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Research Links: Cybersecurity Policy

Research Links: Cybersecurity Policy
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

How can the United States protect cyberspace “control system of our country,” without restricting the open “flow of information on the Internet”? What should countries consider when developing international cybersecurity standards and protocol? What should their citizens know to protect their information and their rights? Cybersecurity Policy Research Links provide news, background information, legislation, analysis, and international efforts to protect government and the public’s information.

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Monthly Cyber Security Tips Newsletter – 2014 Cyber Security Outlook

As we look ahead toward the cyber threats facing us this year, some key challenges will result from the advancements in technology that are becoming part of our daily lives. Ranging from the Internet of Things to online currencies, devices and systems have never been more interconnected. Before we adopt these new technologies, we need to ensure we understand the security implications, and have appropriate layers of defense in place.    

Below are highlights of several of these new advancements and how they may affect us:  

The Internet of Things 

What is the Internet of Things?  Put simply, the Internet enables connectivity from virtually any end-user device or thing. The latest trend is connecting things such as small appliances, refrigerators, personal medical devices, wearable health trackers, and many other items. 

One of the most common examples of how the Internet of Things impacts our daily lives is the automobile, which has become a sophisticated computer device. Researchers have demonstrated the ability to hack an automobile’s systems to control the brakes, steering wheel, and even shut down the engine. Numerous discussion forums focus on the use of vehicle-to-vehicle (or V2V) technology, which will allow vehicles to talk to each other via wireless connectivity. 

Bluetooth, a standard feature in many automobiles with options to include a personal hotspot, can allow a modern smartphone to connect to the automobile’s stereo system to receive continuous Twitter feeds, or a system that may allow a technician to provide assistance in case of emergencies. Researchers have discovered ways to inject malicious codes/programs through CD players or iPod connectors. Theoretically, an infected song on your iPod or CD, when played in your automobile, potentially can spread malicious code from the automobile’s entertainment network to other components of the automobile without many restrictions. 

In another example of how the Internet of Things can impact us is from a recent news story that suggested electric tea kettles and other small appliances were able to exploit unencrypted WiFi and send data back to foreign servers [1].  

Internet-connected devices that are able to process sensitive personal information tend to be high priority targets for cyber criminals. It will become increasingly critical in 2014 to protect these devices from unintended or unauthorized connectivity. 


A Bitcoin is a digital currency stored in a downloadable wallet on a user’s personal computer or with an online wallet service provider. Each wallet has a unique identifier that allows users to transfer bitcoins to other users’ wallets. Bitcoin is a decentralized, peer-to-peer payment system, currently with no regulatory authority. It is gaining popularity, with mainstream businesses adopting it as an alternative form of payment or investment.      

 While the long-term use of Bitcoin is uncertain, for at least the near term in 2014, the increasing adoption and publicity will continue to draw the interest of cyber criminals who target Bitcoin users’ wallets for theft, or compromise systems to generate bitcoins via malware infection.      

 Mobile Transaction Risks 

 Every new smartphone, tablet or other mobile device provides an opportunity for a potential cyber attack. New features such as Near Field Communications (NFC), as well as AirDrop and Passbook for Apple, will continue to expand in 2014, increasing the opportunities for cyber criminals to exploit weaknesses. NFC and AirDrop allow for similarly configured smartphones to communicate with each other by simply touching another smartphone, or being in proximity to another smartphone. This technology is being used for credit card purchases, boarding passes, and file sharing, and will most likely be incorporated into other uses in 2014.     

 Risks of these technologies could include eavesdropping (through which the cyber criminal can intercept data transmission such as credit card numbers) and transferring viruses or other malware from one NFC/AirDrop-enabled device to another.  


 Before adopting any of the myriad new technologies that are rapidly being deployed, it’s important to understand the implications and risks. While interconnectivity can yield many benefits, the risk could outweigh the benefit if the devices, systems, and technologies are not properly secured.  

 Additional Resources: 

 NYS Office of Information Technology Services Enterprise Information Security Office Newsletters :

Georgia Tech: Emerging Cyber Threats Report:

 Sophos: Security Threat Report 2014

 Websense: 2014 Security Predictions

 Symantec: 2014 Predications


    Disclaimer: These links are provided because they have information that may be useful. The Center for Internet Security (CIS) does not warrant the accuracy of any information contained in the links and neither endorses nor intends to promote the advertising of the resources listed herein. The opinions and statements contained in such resources are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions of CIS. 


