certify compliance and has not authorized any third-party certification process, leaving it up to you to accurately assess where you stand at any given moment. 

Being Human

As with any complex set of rules, the risk for human error also enters the mix. In the midst of wrapping their heads around a barrage of complicated regulations, many people simply drop the ball.
In companies that are already struggling to dedicate the necessary human resources to compliance, the overwhelm of adjusting to a whole new world of security requirements can lead to small errors that pave the way for much bigger problems.
In cases like these, it’s essential to have an extra set of eyes on the details to make sure problems don’t snowball and create an avalanche down the line.

Rising to the Challenge

If you’re a defense contractor struggling to keep up with NIST 800-171 requirements, performing a compliance assessment should be your top priority. CyberSheath’s Managed Security Services can help you identify the roadblocks on your path to NIST compliance and find cost-effective solutions to overcome them. Contact us today for a free consultation to find out more.

Every day, hackers and thieves are becoming more sophisticated, daring, and aggressive in their attempts to turn stolen data into substantial paydays. And with criminal entities regularly on the prowl for cyber weaknesses to exploit, it’s no wonder that the number of data breaches is growing at a record pace. Partially in response to this rise in cyber attacks, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s CyberOhio Initiative has introduced The Data Protection Act, signed into law by Governor John Kasich on August 3rd 2018.

Whereas most of the preceding cybersecurity legislation has sought to motivate businesses with punitive and disciplinary action, the DPA is a looking to take a new approach by giving companies a positive and confident push forward towards a more secure future.

The first law of its kind in the nation to provide an affirmative legal defense, the DPA is an absolute boon to any company involved the handling of sensitive data. Beneficial for all involved, it’s designed to inspire a proactive approach to cybersecurity to make the exchange of sensitive information safer and more comfortable for everyone.

The law incentivizes businesses to further protect themselves against cybersecurity risks by providing legal protection to those who deal with personal information in case of a breach, provided that they comply with a designated cybersecurity framework.

A Safe Harbor

Fairly or not, people affected by data breaches often look for a scapegoat. In many cases, they end up trying to hold the breached company liable for losses or damages they’ve incurred.

With even the smallest attack leaving a business vulnerable to serious legal consequences, this bill represents a valuable tool for those looking to limit their liability. Although it doesn’t provide immunity to your company if you comply, it does afford you a ‘safe harbor’ against tort claims that failed cybersecurity measures resulted in the data breach.

Both businesses and consumers should be set to benefit from this development as companies become more motivated to up their game and meet industry standards for cybersecurity.

How to Comply

As of November 2nd, 2018, your business can trigger the ‘safe harbor’ provided that you adopt a cybersecurity program designed to:

  • Protect the security and confidentiality of personal information;
  • Protect against any anticipated threats or hazards to the security or integrity of the personal information; and
  • Protect against unauthorized access to and acquisition of information that is likely to result in a material risk of identity theft or other fraud.

Since no two companies are alike, the law does acknowledge that the above guidelines are not meant to be a one-size-fits-all approach to cybersecurity. An effective program will have to be scaled to match:

  • The size, complexity, and nature of your business and its activities;
  • The level of sensitivity of the personal information your business possesses;
  • The cost and availability of tools to improve your security and reduce vulnerabilities; and
  • The resources your business has at its disposal to expand on cybersecurity.

Further guidance also advises businesses to ‘reasonably conform’ to one of the following industry-recognized frameworks:

  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Cybersecurity Frameworks;
  • NIST Special Publication 800-171, or Publications 800-53 and 800-53a;
  • The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) Security Assessment Framework;
  • The International Organization for Standardization (ISO)/International Electrotechnical Commission’s (IEC) 27000 Family – Information Security Management Systems Standards;
  • Center for Internet Security’s Critical Security Controls for Effective Cyber Defense;
  • The Security Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for healthcare industry businesses subject to HIPAA oversight;
  • The Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-283); and
  • The Safeguards Rule of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, for certain financial institutions.

If you accept card payments, you’ll also have to comply with the Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS).

Challenges Ahead

Although guidelines have been provided, demonstrating full compliance may prove challenging since many of the specified frameworks lack standard certification processes.

Also, since some data security laws have more flexible requirements than others, questions remain over how to demonstrate complete conformity, or which aspects to comply with to ensure the best legal defense. For this reason, when attempting to implement frameworks, it’s a wise move to consult with cybersecurity experts like CyberSheath.

Our Managed Services enables compliance with the Ohio DPA to ensure comprehensive, framework based compliance. We’ll guide you through the process from assessment through remediation, integrating your existing people, processes, and technologies with your chosen frameworks.

A Win-win for Your Business and Your Customers

Not only will CyberSheath’s managed services help you to achieve full compliance and reduce your legal liability, but you’ll also see a demonstrable improvement to your day-to-day operational security — a true win-win for your business and your customers.


Cybersecurity at small and mid-sized businesses are often under-resourced with an “Army of One” approach to compliance and risk management. Compliance with regulatory requirements like DFARs 252.204-7012, HIPAA, PCI DSS, NERC CIP, Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) and more compete with actual cyber defense efforts to monitor, detect and respond to threats. Doing what you have always done, buying more products and surviving audits, isn’t effective and doesn’t scale. There is a better way and its effectiveness can be measured with contractual Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) that enable cybersecurity to be a force multiplier for your business.

Instead of hiring FTE’s and deploying one-off, point solution products that don’t integrate with existing investments, consider Managed Security Services that deliver:

  • Cloud-based security monitoring platform in one unified solution
  • Integrated security information and event management (SIEM) and log management
  • Asset discovery
  • Vulnerability assessment
  • Intrusion detection
  • Behavioral monitoring
  • Threat intelligence
  • Privileged account management
  • Automated and simplified regulatory compliance management

Just think about your infrastructure today. How many tools and products do you have spread across too few engineers without enough time to deploy, monitor and manage them? Do you feel like a SIEM solution is a luxury that a business your size can’t afford? Small and mid-sized businesses often have to make tough choices between resource allocation, and a SIEM solution rarely makes the cut because of cost and complexity. The irony is that a SIEM solution is a foundational investment that improves your ability to allocate resources, meet compliance requirements and defend your infrastructure. Coupled with Managed Security Services, the return on investment (ROI) for your business is measurable in a variety of ways.

Our partner, AlienVault, commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) study that detailed the potential ROI organizations can realize by deploying the AlienVault Unified Security Management ® (USM) platform. The results aligned with our experience delivering managed services in the defense, financial, healthcare, technology and manufacturing industries. Here is what Forrester Consulting found:

Simplified compliance reporting for companies, resulting in nearly 6,000 hours of time-savings each year. Prior to adopting AlienVault USM Anywhere, key pieces of information had to be pulled from many different systems and consolidated into reports for the auditor. This process took nearly four months, but with AlienVault, onsite audits could be completed in one week as the compliance information and reports were readily available in real-time. This resulted in approximately 2,000 hours of time savings per audit and, on average, three audits were being held each year.

AlienVault USM Anywhere reduces the cost of incidents by improving threat detection and incident response time by 80%. Based on a 2017 study conducted by the Ponemon Institute, the probability that an organization will experience a breach greater than 1,000 records is 14%. However, with the deployment of USM Anywhere, the time to detect incidents was dramatically reduced, helping organizations identify and respond to attacks much faster. With 80% faster detection and response time, the impact and probability of a breach could be reduced.

An 80% security operations staff productivity improvement. Prior to adopting AlienVault solutions, organizations didn’t dedicate much time to daily monitoring tasks. On average, two to three investigations arose each week, which took the combined effort of two dedicated resources. After the deployment of AlienVault’s USM Anywhere platform, the security operations team was able to monitor and detect issues in real-time. This reduced the manual effort involved in investigative activities by 80% and allowed the resources to focus their time on more value-added tasks. “We are still responsible for monitoring alerts and logging, but it’s gone from hours per day to minutes. It allows us to focus on things like serving our customers, writing new code, and ultimately bringing more business in the door.”

Threat intelligence saves time and money. With AlienVault Labs threat intelligence, organizations no longer have to dedicate resources to sifting through multiple sources of information and bulletins to keep up with the latest intelligence. Now they can rely on the AlienVault Labs Security Research Team for continuous updates to threat correlation rules and directives. With the added benefit of not having to pay for an alternative threat intelligence subscription, the overall annual cost savings for the composite organization resulted in more than $40,000 per year.

The data from the study was clear, managed services save time and money by enabling more effective regulatory compliance and risk management. You’re probably already intuitively know that managed security services will be a game-changer for your organization and the data from the study only further strengthened your opinion. That said there are often at least two challenges to moving forward that businesses struggle with:

  1. Senior management doesn’t want to spend the money, I don’t care what your fancy study says.
  2. Managed Security Services Providers are like gas stations, there’s one on every corner and they all sell the same thing.

Getting past these barriers to realizing the benefits of managed services requires the same solution, selecting a Managed Security Services Provider that can push past them before you have spent any money. You will know when you have selected the right partner when they invest the time upfront to specifically show you how their services benefit your business. Candidly, management is right. Nobody cares what a vendor study says might happen at your business based on possibility. Your potential MSSP should be spending time documenting and demonstrating how their services will reduce risk and simplify compliance at your business. You will quickly be able to differentiate MSSP’s offering canned reporting and push-button threat detection from those with teams that span CISO through operations analyst level experience. You are buying a service and that service should have real people that can document and articulate the MSSP value specific to your business before you spend any money. Regardless of whether that takes two weeks or six months, you will know you have the right MSSP when they invest the time pre-sales to detail the value to your business.

Managed security services are the answer to your small and mid-sized business cybersecurity needs and selecting the right partner will be a force multiplier for your business.

Contact us today to learn how to save time and money with CyberSheath Managed Security Services.

Good hygiene habits are drilled into us from a young age, and for good reason! Neglect to wash your hands, take a shower, use deodorant, or brush your teeth, and you could find yourself friendless, dateless, and quite possibly sick.

While they probably won’t stop you getting a date, bad cyber hygiene habits can be just as harmful to your company’s health. They leave you, your clients, and your customers vulnerable to a host of threats, including hackers, viruses, data theft, and data loss. Ultimately, they can damage your reputation beyond repair and even land you in serious financial and legal trouble.

What is Good Cyber Hygiene?

You’ve presumably mastered the art of personal hygiene by now! But what does good cyber hygiene look like? First, let’s look at exactly why it’s necessary. There are two key reasons: performance and security.

Just like brushing and flossing every day keeps your teeth in optimum condition, good cyber hygiene keeps your IT systems working at peak performance. When your systems are functioning at their best, you’ll save valuable resources and deliver a great customer/client experience to boot. And more importantly, regular maintenance will help you to spot and close security gaps before they can be exploited.

Security threats like hacking, viruses, malware, spyware, and data theft are becoming more sophisticated by the day, and they have the potential to bring your business to its knees. Just as you can ward off illness and stay healthy with good personal hygiene, you can stay ahead of threats and minimize their impact on your business with solid cyber hygiene routines.

Now let’s talk about what these cyber hygiene routines look like in practice…

The 12-Step Program

At CyberSheath, we recommend a thorough 12-step routine for impeccable cyber hygiene. To be truly effective, this routine should be:

• Part of an official company security policy.
• Built into your organizational culture.
• Universally adopted across your business.

Why is this necessary? Well, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. It only takes one careless employee to leave your entire business vulnerable to malfunction or attack. By formalizing your routine, promoting a ‘security first’ culture, and encouraging widespread compliance, you’re sending a clear message that lapses are not an option.

The program begins with a fundamental step…

1. Take an inventory

In order to properly protect your assets, you first need to document them. The most efficient way to do this is to group them into three categories:

Hardware, such as computers, printers, scanners, smartphones, and tablets.
Software programs installed on your devices, such as web browsers or messaging systems.
Remotely hosted applications like cloud-based storage drives or smartphone apps.

Next, create an inventory of your assets under each of these categories and make a record of details like installation date, license expiry date, version number, date last used, and authorized users. This information will help you to identify security vulnerabilities, such as outdated software or unrestricted equipment usage.

2. Implement secure password practices

Password security is one of the easiest ways to practice cyber hygiene, but it’s also one of the most neglected. You’d be amazed just how much sensitive data is ‘protected’ with weak passwords such as… well, ‘password’!

Today’s computers, smartphones, and tablets come with security options ranging from simple text passwords to bio-recognition (think fingerprint and iris scanners), so there’s simply no excuse not to have your devices protected. The same applies to software and online applications, particularly those that are mission-critical or contain highly sensitive data.

The best text passwords are a complex mix of numbers, letters, and symbols, with no link to identifiable information like names, birthdays, or employee numbers. It’s important that they’re memorized, rather than written down, and they should never be shared. In fact, it’s good practice to incorporate a ‘no-sharing’ rule into your company’s formal code of conduct.

A final note on password security: encourage your team to log out of software, apps, and devices when not in use, especially if they’re leaving their desks.

3. Use multi-factor authentication

For particularly sensitive devices, programs, or applications, such as email accounts or mission-critical hardware, multi-factor (AKA two-step) authentication adds an extra layer of security.

After the user has entered their password, they’re typically required to enter another passcode, answer a question, or submit biometric information like a fingerprint in order to gain access. That means that, even if somebody does manage to obtain the user’s password, they still can’t access their accounts.

If you’re using a passcode, it’s good practice not to request the full code. Instead, ask for specific characters from the code at random. This reduces the risk of a malicious party obtaining the full code and gaining unauthorized access to your systems.

4. Keep up with software updates

We’re all guilty of ignoring those software update notifications when we’re in the middle of an important task. However, it’s essential to pay attention to these updates for several reasons.

Not only do updates increase the performance, functionality, and efficiency of your software, they usually include ‘fixes’ for security issues that have been identified after launch. If you fail to keep your software updated, you might find yourself missing out on great new features at best, and exposing yourself to serious security breaches at worst.

Another problem is that software developers often phase out support for previous versions of their software. In the same way that Apple will no longer help you with an iPhone 5, you may find that your developer will no longer be able to fix issues in software that’s five versions behind the most current one. If your essential software packs up and the developer can’t help you, where does that leave your business?

For peace of mind, resist the urge to snooze your software notifications, or even set them to automatic. Note that some malware can disable your automatic updates, so check back periodically just in case.

5. Patch up security holes regularly

Security vulnerabilities are often picked up by software developers between versions. Rather than leave their users exposed until the next update, developers will release ‘patches’ to protect them in the meantime.

Like software updates, patches are often neglected, but they’re one of the biggest security risks for your business. Think about it — if you know there’s a security hole, so do hackers. They then actively look for unpatched software that they can exploit.

Patching can be a tedious process, especially in larger organizations, but it really is worth taking the time to keep your software protected. That applies to the software on connected devices like printers, too.

6. Replace outdated hardware

Just like software, hardware is continually being updated and improved. And like software, falling behind on your hardware updates will leave you vulnerable to poor performance and avoidable security threats.

If you’ve identified outdated hardware in your inventory, update it now to maintain peak performance and full security compliance. If the hardware is no longer being used, disconnect it from your network and properly remove any sensitive data within it.

7. Control installations

Software downloads can be used as a vehicle to implant viruses, malware, and spyware on your systems. For that reason, it’s essential that users are not given free rein to install software on their company devices.

Develop a policy that governs which employees can install which software on which devices. You might decide that only certain groups of users are allowed to install software, or you might allow installations from trusted sources, or you might require that all installations are approved first. Whatever your specific policy looks like, it should be controlled centrally by you or your IT team, and not on an individual basis.

8. Limit users

In order to minimize the potential damage from a hacking or malware attack, it’s important to carefully control the level of access your employees have to devices and programs.

For example, if 200 of your employees can access a system, that’s 200 routes by which a hacker can enter that system. If only 100 of them actually need to use that system, you can cut your risk in half by restricting access to an ‘as-required’ basis.

If all 100 of those users have admin rights, that’s 100 opportunities for a hacker to inflict damage on your system. If you restrict admin rights to the 10 employees that need it, you’ve cut your risk again by 90%. You get the idea!

For each item in your inventory — hardware, software, and applications — evaluate which of your employees needs access, and what privileges they need within the system to in order to do their job. Everybody else should be restricted accordingly.

9. Back up data

Even with the very strictest of security, life still happens. Loss, damage, technical malfunction, sabotage, and theft can never be fully prevented, so make sure you have a reliable system for backing up your data — both yours and that of your clients and customers.

Ideally, you’ll have back-ups of your data in multiple formats and locations. Copies of digital data should be stored on an encrypted, cloud-based server, while copies of physical data and documents should be stored in a secure off-site location.

Build regular data back-ups into your security plan. If possible, automate the process to save time and money, and of course, to eliminate the risk of forgetting.

10. Invest in training and awareness

When it comes to keeping your business safe, knowledge truly is power, so take the time to identify knowledge gaps within your team and provide training as necessary. This will fortify your business from top to bottom, teaching everything from password etiquette and best-practice software usage to threat identification and crisis management.

11. Develop an incident response plan

Despite your best efforts, the worst has happened — you’ve been hacked. What do you do?

If you don’t have an answer to that question, then now’s the time to find one! The best incident response is the one that’s planned, rehearsed, and perfected ahead of time, ready to be rolled out seamlessly if and when disaster strikes.

Work with your IT team on developing responses to all possible threats you might face. Consider what actions will be needed, who will take responsibility for them, and whether they have the skills and knowledge necessary to do so. Make sure everyone understands their role and hold regular drills to keep the procedure fresh in everybody’s minds.

12. Employ a cybersecurity framework

For organizations that deal with particularly sensitive data — think government or defense suppliers, for example — it may be wise to consider adopting a more advanced security framework. Industry-standard protocols like the NIST Framework and the CIS Benchmark offer you standards, guidelines, and best practices to manage cybersecurity risks in critical environments, protecting both your business and your clients from a threat.

And finally, the Golden Rule…

If in Doubt, Leave It to the Experts

When it comes to cybersecurity, you can’t just wing it! If you don’t have the resources or the expertise to properly manage your security in-house, then don’t take the risk — outsource it to professionals.  A Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP) like CyberSheath can take all of the work and the worry out of cybersecurity. We already have the infrastructure and the experts in place, so we can quickly set up a bulletproof, fully staffed security system with minimal effort on your part.

CyberSheath’s MSSP is also one of the most cost-effective security options available to businesses like yours. We keep your costs consistent and predictable, which gives you much more control over your budget, and you benefit from the latest in security technology without having to invest in research and development.

To learn more about cyber hygiene and discuss how your business could benefit from the cost-effective, comprehensive protection of an MSSP, contact us now for a no-obligation discussion.

In the last decade, the way in which nation-states have targeted the U.S. has changed dramatically. Where warfare was once predictably physical in nature, more and more of today’s threats come via virtual and digital channels.

After more than a decade of massive intellectual property theft including the theft of massive amounts of highly sensitive data from a U.S. Navy contractor’s computer systems, allegedly by Chinese hackers, the Department of Defense (DoD) has sought new guidance on how to secure its $100bn supply chain in the face of modern threats.

In the recent report Deliver Uncompromised, researchers Mitre Corp. discuss how the Department of Defense (DoD) and intelligence agencies can adapt to meet the growing threat of cyber warfare. They identify a number of ways in which national security can be compromised remotely, including the virtual hijacking and sabotage of military equipment; the infiltration of software for espionage purposes; and the data theft to which the Navy contractor fell victim.

