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CCPA: Why it’s important, and how Cyber AI can help

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08
Jul 2020
08
Jul 2020
With the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) coming into force this month, organizations’ handling of personal information is under greater scrutiny than ever. This blog explains how Darktrace’s Cyber AI Platform can help provide unified and granular real-time monitoring of personal data.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is the most comprehensive and significant data protection regulation enacted in the United States. Giving the strongest privacy rights to consumers, it entered its enforcement stage on July 1. While only directly applicable to Californian residents, the state’s position as the world’s fifth largest global economy has meant that corporations across the world have had to rethink their approach to data processing and privacy.

Customer protection and data privacy rights

At its core, the CCPA provides individuals foundational rights regarding their personal data including: the right to opt out of having their personal data sold, the right to erase personal data both from first party sites and companies it’s been sold to, and the right to know what personal information companies have gathered. For California residents who exercise these rights, the CCPA specifies a non-discrimination clause, meaning that everyone is privy to the same services and price, regardless of whether they allow organizations to sell their data or not.

Intended to enhance consumer protection and data privacy rights, the CCPA takes an even broader view than GDPR of what constitutes ‘private data’ and lays out a variety of requirements for the management and security of consumers’ personal information. So, what exactly is meant by ‘personal information’ according to the CCPA?

Obvious examples include a person’s name, postal address, and passport number. But political convictions, health and fitness profiles, sexual orientation, personality characteristics, employment history, and inferences also count – provided they are not already publicly available in the form of an interview or self-published article, for example. This snapshot of some of the sensitive information that has to be monitored reveals the immense task ahead of organizations, which now have to keep track of exactly what information is logged, deduced, and sold on each and every consumer. And with the average internet user spending 6.5 hours per day online, the vast volumes of data that organizations have to monitor is adding up.

The clock is ticking: in the event that someone does request access to a copy of their personal data or asks for its erasure, organizations must acknowledge their receipt of the customer’s communication within 10 days and respond with a meaningful answer within 45 calendar days.

Providing data transparency

The CCPA’s goal is to equip consumers with increased knowledge of what happens with their data. Instead of restricting the collection of sensitive information, it aims to provide data transparency and accountability, allowing consumers to see their digital footprint and forbid the selling of their personal information. This is a major differentiator from other data privacy laws such as GDPR, in which European citizens actively have to consent to having their data collected in the first place. With the CCPA, data is always collected by first party sites – it is how that information is used, individuals’ right to view that data, and the erasure of that data which is the law’s central concern.

The consequences

If organizations fail to comply with the CCPA’s requirements, steep penalties will ensue, with additional fines able to be issued in the event of a data breach. While this act does not impose cyber security regulations, the California Attorney General can stipulate digital hygiene guidelines, with organizations liable for inadequate security procedures and practices which are disproportionate to the data under their care.

Each consumer can claim up to $750 per data breach – or the actual damages, whichever is greater. Meanwhile, the state can charge up to $7500 per person, per violation, if an organization’s conduct is deemed intentional. This quickly becomes expensive. Most significantly though, the regulation introduces the right for consumers to bring data privacy issues to court, where they can seek financial redress. This is conditional upon unauthorized access to their personal information resulting from businesses’ failure to implement reasonable security practices and procedures appropriate for the particular type of information.

The three central tenets of this law present minefields for organizations. Keeping track of large volumes of data at an individual level is necessary in order to fulfil these requirements. In the face of companies’ growing digital infrastructures, including recent surges in cloud, SaaS, and email usage, the potentially dispersed storage of sensitive information, and the increasing risk of cyber-attack, CCPA compliance has become an even more daunting task.

How can AI help?

Darktrace’s Cyber AI helps support CCPA compliance by providing 100% visibility into the movement of data throughout an organization’s digital infrastructure, including noting who accesses it. By using self-learning AI to learn the ‘pattern of life’ of every user across cloud, SaaS, email, and traditional networks, Darktrace’s Cyber AI can automatically alert security teams of threats in real time and take autonomous action when an access policy is breached. And while the California Attorney General gives businesses a 30-day period to assess and remediate alleged violations of the CCPA, Cyber AI provides real-time understanding of cyber incidents, including data exfiltration, which enables businesses to not only meet this CCPA requirement, but to limit the impact of emerging threats.