Brought to you by: the Center for Internet Security  

 William F. Pelgrin, President and CEO

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Monthly Cyber Security Tips Newsletter – Cyber Hygiene with the Top 20 Critical Security Controls

Cyber Hygiene with the Top 20 Critical Security Controls
In this digital age, we rely on our computers and devices for so many aspects of our lives resulting in a need to be proactive and vigilant to protect against cyber threats. However, in order to be as secure as possible, we need to use good cyber hygiene – that is, making sure we are protecting and maintaining systems and devices appropriately and using cyber security best practices.
Many key best practices are outlined in the Top 20 Critical Security Controls, managed by the Council on Cyber Security. These Controls assist in mitigating the most prevalent vulnerabilities that often result in many of today’s cyber security intrusions and incidents. The Center for Internet Security (CIS) provides free, PDF-formatted configuration guides (Benchmarks) that can be used to implement the Controls and improve cyber security.
Below are several best practice strategies for strengthening defenses.  The numbers that follow each best practice are the related Control and the CIS Benchmark. The CIS Mitigation Strategies Crosswalk link below details a complete mapping of the Controls to Benchmarks.
Update Your Applications, Software, and Operating Systems
Even though you may be diligent in keeping your software up-to-date, you are still at risk from malware infections. Malware can infect your computer from a variety of different vectors, including compromised websites, malicious attachments in email, and infected thumb drives. This is why strong malware defenses are crucial. Anti-virus and anti-spyware will scan your files to see if there’s any malware in the files. It may even tell you if you’re about to download a potentially malicious file. Update your anti-virus software regularly. Keeping applications, software, and operating systems patched will help keep you more secure by providing you with the most recent and secure version.
Critical Security Control(s): 2, 3, 5
Securely Configure Your Systems and Devices
The “out-of-the-box” configurations of many devices and system components are default settings that are often set for ease-of-use rather than security. This often results in vulnerabilities that offer easy targets for hackers to exploit, often using automated programs that scan for holes. To mitigate risk, systems and devices should be configured according to industry-accepted system hardening standards.
Critical Security Control(s): 3
Secure Your Browser and Browser Add-ons
Cyber attackers search for programming errors and other flaws in web browsers and associated plug-ins in order to exploit them. These vulnerabilities, if successfully exploited, can give cyber criminals access – and sometimes control over – your computer system. To minimize these risks, keep your browser(s) updated and patched, and set to auto update.  In addition, keep any programs (known as plug-ins) updated and patched, block pop-up windows, as this may help prevent malicious software from being downloaded to your computer, and consider disabling JavaScript, Java, and ActiveX controls when not being used. Activate these features only when necessary.
Critical Security Control(s): 2
Back Up Your Data
Be sure to back up your important data so you can retrieve it if your computer fails. Most operating systems provide backup software designed to make the process easier. External hard drives and online backup services are two popular vehicles for backing up files. Remember to back up data at regular intervals and periodically review your backups to determine if all your data has been backed up accurately.
Critical Security Control(s): 8
Secure Your Wireless Network
Before the days of wireless (Wi-Fi) home networks, it was rather easy to see who was linked into your home network; you could simply follow the wires. You wouldn’t allow a stranger to connect to your wired network, so check to see who is connected to your wireless network. The first step is to lock down your wireless network with a strong password and encryption. This will prevent people who don’t have the password from connecting to your network.
While there are fewer wires to follow, you can still follow some digital breadcrumbs to see who is connected to your network. Connect to your router (for more information refer to the manufacturer’s user guide) to see who the clients (the connected devices) are. Are there more devices connected to your network than you expect? If there are some devices you don’t recognize, change your security settings and passwords. Don’t forget about your printers, many of which can connect to your network and are Wi-Fi enabled.
Critical Security Control(s): 7
Protect Your Administrative Accounts
Administrator or “admin” accounts give a user more control over programs and settings for a computer than a typical user account. If an intruder accesses an admin account, he could potentially take over your computer. Non-administrator accounts, or guest accounts, can limit the ability of someone gaining unauthorized access. It is important to change the default password on your admin accounts and to always log on to your computer as a non-administrator or non-admin account.
Another aspect to protecting admin accounts is to change default passwords on your devices. Many of them are published on the Internet, so be sure to change them to something unique and strong. Default passwords are especially prevalent in routers, wireless access points and other networked devices.
Critical Security Control(s): 3, 12
Use Firewalls
Many computer defaults are set for ease of use, which is convenient not only for us, but also for cyber criminals. Cyber criminals can use weak or unnecessary services as a first step to compromising your computer. Many computers and routers already come with a firewall built in to prevent malicious access to these services. It is recommended that you set the firewall to the securest level you think is appropriate: if this is a laptop you’ll use for traveling and connecting to public networks, it is recommended that you choose the strictest level of security and only allow exceptions for services you need. You can always relax the controls if necessary.
Critical Security Control(s): 10
For More Information:
Brought to you by the MS-ISAC