Beyond Compliance

Up until now, the focus has been on encouraging contractor compliance. A recent example is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-171, a framework that lays out how contractors must safeguard sensitive defense information and report cyber security incidents. By December 2017, prime contractors were required to demonstrate exactly how they’d implemented mandatory policies and achieved full compliance.

However, the Deliver Uncompromised report argues for a full cultural shift in the way in which the issue of cybersecurity is framed, with an emphasis on the role of the contractor. Instead of simply requesting or even mandating co-operation in support of their security objectives — a reactive role — the report recommends that defense and intelligence agencies encourage contractors to share ownership of the problem itself and proactively develop solutions.

At present, the DoD chooses suppliers based on cost, schedule, and performance, but the report notes that this can actually encourage suppliers to cut corners on their security provision. Factoring in the price of implementing enhanced security measures makes the supplier less attractive to the DoD in terms of cost, but when the alternative is to eat the cost themselves, most businesses will choose to simply do the bare minimum in order to achieve compliance.

In order to avoid the ‘compliance effect’ and incentivize suppliers to go above and beyond, DoD is attempting to elevate security to a key metric in the procurement process, on par with cost, schedule, and performance. In making enhanced security a competitive advantage and not just a ‘checkbox’, the DoD is essentially leveraging its position as the primary source of revenue for many of its contractors in order to shape their behavior.

That’s not to say compliance is moving down the agenda; quite the opposite, in fact. Deliver Uncompromised identifies a number of major holes in current compliance legislation, noting that they undermine any ‘softer’ attempts by the DoD to influence suppliers.

Financial Liability

First, the report says, it’s unclear what tangible consequences a contractor will face in the event that their non-compliance with DoD mandates leads to a security breach. Because there are so few financial repercussions, the very real risk is that some suppliers will fail to commit the necessary resources to implement their contractual obligations, while others will ignore them altogether.

To address this risk, Deliver Uncompromised recommends that DoD re-examines financial liability processes for suppliers that fail to take reasonable or timely assurance measures to protect the DoD from a threat. It also implores the DoD to consider seeking the legislative authority to hold suppliers liable for gross negligence in circumstances where cybersecurity obligations have not been met.

Software Practices

Software was identified as a major area of vulnerability for the DoD supply chain, especially given the widespread use of open-source software components with uncertain origins. And yet, the report says, the current practice is to absolve users, operators, and even developers from responsibility for security threats arising from software failure.

Deliver Uncompromised calls for an overhaul of this policy and suggests that the DoD demand much higher standards of security throughout the life cycle of mission-critical software. It also recommends placing much greater accountability on users, operators, and developers, which may be achieved by soliciting the help of Congress to change laws surrounding software immunity.

What Does this Mean for You as a Defense Supplier?

If a significant proportion of your revenue depends on government contracts, it’s likely you already know that compliance is becoming an increasingly important deciding factor in the awarding of contracts. However, it’s no longer enough to simply comply.

Deliver Uncompromised is a crystal-clear statement of the DoD’s intent to reward suppliers that go above and beyond in terms of security. In fact, the cultural shift is already happening, with the 2017 case of IPKeys Technologies serving as a prime example.

IPKeys protested to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GOA) when they lost out on a defense contract to a higher-priced competitor. While both companies met the mandatory cybersecurity compliance requirements, the awardee had demonstrated a proactive commitment to non-mandatory security frameworks, too. Despite their higher cost, the awardee went above and beyond compliance and received a higher value rating — and won the contract — as a direct result.

The GAO denied the protest, strengthening the notion that minimum security compliance is no longer enough to remain competitive. Should the DoD implement the recommendations outlined in Deliver Uncompromised — and they likely will, given the current concerns about foreign interference and cyberattacks — enhanced security will become a legal matter as well as a commercial one.

For you, that means getting ahead of the game and fortifying your cybersecurity now. While other suppliers continue to do the bare minimum in order to check off compliance boxes, your focus should be on strengthening security procedures and adding value wherever possible. Take these measures now, and when the legislative environment inevitably moves forward, you’ll be leading the way — not scrambling to keep up.

Want to Remain a Competitive Defense Supplier?

Then now is the time to start enhancing your security practices with a comprehensive, free cybersecurity evaluation from CyberSheath. Let us help you to make sense of the changing security environment and make sure your business stays one step ahead. Contact us now to arrange your free evaluation.


As cyber-attacks become more frequent and sophisticated, addressing tighter security needs has become a priority for the federal government. Enforcement of “Controlled Unclassified Information” (CUI) protection continues to intensify as private contractors and organizations are now required to upgrade their cybersecurity systems and overall procedures to keep up with these increasing threats. On April 24, 2018, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued draft guidance for assessing contractors’ System Security Plans (SSPs) and the implementation of security controls in NIST Special Publication (SP) 800-171.  If you’re a defense contractor, you’re required to comply with these regulations and provide “adequate security” for networks where covered defense information (CDI) is processed, stored, or transmitted. DoD issued two draft guidance documents. The first, “Assessing the State of a Contractor’s Information System,” provides guidance on four different objectives.  They include what must be in an RFP, how the source selection authority would evaluate the requirement, what resources are available for that evaluation, and the contract provisions that will be needed to implement the requirement during performance. The second draft guidance document, “DoD Guidance for Reviewing System Security Plans and the NIST SP 800-171 Security Requirements Not Yet Implemented,” was developed by DoD to determine the risks that an unimplemented security control has on an information system, and which of the unmet controls need to be prioritized. What does “adequate security” mean? At a minimum, defense contractors must implement the requirements in NIST SP 800-171 to become compliant. Contractors need to provide an SSP to prove the implementation of the security requirements, and also develop plans of action and milestones (POA&M) that describe how any unimplemented security requirements will be met.

Unimplemented Controls Receive a Value Rating

NIST 800-171 is comprised of 110 technical controls to ensure the best security policies and procedures.  DoD has decided to assess the risk of unimplemented controls by assigning a “DoD Value” for each security requirement ranging from 5 (highest impact on the cybersecurity system) to 1 (lowest impact on the cybersecurity system). These priority codes are used for priority rankings that NIST assigns to the NIST SP 800-53 Revision 4 security controls that are used for government information systems and which form the basis for NIST SP 800-171.

Non-Compliance is Not an Option 

In 2018, proposed DOD guidance is already moving to full enforcement of compliance. Compliance failures can lead to more serious consequences than a data breach.  Failure to comply with DFARS can lead contractors to incur penalties either by the United States Government (civil, criminal, contractual actions in law and administrative), or by individuals and private organizations that were damaged by lack of compliance (actions for damages).

  • Bid Protests: While SSPs and POA&Ms are important for determining “adequate security,” it’s still unclear the exact part they’ll play in bid protests and the implementation of NIST SP 800-171. After reviewing the implementation status during the pre-award stage, the DoD can make an unacceptable or acceptable determination, and ultimately decide if the contract should be rewarded. Another option is to evaluate implementation as a “separate technical evaluation factor.” During the pre-award process, contractors may choose to protest terms where a solicitation’s treatment of NIST SP 800-171 implementation fails to be consistent with DoD’s guidance. On the other hand, if a contract was rewarded to another contractor, disappointed offerors may consider challenging the award to another offeror where the assessment of the protester’s or awardee’s implementation of NIST SP 800-171 is inconsistent with the guidance documents. If the DoD notices inconsistencies between the implementation of NIST SP 800-171 and your SSP and POA&M, they could award the contract to another contractor. During 2018, contract protests awarded to higher-priced bidders were based in part on compliance with cybersecurity and employing more than the minimum security requirements in NIST SP-800-171.
  • Termination Risk: The accuracy of your SSP and POA&M, along with providing proof that you’re moving toward full compliance, is crucial. For the most accurate evaluation, the draft guidance states that solicitations and contracts must include contract data requirements (CDRLs) to “require delivery of System Security Plan and any Plans of action after contract award.” Now that both SSPs and POA&Ms are a contractual obligation, failure to be in compliance may provide a basis for termination if compliance isn’t completed. Or, if the SSP does not accurately state the implementation status of the contractor’s cybersecurity.
  • DCMA Audits: DoD has recently stated that as part of its audit function, DCMA will pull out all the stops to confirm all contractors have an SSP and POA&M.  However, DCMA will not be providing an analysis if the SSP fully complies with the NIST 800-171 security requirements. It’s unknown at this point if the DCMA would leverage any of DoD’s guidance in its review.
  • False Claims Act: If a contractor is audited by DoD and found not to have implemented DFARS/NIST 800-171, the contractor can be on the receiving end of numerous penalties. For example, if your SSP misrepresents your actual cybersecurity status, DoD can bring an action based on fraud, which is a False Claims Act violation. DoD may also be able to prove that the original SSP was key to the Department’s award decision. If DoD’s argument is successful, your earnings under the original contract are at risk, along with the reputation of your organization.

Make Compliance a Priority Before it’s Too Late!

At CyberSheath, we know that implementing these new security controls can seem like a daunting undertaking. We’ve successfully assessed and implemented the required NIST 800-171 controls for leading organizations in the defense industrial base supply chain.

CyberArk is considered a global leader and pioneer in providing privileged access security, and for good reason.

Because CyberArk provides the most advanced Privileged Account Management (PAM) solutions in one incredible platform CyberSheath made the strategic decision to build out our PAM professional services with a CyberArk focus.   One of the challenges for our mid-sized managed services customers was fitting CyberArk capabilities into resource-constrained budgets. CyberArk, trusted by the world’s leading businesses, and more than 50% of Fortune 100 companies, was often inaccessible to mid-sized businesses. We are happy to report, that has changed and CyberSheath now offers CyberArk as a flexible, multi-tenant, pay-as-you-go-managed service offering!

CyberArk’s Advanced Security Solutions are Accessible and Affordable to Mid-Sized Businesses

CyberArk recently unveiled an expanded offering for Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) like CyberSheath, featuring groundbreaking multi-tenant, pay-as-you-go-option. The new groundbreaking multi-tenant offering allows CyberSheath to extend the reach of the CyberArk Privileged Account Security Solution to companies of all sizes. CyberSheath can now enable you to meet your compliance and operational PAM objectives for DFARs 252.204-7012, NIST 800-171, Sarbanes Oxley (SOX), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and more.

The multi-tenant version of the Privileged Account Security Solution offers consumption-based pricing to meet the unique needs of mid-sized businesses.

CyberArk’s flexible pay-as-you-go method enables CyberSheath to offer CyberArk’s advanced solutions without the huge up-front costs. CyberSheath delivers privileged access security as a single or multi-tenant solution, and your business only pays for what is deployed.

CyberArk’s pay-as-you-go model opens up privileged access to those businesses that previously lacked the funds or bandwidth for a large upfront investment. Mid-sized businesses will no longer be left out in the cold from obtaining CyberSheath’s award-winning PAM professional services, previously only affordable to larger organizations. CyberSheath can now help your business reduce privileged-related security risk from malicious insiders and external attackers leveraging the best PAM solution on the market.

CyberSheath offers a wide range of managed security services to a diverse range of customers, improving overall security and IT operations across multiple platforms. With CyberArk PAM now a part of that offering for mid-sized businesses we can easily accelerate onboarding, and control and monitor their privileged accounts 24/7.

CyberArk’s MSSP offering enables customers to scale their privileged-access security offering over time, and, most importantly, improve overall security. CyberSheath’s privileged-access security professional and managed services, leveraging a best in class capability, reduce risk across all environments — on-premises, in hybrid-cloud environments and at the endpoint.

CyberSheath is the Most Trusted CyberArk Professional Services Provider

We’re the most trusted experts in privileged account security. That’s why more organizations choose CyberSheath for the highest quality implementation of all CyberArk professional service and managed services. We’ve been delivering CyberArk managed services for some of the largest customers in the defense, financial and utility sectors for years and now we are thrilled to offer these services to mid-market customers.

Let CyberSheath protect and monitor your privileged accounts, enable compliance with all regulatory requirements and measurably improve your operational security.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)  issued new guidance for public companies to be more forthcoming when disclosing cybersecurity risks, expanding on previous guidance issued in 2011. In addition to warning corporate insiders not to trade shares when they have information about cybersecurity issues that isn’t public, the guidance advised that internal or law enforcement investigations cannot be used as an excuse for not informing the public. The unanimously approved guidance, was published as “interpretive guidance,” which the SEC uses to publish their views and interpret the federal securities laws and SEC regulations.

The 24-page guidance, provides some clear insight and required actions for public companies to ensure compliance with the new guidance. The full document can be found here:

A clear takeaway from the guidance is that a company’s directors, officers, and other persons responsible for developing and overseeing such controls and procedures are informed about the cybersecurity risks. While this seems like an obvious statement you might ask yourself if this information is flowing beyond the CIO or CISO.

Do you have a documented, repeatable process for informing company directors and officers of such risks or is it ad-hoc and on demand when cybersecurity put on the board agenda as a topic of discussion? One way to be ready for these ad-hoc requests and ideally help the company mature to something more formal is to contract with a 3rd party to execute a comprehensive cybersecurity risk assessment.

Assessments have earned a bad name as they often become shelf-ware that never see the light of day outside of the IT organization. Done correctly these assessments should be the foundation for board level briefings and based on a solid framework like the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. The right vendor will align the assessment with all relevant regulatory requirements or guidance in addition to the framework and provide you with a comprehensive and quantifiable view of your cybersecurity risk.

For more information on information on how to leverage an assessment that can be transformative for your organization, and enable you to comply with SEC guidance, read this blog post:

Getting back to the recent SEC guidance, it states that “Given the frequency, magnitude and cost of cybersecurity incidents, the Commission believes that it is critical that public companies take all required actions to inform investors about material cybersecurity risks and incidents in a timely fashion, including those companies that are subject to material cybersecurity risks but may not yet have been the target of a cyber-attack.”

The “risks” or “negative consequences” highlighted in the SEC guidance included:

  • Remediation costs;
  • Increased cybersecurity protection costs;
  • Lost revenues resulting from the unauthorized use of proprietary information or the failure to retain or attract customers following an attack;
  • Litigation and legal risks, including regulatory actions by state and federal
  • governmental authorities and non-U.S. authorities;
  • Increased insurance premiums;
  • Reputational damage that adversely affects customer or investor confidence;
  • Damage to the company’s competitiveness, stock price, and long-term shareholder value.

The Commission stated that it is critical for public companies to take all required actions to inform investors about material cybersecurity risks and incidents in a timely fashion, including those companies that are subject to material cybersecurity risks but may not yet have been the target of a cyber-attack.

Given that every company should reasonably assume material risk related to cybersecurity and may or may not have yet been the target of a cyber-attack it’s clear that no public company escapes the guidance.

The SEC guidance encourages disclosure controls and procedures to provide a method for understanding the impact that cybersecurity risks and incidents have on the company in addition to a protocol to determine the potential materiality of such risks and incidents.

The SEC describes effective disclosure controls and procedures “as best achieved when a company’s directors, officers, and other persons responsible for developing and overseeing such controls and procedures are informed about the cybersecurity risks and incidents that the company has faced or is likely to face.”

The following issues were highlighted as important when evaluating cybersecurity risk for disclosure:

  • The occurrence of prior cybersecurity incidents, including their severity and frequency;
  • The probability of the occurrence and potential magnitude of cybersecurity incidents;
  • The adequacy of preventative actions taken to reduce cybersecurity risks and the associated costs, including, if appropriate, discussing the limits of the company’s ability to prevent or mitigate certain cybersecurity risks;
  • The aspects of the company’s business and operations that give rise to material cybersecurity risks and the potential costs and consequences of such risks, including industry-specific risks and third-party supplier and service provider risks;
  • The costs associated with maintaining cybersecurity protections, including, if applicable, insurance coverage relating to cybersecurity incidents or payments to service providers;
  • The potential for reputational harm;
  • Existing or pending laws and regulations that may affect the requirements to which companies are subject relating to cybersecurity and the associated costs to companies; and
  • Litigation, regulatory investigation, and remediation costs associated with cybersecurity incidents.

As the regulatory drumbeat continues to gain steam, albeit slowly, companies have an opportunity to be proactive in educating their company directors and officers about cybersecurity risk. Start with an assessment and build the foundation for a documented, repeatable way to meet your obligations.

If you need help understanding the latest SEC guidance and are interested in a cybersecurity assessment that can transform your organization, contact us.

As the mandate to achieve compliance with The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) SP 800-171 Rev. 1 went into effect December 31, 2017, many DoD contractors wondered how compliance, or lack thereof, will impact competitiveness in winning new contracts. We covered this topic in a blog post titled “Understanding NIST 800-171 Impact on Acquisition”, located here:

More recently, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has provided an example of how compliance with both mandatory and non-mandatory cybersecurity requirements can be a discriminator in evaluation for awarding contracts.

The GAO denied a protest made by IPKeys Technologies, LLC (IPKeys), B-414890; B-414890.2 on October 4, 2017. The awardee was given a higher score by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) for an evaluation factor specific to cybersecurity than the protestor, IPKeys was given. The GAO’s decision serves as a clear example of how seriously prime and subcontractors need to be treating cybersecurity requirements to stay competitive.

In the IPKeys decision, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the “provision of engineering, transition, implementation, sustainment, and cybersecurity monitoring support services for DISA’s Global Video Service (GVS),” used by DoD and other government departments and agencies for unclassified and classified videoconferencing services. The RFP required that offerors demonstrate their ability to provide engineering support related to cybersecurity issues with DISA’s GVS (Subfactor 2). Although the awardee’s costs were higher than the protestor, it was awarded the contract under a best value determination because the awardee was given a higher rating for two subfactors, one of which related to cybersecurity (Subfactor 2). The awardee proposed to utilize both the Risk Management Framework (RMF) (“RMF Framework”) and the NIST Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity (“Cybersecurity Framework”), which DISA evaluated as being more valuable than just meeting the requirements of the RMF Framework. DISA determined that the two standards were distinct and complementary despite the Cybersecurity Framework not being a requirement of the proposal.

In detailing why, it agreed with DISA’s evaluation, the GAO’s decision demonstrated a clear preference for a comprehensive cybersecurity solution and not check the box compliance. “NIST SP 800-37 details the NIST RMF, which is a six-step process that provides a method of coordinating the inter-related Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA) standards and guidelines to ensure systems are provisioned, assessed, and managed with appropriate security.” The Cybersecurity “Framework is designed to complement existing business and cybersecurity operations.” Specifically, the “framework core” provides a set of activities to achieve cybersecurity outcomes to manage cybersecurity risks that are broadly divided into five functions: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover.  The framework core, and its functions and their constituent categories and subcategories, “is not a checklist of actions to perform.” Additionally, the RMF Framework is directed towards agencies and compliance is mandatory for the agencies. On the other hand, the Cybersecurity Framework is voluntary and targeted to the private sector. This distinction is important, said another way, compliance with the RMF Framework was a requirement of the RFP, compliance with the Cybersecurity Framework was not a requirement. DISA determined that compliance with both the mandatory requirements and the non-mandatory requirements merited a higher evaluation score.

We can expect to see more contract award decisions that treat cybersecurity as a critical factor for award. Specific to NIST 800-171 Rev. 1, it’s not likely that simply having a System Security Plan (SSP) and Plan of Action and Milestones (POA&M) will be considered comprehensive. The controls must actually be implemented and even doing that is just meeting the mandatory requirements, will that be enough?

Cybersecurity has become a competitive discriminator in contract awards, decisions are already being made, in part, based on compliance with mandatory requirements and non-mandatory requirements.

Don’t wait any longer, act now and build a comprehensive solution to the growing list cybersecurity compliance requirements. Contact CyberSheath at for immediate assistance.