For organizations to comply with this regulation, they need to be constantly aware of all activity involving sensitive consumer data. The Model Editor within the Threat Visualizer, Darktrace’s user interface, provides security teams with the ability to track specific parameters for this targeted, continuous monitoring. Darktrace offers customizable compliance models for customers to specifically watch over and safeguard user data as stipulated by the CCPA. A tag can be added to devices, stating that they contain personal data protected under the CCPA. This means that when an external or internal data transfer is instigated on the given device, it will immediately be flagged to organizations’ security teams. The same happens in the event of any unusual activity.

Figure 1: CCPA tag in the Threat Visualizer

The reality is that organizations’ digital environments – and the consumer data stored within them – are too extensive to manage, keep track of, and protect without Cyber AI. And with California set to vote on the implementation of even stricter privacy regulations in the coming months, organizations will need complete digital visibility and the ability to easily identify and fight back against emerging threats in order to keep pace with changing requirements. Cyber AI is no longer a nice-to-have, but a necessity.

INSIDE THE SOC
Darktrace cyber analysts are world-class experts in threat intelligence, threat hunting and incident response, and provide 24/7 SOC support to thousands of Darktrace customers around the globe. Inside the SOC is exclusively authored by these experts, providing analysis of cyber incidents and threat trends, based on real-world experience in the field.
AUTHOR
ABOUT ThE AUTHOR
Mariana Pereira
VP, Cyber Innovation

Mariana is the VP of Cyber Innovation at Darktrace, and works closely with the development, analyst, and marketing teams to advise technical and non-technical audiences on how best to augment cyber resilience, and how to implement AI technology as a means of defense. She speaks regularly at international events, with a specialism in presenting on sophisticated, AI-powered email attacks. She holds an MBA from the University of Chicago, and speaks several languages including French, Italian, and Portuguese.

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Customer Blog: Community Housing Limited Enhancing Incident Response

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04
Mar 2024

About Community Housing Limited

Community Housing Limited is a non-profit organization based in Australia that focuses on providing affordable, long-term housing and creating employment opportunities where possible. We give people the security of having a home so that they can focus on other essential pathways. As such, we are responsible for sensitive information on our clients.

As part of our commitment to strengthening our cyber security, we sought to simplify and unify our incident response plans and equip our engineers and desktop support teams with all the information we need at our fingertips.

Why Community Housing Limited chose Darktrace

Our team hoped to achieve a response procedure that allowed us to have oversight over any potential security risks, even cases that don’t overtly seem like a security risk. For example, an incident could start as a payroll issue and end up in the hands of HR, instead of surfacing as a security problem. In this case, our security team has no way of knowing the real number of events or how the threat had actually started and played out, making incident response and mitigation even more challenging.

We were already a customer of Darktrace’s autonomous threat detection, attack intervention, and attack surface management capabilities, and decided to add Darktrace for AI-assisted incident response and AI cyber-attack simulation.

AI-generated playbooks save time during incident response

I wanted to reduce the time and resources it took our security team to appropriately respond to a threat. Darktrace automates several steps of the recovery process to accelerate the rate of incident response by using AI that learns the granular details of the specific organization, building a dynamic understanding of the devices, connections, and user behaviors that make up the normal “pattern of life.”  

The AI then uses this understanding to create bespoke, AI-generated incident response playbooks that leverage an evolving understanding of our organization to determine recovery steps that are tailored not only to the specific incident but also to our unique environment.

For my security team, this means having access to all the information we need to respond to a threat. When running through an incident, rather than going to different places to synthesize relevant information, which takes up valuable resources and time, we can speed up its remediation with Darktrace.  

The playbooks created by Darktrace help lower the technical skills required to respond to incidents by elevating the workload of the staff, tripling our capacity for incident response.

