SecurityBrief Asia logo
Asia's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

What's an ELOFANT and how can you stop them threatening your data?

Tue 7 Jun 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Article by Stephen Cobb, ESET expert

If you’re concerned about the security of your organization’s data you should be looking out for elofants on your network.

I’ve seen them myself and, if your organization’s network is statistically average, then it is statistically likely to be harboring at least one ELOFANT, otherwise known as: Employee Left Or Fired, Access Not Terminated. While nobody wants to think ill of persons who have departed the organization — they could have been colleagues and friends — the harsh realities of cybersecurity and human nature make these unterminated “ghost accounts” a threat to the organization. Namely, they put the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the organization’s information system security at risk. I will talk more about the risks and responses right after some data to back up my assertions.

The DBIR angle

For many years now, Spring in North America has brought with it the Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report or DBIR, currently the most comprehensive collection of security incident and breach statistics and analysis that is routinely made available to the general public. This year’s dataset was over 100,000 incidents, more than 3,000 of which were confirmed data breaches. Highlights from this year’s report include the following:

  • Financial gain is making a comeback as a leading motive behind insider attacks
  • The number of “secondary motive attacks” — those perpetrated on one entity to aid attacks on another is increasing
  • Phishing emails are being opened by more people, not less (the open rate was up from 23% to 30%)
  • Phishing is gaining on the two leading threat action categories: hacking and malware
  • Breaches are taking longer to discover — the gap between time to compromise and time to discovery rose 35% from last year’s DBIR

While the general public probably doesn’t read the DBIR, security folks sure do, and we would read it even if it wasn’t written with a sense of humor. However, that sense of humor helps us swallow yet another dose of evidence that the world’s collective effort to protect data and systems from unauthorized access is falling short. One example of the DBIR style is an observation about the category of breaches it labels “Insider and Privilege Misuse”. The DBIR notes that this is: “normally solely associated with TGYFBFTDHRA”. A footnote to that string of capital letters then explains what the letters stand for: “That guy you fired but forgot to disable his remote access.”

And that got me thinking about a couple of things, including a simpler yet more inclusive acronym, hence ELOFANT. Why? Because folk you’ve fired are not the only source of lingering access you have to worry about. While I’m aware of plenty of cases where a security incident was traced back to someone who had been fired but not flushed from the permissions, there have also been cases where a person abused forgotten access after leaving of their own free will. The reality is that circumstances change and new motives for misdeeds can arise. Perhaps they were hired by a competitor who then pressured them to reach back and grab trade secrets or a confidential price list or customer database. Maybe they left happy but then their attitude changed, their severance pay was not as good as expected or their post-severance healthcare coverage let them down.

ELOFANTs are still insiders

To get a better handle on this particular threat, security pros can consult the many insider case studies documented by the CERT Insider Threat Center. The Center has documented hundreds of internal computer crimes that impacted companies in sectors like banking, information technology and telecommunications, critical infrastructure, and financial services. While the primary goal of the Center is to discover and disseminate practical methods of mitigating insider threats, the case studies are analysed according to academic standards; for example, methodological limitations, like the inability to generalize findings to all organizations, are duly noted.

What these studies reveal is how a wide range of insiders exploit opportunity to commit crimes, often through a simple betrayal of the trust placed in them as employees or contractors. Some insiders may, like Edward Snowden, have far-reaching “super-user” access to the organization’s assets, be they physical or digital; yet CERT has recorded many cases where the crime was committed by an insider with few technical skills and only limited access.

As long as they still have access, elofants are still trusted insiders, and the following is definitely true of insiders: never have so many had so much access to so much computerized information of such great value. Furthermore, stolen information has never been easier to transfer and monetize. And just to make things even riskier, as the 2016 DBIR reports: “we found that the incidents that take the longest to discover were these inside jobs.” So which organizations tend to be hardest hit by insider incidents? The DBIR says that in 2015 it was those in the public sector, the healthcare sector, and financial services such as credit card companies, banks, and lenders.

Defending against the inside threat is a serious challenge for every organization, but a range of defensive strategies are covered in depth by the CERT Guides linked below. The DBIR itself offers three helpful suggestions that I like, and which can be summarized as follows:

  1. Monitor employee access to valuable data (a good data loss prevention program can help).
  2. Control the use of removable media (a good security suite or encryption production can do this).
  3. Manage and limit access privileges, and remove those elofants!