There is a common push-pull of innovation and security that traditionally occurs between application developers and security teams. Applications teams are responsible for fast building and quick deployment of a functional, non-bug-ridden app stack. Meanwhile, security teams are tasked with ensuring the organization’s information and systems are secure – and that includes applications.

Securing the apps in a timely manner is extremely important for the organization. Sometimes, if apps are left unchecked, developers will hardcode credentials or keys into their apps as a quick and easy way to bypass, and in their minds satisfy, this requirement.

Hardcoding Credentials Exposes Organizations to Massive Risks

  • Hardcoded application credentials are high-value targets for bad actors. Internal applications commonly require access to sensitive information on legacy systems that don’t support newer, more secure authentication technologies. This access is often granted by a set of credentials or keys, sometimes referred to as secrets, which are occasionally over-privileged, to begin with. If bad actors get their hands on those secrets, they could ex-filtrate your organization’s most sensitive data.
  • Chances are your organization is a target-rich environment for hackers. The scale in which organizations use privileged application accounts is enormous.
    • For example, healthcare organizations deal with the patient and medical information on a massive scale. There are countless internal applications (homegrown code, scheduled tasks, services, etc.) that need to process privileged or confidential information. If a bad actor manages to obtain a secret that gives them access to this sensitive data, a major security breach results in both the potential exposure of HIPPA information and major financial implications. The 2015 breach of health insurer Anthem caused a record-setting $115-million dollar lawsuit settlement, with even greater potential losses for the firm due to loss of brand equity.

How an Organization Can Enable Secure App Development

Simply stated, you need to turn security into code – and make it part of the development lifecycle enabling your app teams. Your app teams need to start off their coding with security in mind.

Some pointers:

  1. Determine what privileged information the app needs access to.
  2. Determine how you will secure access to that privileged information.
  3. Build the code around that access and those security requirements. Making security part of the development lifecycle means that your app is secure from release one, and validated as secure in every subsequent release.
  4. Enable your developers by providing them the tools they need to do the job right. If you just tell them to do the first three steps without supporting the process, your developers will most likely default to doing things the fastest way and that often means finding ways to circumvent security.
    • Keep in mind that enabling your developers comes from a combination of tools and streamlined processes. Traditional account management tools like CyberArk’s Application Identity Manager, or DevOps tools like Conjur provide developers a secure method to authenticate their applications to those other systems. It’s not enough to just have these tools – your organization needs to make the implementation and use of theses tool simple for your app teams.

How to Answer Questions from Your App Teams

Chances are if you’re reading this, you are already imagining your app developers asking a series of questions including:

  • How does one register an app?
  • How do I write my code to use this tool?
  • Where does my secret go?
  • What’s my evergreen process?

CyberSheath develops simple, streamlined processes around these key questions to smooth the experience of securing applications. CyberSheath’s privileged access management engineers have real-world enterprise-level experience designing and implementing secure application controls, and creating the processes to enable your app teams. Whether your developers are programming in Java on Windows on-prem or loading up an application into a Docker container in the cloud, CyberSheath can work with you to help secure your apps and reduce your organization’s residual risk. Contact us to learn more.

Stay tuned for part 2 of How to Enable Applications Teams to Secure Code where we will discuss features and benefits of tools you can use to secure your applications.

2017, both professionally and personally has been a tremendously gratifying year. At CyberSheath we continued to focus on delivering cybersecurity services that materially helped customers better secure and defend their ever-expanding digital footprints. CyberSheath’s role in helping our clients implement the people, process and technologies required for day to day operational cybersecurity aligned with their specific compliance requirements is meaningful work. Our experience in 2017 was one of forward progress against the tide of emerging threats, endless vendor technology offerings and increasing regulatory requirements related to cybersecurity.

Still, there were many challenges in 2017 that highlighted some basic cybersecurity “blocking and tackling” that still isn’t getting done. Exposure to global ransomware and other threats are often a result of not addressing fundamental cybersecurity best practices. Companies are struggling to find the time and resources to address the things that can have the greatest impact on their cybersecurity. A partial list of work that should be prioritized but often isn’t includes:

  • Asset discovery and inventory
  • Vulnerability assessment and remediation
  • Privileged account management
  • Secure configurations for hardware and software
  • Data recovery capability

If you are looking for a more complete list just search the Center for Internet Security (CIS) Critical Security Controls. Fundamentals like the Critical Security Controls get buried on the never-ending to-do list of security practitioners as the scope of what they have to secure keeps growing. Product vendors are doing their best to develop tools to address new threats, but our experience suggests that the vast majority of companies have more tools than they can effectively deploy, integrate and support. Companies selectively acquire vendor tools to address specific threats or capabilities but rarely plan for:

  • Integration with existing technology investments
  • People and process changes necessary to optimize the investment
  • Ongoing operations and maintenance

Unfortunately, this product/tool centric approach to cybersecurity has left companies struggling with:

  • Point solutions that aren’t integrated to provide maximum RoI
  • Ankle deep skill set spread across several vendor tools
  • Incomplete deployment of key technologies as staff rush to the next priority
  • Unplanned fire drill regulatory compliance projects
  • Tactical approach to the strategic problem that is cybersecurity

We can’t predict the year ahead but we can be certain the same issues we have seen for the past several years will continue to be a challenge and addressing that challenge presents a tremendous opportunity.

Companies, faced with regulatory compliance, vendor product offerings, new threats, and limited resources, can take control of their cybersecurity by aligning with the right service providers to ensure measurable, compliant cybersecurity. Companies should thoroughly research Managed Security Services Providers (MSSP) and determine what is best for their short and long-term cybersecurity needs and outsource the nagging list of fundamentals that never seems to get addressed.

MSSP’s are increasingly being sought as a solution for companies who seek to eliminate staffing shortages and predictably deliver reliable, effective and compliant cybersecurity. For these companies, partnering with an MSSP makes it much more likely they will address the fundamentals of cybersecurity. An effective partnership with an MSSP should, at a minimum, enable:

  • Alignment of compliance with day to day operational security
  • Management of costs with predictable subscription-based pricing that delivers service you can measure
  • Automation and integration of regulatory compliance requirements with day to day operations
  • Basic fundamentals like asset discovery and inventory as well as vulnerability assessment
  • A more secure and fully compliant infrastructure

Guiding companies through their transition to a MSSP model should go well beyond simply collecting logs and providing dashboards, done correctly it should transform and sustain them. The service offerings should be specific to your business needs and measurable. One of the intangible benefits companies should expect from an MSSP is a strengthening of the relationship with their business, leveraging the capability and expertise the MSSP brings to bear. For all its benefits, the MSSP model may not be the right fit for everyone, but CyberSheath feels privileged to assist companies who have chosen this as the best solution for their company. For our clients, the unique relationship with a highly qualified and committed MSSP is proving irreplaceable when it comes to cybersecurity operations and compliance.

Because making the transition to an MSSP should be transformational, it requires a thoughtful consideration. Some companies wrestle with the decision for years, and others are forced into it for budgetary reasons. Ultimately if you have reached a point where too little time, a growing number of threats, staffing shortages and regulatory complexity are causing you to be tactical in every decision you make, the MSSP model is one to consider.

We are looking forward to 2018 with genuine optimism, as we have a number of initiatives underway to help our clients continue their forward progress, including:

  • Introduction of additional ways to integrate cybersecurity operations with regulatory compliance and control costs
  • Supporting the people and process legs of the cybersecurity equation with quick sprint initiatives to optimize technology investments
  • Creation of business focused cybersecurity outcomes that enable corporate security teams to explain their value to the board and other stakeholders

Challenges are inevitable, but the opportunities to address cybersecurity in a measurable way have never been greater. As every security practitioner knows, even a highly capable security operation can benefit from a knowledgeable, outcome focused partner to guide them on a complex, confusing journey. For an increasing number of companies, an MSSP will lead the way.

All of us at CyberSheath wish that your 2018 is a year of continued forward progress.

These days, it’s not easy to be in charge of your organization’s IT security. With cyberattacks increasing in frequency, severity, and reach, it’s more important than ever to develop a plan for achieving, managing, and documenting the security of all of your systems.

It’s Not Only Good Practice to Have a System Security Plan, but It’s Also a Requirement

NIST SP 800-17, Revision 1 recently added requirement 3.12.4 to the Security Assessment control family stating that organizations must “Develop, document, and periodically update system security plans that describe system boundaries, system environments of operation, how security requirements are implemented, and the relationships with or connections to other systems.”

This one-sentence requirement is based on NIST SP 800-18 – Guide for Developing Security Plans for Federal Information Systems.

Identify What Systems Need a System Security Plan

Now it’s time to figure out which systems in your organization require a System Security Plan (SSP). Each SSP should be focused on an information system, which is defined as “a discrete set of information resources organized for the collection, processing, maintenance, use, sharing, dissemination, or disposition of information.” An application, information or technology service, platform, and infrastructure are all considered systems, and their security must be formally planned according to the NIST SP 800-171 requirement for in-scope systems.

Compile your list of systems needing an SSP and start uncovering all the information you will need to write them. Each SSP will need two types of information, both of which can be a challenge to compile. These include:

  1. System details documenting how the system operates
  2. Details about how the NIST SP 800-171 Revision 1 controls requirements are met for that particular system. Note that the control statement responses are a granular system-specific response to the 110 control requirements.

Once you have your inventory of systems that store, process, or transmit Controlled Defense Information (CDI) or Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), it’s time to start planning.

First, create a system security planning template. The appendix to NIST SP 800-18 – Guide for Developing Security Plans for Federal Information Systems has a template, which provides a great starting point for creating your organization’s SSPs.

Next, assemble your team for the planning process, making sure to include these roles:

  • System Owner – This role is critical to the system security planning process as this person has deep knowledge about the systems and understands what the system does, how it works, and how it is controlled. The system owner owns the security plan for the system and is responsible for providing diagrams and explanations that articulate where the sensitive data is stored at rest, where and how it is transmitted, and what system interfaces exist, especially those interfacing systems that transmit the sensitive (CDI and CUI) data.
  • IT/Security Support Staff – Depending on the size of your organization, your support team may provide a set of core IT services that provide control to the broader network and computing environment. Inheritable controls could include authentication services, firewalls, network segmentation, secure system baselining, access management, and change management. A system owner will work hand-in-hand with the support team to understand how and if the controls apply to his or her particular system.
  • Administrative/Business Operations Support Staff – Some controls that apply to systems may not be technical. Administrative and/or business operations staff will need to provide input into how non-technical controls, such as background screening processes, facility security mechanisms, training and awareness programs, and staff management controls, are addressed. The people who have ownership of these functional business capabilities will need to weigh in on the security planning effort so that controls are adequately defined.

Once you have the right people involved, it’s time to get to work and write the plan. It’s a laborious process, but the intent is to provide defensible information and responses as to how a system works and how security controls are applied. An auditor or contracting official will want to know how you safeguard their sensitive data, and the information you document along with control responses should provide assurance of that protection.

Create a Master SSP

Every system used for the storage, processing, and transmission of CDI/CUI should have a security plan. Think about the roles above and the functional areas they represent. If these roles exist as a core, corporate function that is applied consistently across the organization, then consider creating a master system security plan that documents a core set of controls meeting the NIST 800-171 requirements.

A Master SSP helps you define a standard across the enterprise for inheritable controls, which provides guidance to the system owners about how they may be consuming controls that are broadly applied to the organization. The effectiveness of using the master system security planning concept depends on how effective those broad controls are applied by mandate.

  • For those organizations who strictly apply their standards, the master system security planned controls would be thoroughly applied and relied on.
  • For those organizations looser about applying standards and mandates, a master system security plan makes a good reference, but system owners should pay close attention to whether they actually inherit the standard control offering, or if a system-specific control response is required.

Build Proactive Measures into Your SSPs

Developing your System Security Plan(s) will provide a systems-focused macro-view of how your security controls are being applied. The process also helps identify non-compliance and uncover insecure practices, alerting you and helping you create a plan to resolve issues.

Consider building your Plan of Actions & Milestones (POAM) into your SSPs, and track compliance deficiencies to resolution. This helps you be proactive in your remediation and corrective action planning and moves you closer to a mature state in managing security controls.

The CyberSheath team is experienced at helping organizations like yours create System Security Plans. Contact us to learn how we can help you.

As a contractor, you need to safeguard covered defense information that is processed or stored on your internal information system or network.

To stay in the running for work from your primes, you need to comply with DFARS Clause 252.204-7012, Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting, which requires contractors to implement National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-171, “Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Nonfederal Information Systems and Organizations”. You have until December 31, 20 I 7 to implement NIST SP 800-171.

How will non-compliance with NIST SP 800-171 impact contractors’ future acquisition?

On September 21, 2017, The Director, Defense Pricing/Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy issued guidance for acquisition personnel in anticipation of the December 31, 2017 deadline, which:

  • Outlines how contractors might implement NIST SP 800-171.
  • Addresses how a contractor may use a system security plan to document the implementation of the NIST SP 800-171 security requirements.
  • Describes how DoD organizations might choose to leverage the contractor’s system security plan (SSP), and any associated plans of action, in the contract formation, administration, and source selection processes.

To not jeopardize future opportunities, contractors should focus on developing a well-written SSP and associated Plan of Action and Milestones (POA&M) to achieve compliance.

What are the SSP and POA&M requirements?

NIST SP 800-171 was revised (Revision 1) in December 2016 to require a “system security plan” and associated “plans of action.” Specifically:

  • Security requirement 3.12.4 (System Security Plan, added by NIST SP 800-171, Revision 1), requires the contractor to develop, document, and periodically update, system security plans that describe system boundaries, system environments of operation, how security requirements are implemented, and the relationships with or connections to other systems.
  • Security Requirement 3.12.2 (Plans of Action), requires the contractor to develop and implement plans of action designed to correct deficiencies and reduce or eliminate vulnerabilities in their systems.

How do you write an SSP and POA&M?

Documenting implementation of the NIST SP 800-171 security requirements by the December 31, 2017, implementation deadline requires an SSP and associated plans of action which describe how and when you will meet unimplemented security requirements, how you will implement planned mitigations, and how and when you will correct deficiencies and reduce or eliminate vulnerabilities in the systems. System security plans and plans of action can be documented as separate or combined documents. You should choose a format that integrates with existing business processes and can be easily maintained year-over-year. Governance, Risk, and Compliance platforms can provide a technical, somewhat automated capability to meet this objective.

There is no prescribed methodology for contractors to implement the requirements of NIST SP 800-171, or even to assess your current compliance with the requirements -nor is there a prescribed format for SSPs or POA&Ms. A reasonable first step in creating an SSP and POA&M is to use company personnel or a qualified third party to execute a gap assessment against current operations compared to the NIST SP 800-171 requirements. The gap assessment will detail changes to policy and highlight areas where additional hardware or software are required to achieve compliance. A well-executed gap assessment will determine:

  1. Requirements that can be met using in-house IT personnel.
  2. Requirements that can be met using outside assistance.
  3. Plan of Action and Milestones for achieving compliance.

Which version of NIST 800-171 applies?

DFARS Clause 252.204-7012 requires the contractor to implement the version of the NIST SP 800-171 that is in effect at the time of the solicitation, or such other version that is authorized by the contracting officer.

How do you inform the Government of compliance with NIST SP 800-171 requirements?

You can inform the Government of your implementation of the NIST SP 800-171 requirements in a number of ways.

  • The solicitation provision DFARS 252.204-7008, “Compliance with Safeguarding Covered Defense Information Controls,” provides that by submitting the offer, the contractor is representing its compliance (and provides a procedure for the contractor to request the DoD Chief Information Officer (CIO) to authorize a variance from any of those requirements as being non-applicable, or because the contractor has a different but equally effective security measure).
  • Paragraph (c)(2)(ii)(A) of DFARS Clause 252.204-7012 requires the contractor that is performing a contract awarded prior to October 1, 2017, to notify the DoD CIO of any requirements of NIST SP 800-171 that are not implemented at the time of contract award.

Keep in mind, the solicitation may require or allow elements of the system security plan, which documents the implementation of NIST SP 800-171, to be included with your technical proposal, and may be incorporated as part of the contract (e.g., via a Section H special contract requirement).

What is the role of the SSP and POA&M in contract formulation, administration, and source selection?

Chapter 3 of NIST SP 800-171, Revision 1, states that Federal agencies may consider the contractor’s system security plan and plans of action as critical inputs to an overall risk management decision to process, store, or transmit CUI on a system hosted by a nonfederal organization, and whether or not it is advisable to pursue an agreement or contract with the nonfederal organization.

DFARS Clause 252.204-7012 is not structured to require contractor implementation of NIST SP 800-171 as a mandatory evaluation factor in the source selection process, but the requiring activity is not precluded from using a company’s SSP and associated POA&Ms to evaluate the overall risk introduced by the state of the contractor’s internal information system or network.

The Director, Defense Pricing/Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy guidance for acquisition personnel provide the following examples of how the government may utilize the system security plan and associated plans of action:

  • Using proposal instructions and corresponding evaluation specifics (detailed in sections L and M of the solicitation as well as the Source Selection Plan) regarding how implementation of NIST SP 800-171 (and other applicable security measures) will be used by DoD to determine whether it is an acceptable or unacceptable risk to process, store, or transmit covered defense information on a system hosted by the offeror. The solicitation must notify the offeror whether and how its approach to protecting covered defense information and providing adequate security in accordance with DFARS 252.204-7012 will be evaluated in the solicitation.
  • Establishing compliance with DFARS 252.204-7012 as a separate technical evaluation factor and notifying the offeror that its approach to providing adequate security will be evaluated in the source selection process. The specifics of how the offeror’s implementation of NIST SP 800-171 will be evaluated must be detailed in Sections L and M of the solicitation as well as the Source Selection Plan.  If you are behind in implementing the required controls of NIST SP 800-171, are unsure of how to write your SSP and POA&M’s, or need expert help complying with the requirements, Contact CyberSheath at for immediate assistance.

As a small- or medium-sized business, you are faced with many challenges. How do you stay focused on your company’s core mission while scaling your organization’s infrastructure to accommodate growth and investing in the right technologies and solutions?

That’s where managed services come in. Instead of investing in the headcount, you can outsource key services to IT professionals focused on critical areas. Advantages of this approach include:

  • Consistent, known, and manageable costs with a good return on investment
  • Ability to leverage innovations and stay at the front of the technology curve
  • Improved security and peace of mind knowing experts are proactively handling issues
  • Internal team members can focus on strategic projects, furthering your company’s cause

How CyberSheath Can Help

You can rely on CyberSheath for your Managed Security Services or Governance, Risk, and Compliance needs. Partnering with other managed service providers while carving out our area of expertise means that you see no additional spend for licensing costs.

You need:CyberSheath offers:
A DFARS-compliant security management platform that monitors your cloud, hybrid cloud, and on-premises infrastructure to provide a unified approach to threat detection and compliance management

Needs to satisfy: NIST 800-171 Rev. 1 Requirements defined in sections 3.3.1, 3.3.4, 3.3.5, 3.3.6, and 3.3.8

Security Management Platform

  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) | Gathers and analyzes logs and event data from disparate security controls and devices across the network, and correlates them to identify related security events.
  • Vulnerability Management & Asset Discovery | Provides visibility into assets and user activity and identifies vulnerabilities across the environment.
  • Intrusion Detection System | Detects intrusions and monitors behavior to track events and establish a benchmark for normal conduct.
  • Threat Intelligence | Implements correlation rules, IDS signatures, vulnerability detection rules, and IP reputation updates to ensure the security management platform is appropriately maintained and detecting current threats.
A DFARS compliant incident response monitoring program that will continuously monitor your environment for malicious outsider threats as well as malicious and non-malicious insider threats.