Realistic attack simulations upskill teams while saving resources

We have differing levels of experience on the team which means some members know exactly what to do during incident response while others are slower and need more guidance. Thus, we have to either outsource skilled security professionals or add a security solution that could lower the technical skills bar.

You don’t want to be second guessing and searching for the right move – it’s urgent – there should be certainty. Our goal with running attack simulations is to test and train our team's response capabilities in a “realistic” scenario. But this takes considerable time to plan and execute or can be expensive if outsourced, which can be a challenge for organizations short on resources. 

Darktrace provides AI-assisted incident response and cyber-attack simulation using AI that understands the organization to run simulations that effectively map onto the real digital environment and the assets within it, providing training for actual incidents.

It is one thing to sit together in a meeting and discuss various outcomes of a cyber-attack, talking through the best response strategies. It is a huge benefit being able to run attack simulations that emulate real-world scenarios.

Our team can now see how an incident would play out over several days to resemble a real-world scenario or it can play through the simulation quickly to ascertain outcomes immediately. It then uses these insights to strengthen its technology, processes, and training.

AI-Powered Incident Response

Darktrace helps my security team save resources and upskill staff using AI to generate bespoke playbooks and run realistic simulations. Its real-time understanding of our business ensures incident preparedness and incident response are tailored to not only the specific threat in question, but also to the contextual infrastructure of the organization.  

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About the author
Jamie Woodland
Head of Technology at Community Housing Limited

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Email

Beyond DMARC: Navigating the Gaps in Email Security

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29
Feb 2024

Email threat landscape  

Email has consistently ranked among the most targeted attack vectors, given its ubiquity and criticality to business operations. From September to December 2023, 10.4 million phishing emails were detected across Darktrace’s customer fleet demonstrating the frequency of attempted email-based attacks.

Businesses are searching for ways to harden their email security posture alongside email providers who are aiming to reduce malicious emails traversing their infrastructure, affecting their clients. Domain-based Message Authentication (DMARC) is a useful industry-wide protocol organizations can leverage to move towards these goals.  

What is DMARC?

DMARC is an email authentication protocol designed to enhance the security of email communication.

Major email service providers Google and Yahoo recently made the protocol mandatory for bulk senders in an effort to make inboxes safer worldwide. The new requirements demonstrate an increasing need for a standardized solution as misconfigured or nonexistent authentication systems continue to allow threat actors to evade detection and leverage the legitimate reputation of third parties.  

DMARC is a powerful tool that allows email administrators to confidently identify and stop certain spoofed emails; however, more organizations must implement the standard for it to reach its full potential. The success and effectiveness of DMARC is dependent on broad adoption of the standard – by organizations of all sizes.  

How does DMARC work?

DMARC builds on two key authentication technologies, Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) and helps to significantly improve their ability to prevent domain spoofing. SPF verifies that a sender’s IP address is authorized to send emails on behalf of a particular domain and DKIM ensures integrity of email content by providing a verifiable digital signature.  

DMARC adds to this by allowing domain owners to publish policies that set expectations for how SPF and DKIM verification checks relate to email addresses presented to users and whose authenticity the receiving mail server is looking to establish.  

These policies work in tandem to help authenticate email senders by verifying the emails are from the domain they say they are, working to prevent domain spoofing attacks. Key benefits of DMARC include:

  1. Phishing protection DMARC protects against direct domain spoofing in which a threat actor impersonates a legitimate domain, a common phishing technique threat actors use to trick employees to obtain sensitive information such as privileged credentials, bank information, etc.  
  2. Improving brand reputation: As DMARC helps to prevent impersonation of domains, it stands to maintain and increase an organization’s brand reputation. Additionally, as organizational reputation improves, so will the deliverability of emails.
  3. Increased visibility: DMARC provides enhanced visibility into email communication channels, including reports of all emails sent on behalf of your domain. This allows security teams to identify shadow-IT and any unauthorized parties using their domain.