Article by Stephen Cobb, ESET expert

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Cybersecurity
More than 40% of banks worried about cloud security - report
Publicis Sapient's new report finds security and the lack of cloud skills and internal understanding of business benefits are big obstacles for banks moving to the cloud.
Story image
Ransomware
Ransomware hits 65% of organisations in Singapore
Next-generation cybersecurity firm Sophos has released its annual survey and review of real-world ransomware experiences in the State of Ransomware 2022.
Story image
ChildFund
ChildFund launches new campaign to protect children online
ChildFund says WEB Safe & Wise aims to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online while also empowering them to become digitally savvy. 
Story image
Customer experience
Gartner recognises Okta for abilities in Access Management
Okta has announced it has been recognised as a Customers' Choice for the fourth time in a row in the Gartner Peer Insights "Voice of the Customer" report.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Noname Security partners with Netpoleon to target API issues
Specialist API security firm Noname Security has appointed Netpoleon as its distributor in Australia and New Zealand.
Story image
Supply chain
Jetstack promotes better security with supply chain toolkit
The web-based resource is designed to help organisations evaluate and plan the crucial steps they need to establish effective software supply chain security.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
How to ensure ethical deployment of AI implementations
The increase in automation and machine technology such as AI and machine learning has unlocked a whole new level of scale and service to organisations. 
Story image
Digital Transformation
Physical security systems guide the hybrid workplace to new heights
Organisations are reviewing how data gathered from their physical security systems can optimise, protect and enhance their business operations in unique ways.
Story image
Cybersecurity
ThoughtLab reveals 10 best practices for cybersecurity in 2022
The benchmarking study reveals best practices that can reduce the probability of a material breach and the time it takes to find and respond to those that happen.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Companies rushing to secure print infrastructure
As the pandemic prioritised communication channels and the shift to remote work, IT departments fell behind in updating the security of print and IT infrastructure.
Story image
Ransomware
Cybersecurity starts with education
In 2021, 80% of Australian organisations responding to the Sophos State of Ransomware study reported being hit by ransomware. 
Story image
VPN
Palo Alto Networks says ZTNA 1.0 not secure enough
Palo Alto Networks is urging the industry to move to Zero Trust Network Access 2.0 because previous versions have major gaps in security protection.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - An update from IronNet
Michael Ehrlich joins us today to discuss the history of IronNet and the crucial role the company plays in the cyber defence space.
Story image
Nozomi Networks
Nozomi Networks, Siemens reveal software integration
Nozomi Networks and Siemens have extended their partnership by embedding Nozomi Networks’ software into the Siemens Scalance LPE local processing engine.
Story image
Malware
Use of malware, botnets and exploits expands in Q1 2022
"As zero-day attacks and other vulnerabilities among companies like Google and Microsoft come to light, threat actors are quickly adjusting their tactics."
Story image
Cybersecurity
HackerOne launches Attack Resistance Management solution
HackerOne has launched Attack Resistance Management - a new category of security solution that targets the root causes of the attack resistance gap. 
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
ForgeRock releases Autonomous Access solution powered by AI
ForgeRock has officially introduced ForgeRock Autonomous Access, a new solution that uses AI to prevent identity-based cyber attacks and fraud.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Hard numbers: Why ambiguity in cybersecurity no longer adds up
As cybersecurity costs and risks continue to escalate, CEOs continue to struggle with what their investment in cyber protection buys. Getting rid of ambiguity becomes necessary.
Story image
Ransomware
A third of companies paying ransom don’t recover data - report
Veeam's report finds 76% of businesses who are victims of cyberattacks paid the ransom to recover data, but a third were still unable to get their information back.
Story image
Cybersecurity
A10 Networks finds over 15 million DDoS weapons in 2021
A10 Networks notes that in the 2H 2021 reporting period, its security research team tracked more than 15.4 million Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) weapons.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
AI-based email security platform Abnormal Security valued at $4B
"A new breed of cybersecurity solutions that leverage AI is required to change the game and stop the rising threat of sophisticated and targeted email attacks."
Story image
Data Protection
Managed Service Providers key to customer data protection