Needs to satisfy: NIST 800-171 Rev. 1 Requirements defined in sections 3.3.3, 3.6.1, 3.6.2, 3.14.3, 3.14.6, and 3.14.7

Incident Response Monitoring Managed Service

  • Comprehensively monitors and analyzes correlated alerts derived from log feeds of selected devices feeding into the SIEM solution. Monitoring will be provided by security experts to identify and respond to security threats.
  • Provides detailed notification and recommendation for containment, eradication, and recovery from security incidents as dictated in the organizational Incident Response Plan (IRP).
  • Creates, edits, and manages all details of the incident in a tracking solution until incident closure.
  • Tracks metrics for incident occurrences, time to resolution, and other critical measurements of the IRP.
  • Provides updates and improvements to the IRP based on after-action reports and lessons learned.
An identification and authentication service that complies with the DFARS security requirements for multi-factor authentication

Needs to satisfy: NIST 800-171 Rev. 1 Requirements defined in sections 3.5.3, 3.5.5, and 3.7.5

Multifactor Authentication (MFA) Managed Service

  • Secures access to accounts by offering a layered approach to security for your VPN, privileged accounts, and Covered Defense Information (CDI) systems.
  • Work with stakeholders and end-users to test the validity of MFA solutions against the in-scope systems and defined use-cases.
  • Deployment of the capability to the in-scope users and systems.
  • Develop and deliver training material for all in-scope users who will be required to use the MFA solution.
  • Work to resolve any system irregularities or issues with the MFA solution.
A mobile device management service for mobile devices that complies with the DFARS security requirements for systems which store, process, or transmit CDI.

Needs to satisfy: NIST 800-171 Rev. 1 Requirements defined in sections 3.1.1, 3.1.8, 3.1.10, 3.1.18, 3.1.19, 3.8.6, 3.13.11, and 3.13.16

Mobile Device Management (MDM) Managed Service

  • Enforces security configuration and encryption for bring-your-own-device (BYOD) or company-provided mobile phones or tablets.
  • Work with stakeholders and end-users to test the capabilities of the mobile device management solution against the in-scope systems and defined use-cases.
  • Deployment of the capability to the in-scope users and systems.
  • Develop and deliver training material for all in-scope users.
  • Work with the organizations to administer the MDM solution as it relates to the provisioning and de-provisioning of mobile devices and users within the scoped environment.
An endpoint protection solution that complies with the DFARS security requirements for the protection of endpoints (client systems and servers) and removable media which store, process, or transmit CDI.

Needs to satisfy: NIST 800-171 Rev. 1 Requirements defined in sections 3.1.19, 3.8.6, 3.8.7, 3.13.11, 3.13.16, 3.14.2, 3.14.4, 3.14.5

Endpoint Protection Managed Service

  • Centralize management of anti-virus, anti-malware, and full disk encryption of the laptops, work stations, and servers.
  • Work with stakeholders and end-users to test the capabilities of the endpoint protection and encryption solutions against the in-scope systems.
  • Deployment of the capability to the in-scope users and systems.
  • Develop and deliver training material for all in-scope users who will be required to use the encryption solutions.
  • Work with the organization to administer the endpoint protection suite as it relates to the configuration and troubleshooting of systems within the scope environment.
A GRC program that enables the organization to track and maintain DFARS compliance after all remediation efforts have been completed

Needs to satisfy: NIST 800-171 Rev. 1 Requirements defined in sections 3.2.1, 3.2.2, 3.2.3, 3.4.1, 3.6.2, 3.12.3, 3.12.1, 3.12.3

Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) Managed Service

  • Provides and maintains a repository of assets, threats, and pre-mapped controls, and assigns controls based on role throughout the organization.
  • Manages policy based on your organization’s unique risk profile, regulatory requirements, and best practice needs.
  • Inventories, tracks and manages of all vendor and service provider assessment activities.
  • Manages training with web-based information security awareness training in-line with DFARS security requirements.
  • Provides audit management with a streamlined verification process of IT security controls through defined audit workflows.
  • Identifies, tracks, and manages regulatory changes to ensure your organization maintains a state of compliance.

You can rely on CyberSheath to provide quality managed services for your IT security needs. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your organization.

As a subcontractor on a Department of Defense contract, you have likely had flow down requirements from your primes related to DFARS clause 252.204-7012, commonly referred to as NIST 800-171. Many subcontractors, as they scramble to secure their infrastructure to be in compliance before the December 2017 DFARS deadline, are also asking, “When should DFARS clause 252.204-7012 flow down to our subcontractors?”

To help you answer that question, here are some basics related to DFARS clause 252.204-7012: Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting (effective October 21, 2016) and NIST 800-171.

The Basics of DFARS Clause 252.204-7012

This clause is required in all contracts except for those contracts solely for the acquisition of COTS items. It requires contractors and subcontractors to:

  1. Safeguard covered defense information (CDI) that is resident on or transiting through a contractor’s internal information system or network.
  2. Report cyber incidents that affect covered defense information or that impact the contractor’s ability to perform requirements designated as operationally critical support.
  3. Submit malicious software discovered and isolated in connection with a reported cyber incident to the DoD Cyber Crime Center.
  4. If requested, submit media and additional information for damage assessment.

What is Covered Defense Information (CDI)?

This term is used to identify information that requires protection under DFARS Clause 252.204-7012. Covered defense information is unclassified controlled technical information (CTI) or other information as described in the controlled unclassified information (CUI) Registry that requires safeguarding or dissemination controls*, and is either:

  • Marked or otherwise identified in the contract, task order, or delivery order and provided to the contractor by or on behalf of DoD, in support of the performance of the contract or
  • Collected, developed, received, transmitted, used, or stored by or on behalf of the contractor, in support of the performance of the contract.

* Pursuant to and consistent with law, regulations, and Government-wide policies

Does DFARS clause 252.204-7012 flow down to subcontractors?

The clause impacts subcontractors when performance will involve operationally critical support or CDI. You should determine in consultation with your contracting officer if necessary if the information required for subcontractor performance is or retains its identify as CDI, and requires safeguarding or dissemination controls. Flowdown is to be enforced by the prime contractor. If a subcontractor does not agree to comply with the clause, CDI should not be on that subcontractor’s information system.

What does DFARS Clause 252.204-7012 require?

Simply stated, this DFARS clause mandates adequate security. The contractor shall provide sufficient security on all covered contractor information systems. To provide satisfactory security for covered contractor information systems that are not part of an IT service or system operated on behalf of the Government, at a minimum, the contractor must implement NIST SP 800-171, as soon as practical, but no later than December 31, 2017.

What is NIST SP 800-171?

This standard:

  • Enables contractors to comply using systems and practices likely already in place.
  • Significantly reduces unnecessary specificity, as requirements are performance-based, and more easily applied to existing systems.
  • Provides a standardized, uniform set of requirements for all CUI security needs.
  • Allows non-federal organizations to consistently implement safeguards for the protection of CUI (i.e., one CUI solution for all customers).
  • Allows contractors to implement alternative, but equally effective, security measures to satisfy CUI security requirements.

If you are struggling with interpreting these requirements or need help implementing the security controls, CyberSheath can help you determine a path forward for achieving compliance ahead of the December deadline by conducting a gap assessment of your compliance with NIST 800-171, writing the required System Security Plan (SSP) and leading your remediation efforts.

There are less than 100 days left until the mandatory compliance deadline for implementing the DFARS required controls of NIST 800-171. Is your organization ready?

If you have been focusing on other strategic business initiatives and have not yet dedicated resources to NIST 800-171 compliance, you still have time. It will take a lot of work, but your organization can have a documented plan in place to guide your efforts and make material gains towards compliance this quarter.

Month-by-Month DFARS Compliance Guide

To remain competitive in your pursuit of new contracts with the Department of Defense, you should:

  1. Assess your current state and create an implementation plan for your needed controls.
  2. Formulate a DFARS-required System Security Plan (SSP).
  3. Achieve DFARS compliance.

Here’s how to accomplish that by the end of 2017.


  • Conduct security assessment – You might be tempted to save time and skip this step – but don’t assume that you already know what work needs to be done. Execute an internally or externally-led gap assessment against the fourteen families of controls in NIST 800-171. Document your compliance with each family of controls. Be sure to record the people, processes, technologies, and related artifacts involved and demonstrate that your security program is implementing the required controls as a part of your day-to-day operations.
  • Unsure of how to proceed? Work with a vendor – If you are struggling with the interpretation of the controls, enlist the help of a skilled outside party to execute the gap assessment.
    • Find a vendor – Look for a services provider with specific NIST 800-171 experience, both assessing compliance and implementing remediation programs to achieve compliance. Get references and make the vendor provide proof of past success in helping defense contractors achieve compliance. Query the vendor about the deliverable from the assessment and be clear that you are looking for more than best practice recommendations – you require information specific to your internal operations.
    • Leverage the third-party vendor to engage your executive team – Have your vendor work with your executives and get answers to the inevitable questions around DFARS compliance. You probably have already had a talented team that has been briefing NIST 800-171 internally for some time. Often the same message from a trusted third party with past experience can jumpstart the conversation at the executive level and secure the support your team needs.

November and December

  • Create a project plan and start implementing controls – Using the results of your gap assessment, create a project plan and start implementing controls that don’t currently exist in your organization and remediating the ones that fall short of meeting the requirements.
  • Be proactive in engaging procurement – If you have to purchase tools or engage a third party to assist in remediation, make sure that your purchasing is streamlined. With less than 100 days left there is little time for delays related to procurement processing. Ideally, you will have already spent time to get executive buy-in on this effort and have created the required sense of urgency around meeting the December compliance deadline.
  • Start writing your SSP – In parallel to your remediation efforts, start writing your SSP. It’s a requirement of compliance – and it will force you to be strategic about long-term compliance and not get lost in the tactical details of getting specific controls implemented before December. Your SSP should be a true reflection of your NIST 800-171 compliance program. You should plan to review and update this document annually.

CyberSheath is skilled at performing security assessments, creating remediation plans, writing SSPs, and most importantly actually implementing the required controls. If you need assistance achieving DFARS compliance before the deadline, Contact Us today.

What do you and your security team need to successfully improve privileged access controls? The first blog in this series offered direction on making the core decisions that power your overall strategy. Next we recommended ways to engage stakeholders across your organization. Now it’s time to provide guidance on the team, techniques, and tools you’ll need to drive this initiative.

Here’s What You Need to Get It Done

  1. Realistic expectations

Make sure you go into your privilege account management (PAM) deployment with a clear view of the process and its impacts on your organization. It is common to scope the initial “quick win” phases to be completed in a matter of weeks, in order to gain traction and prove the value of the initiative. From there, the initiative is often launched with a phased approach. Rolling-out better-privileged access controls across an enterprise can typically be a year to multi-year effort. Your organization can expect to see results in terms of risk reduction almost immediately after deploying improved controls around the first set of accounts.

During implementation, there will be some temporary disruption to business processes. Post-deployment, business processes are often sped up. If well-planned, improving privileged access controls can provide benefits such as increased efficiency, fewer user errors, increased uptime, and easier troubleshooting. After the initial deployment, an ongoing effort will be required to ensure that privileged access controls keep up with changes in the environment.

  1. The right people with the right skillsets

PAM deployments can be fairly complex to deploy and maintain. Solutions typically touch multiple IT domains (Windows, Unix, databases, network devices, etc.) and require a broad set of skills from basic troubleshooting to creating custom scripts and code. This typically requires at least two dedicated engineering resources, a project manager, a service owner, and some engagement from professional services.

Required skillsets include:

  • Technical/design – Members of the security team must be skilled in handling technical issues, and questions and any arguments that might arise. Areas of expertise should include:
    • The infrastructure used in the organization
    • Platforms such as Microsoft Windows and Linux
    • Applications and databases
    • Application development practices with respect to permissions
    • Privileged account security controls
    • Security control design
    • Processes around technology service management
  • Security governance and risk – The team should be able to help business and IT leaders make governance and risk decisions and guide the optimization of policies and processes. This requires a thorough understanding of business operations and goals. Knowledge of identity and access management (IAM) and account provisioning and maintenance practices are also important aspects.
  • Project management – A large-scale privileged access security initiative requires methodical planning and has many moving parts. You will need people with strong project management skills on the team to keep all of the various stakeholder groups aligned and focused on what needs to be done and to make sure it happens.
  • Soft skills – The security team will need people with diplomatic skills and an aptitude for negotiation, politics, and communication. Members of the team need to be able to explain why new processes need to be followed and be competent at listening to stakeholders and taking their concerns into consideration.
  1. Measurable and meaningful metrics

Your PAM deployment needs to deliver results and measurable outcomes. Metrics are valuable to illustrate the need for better controls, measure improvements, and demonstrate the value of the program.
Use metrics to:

  • Test effectiveness of controls – Through penetration tests, measure the potential vulnerabilities of credentials and show how vulnerabilities have been reduced after implementing improvements. Test how long it would take for an attacker to get control of domain admin accounts.
  • Show when to make course corrections – Measure access violations before and after implementing control changes. Be prepared to rework controls if expected results are not materializing.
  • Gauge the effect of controls on efficiency – Calculate the amount of time admins are spending on tedious tasks, such as resetting passwords.
  • Measure how the controls impact system availability – Applications with embedded credentials must periodically go through scheduled downtime so credentials can be changed. Take note of the amount of downtime required. Admin errors can inadvertently bring down a system. Compare the time required to recover from an outage before and after implementing control changes.
  • Assess impact on application performance – Test application performance and functionality before and after removing embedded passwords from applications.
  1. A plan with milestones

After identifying priorities, you’ll need to further break down the identified priority areas into phases. Here is one approach to how to phase your PAM deployment.

  • Phase 0: Installation and basic configuration of the PAM solution
  • Phase 1: Built-in accounts – Identify and onboard built-in accounts and enable password rotation on the accounts.
  • Phase 2: Domain admins and individual account privilege revocation – Address the onboarding of domain admin accounts into CyberArk. Isolate and monitor sessions of Tier 0 assets. Remove or minimize any local server privileged accounts or users that have been added to the “Administrators” group on local servers, with the exception of any that are required for service accounts. Create a process to do this as an ongoing process.
  • Phase 3: Databases, exchange admins and Tier 1 session isolation – Isolate and monitor Tier 1 assets. Onboard any privileged database and exchange admin accounts you may have.
  • Phase 4: Network devices, business apps, security systems, legacy systems – Identify any onboard network devices, business apps, and various security appliances. Use Privilege Session Management and the PAM’s MFA capability to protect privileged account access to legacy systems.
  • Phase 5: Service accounts – Identify and begin addressing the management of service and App IDs.
  • Phase 6: Desktop least privileged model and whitelisting of apps (OPM/EPM) – Allow only certain users to elevate their permissions. Limit which apps and commands can be run by which users.
  • Phase 7: Corporate accounts – Protect corporate communication and external financial systems accounts and other accounts. Use privilege session management to allow users to use these accounts without revealing the password.

Keep your momentum. Implementing more advanced controls across a large enterprise often requires a certain persistence and fortitude. A common reporting model is a weekly status meeting for the project team and a monthly review by an executive steering committee.

  1. The Right Tools

Start by understanding your strategic goals and formulating your approach, then find tools that will help achieve those goals. Take the time to select privileged account security and management tools that support your specific security and enterprise requirements. Adopt processes to get the most out of tools and to help you stay on track. Some technology features that are especially important include the ability to:

  • Securely store credentials in an encrypted vault
  • Create a single sign-on environment
  • Uniquely identify users and restrict their use of privileged accounts
  • Limit the length of privileged sessions for a user or application
  • Centrally monitor and record the use of privileged accounts
  • Automate password changes to run on schedule or trigger when an employee leaves the organization
  • Scale and meet performance demands in a large enterprise environment
  • Integrate with the organization’s infrastructure, applications, and other security technologies

Other key tools and technologies that can be helpful include:

  • Enhanced monitoring and alerting systems such as Security Information and Event Management systems (SIEM) and Security Analytics/Big Data Platforms
  • Technology for two-factor authentication to be used for remote access, third parties, and infrastructure administrators who have root or domain admin privileges

The theft of privileged credentials and privilege escalation are key stages in most successful cyber attacks. Today’s threat environment is prompting many enterprises to address the gaps in their security program to better protect privileged credentials. It requires a strong combination of technical and soft skills, a methodical project plan, appropriate tools, and persistence.

CyberSheath has helped implement comprehensive enterprise-wide initiatives in privileged account security. We work with over 50 organizations ranging from the largest financial, healthcare, and development firms with thousands of users to new implementations at organizations with only a handful of IT users. Contact us to get your PAM initiative started.

In less than five months your organization needs to be DFARS NIST 800-171 compliant. If you have already formulated a remediation plan to help you address your deficiencies, continue working through your prioritized roadmap to meet the compliance deadline. If you haven’t yet begun planning, get started today. Don’t jeopardize your ability to secure and execute DoD contracts by being non-compliant.

Three Areas to Focus on as You Craft Your Compliance Roadmap

After you’ve assessed your organization against the 110 security controls in NIST 800-171, you’ll need to build a plan to address your compliance gaps. An effective plan will have components that address these three areas.

  1. Multi-Factor authentication
    • What it is: Multi-Factor authentication (MFA) is a security measure where more than one method of authentication from independent categories of credentials is required to verify the user’s identity for a login or other transaction. It is an important component of any security plan as increasing authentication from a single factor greatly improves the security of your systems.
    • What you need to do: Procure an identification and authentication service that complies with the DFARS security requirements. Make sure the MFA solution is scoped and implemented to address the unique requirements of your environment. Also, work with stakeholders and end-users to conduct use-case and validity testing. Integrate with your authentication management processes to administer the user lifecycle. Make sure you have access to training, maintenance, and support of your solution.
  1. Privileged Account Management
    • What it is: Privileged account management (PAM) is managing and auditing account and data access by privileged users, who are individuals with administrative access to critical systems. Better managing access to privileged accounts can help prevent cyber adversaries and rogue insiders from going after privileged credentials as a way to gain broad and undetected access to your information systems.
    • What you need to do: Ensure your PAM solution provides automated, monitored, and controlled privileged access. Elevate administrative access to avoid granting excessive access to privileged accounts. Require the verification of a ticket or an approval to ensure administrative access is only granted when it is required for a specific activity. Work with engineers who are well versed in fine-tuning the configuration of the PAM suite and who can provide technical expertise and customization for your unique project.
  1. Vulnerability Management
    • What it is: Vulnerability management is the cyclical practice of identifying, classifying, remediating, and mitigating vulnerabilities in your security infrastructure. It is important that your organization continually be monitoring for vulnerabilities to ensure you stay ahead of potential threats.
    • What you need to do: A DFARS compliant vulnerability management program will continuously assess your environment for vulnerabilities and patch compliance. Make sure your solution performs monthly vulnerability scans, as well as scans after any significant changes are made, of all your internal and public-facing systems. Also, ensure you receive a monthly report detailing new findings and findings from the previous month(s) which have yet to be remediated. Verify implementation of patches or workarounds for each fix with follow-up scans as needed.

Plan, Provision, and Outsource if Needed to Meet the December 31, 2017 Deadline

Determine what you can reasonably accomplish with your internal resources and what you need to outsource to meet the December deadline. Also, as part of your roadmap, make sure you plan for a post-compliance world where you need to maintain the controls you’ve implemented.