Understanding DMARC’s Limitations

DMARC is often positioned as a way for organizations to ‘solve’ their email security problems, however, 65% of the phishing emails observed by Darktrace successfully passed DMARC verification, indicating that a significant number of threat actors are capable of manipulating email security and authentication systems in their exploits. While DMARC is a valuable tool in the fight against email-based attacks, the evolving threat landscape demands a closer look at its limitations.  

As threat actors continue to innovate, improving their stealth and evasion tactics, the number of attacks with valid DMARC authentication will only continue to increase in volume and sophistication. These can include:

  1. Phishing attacks that leverage non-spoofed domains: DMARC allows an organization to protect the domains that they own, preventing threat actors from being able to send phishing emails from their domains. However, threat actors will often create and use ‘look-a-like’ domains that closely resemble an organization’s domain to dupe users. 3% of the phishing emails identified by Darktrace utilized newly created domains, demonstrating shifting tactics.  
  2. Email Account Takeovers: If a threat actor gains access to a user’s email account through other social engineering means such as credential stuffing, they can then send phishing emails from the legitimate domain to pursue further attacks. Even though these emails are malicious, DMARC would not identify them as such because they are coming from an authorized domain or sender.  

Organizations must also ensure their inbound analysis of emails is not skewed by successful DMARC authentication. Security teams cannot inherently trust emails that pass DMARC, because the source cannot always be legitimized, like in the event of an account takeover. If a threat actor gains access to an authenticated email account, emails sent by the threat actor from that account will pass DMARC – however the contents of that email may be malicious. Sender behavior must be continuously evaluated and vetted in real time as past communication history and validated DMARC cannot be solely relied upon amid an ever-changing threat landscape.  

Security teams should lean on other security measures, such as anomaly detection tools that can identify suspicious emails without relying on historical attack rules and static data. While DMARC is not a silver bullet for email security, it is nevertheless foundational in helping organizations protect their brand identity and must be viewed as an essential layer in an organization's overall cyber security strategy.  

Implementing DMARC

Despite the criticality of DMARC for preserving brand reputation and trust, adoption of the standard has been inconsistent. DMARC can be complex to implement with many organizations lacking the time required to understand and successfully implement the standard. Because of this, DMARC set-up is often outsourced, giving security and infrastructure teams little to no visibility into or control of the process.  

Implementation of DMARC is only the start of this process, as DMARC reports must be consistently monitored to ensure organizations have visibility into who is sending mail from their domain, the volume of mail being sent and whether the mail is passing authentication protocols. This process can be time consuming for security teams who are already faced with mounting responsibilities, tight budgets, and personnel shortages. These complexities unfortunately delay organizations from using DMARC – especially as many today still view it as a ‘nice to have’ rather than an essential.  

With the potential complexities of the DMARC implementation process, there are many ways security and infrastructure teams can still successfully roll out the standard. Initial implementation should start with monitoring, policy adjustment and then enforcement. As business changes over time, DMARC should be reviewed regularly to ensure ongoing protection and maintain domain reputation.

The Future of Email Security

As email-based attacks continue to rise, the industry must recognize the importance of driving adoption of foundational email authentication protocols. To do this, a new and innovative approach to DMARC is needed. DMARC products must evolve to better support organizations throughout the ongoing DMARC monitoring process, rather than just initial implementation. These products must also be able to share intelligence across an organization’s security stack, extending beyond email security tools. Integration across these products and tools will help organizations optimize their posture, ensuring deep understanding of their domain and increased visibility across the entire enterprise.

DMARC is critical in protecting brand identity and mitigating exact-domain based attacks. However, organizations must understand DMARC’s unique benefits and limitations to ensure their inboxes are fully protected. In today’s evolving threat landscape, organizations require a robust, multi-layered approach to stop email threats – in inbound mail and beyond. Email threats have evolved – its time security does too.

Join Darktrace on 9 April for a virtual event to explore the latest innovations needed to get ahead of the rapidly evolving threat landscape. Register today to hear more about our latest innovations coming to Darktrace’s offerings. For additional insights check out Darktrace’s 2023 End of Year Threat Report.

Credit to Carlos Gray and Stephen Pickman for their contribution to this blog

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About the author
Carlos Gray
Product Manager

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