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Strengthening the U.S. Government Supply Chain: Cybersecurity under Executive Order 14028

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U.S. government agencies have a reputation for occasionally clinging on to outdated technology. Some illustrative examples include the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) paying Microsoft $9 million to continue supporting the defunct Windows XP in 2015 and a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from 2019 documenting multiple agencies using legacy systems with 8 to 50-year-old components. In its findings, the GAO unsurprisingly concluded that such legacy systems using outdated or unsupported software languages and hardware poses a cybersecurity risk.

In the wake of the SolarWinds, Microsoft Exchange, and Colonial Pipeline security incidents that impacted U.S. government agencies and/or U.S. critical infrastructure, President Biden issued Executive Order 14028 to update minimum cybersecurity standards for all software sold to the federal government and throughout the supply chain.

Existing Requirements under FedRAMP, DFARS, and CMMC

The new obligations arising out of Executive Order 14028 add to existing security regulations for certain government contractors and subcontractors.

The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) oversees the safe provisioning of cloud products and services from a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) to any government agency. As part of the FedRAMP authorization process, an accredited Third-Party Assessment Organization (3PAO) assesses the CSP’s controls under NIST SP 800-53, a security framework for federal government information systems. The 3PAO also assesses additional controls above the NIST baseline that are unique to cloud computing.

Contractors who supply products or services specifically to the DoD are subject to the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS). The DFARS standards establish compliance with fourteen groups of cybersecurity requirements under NIST SP 800-171, meant to protect Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI).  

In November 2020, the DoD released the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) framework, which builds upon DFARS. Contractors undergo an audit by a CMMC Third Party Assessment Organization (C3PAO), which issues a certification for the contractors’ assessed cybersecurity maturity level. The certification ranges from CMMC Level 1, indicating a low, ad-hoc maturity, to CMMC Level 5, indicating a high, optimized maturity. As contractors progress further up the DoD supply chain all the way to prime contractors—those working directly with the DoD—the DoD scale requirements for those contractors to meet higher certification levels. Meeting all DFARS controls and 110 controls in NIST SP 800-171 roughly correlates to CMMC level 3.

Cybersecurity Requirements of Executive Order 14028

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Microsoft vulnerability leaves over 60,000 email servers vulnerable to Hafnium attack. CISA Advisory provides guidance on how to protect email systems.

Image Credit: Schäferle from Pixabay.

***Updated March 13, 2021 – CISA has identified seven webshells associated with this activity. This is not an all-inclusive of webshells that are being leveraged by actors. CISA recommends organizations review the following malware analysis reports (MARs) for detailed analysis of the seven webshells, along with TTPs and IOCs. 

  1. AR21-072A: MAR-10328877.r1.v1: China Chopper Webshell
  2. AR21-072B: MAR-10328923.r1.v1: China Chopper Webshell
  3. AR21-072C: MAR-10329107.r1.v1: China Chopper Webshell
  4. AR21-072D: MAR-10329297.r1.v1: China Chopper Webshell
  5. AR21-072E: MAR-10329298.r1.v1: China Chopper Webshell
  6. AR21-072F: MAR-10329301.r1.v1: China Chopper Webshell
  7. AR21-072G: MAR-10329494.r1.v1: China Chopper Webshell

***Updated March 12, 2021 – Check my OWA tool for checking if a system has been affected.

Earlier this month Microsoft disclosed a set of vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange server products. Microsoft has provided a blog post where you can find an explanation of the attack on Exchange servers, information on HAFNIUM, and more.

Check out this latest advisory from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), with step-by-step instructions on how to gather evidence with FTK Imager and KAPE. The Alert includes information on how to mitigate the vulnerabilities, including tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) and the indicators of compromise (IOCs) associated with this attack.

As of March 10, 2021, CISA recommends the following:

  • Organizations should run the Test-ProxyLogon.ps1 script as soon as possible—to help determine whether their systems are compromised.
  • Organizations should investigate signs of a compromise from at least January 1, 2021 through present.

Furthermore, according to Bloomberg, the Chinese state-sponsored hacking group has claimed at least 60,000 known victims globally.

