How the UK created her majesty's cyber service

Britain's Active Cyber Defence program offers agencies basic, automated cybersecurity services to protect "the majority of the people from the majority of the harm from the majority of the attacks the majority of the time."

The British government's plan for "actively defending" the U.K. against high-volume commodity cyberattacks has had an immediate, positive impact, according to a new report.

The National Cyber Security Centre's Active Cyber Defence program was founded in October 2016 to protect "the majority of the people from the majority of the harm from the majority of the attacks the majority of the time," according to the Feb. 5 report detailing ACD's progress so far.

Rather than beef up cybersecurity by issuing guidance to industry and citizens, the plan was "to use government as a guinea pig for all the measures we want to see done at national scale," according to a 2016 blog post by the Ian Levy, the author of the report and technical director of the U.K. National Cyber Security Centre.

"We’ll be eating our own dog food to prove the efficacy (or otherwise) of the measures we’re asking for, and to prove they scale sensibly before asking anyone else to implement anything."

The new report details ACD's 2017 work on the key interventions and security services it offers public sector organizations. Highlights of that work includes:

Takedown service that asks hosting providers to remove malicious content that purports to be related to U.K. government as well as certain types of malicious content hosted in the UK. By removing phishing sites using a government brand, those physically hosted in the U.K. and compromised U.K. sites launching attacks, ACD greatly reduced the availability of those sites.  Even though the volume of global phishing has increased nearly 50 percent over the last 18 months, the report said, the U.K.'s share has reduced from 5.5 percent to 2.9 percent.

DMARC deployment in the public sector, which will make it more expensive or riskier for attackers to spoof messages that appear to come from the government. Getting all government domains to use  Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance will demonstrate that the technology can be implemented at scale. DMARC adoption went from 5.58 percent to 18.3 percent in the last year, and use of spoofed gov.uk addresses fell consistently. About 10 percent of agencies use ACD's open source Mail Check platform to assesses their email security posture. It analyzes DMARC reports and extracts relevant information that is stored in a set of databases that has a dashboard for analytics.

Web Check service that automatically tests public sector websites to identify security issues, provide clear and friendly reporting to the service owners, along with advice on how to fix the problems. The service verifies the domain, checks HTTP redirects, attempts to determine the software used for servers and content management systems is supported, runs a full SSL/TLS vulnerability assessment and checks for artifacts of WannaCry.  Web Check found that agencies had issues with security certificate management and patching software. "[It] has shown that simple tests, at scale, can have a measurable positive effect on the security of the web sites involved," the report said, though work is needed to ensure public-sector agencies can respond to vulnerability reports.  

Public Sector DNS service that provides subscribing agencies with protective DNS services that block access to known malicious domains and analyzes the resolution data to find other security issues. Analysis has found traffic linked to malware such as WannaCry and Conficker in nine organizations as well as domain-generation algorithms that create a large number of domain names that can be used for malware to contact its command and control servers. In the last two months of 2017, the service blocked over 2.5 million malicious resolution requests.

Signaling and Routing research to make both source and destination IP address spoofing much harder, which could help prevent U.K. infrastructure from being used in DDoS attacks and traffic hijacking.

The Threat-o-Matic platform, which links all ACD's services and experiments and provides automated analysis, feedback tracking, workflow automation and threat intelligence. ACD plans to move it to beta in 2018, offering analysis on DMARC reports and linking malicious detection events to the ISP community.

In addition to the report, National Cyber Security Centre also released extensive guidance on preventing phishing with a multi-layered approach:

  • Make it difficult for attackers to reach users by employing anti-spoofing controls, reducing the amount of publicly available information on employees and blocking incoming phishing emails.
  • Help users identify and report suspected phishing emails by making it easier for them to recognize fraudulent requests and creating an environment that empowers them to ask for help.
  • Protect organizations from the effects of undetected phishing emails by protecting devices from malware, keeping users from malicious websites and accounts and deploying effective authentication schemes
  • Respond quickly to incidents by encouraging users to report incidents as soon as possible and instituting an incident response plan.

The report outlined how a financial company used this kind of multi-layered approach to defend itself against a phishing campaign that contained variants of Dridex malware. Of the 1,800 phishing emails claiming to be an invoice that needed attention company employees received, 1,750 were caught by filtering software. Of the 50 messages that reached inboxes, 36 were ignored or reported by employees using a button in their email client, which notified IT staff that an attack had penetrated the initial filtering defenses. Fourteen of the malware-bearing emails were clicked on, but the malware failed to install in all but one case because devices and software were up to date and patched. That single instance of malware was detected when it called back to its controller.

The phishing guidance also provides step-by-step instructions for IT managers to help them implement these policies.

Read the full report, Active Cyber Defence -- One Year On, here.

NEXT STORY: Crowdsourcing cyber threat defense

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.