Regardless of where you are in your DFARS compliance process, time is of the essence. Continue your efforts or get started now – five months is not much time to affect the change mandated by NIST 800-171 compliance.

If you need support, contact us for a FREE consultation.

You’ve made the three decisions necessary to start building your privileged account management (PAM) plan. The next step is to build consensus and create stakeholder buy-in by having four pivotal conversations with key members of your executive, business process, and IT teams.

Who You Should Talk to – And What You Should Say

Executive Team – Lead with, “It’s time to make privileged account management a priority.”

Getting Ready & Intel

  • Secure buy-in from the top – The initial deployment will require senior leadership to understand the risks of unsecured privileged accounts, and just as importantly they will need to specify deadlines by which all privileged accounts need to be compliant. The prioritization of a successful PAM project will be driven from the top down. In addition to establishing accord with the CIO/CTO/CISO, It’s important that you have engagement with the compliance and financial executives.
  • Garner support to obtain budget and resources – Executive leadership can rally employees to make your PAM initiative an organizational priority, impart a sense of urgency and ownership across the organization, and prevent it from being derailed by minor issues.

Talking Points

  • Analysis of high-profile breaches – Describe how privileged access controls factored into particular breaches and relate it to your company’s own risk profile.
  • Penetration testing results – Assess how long it would take for a skilled adversary to compromise your organization’s privileged accounts. Show what assets an attacker can get to.
  • Benchmarking – Reference industry practices for securing privileged access.
  • Compliance requirements – Outline the privileged access regulations applicable to your organization.
  • Proof-of-concept results – Do a proof-of-concept in which you implement increased privileged account monitoring and report on the results.

Business and IT Process Owners – Lead with, “Let’s optimize how privileged credentials are used.”
Getting Ready & Intel

  • Emphasize teamwork and desire to increase task efficiency with initiative – Privileged accounts will be involved at some level in almost every critical business and IT process. For the most part, improving the security around privileged accounts will not deeply affect existing processes. Work closely with the owners of these processes to understand the underlying credential usage, and bring that knowledge into the design of controls and see opportunities to improve security, streamline tasks, and reduce errors.
  • Make business users allies – By helping leaders in business and IT to improve the security and efficiency of their processes, your security team can gain important allies. If prominent leaders in business and IT are champions of the initiative to improve privileged access controls, it can influence the privileged users within their groups.

Talking Points

  • Who needs elevated privileges and when – Review how privileges are used as an opportunity to reinforce the principle of least privilege.
  • Feasibility of restricting an account’s use of certain commands – Talk about automated privileged access technology and how granular restrictions can be enforced.
  • Risks and process change necessities – Balance the level of protection with the need to meet other business goals such as efficiency.
  • Principle of separation of duties for this process – Look for ways to redesign processes so that technology automatically enforces separation of duties.
  • Preventable error patterns – Talk about configuring controls to ensure certain steps require approval.
  • Applications in use – Uninstall applications with embedded credentials if the application is no longer used.
  • Session script requirements – Consider redesigning a script so that it requires shorter privileged sessions.

IT Admins and Other Privileged Users – Lead with, “We’re going to change privileged access procedures for the better.”

Getting Ready & Intel

  • Show empathy and challenge perceptions – Buy-in from IT Admins is essential for the success of your PAM initiative. The “default” view of IT administrators is that they could do their job better with unfettered access and freedom to choose their own tools. They may see any additional steps or restrictions as making their job harder and slowing them down.
  • Select security team spokesperson wisely – The team member that you put in charge of this type of conversation needs to articulate the threat and technical knowledge of the platforms and applications involved. If your security team doesn’t deal with objections at a detailed technical level, it’s possible that the process will be derailed.
  • Know that other privileged users are typically more accepting – Staff in non-IT roles who have privileged access – such as those who need to work with financial reports and bank accounts – tend to be more accepting of new controls.

Talking Points

  • Changes to workflow – Demonstrate that the PAM effort will streamline some tasks and make how they operate with credentials much more efficient .
  • Strong executive mandate – Discuss the importance of the initiative and persuade administrators to accept changes.

Developers – Lead with, “How can we better secure the use of privileged credentials in these apps?”

Getting Ready & Intel

  • Acknowledge that refactoring applications can be a challenge – Many applications, scripts, and configuration files include hardcoded privileged credentials. There are inherent difficulties in updating older code and platforms make it hard to operate with less than the highest possible permissions.

Talking Points

  • The right level of privilege for each application – Work together to determine the privilege rights for all your organization’s applications.
  • Understanding least and excessive privileges – Discuss the principle of least privilege. Help developers understand the consequences of excessive privileges.

Handling objections
Be prepared to manage objections that may emerge during deployment.

  • “You can’t take away those rights – I need them!” – Often you will need to convince people that the privileges they are losing are not necessary. Point out that the change protects them by reducing the risk that their accounts will be compromised.
  • “I tried it and it doesn’t work.” – As changes to controls are implemented, users may report problems. Proactively set up a process ahead of time for responding to concerns. Be responsive as people adopt new processes and technologies. Maximize usability of the control design.
  • “I don’t have time for this.” – When you encounter pushback, strong executive sponsorship of the initiative is extremely important. Focus on the value you bring to users and help them to see the benefits.
  • “This feels like Big Brother.”  – Administrators can be sensitive about increased monitoring. Reassure them and address governance issues such as what reports are run when and by whom.

Technical expertise and soft skills are needed to pull off these conversations. The third and final blog will expand on the skillsets you need to be successful and will explore some of the elements of an effective PAM deployment.

And if you’d like assistance from our team on how to have these conversations with your stakeholders, contact us. We’ll here to help.

With cyberattack headlines in the news each week, it’s more important than ever to do everything possible to safeguard your systems and data. One way to accomplish this to prevent the theft of highly privileged credentials. Better managing access to privileged accounts can help prevent cyber adversaries and rogue insiders from going after privileged credentials as a way to gain broad and undetected access to your information systems.

How do you improve your privileged account management?

This blog is the first in a series of three articles where we walk you through decisions you need to make to power your strategy, conversations you should have to create stakeholder buy-in, and resources you require to launch your privileged access initiative. Let’s start by discussing the core decisions your organization needs to make at the outset of the process.

  1. What should you do and when? You need to prioritize what accounts require better protection and be aware of when to make changes. A focus on privileged accounts must be done within the context of your overall security strategy and weighed against other goals. Be aware that if privileged credentials are not properly secured, other controls meant to protect the infrastructure could be rendered ineffective.
    • Conduct an initial “baseline” discovery of privileged accounts. Before beginning privileged account management (PAM) deployment, perform an initial discovery of the privileged accounts in your environment. Using a tool such as “DNA” from CyberArk can give you valuable insight into the types of accounts that exist at your organization. Having a good baseline report will help you create a phased approach to securing the privileged accounts.
    • Evaluate risks and prioritize implementation. Determining order of priority requires identifying which accounts represent the biggest risks. Focus on accounts that provide elevated access to the organization’s most critical systems and build your PAM plans from there. Engage the compliance department early, to understand the requirements behind reporting and various security controls.
    • Plan the timing and rollout of your PAM project. Once you’ve conducted a discovery, you may be in for a surprise as to just how many privileged accounts you have. Given the scope and reach of the project, it will make sense to adopt a phased approach. Deploy at least a limited proof-of-concept demo to help you identify any immediate limitation in the vendor’s platform that may require custom development for your organization. We’ll be discussing how to plan your rollout in further detail in the third blog in this series – so stay tuned for that valuable information.
  1. What’s the best mix of controls? There are many options for how to proceed. The right approach for your organization requires intelligently deploying the most effective controls for each privileged account access use case.
    • Take a layered approach. Reducing the risks around privileged accounts requires a layering of preventive and detective controls. Preventive controls can help stop the unauthorized activity. Detective controls can help to discover it when it occurs, either maliciously or by mistake before any significant damage occurs and/or provide an audit trail and accountability.
    • Use detective controls to avoid over-limiting access. The use of detective controls can often help in achieving the balance between enabling and restricting access. Rather than putting in place preventive controls that may be overly restrictive, in some cases, a better approach would be less restrictive access that is carefully monitored for any violations. Detective controls are especially important in cases where increasing restrictions is simply not feasible.
    • Secure credentials used by applications and scripts. Credentials used by applications and scripts often need better security controls. If possible, applications should meet the following requirements:
      • The credentials for the account should be stored securely.
      • The account password or SSH key should be changed regularly.
      • The application should be designed using the principle of least privilege.
    • Use compensating controls for embedded credentials. For applications that cannot be refactored right away, compensating controls might be appropriate such as:
      • Configure the account to be non-interactive and unusable for logging on.
      • Increase monitoring on the accounts.
      • Use analytics to detect possible misuse of an application’s account.
  1. How much is enough? Controls should provide better security without encumbering business processes.
    • Make sure you select a PAM solution that will scale with our business. Pick a vendor that can scale with your organization. A PAM solution may become the cornerstone of your company’s security posture, eventually requiring all IT personnel to engage with it. A great PAM solution will have SDK (Software Development Kits) and APIs (Application Program Interfaces) so that you can extend your investment into the platform to meet the complex requirements of tomorrow.
    • Seek a win-win situation. Security and usability need not always be in conflict. Unlike many other types of security controls, better processes and technologies for privileged access management can offer the business improved productivity and user satisfaction.

In our next blog, we’ll cover the four pivotal conversations you need to have with your stakeholders to help your project succeed.

If you’d like assistance launching a PAM project to help secure your enterprise, contact us. We’ve got the experience and expertise to help build you a solution to meet your privileged account access needs. Contact CyberSheath today! 


Major data breaches and an always evolving cybersecurity threat and fraud landscape mean that the financial sector is under constant pressure to keep customer and corporate data safe from hackers.

Last year saw the biggest data breach in UK history with over 20,000 Tesco Bank customers losing money from their accounts. Also in 2016, hackers used hijacked privileged credentials to steal $81 million from vulnerable customer accounts at The Bangladesh Central Bank.

It’s a tough cybersecurity landscape out there – and financial institutions need to stay ahead of hackers. Cybersecurity leaders recently gathered at the SWIFT Business Forum in London to discuss the challenges faced by banks including:

  • Changes in targets and tactics – JF Legault, cybersecurity global head at JP Morgan, spoke about the changing nature of cybersecurity threats stating, “We saw the advent of malware targeting wholesale banking platforms. Criminals stopped going after simple, low-value monetary amounts and shifted to high-value payment platforms. The reason they did that was a lot more yield on the crime(s) they committed. We also saw a shift toward business email compromise… [and] a high number of breaches affecting the financial sector that led to fraudulent messages.”
  • False positives – Banks are wasting valuable time flagging activities in the anti-money laundering monitoring systems that are not actually fraudulent. These “false positives” take time away from strategic activities. Anthony Fenwick, global head of treasury and trade solutions and AML compliance at Citi Group, pointed out, “Our biggest problem in this industry is false positives…the use of electronics and AI have to go hand-in-hand with the best humans. The idea that we remove all human activity from this process misses the point of what we are trying to do.”
  • Insider threats – Regional vice-president for UK, Ireland, and Northern Europe at CyberArk, Matt Middleton-Leal, underlined that banks most fear attacks that hide behind insider privileges. “They allow cybercriminals to appear as legitimate users, giving them unprecedented freedom to work their way up to their most valuable financial assets.” Gottfried Leibbrandt, CEO at the financial messaging vendor SWIFT chimed in that, bank customers “will always be the weakest link, but at the same time the response should not be ‘let’s fix the weakest link’ but you have to take an end-to-end view.”
  • Consumer-friendly usability – According to Royce Curtin, managing director of global intelligence at Barclays, big breach is a huge concern, but that must be balanced with providing customers with solutions that want to use. “We work very hard and take very seriously the responsibility of building systems and trust for services that people feel comfortable using.”

How Banks Can Overcome These Issues

  • Improved communication – Better communication and intelligence sharing at financial institutions is a good first step toward building a more robust cybersecurity program.
  • Multiple-layered security – Concentrating on multiple-layered security also helps safeguard valuable bank information.
  • Actionable insights – Many banks are looking for intelligence that can be quickly turned into an effective response, especially when it comes to landscapes where breaches are more likely to occur. Create actionable intelligence inside the banks and publish it out. Take a strategic view and identify suspicious behaviors (i.e. here is a set of accounts and a volume of transactions that we should be mindful of) so that proper security alerts and timely, effective responses can be undertaken.

How CyberSheath Can Help

CyberSheath can help companies in the financial sector address many of these issues with security consulting services and expert guidance. We provide Privilege Account Management, which provides strong protection inside the perimeter, security assessments, and best practices recommendations based on experience solving security-related problems for major financial clients. Contact us for your FREE security assessment.

Achieving compliance with NIST 800-171 before the mandatory December 2017 deadline can look like a daunting task. With only 6 months left in the year, time is running out to understand, evaluate, and implement the more than 100 DFARS controls. Where do you start – and how do you efficiently deploy resources to ensure success?

Here are 4 Simple Steps to Assess, Implement, Measure, and Maintain Compliance

  1. Conduct a gap assessment of your current security program. Using a trusted third party or internal resources, perform a binary, pass/fail assessment and make sure results are supported by artifacts and technical validation. Taking a pass or fail approach to each required control ensures an honest assessment and efficient process. Countless vendors have “proprietary” assessment methodologies that are ultimately subjective marketing documents. The NIST 800-171 controls are either implemented or they aren’t. This approach saves you time and endless debate that doesn’t move the needle on compliance.
  2. Turn your gap analysis into a remediation plan. Review your assessment results and start the process of remediating non-compliant controls. The project plan should identify the people, processes, and products required for control implementation. Your plan should be a “project management 101” kind of document that gives you a realistic view of cost, schedule, and performance. If you have budget constraints, look for opportunities to implement manual processes until you can automate with tools. Be sure to account for the documentation of your policies and processes as part of the plan.
  3. Execute your plan. Run your implementation of NIST 800-171 like a project with dedicated internal or third party resources if the workload requires them. Track project progress weekly and keep management informed. Be sure that after a control is fully implemented you have a way to continuously measure compliance. Like any other regulatory mandate, DFARS compliance is an ongoing requirement and not a one-time effort. This monitoring can be done manually or with a GRC (Governance, Risk, and Compliance) tool like RSA Archer or TraceCSO. If you are budget-constrained, use Excel or SharePoint to get the job done.
  4. Maintain compliance across your enterprise. Implement dashboard views of near real-time compliance and a process for on-boarding new contracts with CUI/CDI (Controlled Unclassified Information/Covered Defense Information). Budget for and perform an annual assessment to validate your compliance.

The Bottom Line

NIST 800-171 is an effective cybersecurity hygiene guide for DoD contractors. Controls like multi-factor authentication and encryption are heavy lifts initially but relatively easy to maintain after implementation. The interpretation of the controls may seem intimidating, but the pragmatic approach laid out above will go a long way in helping you meet the December 2017 deadline.

Get started! It’s likely your team is already overburdened with other work and adding this to their plate with only 6 months of the year remaining won’t be easy. That’s why CyberSheath exists. We’ve helped dozens of global companies achieve compliance – and we can help your organization too. Contact CyberSheath today for a FREE consultation.

Chances are if you are involved in maintaining your organization’s cybersecurity, you’ve had more than a few sleepless nights after hearing the disastrous consequences of another entity’s breach. This story is no different.

DNS Hijack and Extremely Well-executed Spoofed Sites Fool Bank Customers

Earlier this month, the security firm Kaspersky detailed the wholesale takeover of a yet unnamed bank in Brazil. The attack itself was a quintessential DNS hijack where the attackers took over several of the bank’s domains. For a period of five hours, customers were directed by (the company that manages the bank’s DNS service and, incidentally, the domain registrar for the Brazilian top-level domain, .br) to spoofed versions of the bank’s legitimate sites. The spoofed sites were reportedly near perfect down to having their own valid SSL issued in the name of the bank.

Hackers Obtained SSL Certificate for Rogue Sites

After they could exercise control over the domain, the attackers applied for an SSL certificate from the non-profit certificate authority Let’s Encrypt. In an interview with, Josh Aas, founder of Let’s Encrypt, states that entities are issued certificates when they can properly demonstrate control of a domain – which in this case the attackers were able to do.

Per the Let’s Encrypt website (, the company only offers domain validation (DV) certificates which are sufficient for HTTPS. Kaspersky’s ThreatPost write-up of this incident revealed that the certificates were issued the day before the spoofed sites went live, suggesting that the attackers could exercise a level of control over the bank’s domains in the days leading up to the attack.

Countless Bank Customers Duped into Providing Account Details

These days, consumers are much savvier regarding how, when, and where they share their confidential information. With the HTTPS designation and the seemingly identical spoofed sites, a large number of bank customers were tricked into providing their account details on the spoofed sites.

How to Make it More Difficult for Attackers to Infiltrate Your Organization

There are several lessons to learn from this hack. First of all, it is important for organizations to work to stay ahead of hacker tactics. Perhaps if the bank in Brazil had followed the tips listed below, the bank and its customers would have been protected from a breach.

  1. Include external accounts in your privilege access management strategy. When identifying privileged accounts in your organization include internal accounts as well as external accounts that could pose a risk to your organization. Locking down internal root and administrator accounts is not sufficient. Privilege access management must include all accounts that provide elevated access or could impact your organization’s system or reputation, including those for your social media presence; or in the bank’s case, the organization’s DNS service provider. If the affected bank had included their account in their privileged access management solution, they may have been able to prevent this attack.
  2. Rotate passwords frequently both in your organization and with your personal accounts. Also, two-factor authentication should be used when possible. Had this bank rotated the password more frequently, there is the possibility they may have been able to protect themselves from this attack. If the password for their account at changed frequently, the attackers would have needed to compromise it each time.
  3. Get organization validation (OV) or extended validation (EV) certificates when appropriate for your organization. Certificates are not created equally. In this case Let’s Encrypt offers Domain Validation (DV) certificates, not OV or EV certificates. To the general public the nuanced difference between these is likely lost especially when their browser simply displays a site as “secure”, but the reality is theses certificates have significant differences. OV and EV certificates offering more validation and provide more trust.

Don’t let a hack happen to you. Contact Cybersheath to learn more about our recommendations for safeguarding your organization. Contact us today for a FREE consultation and we’ll make sure you have a strong cybersecurity defense strategy!





There’s a lot at stake right now with your company’s DFARS / NIST 800-171 compliance. What you do – or don’t do – in the next six months could impact your ability to secure and execute DoD contracts.

Is your company compliant with all 110 security controls in NIST 800-171?

As a supplier, chances are you’ve received a letter from one of your Prime’s asking if you are compliant with the DFARS mandate and reminding you of the compliance deadline of December 31, 2017. If your Prime uses Exostar as their sourcing and collaboration tool as the major Defense Contractors do, you will have to fill out a DFARS questionnaire before a PO can be issued for your part of the contract.

There are three ways to handle the situation:

  • Misrepresent the truth about your organization’s infrastructure security and answer the questionnaire in a knowingly untruthful way and claim compliance in the hopes that the truth is never discovered and that your firm is never flagged for a security audit.
  • Determine where you are non-compliant and develop a plan to become compliant by year’s end.
  • Write a letter to the DoD explaining where you are not compliant, and why.

Of these options, I think we can agree that the first is ill-advised, and the third is not a way to build trust and foster confidence in your firm. That leaves the second option – becoming compliant. How do you proceed?

What exactly is the DFARS mandate and why it’s important?