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CRS — The 2013 Cybersecurity Executive Order: Overview and Considerations for Congress

The 2013 Cybersecurity Executive Order: Overview and Considerations for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Open CRS)

The federal role in cybersecurity has been a topic of discussion and debate for over a decade. Despite significant legislative efforts in the 112th and 113th Congress, no major legislation on this topic has been enacted since the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) in 2002, which addressed the security of federal information systems. In February 2013, the White House issued an executive order designed to improve the cybersecurity of U.S. critical infrastructure (CI). Citing repeated cyber-intrusions into critical infrastructure and growing cyberthreats, Executive Order 13636, Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, attempts to enhance security and resiliency of CI through voluntary, collaborative efforts involving federal agencies and owners and operators of privately owned CI, as well as use of existing federal regulatory authorities.

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NextGov: Congress Directs the Pentagon to Appoint a Cyber Czar


The new position would have a broad portfolio, including oversight of all cyber missions, both offensive and defensive.

View article…

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Cyber Security Tips Newsletter: Java Exploits

The NYS Office of Information Technology Services, Enterprise Information Security Office (NYS ITS EISO) is pleased to provide you with the Cyber Security Tips Newsletter. The monthly newsletter, developed by the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), provides helpful cyber security tips. The newsletter is available on the ITS EISO website. Please visit for more information.

Monthly Security Tips

August 2013
Volume 8, Issue 8
Java Exploits

What is Java?

Java is a computer language that allows programmers and application developers to write software that can run on many different operating systems. Numerous applications and websites require end-users to have Java installed. Websites incorporate Java applets (small applications) to enhance the usability and functionality of a website. In general, when a user visits one of these websites, depending on their browser’s security settings, they may have no idea the Java applet is automatically running.

End-users typically have “Java Runtime Environment” (JRE) installed on their computer. In many instances, this software was pre-installed on their computer. More recently, this practice is becoming less common. If JRE is not installed on your computer, and you visit a website that requires JRE, generally, you will be prompted to install JRE.

What are the Risks with Java?

Java is designed to work on almost any computer. Java has been prone to numerous reports of vulnerabilities. According to the SecureList IT Threat Evolution Report released by Kaspersky Lab in May 2013, “The most widespread vulnerabilities are found in Java and [the vulnerabilities] were detected on 45% of all computers.” [[1]]

Attacks are based, at least in part, on older versions of Java. When a newer version of Java is released and installed on a machine, the older version may not automatically be uninstalled. This was intended to provide an easy way to roll back to an older version in case of compatibility issues. Attacks can be used by hackers to leverage and to exploit the vulnerabilities that exist in those versions. This makes Java’s weaknesses an attractive target for hackers and cyber criminals.

How Can I Mitigate Java Exploits?

* Enable the automatic update feature, which will ensure you receive important security updates when they are released. Visit: for instructions on turning on the auto-update feature.

* Set the Java security level to “High” or “Very High.” The most recent versions of Java have the ability to manage when and how untrusted Java applications/applets will run. You can set the security level from within the Java Control Panel so that you are notified before any untrusted Java applications run. Visit: for instructions on setting the Java security level.

* Clear the Java cache periodically. This forces the browser to load the latest versions of web pages and programs. For more information visit:

* Do not allow applications from unknown publishers to run.

* Remove older, unneeded Java versions. If a certain version of Java is needed, determine what Java release level is needed and remove all prior versions. For more information visit:

For More Information:

For additional information, please visit:

What is Java?

Java Security Resources

Uninstalling Java on Windows

Uninstalling Java on Mac

Disabling Your Browser’s Java Plugin

Brought to you by the MS-ISAC and Stop.Think.Connect.

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