Frequent cyberattacks in the ASEAN region drive the demand for MSPs that can deliver purpose-built security solutions for SME customers.
Story image
Apricorn
Data backup plans inadequate, data still at risk - study
The Apricorn 2022 Global IT Security Survey revealed that while the majority organisations have data backup plans in place, data for many are at risk.
Story image
Ivanti
Ivanti and Lookout bring zero trust security to hybrid work
Ivanti and Lookout have joined forces to help organisations accelerate cloud adoption and mature their zero trust security posture in the everywhere workplace.
Story image
Data Protection
Barracuda launches new capabilities for API Protection
"Every business needs this type of critical protection against API vulnerabilities and automated bot attacks," Barracuda says.
Story image
Cybersecurity
The 'A-B-C' of effective application security
Software applications have been a key tool for businesses for decades, but the way they are designed and operated has changed during the past few years.
SonicWall
Find out how you and your business can prevent being caught out by everything from ransomware to cryptojacking.
Link image
Story image
Application Security
What are the DDoS attack trend predictions for 2022?
Mitigation and recovery are vital to ensuring brand reputation remains solid in the face of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack and that business growth and innovation can continue.
Story image
Remote Working
How zero trust and SD-WANs can support productive remote working
The way people connect with applications and data has changed, users are remotely accessing resources that could be stored anywhere from a corporate data center to the cloud.
Story image
Amazon Web Services / AWS
RedShield leverages AWS to scale cybersecurity services
"Working with AWS gives RedShield the ability to mitigate significant application layer DDoS attacks, helping leaders adopt best practices and security architectures."
Story image
Ransomware
Anniversaries remind us to review identity risks
World Password Day provides a timely reminder for ordinary citizens and organisations to stop and think about the risks associated with digital identities.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Managed service providers: effective scoping to avoid costly vendor pitfalls
Managed security services are outsourced services focusing on the security and resilience of business networks.
Story image
Phishing
KnowBe4 celebrates reaching 50,000 customers worldwide
KnowBe4 has reached the milestone of 50,000 customers, adding nearly 2,500 in the first quarter of 2022 alone.
Story image
Phishing
Google reveals new safety and security measures for users
Google's new measures include automatic two step verification, virtual cards and making it easier to remove contact information on Google Search results.
Story image
Malware
New vulnerabilities found in Nuspire’s Q1 2022 Threat Report
“Threat actors are quickly adjusting their tactics and these exploits tend to get industry attention, but the threat posed by older and attacks still persists."
Story image
Appian
Appian awarded billions in damages against Pegasystems Inc.
Appian has been awarded USD$2.036 billion in damages against Pegasystems Inc as the result of a jury verdict in the Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Virginia.
Story image
SaaS
Rubrik Security Cloud marks 'next frontier' in cybersecurity
"The next frontier in cybersecurity pairs the investments in infrastructure security with data security giving companies security from the point of data."
Story image
Cloud Security
Aqua Security createa unified scanner for cloud native security
“By integrating more cloud native scanning targets into Trivy, such as Kubernetes, we are simplifying cloud native security."
Story image
Sift
Sift shares crucial advice for preventing serious ATO breaches
Are you or your business struggling with Account Takeover Fraud (ATO)? One of the latest ebooks from Sift can provide readers with the tools and expertise to help launch them into the new era of account security.
Story image
Cybersecurity
CyberArk launches $30M investment fund to advance security
CyberArk has announced the launch of CyberArk Ventures, a $30 million global investment fund dedicated to advancing the next generation of security disruptors.
Story image
SaaS
Absolute Software expands Secure Access product offering
Absolute Software is enhancing its Secure Access product portfolio, enabling minimised risk exposure and optimised user experiences in the hybrid working environment.
Story image
Workato
Workato unveils enhancements to enterprise automation platform
"The extra layer of protection with EKM, zero-logging, and hourly key rotation gives customers a lot more visibility and control over more sensitive data."
Story image
Ransomware
Zerto unveils updates to ransomware recovery capabilities
"Organisations face increased risks from the volume and sophistication of ransomware attacks prevalent today."
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Datacom, Micro Focus, SnapLogic and VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 6-12, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.