NIST Special Publication 800-171 Protecting Covered Defense Information in Nonfederal Systems and Organizations, otherwise known as DFARS (Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement), details the fourteen families of security requirements for protecting the confidentiality of Covered Defense Information (CDI). This document outlines each of the controls your firm needs to meet in order to be able to continue providing services and products to your Prime and ultimately to the DoD.

The fact is, the controls outlined in DFARS are security measures that your firm should already be implementing as part of maintaining good security hygiene. Each item on the checklist helps your firm safeguard important information and, ultimately, helps your firm protect the confidentiality of CDI.

What should you do to keep your current contracts?

Right now your firm is probably compliant with about half of the 110 controls within NIST 800-171. Chances are the areas your company is deficient in include:

  • SIEM (security information and event management)
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Applied encryption, both at rest and in-transit
  • Policies and written authentication for your security procedures and protocol

While addressing these deficiencies may seem onerous, it’s important to remember that becoming compliant is good for your company – and good for your bottom line. Perhaps you think you don’t have the resources, budget, or buy-in needed to move forward. Keep in mind that the path to compliance is the only viable option you have. Here is a plan on how to address and achieve DFARS compliance:

  • Get a security assessment to help you interpret what is required and if your company is in compliance with each of the 110 controls.
  • Create a plan to achieve compliance on all the items identified as deficient in your security assessment. Your remediation plan should solve for operational issues as well as protect covered defense information in a manner that demonstrably shows compliance. Note that remediation typically takes about 6 months – so you need to get started now.
  • Partner with a trusted, experienced company that:
    • Has truly walked a mile in your shoes and has experience implementing the controls required for DFARS compliance.
    • Tailors the control implementations to fit your reality and achieve compliance.
    • Understands the practical realities of implementing controls like multi-factor authentication in an operational environment on a limited budget.

CyberSheath uniquely understands the DFARS security requirements and can assist you with assessing compliance with these DoD mandated security requirements and creating a road map of how you can become compliant by December 31, 2017.

The clock is ticking. Get started on your DFARS compliance today.

Don’t scramble to do research to address your security shortcomings. Get your current security state assessed now and formulate a plan to become compliant – before your Primes come to hold you accountable to this new mandate.

Contact us today for a FREE consultation and we’ll make sure you have a strong cybersecurity defense strategy!

In December of 2016 the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) finalized the first revision to it’s Special Publication 800-171, Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) in Systems and Organizations. The updated document, NIST SP 800-171 Revision 1 is the new standard for which government contractors who store, transmit or process CUI, are required to comply with by the December 2017 deadline for compliance.

While many of the updates are verbiage changes to clarify the defined scope of the current controls, there are two major changes that need to be noted by those who are required to adhere to the regulation.

In the original 800-171 release, Control 3.1.19 specified the requirement to encrypt CUI on mobile devices. In the updated revision, the control is amended with the additional stipulation to include mobile computing platforms. Further, mobile devices and mobile platforms are more clearly defined to include smartphones, tablets, E-readers, and notebook computers. This additional specification is intended to remove any doubt as to the scope of the control. Encryption of mobile devices and mobile computing platforms is an instrumental step to help limit a data breach as these devices are often lost or stolen. If you are interested in additional information I have covered the importance and scope of the encryption of data at rest requirements required by the 800-171 in a previous blog post.

At the time of the original release, in June of 2015, NIST SP 800-171 was published with 14 Control Families which contained 109 security controls in total. The newly released revision publication has added just one control bringing the total number to 110. This added requirement is contained in the Security Assessment Control Family (3.12) and is defined as follows:

3.12.4-  Develop, document, and periodically update system security plans that describe system boundaries, system environments of operation, how security requirements are implemented, and the relationships with or connections to other systems.

Additionally, SP 800-171 Rev 1 notes there is no prescribed format or a specified level of detail for ‘system security plans’. However, organizations must ensure the required information in Control 3.12.4 is appropriately conveyed in the plans that are developed.

Aside from the requirement being imposed to have a formally documented security plan, having such a plan is a good indicator of the maturity of your organization’s overall security program. No matter how large or small your company is, it is important to have a plan to define the security of your information assets. The plan development process will help make you think more holistically about your organization’s security and will bring the many elements of your security model to one place. This will help provide the framework for keeping your company at the desired security level required by the 800-171.

It is important to understand the new control requires the following components in a security plan:

  • Documentation of its systems and environments of operation, including boundaries
  • Description of how security measures are implemented to satisfy the controls of the regulation
  • Definition of relationships with, and/or connections to other integrated systems

While these elements meet the minimum requirements for the new control, it is imperative to recognize this is only a baseline. A security program plan is never ‘done’ per se and should be a living document. The new control further reinforces that thought by requiring organizations to ‘periodically update’ the plan. This concept is also true for the 800-171 regulation itself, shown with the release of the current revision we are discussing. The ever-changing nature of the document ensures your organization is continuously adapting to the dynamic IT environment and the associated threats that we are faced with every day.

Does your organization need assistance becoming compliant with NIST SP 800-171 before the December 2017 DFARS compliance deadline? CyberSheath has the expertise to provide you with the specialized guidance you need and deliver industry-leading solutions. We have a specialized team of Cybersecurity Professionals with proven experience to guide and assist your business in achieving compliance.

Contact us today for a FREE consultation and we’ll make sure you have a strong cybersecurity defense strategy!

On Friday of last week, Europol reported that a worldwide attack using a piece of ransomware known as “WannaCry” hit more than 150 countries and infected at least 200,000 victims. Europol Director Rob Rainwright said that “the global reach [of the attack] is unprecedented. The attack appears to be targeting businesses and large corporations in the healthcare, financial and infrastructure sectors; these sectors have highly sensitive information ripe for a hostage.

Ransomware is malicious software, a virus, that has two purposes. The first is to encrypt the contents of a machines hard drive, preventing the user from accessing the information without entering a unique key or password. The second purpose is to act as a worm and spread to as many machines as possible. With a large footprint of infected machines, the attacker can then hold the data for ransom, promising to provide the password or key to decrypt the data once the ransom is paid in bitcoin (untraceable digital currency).

The WannaCry ransomware appears to exploit a vulnerability in the Microsoft XP operating system that was discovered as a result of the recent NSA tool dump. It’s unclear at this time whether the ransomware was developed by the NSA or just as the result of the NSA’s day one exploit stockpiling. Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith responded to the attack stating that it “provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem”. Smith continued his comment stating that “this most recent attack represents a completely unintended but disconcerting link between the two most serious forms of cybersecurity threats in the world today — nation-state action and organized criminal action.

While IT and Security teams have no doubt been working around the clock over the weekend to prevent the spread and manage the fallout, some key actions organizations should take in the immediate fallout are as follows:

  • Immediately backup important and sensitive data in case you are infected soon.
  • Update to the latest Microsoft security patches.
  • Update all anti-virus and conducting immediate scans.
  • Scan all inbound and outbound emails for malicious attachments.
  • Send out a companywide awareness email warning employees about the attack and to be cautious of scams and malicious emails.

Moving forward, organizations should consider a more proactive approach to dealing with ransomware as opposed to reactive. In August of last year, CyberSheath Security Engineers wrote about the rise of ransomware and how using sandboxing techniques in daily operations can be 100% effective against malware attacks when used in combination with least-privilege. Adding to defense in depth, implementing a privileged account management solution can be used to prevent ransomware from spreading to critical servers by securing privileged accounts, and in combination with isolating critical servers with a secure jump host such as CyberArk’s PSM, can be a highly effective combination in combating malicious threats.

Let the security professionals at CyberSheath help you become proactive, not reactive. You can learn more about our approach by viewing our Privileged Access Management service area or clicking the button below to download our detailed Privileged Access Management datasheet.

Last week’s global ransomware attack on unpatched computer systems, labeled a “cyber pandemic” by the Wall Street Journal, once again pointed out that basic cybersecurity defense is still being ignored. While not all breaches are preventable, most of the ones that make news headlines are. Below we’ll discuss what Board of Directors should be doing differently.

The current landscape of cyber defense is dominated by OEM’s pushing tools onto under-resourced security teams who don’t have a battle plan for success. It’s like going to Home Depot and buying all the tools and materials to build a house and architecting the build as you go. It’s expensive, inefficient and the ad-hoc nature of this approach is guaranteed to disappoint.

What is the Best Cybersecurity Defense Approach?

Cybersecurity defense should be approached like every other business problem where you develop a strategy that you can execute against and measure your success. Human Resources has a plan and supporting processes to manage and measure employee hiring, onboarding,  retention, and engagement. Finance has a plan and supporting processes to manage and measure revenue, profits, cash, orders and a host of business-relevant metrics. Cybersecurity should steal a page from these mature business supporting functions and develop the same. Pick a framework or control set (NIST 800-53, NIST Cybersecurity Framework, there are many to choose from, just pick one!) and identify, assess and manage your cybersecurity risk.

Why take this approach instead of following the marketing noise? For starters, organizations like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have no profit interest in your implementation of their work. Their publications are the result of years-long collaboration between the government and private sector and are continuously being reviewed and updated. NIST accurately summarizes the benefits of the Cybersecurity Framework in saying:

“Utilizing the Framework as a cybersecurity risk management tool, an organization can determine activities that are most important to critical service delivery and prioritize expenditures to maximize the impact of the investment.”

Surely any company utilizing this framework would have identified unpatched systems as critical service delivery and a priority in the operational execution of cybersecurity. As last weeks “cyber pandemic” proved, this isn’t the case.

Cybersecurity Added Benefits

An added benefit of managing your cybersecurity program against a defined framework or set of controls is the ability to explain to your Board or Executives your priorities and resource requirements. This demystifies cybersecurity and enables them to make informed business decisions rather than a decision to fund a specific tool. In-time decision making is transformed from tactical to strategic and allows the organization to take a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to cybersecurity.

Compliance requirements like SOC Type 1 and 2 reporting, DFARS, Sarbanes Oxley, HIPAA, and others can be integrated into your chosen framework to align and simplify management of cybersecurity compliance and operations. As practitioners well know, the scope of these compliance audits is often so narrow by design that it becomes an exercise to just ‘get through’ rather than a data point for holistic risk management.

If you are on a Board don’t accept a compliance audit, penetration test or vulnerability scan as evidence of cybersecurity effectiveness. Push for the implementation of a framework and give the accountable teams the resources to succeed.

Contact us today for a FREE consultation and we’ll make sure you have a strong cybersecurity defense strategy!

Thanksgiving Day is almost here and with it, our focus turns to our family, friends, food, and most importantly, football. As we celebrate one of our country’s most cherished traditions, we give thanks to health, wealth, good company, and of course, turkeys. However, this holiday season, we should recognize our nation’s involvement in cybersecurity and how much we’ve grown with it! Whether it be booking your flight home online, posting a picture of your Thanksgiving feast to Instagram or Facebook, streaming the big game, or FaceTiming your relatives that can’t be there in person, being online is a huge part of this and every day. I’d like to take a moment to share with you some news within our industry that we should be thankful for this year.

Automatic Threat Analysis and Response with New Technologies such as IBM’s Watson:

  • Watson, an artificially intelligent computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language, was developed by a research team working on IBM’s DeepQA (QA stands for question answering) project. It was named after IBM’s first CEO, Thomas J. Watson. Although it was initially designed to answer questions on the popular game show, Jeopardy, its development has opened several doors for cognitive computing. Cognitive security will change the game entirely for both federal and commercial organizations. Built upon existing security intelligence, it will help accelerate responses to threat and reduce the cost and complexity of managing cybercrime. Watson will help analysts find new, more efficient ways of managing security events and building your defenses by searching for solutions in a vast, ever-growing database of software vulnerabilities, countless research articles, and blogs. Cognitive systems bring the ability to spot anomalies and flawed logic and provide evidence-based reasoning — enabling analysts to weigh alternative outcomes and improve decision making. “Analysts will call on cognitive systems to augment or even automate their understanding of a threat — at depth, and with speed and scale, like never before” (IBM). Cognitive security is a tool that will continue to develop as it learns how the human brain functions and thus, security teams will be able to get better at preemptively protecting their networks from the threat with each new interaction.

Politically Driven Security:

  • It’s been a tough election season and it was frustrating for all citizens to see the country so divided over the two main candidates. One beneficial result from the media frenzy of the presidential election was the increase in visibility of issues within our nation’s cybersecurity. Members of both major political parties on Capitol Hill have emphasized the importance of building a forum for legislation change regarding cybersecurity. Senator Mark Warner (D-Va) and founder of Nextel, established the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, which launched just this past summer. The caucus aims to educate lawmakers by introducing them to cybersecurity experts and providing a means of studying cybersecurity’s effect on not only our national security but our economy as well. Warner said that he would work with the president-elect to continue efforts on legislation that would strengthen an organization’s data breach reporting as there is currently no federal legislation in place requiring data breach notification.

Building the Security Workforce:

  • National Science Foundation is funding programs like CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service, a “unique program designed to increase and strengthen the cadre of federal information assurance professionals that protect the government’s critical information infrastructure. This program provides scholarships that may fully fund the typical costs incurred by full-time students while attending a participating institution, including tuition and education and related fees. Additionally, participants receive stipends of $22,500 for undergraduate students and $34,000 for graduate students” (OPM). These programs are being used by over 65 large accredited universities across the United States and are helping to increase the visibility of the ever-expanding career field and build the federal workforce.
  • Mogul technology conglomerate Cisco Systems, Inc is also investing in cybersecurity centered educations, funding approximately $10 million into their Global Cybersecurity Scholarship program which hopes to increase the talent pool through services like free training, mentoring, and testing designed to aid students to achieve certifications and degrees.

These are just a few topics that are new to our ever-evolving industry. If you’d like to hear more about some of the latest and greatest in cybersecurity, our expert consultants at Cybersheath would love to hear from you. We leverage our security product experience, cutting-edge technology knowledge, and industry best practices to guide your organization through the complexities of cybersecurity implementation.

As most of you know, October heralds a variety of festive autumn events such as the epic return of the pumpkin spice everything, Halloween, and the beautiful transition of fall foliage. October also happens to be National Cyber Security Awareness Month, which provides us an opportunity to shed light on everyday dangers that we face in our vastly connected world. In addition to things that go bump in the night and the occasional monster in our closet, we face a constant threat to our online security in both our corporate and home atmospheres. Below are some tips (not tricks, we promise!), that we hope, will help make accessing the internet a little less frightening.

Don’t Overshare Your Candy

  • Become familiar with and frequently review the privacy settings of your social networking and mobile applications. We are all guilty of quickly scrolling through the privacy terms that require acknowledgment upon app installation. Take a minute to stop and read them! You might not be aware of just how much access to your personal information you are providing to the app.
  • As tempting as it is, don’t share personal details like birthdays, full family member names, and be wary of who you accept to connect with on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms. Often, users make weak passwords consisting of birthdates or family names and fall victim to cyber-attack when this information is shared on public forums. Don’t let it happen to you! Make strong, individual passwords across all online accounts.
    • Add further security to your logon sequence by enabling two-factor authentication. Hackers target user passwords and when one has been compromised, it is not always immediately recognizable. You can enable a seamless and cost-effective solution using a combination of something the user knows (PIN or password), something the user owns (mobile device, token), or something the user is (fingerprint, retina).

When Trick or Treating, Turn Your GPS Off

  • Be wary of having your mobile GPS enabled and from sharing where you are at all times (like checking in on FourSquare or Facebook). By sharing with your friends where you/what you’re doing every hour of the day, you run the risk of alerting potential thieves that you’re not home and you could also be enabling hackers to gain access to any location information that you share on social media.

Back-up Your Goodies

  • Perform regular or scheduled backups of your data to safely stored drives or a cloud platform.

Be Sure to Use the Best Costume Available when Transmitting Data, Encryption

  • Encryption is the process of encoding your data so it’s not decipherable by anyone other than authorized parties. Always encrypt personal information sent over the internet by using a secure network or website. You can tell if a website is encrypted by looking for the “https” and SSL lock symbol at the beginning of the URL.

Don’t Open Links or Attachments from Spooky Sources

  • Just like you should never take candy from strangers, you should never click on unknown links or attachments as you could easily fall victim to phishing and ransomware Careless clicking can lead to the automatic download and installation of malicious software, which might lead to the loss of your precious data (see #2).

Enable Anti-virus/spyware Software, Stop Bogeymen in Their Tracks

  • Daily anti-malware scanners can help detect and prevent active threats to your system. It can also aide in safe web browsing by alerting you when you attempt to access an untrusted website.

As previously discussed in the CyberSheath blog, government contractors who process, store or transmit Covered Defense Information (CDI) are required by DFARS 252.204-7008 to comply with the 14 control families of the NIST SP 800-171 by December 2017. The clause dictates the security requirements specified by DFARS 252.204-7012 for Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting. The intention of the directive is to ensure the safeguards implemented to protect CDI are consistent across nonfederal information systems as they relate to work contracted by the US government.

The regulation anticipates the addition of these controls is not intended to impose a burden by requiring additional systems or incurring additional expenses in order to acquire government contracts. Although the 800-171 is derived from FIPS 200 and NIST 800-53; the new control set is intended to remove the overhead of the controls specifically geared toward federal agencies. It was expected the majority of contractors would only need to implement and update policies in order to comply. While this may be valid for contractors who have a security baseline implemented that includes many components of the recommendations of FIPS 200 or NIST 800-53, it may not be true for all. Unfortunately for those that do not, this regulation may prove to be a challenging and expensive endeavor.

One of the direct requirements imposed by the 800-171 is the need for Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). This necessity applies to all privileged account access and users who access network resources where Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) exists, or CDI as defined by the DFARS clause. Additionally, this applies to any users who access the network remotely by means of remote access connections. These are described in the following ‘derived security requirements’ from both the ‘Identification and Authentication’ and ‘Maintenance’ control families of the NIST 800-171:

3.5.3   Use multifactor authentication for local and network access to privileged accounts and for network access to non-privileged accounts

3.7.5   Require multifactor authentication to establish nonlocal maintenance sessions via external network connections and terminate such connections when nonlocal maintenance is complete

This requirement should not come as a surprise to many. A significant and common attack vector exists when a user’s account is compromised and leveraged by a hacker who has successfully acquired that user’s password. This is even more detrimental when an account with enhanced privileges is compromised. Accounts which have been protected with multiple factors of authentication make hacking much more difficult. Research demonstrates amongst the majority of cyber-attacks, the weakest elements are users and their credentials. This was validated by Verizon’s’ 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR). The most recent DBIR states ‘63% of confirmed data breaches involved weak, default or stolen passwords’.

So you may ask, what exactly is Multi-Factor Authentication?

The NIST 800-171 describes MFA as:

The requirement of two or more different factors to achieve authentication. Factors include:

(i) something you know (e.g., password/PIN);

(ii) something you have (e.g., cryptographic identification device, token); or

(iii) something you are (e.g., biometric).

In layman’s terms, Multi-Factor Authentication is combining more than one method or factor of authentication to verify your identity. It is critical to understand the NIST 800-171 requires a minimum of two factors of authentication to meet the requirements the MFA controls. This is commonly referred to as Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). Therefore, the use of two different passwords does not constitute multiple factors since they are both ‘something you know’ and do not include a second-factor type.

The most common factor, albeit the weakest is ‘something you know’. This is generally the password or PIN that most associate with their user account when logging into their computer systems. Passwords are commonly weak, used across many systems and also reused often by users. It is important to note, once a password is compromised by an attacker it is often unknown to the user.