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Reasonable Security: Implementing Appropriate Safeguards in the Remote Workplace

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In 2020, with large portions of the global workforce abruptly sent home indefinitely, IT departments nationwide scurried to equip workers of unprepared companies to work remotely.

This presented an issue. Many businesses, particularly small businesses, barely have the minimum network defenses set up to prevent hacks and attacks in the centralized office. When suddenly everyone must become their own IT manager at home, there are even greater variances between secure practices, enforcement, and accountability.

“Reasonable Security” Requirements under CCPA/CPRA and Other Laws

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the implementation of “reasonable security” is a defense against a consumer’s private right of action to sue for data breach. A consumer who suffers an unauthorized exfiltration, theft, or disclosure of personal information can only seek redress if (1) the personal information was not encrypted or redacted, or (2) the business otherwise failed its duty to implement reasonable security. See Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.150.

Theoretically, this means that a business that has implemented security measures—but nevertheless suffers a breach—may be insulated from liability if the security measures could be considered reasonable measures to protect data. Therefore, while reasonable security is not technically an affirmative obligation under the CCPA, the reduced risk of consumer liability made reasonable security a de facto requirement.

However, under the recently passed California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), the implementation of reasonable security is now an affirmative obligation. Under revised Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.100, any business that collects a consumer’s personal information shall implement reasonable security procedures and practices to protect personal information. See our CPRA unofficial redlines.

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China’s 2020 Cryptography Law in the Context of China’s Burgeoning Data Privacy and Security Regime

[Originally published as a Feature Article: China’s 2020 Cryptography Law in the Context of China’s Burgeoning Data Privacy and Security Regime, by Carolyn K. Luong, in Orange County Lawyer Magazine, April 2020, Vol. 62 No.4, page 31.]

By Carolyn Luong

U.S.-China relations have been a trending topic throughout the past year due to several conflicts involving the alleged encroachment upon free speech principles and perceived threats to U.S. national security. The NBA and Activision-Blizzard, both U.S.-based organizations, fielded criticisms in October of 2019 for supposed political censorship motivated by the fear of losing Chinese customers. Furthermore, as the U.S. races to build out its 5G infrastructure, the U.S. government has explicitly restricted U.S. corporations from conducting business with Chinese technology manufacturer Huawei upon apprehension that Huawei equipment may contain backdoors to enable surveillance by the Chinese government.[1]

Dr. Christopher Ford, Assistant Secretary of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation remarked in September that, “Firms such as Huawei, Tencent, ZTE, Alibaba, and Baidu have no meaningful ability to tell the Chinese Communist Party ‘no’ if officials decide to ask for their assistance—e.g., in the form of access to foreign technologies, access to foreign networks, useful information about foreign commercial counterparties . . . .”[2] These Chinese firms in response firmly deny any allegations of contemplated or actual instances of required cooperation with the Chinese government to compromise user information or equipment.

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Should Bar Associations Vet Technology Service Providers for Attorneys?

[Originally published in GPSOLO, Vol. 36, No. 6, November/December 2019, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.]

Image Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay1

Bar associations across the country have similar goals: advance the rule of law, serve the legal profession, and promote equal access to justice. Technology can easily support these goals. From online research and billing software, to virtual receptionist and SEO services, technology vendors improve the efficiency and accessibility of attorneys. It is no wonder then that bar associations around the country are promoting technology solutions for their members.

Despite the obvious benefits, bar associations need to be diligent about vetting technology vendors. By promoting one technology provider over another, bar associations could run afoul of advertising laws, tax requirements, and software agreements. In addition, bar associations and their members need to pay close attention to technology vendors’ cybersecurity safeguards to protect client confidences.

This article will briefly address each of these issues in turn and provide a non-exhaustive checklist of considerations before choosing a legal technology provider.

Bar Associations as Influencers

When we think of product endorsements today, we think of social media influencers, bloggers, and vloggers—not bar associations. Yet, bar associations wield incredible influence over the purchasing decisions of their members. Given this influence, bar associations should stay mindful of laws addressing unfair and deceptive advertising, such as Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act), state false advertising laws, and state unfair trade practices acts (little FTC acts).

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