‘Something you have’ is the most commonly implemented second factor and is often in the form of a uniquely generated One-Time Passcode (OTP). These OTP’s can be provided by several different methods including hardware tokens or fobs, software applications such as on a smartphone, or even provided by a USB hardware device such as a Yubikey. While this factor is more secure than the first, it is still open to compromise by loss or theft of the medium which provides the OTP. It is imperative for users to safeguard these devices in order to maintain system integrity.

The third factor described is, ‘something you are’. This factor is considered by many to be most secure, but also the most difficult to manage on a large scale. This can be satisfied by several different biometric identifiers but most commonly with the user’s fingerprints. While this authentication method is the least open to compromise, ensuring the hardware being used is hardened against common biometric vulnerabilities such as the ‘Gummi-Bear Hack’ is critical.

As mentioned above, while adherence to the 800-171 was not intended to impose an additional financial burden to contractors who seek government contracts; the implementation of an MFA solution can prove to be costly. The major expenses incurred involve the cost of third party software to manage the additional authentication factor and also hardware if choosing to utilize a biometric factor or hardware tokens (hard tokens).  If supported by the solution, software tokens (soft tokens) can be a less expensive method of providing OTP’s by leveraging users existing mobile devices. This can prove to be a large scale project depending on the size of the organization and the availability of the current IT staff. Many organizations may need to seek third party consultants who are experts in the deployment in order to streamline the process which can incur additional costs over the investment of the initial solution.

Based on the investment required, it is imperative to perform due diligence when choosing an MFA solution. The products currently available on the market vary widely with their offerings so it is important to consider the following to determine what solution is the best fit for your organization:

  • What is the ease of use for the end-users?
  • What is the additional burden to support the solution for IT staff?
  • Does the solution offer any administrative bypass to allow logins for users who have lost their hardware token or smartphone?
  • Is the solution cloud-based or internally hosted on your network? If internal, is additional hardware needed?
  • What operating systems are supported?
    • Server and Desktops
      • Windows, Linux, Mac?
    • What deployment options does it support for client installation?
    • Does it integrate with your current firewall VPN solution?
    • What happens when your machine is not able to contact the authentication server?
      • Is the client software capable of validating locally or does it deny access?
      • Does it bypass the MFA altogether?
    • What types of authentication mechanisms are supported?
      • One-Time Passcodes
        • Hard Tokens
        • Soft Tokens – what mobile operating systems are supported? (Apple, Android, Microsoft)
      • Push verification to a smartphone app
      • Biometric
    • What is the cost of ownership?
      • One-time purchase
      • Monthly based on user count

It soon becomes obvious that there is a lot to consider when choosing the best Multi-Factor Authentication solution for your business. It is important to realize the ‘true cost’ of implementation. This value factors in the cost of the system and of the resources required to successfully implement and support the solution across your firm. Following the saying, ‘Do it once and do it right’ it is a good idea with the deployment of this nature and could save you profusely in cost and resources invested.

Does your organization need assistance choosing and implementing the right solutions to become compliant before the December 2017 DFARS compliance deadline? CyberSheath has the expertise to provide you with leading solutions and give you the guidance you need. We have a specialized team of Cybersecurity Professionals who have proven industry experience to guide and assist your business in achieving compliance.

The common barrage of cyber attacks and breaches in the news has given the world a much-needed boost in awareness around the risks and best practices related to cybersecurity. However, an annual study commissioned by CyberArk uncovered that despite this increase in awareness, bad security habits still persist. Here are some highlights from the study and what we should learn from them.

There is a Wide Gap Between “Awareness” and “Preparedness”

Out of the 740 global IT and IT Security decision-makers surveyed in the annual study, 79% stated their organization has learned lessons from major cyber attacks and 82% of professionals believe the security industry, in general, is making progress against cyber attacks. The number of professionals that believe their company’s leadership provides sound cybersecurity direction is now up to 67% from last year’s findings of 57%.

The study uncovered the increased awareness is not leading to equally increased security. Organizations are often undermining their own efforts by failing to enforce now well-known security best practices. For example, nearly every organization surveyed (95%) has a cybersecurity emergency response plan of some kind, but only 45% communicate and regularly test their plan. Possibly most concerning, 40% of organizations still store privileged passwords in a Microsoft Word document or spreadsheet, while another 28% are using a shared server or flash drive.

Risks from Overconfidence

75% of IT decision-makers now believe they can prevent attackers from breaching their internal network, which is up from just 44% last year. Despite that confidence, 36% believe an attacker is currently on their network or has been in the last 12 months while 46% believe their organization has been the victim of a ransomware attack in the last two years.

In the most recent Data Breach Investigations Report from Verizon, the top 10 known vulnerabilities accounted for 85% of successful exploits studied. Organizations are increasingly investing in cybersecurity technology, but too often they do not follow through with best practices to mitigate known risks. Also, executives must continue to focus on making cybersecurity best practices a part of organizational culture, rather than just a project or compliance checkbox.

Future Challenges

As organizations continue to rely more on resources in the cloud, there is also continued growing concern by IT professionals for the security of their customer’s information in the cloud. 60% of customers who use the cloud store customer data in it, but 57% who store information in the cloud are not completely confident in their cloud provider’s ability to protect their data.

The most catastrophic potential threat is considered to be an attack on financial systems that could cause disruption to global markets. A very close second is a concern for attacks causing massive utility damage, and then those affecting civil services such as healthcare and hospital services.

The study also asked for the specific tactics that IT professionals are most concerned about for the next 12 months. In order of highest concern first, they are: Distributed denial of service attacks (DDos), phishing, ransomware, privileged account exploitation, and perimeter breaches.

Does your organization share any of these concerns? Discuss leading solutions like the ones from CyberArk with innovative CyberSheath security professionals. Schedule a free consultation below.

Two-factor authentication is an immensely more secure option for securing your accounts than just using a password. The process has typically been as simple as putting in a spontaneously generated code that is provided to you via an app or SMS, in addition to your password. The extra time that it takes to fetch and type in the generated codes ensures that your account stays secure even if your password is compromised, offering an extra layer of account security. The extra time is also why astoundingly few people take advantage of two-factor authentication.

Introducing Google Prompt

Google just released Google Prompt, a new two-factor authentication method that allows you to give two-factor authentication security to your Google account with a mere tap on your personal device. There is no more need to generate and enter extra numbers or letters. When logging into your Google account, simply enter your password as usual and then you will see a prompt on your personal device. Tap approve and you will be logged in. Simple and strong security for your account.

It is important to note that this solution requires that your device be connected to the internet. Other cloud-based identity providers, such as OKTA, also have similar solutions for enterprise customers with options such as “mobile push authentication”.



How to Enable Google Prompt

Before enabling Google Prompt, you will need to enable Two-factor authentication for your Google account. If you already have Two-factor authentication enabled for your account, you can skip to the next step.

Enable Two-factor Authentication:

  1. Go to the 2-Step Verification page. You might have to sign in to your Google Account.
  2. In the “2-Step Verification” box on the right, select Start setup and enter your password again.
  3. Now provide your phone number you want to use for authenticating, and choose either an SMS or phone call for verification, and click on ‘Try it.’
  4. Enter the 6-digit code from the SMS or phone call and select ‘Next.’
  5. For setting up two-step verification, click ‘Turn ON.’

Enable Google Prompt:

Google Prompt uses the Google Search app on iOS devices or the built-in Google Play app on Android devices. If you have an iOS device, start by downloading the Google Search app and sign into it with your Google account, if needed. If you have an Android device, you can simply update your Google Play app.

Once you have the latest Google Search app (for iOS) or Google Play app (for Android),

  1. On the 2-Step Verification page, select the option for ‘Google Prompt.’
  2. Select the device you’d like to enable
  3. Select ‘Try it.’ (Check out Google’s Help Center for more detailed information)




Google Prompt is now enabled, giving you simple to use and strong security for your account.

Happy authenticating.

(ISC)2 recently released a report based on the survey results of a targeted pool of executive-level government officials and contractors with the goal of reporting on the state of cybersecurity in the Federal Government. The individuals surveyed are accountable for enterprise-wide security and the key findings from the report paint a rather bleak picture for the federal workspace. While some federal entities protect their assets better than others, it’s hard not to feel like cybersecurity is still consistently put on the back burner when budgets get tight and hard decisions have to be made.

A positive aspect that (ISC)2 notes is that with all the media coverage, which isn’t enough if you ask my opinion, organizations may finally be realizing its not ‘if’ but ‘when’ you have a breach. I’m not completely convinced as we’ve talked with numerous companies that ‘just don’t think they’re that important’ to be victims of cyber-attacks, but any progress is better than none. That, however, just about wraps up the positive aspects of the report as the rest of the results are much more worrisome. Below are a few I’d like to highlight:

  • Only 67% believe their agency can appropriately respond to a cyber incident.
  • 59% believe their agency struggles to understand how cyber attackers could potentially breach their systems.
  • 40% are unaware of where their key assets are located.
  • 40% believe their incident response plan is not effective in responding to cyberattacks.

Given the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th bullets, I was actually surprised to see that 67% believed they could appropriately respond to a cyber incident. With almost 2/3rds of the respondents believing they struggle to understand how their systems could be breached and 40% unaware of where their key assets are, I’m not convinced that a majority of the respondents could effectively and efficiently detect, scope, contain, and remediate an incident. Incidents are more than likely run like a fire drill, with all participants just hoping the place doesn’t burn to the ground.

While the (ISC)2 report focuses on the federal government, our work in the private sector, unfortunately, doesn’t leave me to believe they’re any better off. The heavy hitters tend to do a decent job, or at least have the budget to try, but security practices, in general, are abysmal. The latest DFARS requirements and looming December 2017 deadline have at least got these organizations discussing security, though not always in a positive light. Most of these organizations still struggle with the ‘how’ and the overall ‘why’, but the fact it has to be done is no longer up for debate.

Regardless of whether it’s the private or public sector, I think the statistics are probably pretty similar and speak for themselves. Security can’t be an afterthought.

On July 26, the Obama administration released a framework for incident handling around cyber-attacks.  The framework is part of the Presidential Policy Directive on United States Cyber Incident Coordination and action plan that was released in February of this year.  It provides a clear standard of when and how government agencies will handle cyber security incidents. Included in the directive is a new color-coded scale that assigns specific colors and response levels to the danger of a cyber-attack.


The intent of the color-coded scale and directive will ensure that the agencies that are responsible for handling cybersecurity, respond to incidents and threats with the “same level of urgency and investment.”  The scale is broken out into different levels, each representing a severity.  Level 0 (White), is considered unsubstantiated, while level 5 (Black) is considered an emergency and the attack poses an imminent threat to the provision of wide-scale critical infrastructure services, national government stability, or to the lives of US persons.  An incident that ranks at level 3 or above is considered significant and triggers the coordination of the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.  Also, the organizations that are involved in the incident contribute to the response of the attack.

How will your organization be able to respond to a cyber-attack?  Let CyberSheath assess your capabilities so you can move your security program from a reactive to a proactive, well-defined security operation.

Cybersecurity has historically been viewed as something you HAVE to pay for, not want to. This way of thinking is outdated today. Highly successful organizations today understand that confidence in their cybersecurity is what enables them to grow boldly in today’s world. Confidence in cybersecurity as a foundation for success is still not often talked about at the executive leadership level. The following are three core values that today’s high-performing organizations understand:

Confidence in Cybersecurity Drives Business Value

Organizations with high levels of cybersecurity confidence grow, advance, and develop at a rate that outpaces the rest. Without confidence in the organization’s cybersecurity, the organization won’t have the confidence needed to take the risks associated with today’s opportunities. The safety features in a high-performance race car allow the driver to not only drive safely but to focus all of their energy on driving as quickly as possible. Confidence in the security measures in place allows people to perform at their best. When people are confident in their organization’s cybersecurity, they also are less likely to try to circumvent it and are more likely to adhere to safe security practices, minimizing risk for the organization.

A 2016 study from FireEye revealed hard data on the value of cybersecurity confidence outside the organization also:

  • 52 percent of consumers would consider paying more for the same products or services from a provider with better data security.
  • 76 percent of consumers would likely take their business elsewhere due to negligent data handling practices.
  • 72 percent of consumers will now share fewer personal details with companies.
  • 54 percent of consumers feel more negatively of organizations breached
  • 90 percent of consumers expect to be informed within 24 hours if their service provider had suffered a data breach which could have compromised their data.

The value created by cybersecurity confidence comes from both inside an organization with its own people and from outside with its customers and partners. The successful organizations of tomorrow already understand this today.

Cybersecurity is More Than Just Protection

The digital age continues to create new opportunities for growth at all levels of an organization. New technology brings greater efficiency, more innovation, and incredible possibilities not even dreamed of before. Cybersecurity is more to an organization than just protection; Cybersecurity is the foundation that makes advancing boldly and confidently in the digital age possible. Without a growth strategy with cybersecurity at its core, an organization will have trouble moving confidently and risks running off the rails.

The old way of thinking about cybersecurity as an add-on or a project to be marked as completed is a recipe for failure today. “Ninety-seven percent of Fortune 500 companies have been hacked, and likely the other 3% have too, they just don’t know it,” says Peter Singer – Director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at D.C. think tank Brookings Institution. High-performing organizations today do not view cybersecurity as mere protection; instead, they understand cybersecurity is the foundation for doing business in the modern world, and they define their vision for the future with confident cybersecurity foundation at its foundation. Anyone on a shaky foundation will be quickly left behind.

See how crucial industries are still very slow to evolve.

The  Key to an Organization’s Security is Its People

Many people are left uninspired by their organization’s attempts to provide them security training. In Cisco’s 2016 Annual Security Report, only 45% of people said they were confident in their organization’s cybersecurity defenses.  This is a huge loss for an organization. People who feel confident in an organization’s security are far more likely to pay attention to what they can do to improve it. Even more importantly, they are far more likely to trust an organization with their future.

Great people are at the center of having great security, and great security is an essential part of having great people. It’s important to share the whole story with your workforce and inspire them to join the organization’s view of security as a foundation – not as a side note to remind them to work around.

Read more about the challenge of security and risk training.

Low cybersecurity confidence costs an organization energy, innovation, and productivity. At the end of the day, it costs an organization growth and potential. For help efficiently and effectively gaining security confidence in your organization, schedule a free assessment with our experienced and innovative security professionals.

You may have heard all the buzz about Pokémon Go, Nintendo’s latest generation of games developed after the popular animated show from the 90’s, created as a mobile phone app. In people’s haste to download and install the latest and greatest, users are also falling victim to additional malicious apps disguised as tutorials or alternate versions of the game. As the app is only officially offered in the US, New Zealand, UK, and Australia, users in other countries are passing around Android Package Kit (APK) files in an attempt to play the game as well. However, users are required to “sideload” the app in order to download the APK which modifies their core Android security settings and allows their device to install applications from untrusted third-party sources.

Users have been cautioned against these illegal downloads as one of the popular APK files has been modified to install a backdoor known as DroidJack. DroidJack is a Remote Access Tool (RAT) that allows third parties to take remote control of a user’s device, record private conversations, read emails, browsing the history, and texts, and tracks the user’s physical location all without their knowledge. If a user has downloaded DroidJack on any device linked to their bank accounts, corporate/personal email, all that information is now available to untrusted third parties.

The threat of this malicious software is very real, as the security firm Proofpoint discovered the infected version of the app within 72 hours of the game’s launch in New Zealand and Australia on July 4th. To verify the version, malicious or not, of the app you have installed on your device, navigate to your Android device settings for Pokemon Go and scroll through the list of app permissions. If the version installed on your device has permission to directly call phone numbers, read/edit your SMS messages, record audio, read browser history, read/edit your contacts, read/edit call logs, and edit network connectivity, then you should wipe your device immediately. This is the only guaranteed method of removal from your device. Business leaders, especially those overseas, caution your employees about this application as the user base is not exclusive to any age group.

When working with CyberSheath, we will empower your organization against common threats such as these to effectively reduce risk through proper security and awareness training.

Business owners rely on internet connectivity for everything from business operations, productivity and collaboration services to maintaining customer relationships. Unfortunately, the reliance on internet connectivity and cloud services also increases the risks and enhances the exposure to the threat of cybercrime. In addition to stealing money by fraud and deception with things like ransomware, cybercriminals can also cause damage to your businesses reputation and put you out of business completely depending on the impact and headline worthiness of an incident. As a small business, the risk of a cyber incident or breach can be much more impact on your ability to do business than a large enterprise that has the ability to absorb the costs that incident response may present.

A business can never be completely safe from the threat of cybercrime but most cyberattacks can be mitigated with some basic security practices. Online security should be taken as seriously as locking the doors of your business and storing cash and valuables in a safe location. Clients have the expectation and right to the security of their data and it’s essential that steps are taken to prevent it from being exposed on the internet due to poor security practices. The following tips will enhance your defenses against cyber attacks:

1) Use strong passwords, credentials, and manage your access.

Strong authentication mechanisms are an essential layer of protection. All staff should understand the need to have suitable passwords and the risks of writing them down or sharing them. A long password with a mix of letters, numbers and other characters is well known as a best practice. Common words, names, and consecutive numbers are particularly vulnerable to hackers. Depending on the nature of the business and the information and data used or derived, consider applying multi-factor authentication as an additional measure of password protection. Additionally, ensure that you understand the extent of authentication services utilized by your business. You may use Gmail or Active Directory as your core authenticator and manage password requirements in those areas, but also consider cloud or internet-based services that have authentication not connected to your core authentication service. Ensure all authentication services are managed and audited, meaning that users access provisioning and deprovisioning should occur by a formal process as the employment status of your staff changes.

2) Use cybersecurity tools.

A firewall and antivirus software can mitigate many cyberattack risks and are better than no security tools at all. Don’t cut corners with your protection mechanisms as you put your business at risk if you connect to the internet without them. Antivirus software and any signature-based security tools must be updated on a regular basis to ensure the latest forms of malware identified and deleted. Also consider tools that provide additional capabilities such as host intrusion prevention, file integrity monitoring, and web browsing protection. From a network standpoint, many firewalls also have packaged capabilities like network intrusion prevention and malware detection.

3) Restrict personal use of company IT assets and company work on personal IT assets.

Accessing non-work email accounts and social media on company computing assets can increase the likelihood of compromise. Staff should be given clear acceptable use instructions on their cybersecurity responsibilities and the dangers of accessing websites not related to company business. Malware can be hidden in online games, apps, and attachments sent with emails. Staff members using personal assets for work tasks present different risks, with unmanaged IT assets potentially processing sensitive work-related information that can be compromised by an attacker due to unknown vulnerabilities or the potential for an employee acting as an insider threat, leaving the company with your sensitive business information.

4) Understand and protect your web presence.

Your website and the internet services you use are valuable resources that must be protected. Hackers may attempt to corrupt information on a website or use your computing resources for their own needs (i.e. attack pivoting, distributed denial of service campaigns, or bitcoin mining). Privileged level access should be tightly controlled as this is one of the routes cybercriminals leverage in attacks. Hackers are constantly scanning websites and web services for vulnerabilities and sensitive information. Software on your website should be updated regularly to make sure they are the latest versions, vulnerabilities should be assessed, and your security tools and configuration should be appropriately applied. For other web services such as cloud collaboration tools such as Slack, development platforms such as GitHub, understand how these services are being used and the potential for data exposure then ensure these tools are used in a secure way.

5) Be cautious and proactively apply security.

Cyber attacks are becoming increasingly more sophisticated with attack methods constantly evolving, and evasion techniques to circumvent security tools. Your protection mechanisms may not protect against all of the strategies they use and you must be prepared for the inevitability of security incidents by proactively planning to manage them. For example, cybercriminals might copy the identity of legitimate businesses and use these to deceive you. Common sense and caution are as valuable as antivirus software when it comes to cybersecurity. Keep your staff aware of cybersecurity risk with regular training, move away from security being an afterthought, and consider security in all aspects of your business.

6) Plan for security failures.

Security standards and regulations advise that planning and preparing for an attack are critical. Does your business have the subject matter expertise and resources to manage a cybersecurity incident? If not, do you have a relationship established or even contacts for a firm who can assist when such a situation arises? Having a response plan and capability can make the difference between a few days downtime or significant long term impact on your ability to do business. Ensure that all incidents and incident response tests include lessons learned and corrective actions for adequate incident preparation.

The threat landscape is constantly changing with business becoming ever more entwined with the internet and technology. Smaller businesses are well known as being less protected by cybercriminals and steps should be taken to mitigate the likelihood of becoming a successful target of attackers. Know your threat profile, know your exposures, know your risks, know what you’re protecting, know your regulatory and contractual security obligations, and let CyberSheath help you apply a cybersecurity strategy accordingly.

This past week has been riddled with cyber attacks.  Three major industries – Healthcare, Banking, and Telecommunications – have either had customer data stolen or held hostage.   And last but not least, a historic face-off between technology and policy with Apple refusing to provide the FBI with the necessary information to access data on a known criminal’s iPhone.

So whether you are returning from a well-deserved vacation or drowning in looming project deadlines, we don’t want you to miss out on this week’s cybersecurity happenings.  To help you get caught up, we have compiled links to the top four trending cybersecurity news stories of the week.

Happy reading!

4 Trending Cybersecurity News Stories of the Week

Hospital Declares ‘Internal State of Emergency’ After Ransomware Infection

Once again a Ransomware attack has infected a hospital’s computer network.  Unlike the attack on Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, which we discuss in our blog here, this recent attack of Methodist Hospital based in Kentucky is currently positioning themselves to not pay the ransom.  The article describes the details of the attack as well as delves into its aftermath.

Read more here

Crooks Steal, Sell Verizon Enterprise Customer Data

Verizon Enterprise Solutions has confirmed that their network has been hacked resulting in the “theft and resale of customer data”. KrebsOnSecurity learned that Verizon recently identified a vulnerability in its site that allowed hackers to access customer information.

Read more here

Federal Grand Jury Indicts 7 Iranians for “Campaign of Cyber Attacks”

The US Justice Department announced this week that a federal grand jury has issued indictments for seven Iranians employed by two information technology companies.  The indictments allege the companies were contracted by the Iranian government to conduct cyberattacks against US banking institution websites and attempt to breach the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) network of a dam near Rye, NY.

Read more here

In Apple vs. the FBI, technology wins

The showdown between Apple vs the FBI has garnered a lot of media attention with privacy advocates and policymakers all weighing-in.  According to a recent article published by TechCrunch, it is not surprising. The article explains why technology will almost always win over policy.

Read more here

ARS Technica recently published an article on the security of inflight Wi-Fi.  Providers like GoGo Wireless and Global Eagle Entertainment offer passengers to pay for use of Wi-Fi services.  While customers may think their communications and activities are secure, think again, says USA Today columnist Steve Petrow.  Mr. Petrow was “hacked” while on an American Airlines flight – a man claimed to have been able to read his email communication with a source for a story.  Given the overall Wi-Fi security lapses, as addressed in this post from ComputerWorld, it is easy to begin to understand how this can happen.  But what can be done about it?

First, Wi-Fi on an airplane operates similar to public Wi-Fi networks.  Access is granted through a “captive portal” where you have to provide login details and/or payment info and accept the terms of service.  Once that is done – the user is granted access to the web.  There is no password protection on the connection, which means the traffic that is carried on the Wi-Fi network’s packets is being transmitted in the clear.  This means anyone listening can grab the data that passes through the access point.

Second, inflight wireless networks have taken a further step that affects the privacy of the network by blocking basic network security tools such as secure HTTP and some virtual private networks.  Without these basic building blocks of security, it becomes clear how Mr. Petrow was “hacked.”  When you are on a public Wi-Fi your device becomes visible to other people on the network.  Unencrypted traffic is visible and in cases where the user is using POP/SMTP, that traffic is also readily visible.

While it appears that blocking basic security measures appears to be an oversight, it is indeed intentional.  Gogo and Global Eagle Entertainment block some commercial VPN networks and GoGo was issuing its own certificates for secure websites such as Google.  By stripping away SSL encryption this allows Gogo to prevent passengers from accessing sites with inappropriate content and gives law enforcement more visibility into the browsing and search habits of GoGo customers.  ARS Technica reported that GoGo works closely with law enforcement and designed their inflight network with law enforcement in mind:

“In designing its existing network, Gogo worked closely with law enforcement to incorporate the functionalities and protections that would serve public safety and national security interests…”

While the jury is still out as to whether or not Wi-Fi networks do not pose a threat to airplane communications or functionality, the passengers using the service should be aware of what they are signing up for. Attackers sitting on flights wishing to hack into a passenger’s device can easily set up a fake access point, rerouting legitimate traffic to their laptop with two Wi-Fi signals. While SSL would still protect passengers from accessing other user sessions, a determined attacker can overcome this with tools like SSL Strip.

To protect your session, ARS technica recommends using a VPN connection (if it will work), and ensure that sharing has been disabled.  Also, pay attention to the certificate warnings.  If chrome or firefox warns of a bad or unknown certificate, don’t proceed – wait until you are on the ground with a better network to connect to.  Of course, the best defense is to turn off your Wi-Fi and work offline.

What does this mean for your organization?  As your organization sends workers around the globe, it is important to develop good security habits.  Start with security awareness training.  Ensure devices are protected.   An employee who travels a lot is likely to introduce something back into the network when she connects with the “mothership” so it is imperative that devices are routinely patched and monitored for vulnerabilities.

Whether or not you send your employees on the road frequently, CyberSheath can help you build your security program to make informed and secure travelers.  

Venafi, a product vendor for Internet Security, recently revealed results from a global survey of CIOs that believe security defenses are less effective and that they expect to suffer from an attack.  The underlying issue, according to Venafi, is due to the prevalence of unprotected and unmanaged cryptographic keys and digital certificates.  CIOs admitted in the survey that they are “spending millions of dollars on layered security defenses,” effectively trusting keys and certificates without being able to differentiate between trusted and compromised keys.

Even more troublesome is Gartner’s prediction that by 2017, approximately 50% of the attacks against an enterprise network will come from encrypted traffic, bypassing controls put in place to stop attacks.   This prediction means that tools like IDS, behavior-anomaly detection, next-generation firewalls will only function at about 50% capacity, letting through half of the attacks.   Additionally, the Ponemon Institute recently revealed that approximately 54% of organizations said: “they lack policy enforcement and remediation for keys and certificates.”

While the survey does point out worrying figures about the underlying digital trust that enterprises rely on, it is important to note that there are ways to rebuild confidence in your keys.

3 Steps to Rebuild Confidence in Your Cryptographic Keys and Certificates

1: Know and understand where your keys are located
Many CIOs in the survey admitted to not knowing where all of their keys and certificates are located.  Having a program in place to manage and monitor keys, who has access to them and most importantly, where they are located, will help build confidence in your cryptographic key management program.  Knowing that your keys are accounted for will help you reduce the risk of untrusted keys.

2: Establish policies and procedures for how certificates and keys are handled
Having policies and procedures for key management, including those that ensure formal assignment of key management responsibilities in a key custodian role, will make employees managing cryptography more accountable.  An established procedure will ensure that key management is handled the right way every time and when there is turnover, the next employee will be following the same procedure, and so on.  The main takeaway is that the policies must be, without doubt, enforceable, and the procedures must be known, aligned with policy, implemented, and followed accordingly by key management staff.

3: Log and document all key management activities
Every time key management activity is performed (updated, changed, expired), that activity needs to be logged and documented.  Metrics should be collected to get an idea of what is normal behavior and what is not.  Suspicious activity or suspected key compromise should be reported and investigated.

While these are just some of the ways to protect your keys and certificates, it goes without saying that attacks coming over SSL/TLS are a real concern (as evidenced by the Heartbleed bug).  The survey, which was conducted by an independent market research company, provides some important data on the health of cryptographic key management across industries, according to respondent CIO’s.  Given the reliance on cryptography to protect sensitive data, protecting cryptographic keys and understanding encrypted data flows are smart first steps to combating these evolving attacks designed to evade your perimeter defenses using the same techniques used to protect your sensitive data.

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Product vendor’s marketing focuses on advanced persistent threats – Stuxnet, China and all of the other fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) – that are almost completely out of your control.  So take a step back from the overwhelming advertisements leaving you feeling insecure and spend some time on something that you can actually control, your organization’s information security policy.  Exciting right? Maybe not, but a policy represents the foundation upon which your security program can and should be built. Here are 3 reasons why a documented security policy endorsed by corporate executives materially improves security.

3 Reasons Why a Documented Security Policy Endorsed by Corporate Executives Materially Improves Security

1: Corporations Take a Policy Seriously

Corporations tend to take policy seriously, especially larger companies where policies get reviewed by all functional leaders for input, then the final version goes to the CEO for signature and publication. This executive endorsement gives security practitioners the leverage they need when enforcing a policy, requesting resources and generally executing the mission of delivering security services. When you are challenged on the “why” behind a reduction in administrative rights you now have something tangible to refer to rather than trying to educate one engineer at a time.

2: A Policy Presents an Opportunity to Lead the Security Conversation

The process of documenting, socializing and getting an executive endorsement of a security policy is an often overlooked opportunity to engage executive leadership in a conversation about security. At the top of every organization, busy executives have many number one priorities and getting security onto their already overcrowded plate is difficult, even in the age of continuous front-page data breach headlines. Creating a security policy presents an opportunity to lead the security conversation in a way that ensures the most important security agenda items are the focus of the discussion, rather than headlines about the most recent breach that may or may not be relevant to your organization.

3: A Policy Can Help Drive Resource Allocation

When endorsed and published, a policy can help drive resource allocation. Advocating for resources is often easier when the reasons for the “ask” are anchored in compliance requirements. Compliance might not be as thrilling a topic as nation-state attackers but executives understand compliance better than they ever will advanced persistent threats. You should leverage that executive understanding to secure the resources you need to accomplish your mission.
In an overworked and under-resourced security organization, I completely understand the tendency to focus on “doing things” rather than documenting things but that approach will keep you on the hamster wheel and in the long run hobble your opportunity for success.

Don’t Know Where To Start?

CyberSheath’s Strategic Security Planning service will assist you in successfully creating a policy for your business that will materially improve security. A security policy can be the first step in your journey to an optimized information security environment and the foundation necessary to promote the endorsed support of your executive leadership.

Predictably cyber/data security continues to be a rising concern from within the Healthcare industry, according to Modern Healthcare’s 26th annual Survey of Executive Opinions on Key Information Technology Issues. That being said the percentage of total IT spend devoted to security is still woefully inadequate if the survey numbers are to be believed. You simply can’t be secure on the spend levels highlighted in this survey.

I’m always skeptical of survey numbers because you can’t qualify the data or responses and there is no right answer as to how much to spend on security. However, there are best practices and industry standards that will ensure your organization is spending the money you have wisely.

4 Steps to Ensure a Wisely Spent Cybersecurity Budget

1: Make Security a Line Item in the Budget, Separate from IT

There is no right metric for security spend but you should at least be able to articulate what you are spending annually. With a defined security budget you can slice and dice any way you want, as a percentage of IT spend, cost per employee, as a percentage of revenue, etc.

2: Select a Framework

NIST, ISO, 20 CSC, just pick one! Whatever you select will give you a way to measure your current capabilities and prioritize investments, you can always change your mind later.

3: Assess Yourself

If you don’t take the time to objectively measure what you are doing today against a selected framework you will be doomed to keep doing the same things year over year. Maybe that works for some organizations, but my experience is that a comprehensive assessment against an accepted framework can serve as the burning platform for year over year improvement.

4: Roadmap the Journey

Use your assessment results to create a multi-year roadmap that ties security compliance efforts to operational efforts and tell the story to your business. Share the vision for security and articulate just how much the business is getting for its investment in security so you can have a conversation around outcomes and expectations rather than fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD).
Articulating the value of security and defending the budget is hard, but it’s not impossible if you use facts and figures relevant to your business and organization.

Don’t Know Where To Start?

CyberSheath’s Strategic Security Planning service offering can help you plan, build, and manage a strategic information security organization that enables your business. Our operational strategy and budgeting plans aggressively drive security organizations towards pursuing higher levels of performance.  Our Strategic Security Planning service will assist you in successfully creating a security budget that directly aligns with your business needs and goals.

Recently, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid attackers for the decryption key that held the hospital’s systems and data hostage. While this style of attack is not new, increased attacks have businesses on edge. Ransomware is malicious software that blocks access to a network or system until a ransom is paid. In many cases, the data is encrypted and there is no economical way to retrieve the data until the decryption key is given to the victim. Usually this only occurs when a ransom is paid. In the case of the Hollywood Presbyterian, they decided to pay the ransom of about 40 bitcoins, worth approximately $17,000.

Security consultants who have assessed healthcare practices have likely interviewed medical staff and got a strong sense (if not directly told) that their work was diverting attention away from patient care. This mentality is one of the reasons why the healthcare industry is facing challenges when it comes to information security. The culture of providing healthcare over all else, the justification for neglecting information security, has finally hit an impasse – patient health and safety was jeopardized by a cybersecurity incident. The attitude toward information security – the time it takes, the costs – has to change. It’s unfortunate, but it seems to have taken an incident like the one seen at Hollywood Presbyterian to highlight how information security actually aligns with the healthcare industries health-first ideals.

A New Precedence

The precedent has been set with this recent attack and the people behind these ransomware campaigns, given Hollywood Presbyterian paid the ransom, now know that attacking healthcare organizations is lucrative. The weeks of incident response required to strong-arm a computing environment away from attackers, recover operations, and the economic impact of such an endeavor, it’s no surprise that Hollywood Presbyterian paid. The incident exposed industry-wide neglect toward information security and put a target on the backs of medical practices throughout the entire industry.

Blindly Accepting the Risk is Unacceptable

Is $17,000 is a bargain compared to building an information security program and capability?  Remember that these attackers will get bolder with demands, and for an organization to accept risk based on that price is misguided. It should be expected that the demands will get higher as we see more of these incidents, especially if they begin to target healthcare specifically. The Hollywood Presbyterian incident should be seen for what it really was, a digital hostage situation. Preventing medical care is not much different than holding a gun to someone’s head. Once the magnitude of this comparison is realized, there will surely be more risk for the attackers by way of law enforcement, and the demands for reward will reflect that risk.

It’s time the healthcare industry took information security as seriously as something like infection control. Poor information security, just like poor hand hygiene, for instance, put’s patients at risk. Patients expect sterile, safe environments to receive healthcare services, and in this digital age, that expectation should extend to the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of the systems, devices, and information managed by healthcare service providers.

5 Actions Necessary to Produce an Effective Information Security Program

If your organization is new to information security, or you have only a partially implemented information security capability, consider taking the following steps:

1: Identify Your Sensitive Data

Determine where your most sensitive and critical data is stored, whether that be in your data center, a server closet, a third-party service provider, or in the cloud. It is difficult to take a strategic approach to information security without knowing what you are protecting. Continuously maintain this awareness.

2: Inventory Your Critical Systems

Evaluate what systems and system components are storing, processing and transmitting your sensitive data, or are providing critical services to your operations. Understand the data flow, and know which systems present the highest risk to your operations as it relates to the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of those systems and the data they process.

3: Assess Your Risks

Assess your environment for risk. Anything from electronic records, physical media, and the availability of critical systems, services, or devices should be considered. Consider an independent assessment by a respected third party firm if internal resources and expertise are unavailable.

4: Implement Security Controls

Select, apply and manage security controls programmatically based on risk. The PC that cycle’s employee event information in the lobby is not as important as your electronic health record repository where careful consideration of security controls should be taken.

5: Monitor Effectiveness

Periodically evaluate the effectiveness of your risk-based information security strategy, the security controls applied, and the proper implementation of security technologies proactively, and apply corrective actions, remediation, and lessons learned to ensure preparedness for the evolving threat landscape.

How CyberSheath Can Help?

In order to implement an effective information security program, a picture of your network must first be obtained.  Whatever your security needs are, CyberSheath can assist you along the way.  From conducting an information security assessment, to building a security program, let us help you secure your data. 

In a recent Wall Street Journal article President Obama announced a new “Cybersecurity National Action Plan” which would increase federal cybersecurity funding north of $19 billion. Although, it is unclear if any of this spending will actually be funded as House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) have already declared that both committees will not hold a hearing to review the president’s FY 2017 Budget. Politics aside, it’s encouraging to see a dialogue happening at the highest levels of our government on such an important topic.

The Four Major Priorities that are Being Proposed

1: $3 Billion Fund to Kick-start an Overhaul of Federal Computer Systems

First, the President is proposing a $3 billion fund to kick-start an overhaul of federal computer systems and going forward, agencies will be required to increase protections for their most valued information and make it easier for them to update their networks. Additionally, he’s proposed creating a new federal position, Chief Information Security Officer, a position he notes that most major companies have already established. Of course the devil is in the details as to how the money is spent but in general the government, like most corporations, needs to invest more in cybersecurity. In our experience, the investment should prioritize people and process rather than the short-sighted rush to procure more tools supported by an already overworked staff following undocumented processes.

2: Stepping Up Efforts to Build a Corps of Cyber Professionals Across Government Agencies
Second, the President has proposed stepping up efforts to build a corps of cyber professionals across government agencies to push best practices at every level. This includes offering scholarships and forgiving student loans to recruit talent from Silicon Valley and across the private sector.  I’m sure loan forgiveness would be appreciated by many, but creatively funding internships, certifications or co-ops that would integrate classroom studies with professional work experience should also be considered to propel this effort to create cybersecurity practitioners.

3: Strengthening Partnerships with the Private Sector to Deter, Detect and Disrupt Threats

Third, the President is strengthening partnerships with the private sector to deter, detect and disrupt threats, including to the nation’s critical infrastructure. This has been an ongoing effort for several years and many of the team here at CyberSheath were a part of the initial efforts on this front in 2007 and 2008; I personally had the privilege of testifying before the House Armed Security Committee on the effectiveness of the Defense Industrial Base Cybersecurity Initiative. Ultimately those efforts matured and resulted in the most recent iteration, NIST 800-171,  which will become mandatory for tens of thousands of contractors in 2017. Having seen the potential for transformation firsthand we believe strongly in these partnerships.

4: Empower Americans to Protect themselves Online by Launching a New National Awareness Campaign

Lastly, the President wants to do more to empower Americans to protect themselves online by launching a new national awareness campaign to raise awareness of cyber threats and encourage more Americans to move beyond passwords—adding an extra layer of security like a fingerprint or codes sent to your cellphone. Done correctly this could collectively do a lot of good. Two-factor authentication technology is widely available and relatively easy to use so de-mystifying it and encouraging Americans to take advantage of the additional level of security it provides would be a welcome improvement.
Again, it’s unclear how much if any of these initiatives are tied to a proposed budget that may not even be reviewed but I am encouraged that the government continues to recognize the national security implications of cybersecurity and is doing something about it.

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