The Future of Wealth Management

PwC’s 4th FS-Talk

Wealth managers are challenged by shifting client segments and disruptive technologies PwC experts discuss the key success factors for wealth managers today. Private client re-segmentation makes value-added services more important. Demands on relationship managers are increasing. Operations are under pressure to deliver higher efficiency. Listen in for pointers of where the challenges are and which technologies provide opportunities to gain a competitive edge.

Watch the latest video of our FS-Talk:

Get in contact with the speakers:

Dieter Wirth
Partner / Financial Service Leader
+41 58 792 4488
dieter.wirth@ch.pwc.com

Marcel Tschanz
Partner Advisory
+41 58 792 2087
marcel.tschanz@ch.pwc.com

Marcel Widrig
Partner / Private Wealth Leader
+41 58 792 4450
marcel.widrig@ch.pwc.com

Are public projects doomed to failure from the start? – Transformation Assurance

Public projects have a bad reputation. Is it deserved, or more a matter of expectations and the way success and failure are defined? In this critical review we take a close look at what makes public-sector IT and transformation projects different from those in other areas, the specific challenges they face, and tried-and-tested approaches to making them a success. Read more…

Contact

Marc Lahmann
Director and Leader Transformation Assurance
+41 58 792 27 99
marc.lahmann@ch.pwc.com

Digital IQ: focus on the human experience and technology integration

This is the tenth year running we’ve conducted PwC’s Global Digital IQ® Survey. The findings are sobering: enterprises all over the world are struggling to unlock the desired value. In most cases they’re overlooking fundamental integration of technology with the human experience of customers and employees. Compared with previous years there has been a decline in corporate digital IQ.

For the last ten years we and our colleagues at PwC all over the world have been polling the digital intelligence quotient of enterprises. For the 2017 edition, from September to November 2016 we asked more than 2,200 executives in 53 countries about digitisation trends and their impact on their organisation. In Switzerland 53 people took part, most of them chief information officers (CIOs) or heads of IT.

What makes a champion?

The so-called top performers, in other words organisations with sales and margin growth of more than 5%, consider the definition of ‘digital’ to be broader. They’re engaged in far-sighted, customer-oriented technology activities that go beyond mere digital technology to take in other aspects of business. When these companies run digital projects they involve cross-disciplinary teams with representatives from various fields of expertise and technology to revolutionize the human experience (employee & customer experience). They also use agile methods for the majority of projects, even those not involving software development.

Where do Swiss companies stand out?

Executives at Swiss companies rate the digital IQ of their CIO by international standards higher than their counterparts abroad (89% in Switzerland versus 83% worldwide). But the figure for CEOs is lower than the global average (54% versus 62%).

When it comes to innovativeness, Swiss companies do less well by international standards, with only 54% systematically venturing to take on new technologies (versus 76% in other countries). Swiss organisations take a different approach to exploring new technologies than their counterparts abroad, and are more likely to join forces with other industry leaders or technology vendors.

What determines digital success?

Digital initiatives are successful when aligned with a digital strategy that’s clear and understandable for all the stakeholders involved and that brings about changes in corporate culture. Transformation always has to take account of the perspectives of employees and partners such as suppliers and customers.

Digitally ambitious enterprises are able to draw together different aspects to enable harmonious, value-adding transformation. By integrating the business, the customer and employee experience, and the relevant technologies, they’re able to achieve lasting competitive advantage.

Want to know more about our study? You’ll find a summary of the Swiss findings here. You can also download the international edition of the Global Digital IQ® Survey:

Global Digital IQ Survey

Contact

Christoph Müller
Senior Manager, CIO Advisory
+41 58 792 27 86
christoph.mueller@ch.pwc.com

Axel Timm
Partner, Business Technology
+41 58 792 27 22
axel.timm@ch.pwc.com

Holger Greif
Partner, Advisory
+41 58 792 13 86
holger.greif@ch.pwc.com

The ransomware that made the world cry

The last few days of the cybersecurity community have been heated up by a vast-scale ransomware attack rippling across the world. On Friday 12 May came the first announcements of victims infected with a ransomware dubbed WannaCry (also known as WCry or Wanna Decryptor). It soon became clear that the scale of this wave was bigger than usual. According to the last estimates, the malware infected more than 250,000 systems in as many as one hundred countries. The list of victims is long and includes notorious names across all sectors. In some cases, the malware had unfortunate consequences. For instance, a few hospitals in the United Kingdom had to cancel their scheduled surgeries and some students in China lost their graduation thesis.

What we know

The malware encrypts and adds the extension “.WCRY” to all files that match a list of 176 specific extensions including documents, database and backup files. The victim is requested to pay between USD 300 and 600 in Bitcoins to get its files back. So far, there is no evidence that a payment will effectively provide the key for decrypting the files. In their message, the authors threaten to delete the file forever if their request is not met within eight days. The international ambitions of this campaign are made clear by the fact that the ransom message is translated in 28 languages.

Once the initial host has been infected, the ransomware dropper makes use of the MS17-010 vulnerability of the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol to spread laterally through the network. The exploit using this vulnerability has been made public by the group Shadow Broker on 14 April 2017 in a leak of hacking tools allegedly crafted by a state actor. Microsoft had released a patch a month before.

Switzerland has not been spared. The Swiss GovCERT declared that until Sunday evening there were roughly 200 potential victims. The number of victims could steeply increase, as there are more than 5,000 systems directly connected to the Internet over a SMB protocol.

What is still unclear

Despite the overwhelming information, some points still remain unclear. First, it is not yet known how the dropper is initially delivered to the victims. According to one hypothesis a spear phishing e-mail should have spread the malicious attachment. However, no such e-mails have surfaced yet. In its alert, the US-CERT claimed that hackers gained access to the victims’ network either through Remote Desktop Protocol or through the exploitation of the critical Windows SMB vulnerability mentioned above. Second, the identity of the authors is wrapped in mystery. Given the financial nature of the attack, the dominant hypothesis states that the attack has been launched by a criminal group. However, it should not be forgotten that in the past even state actors were involved in spectacular heists. Fresh discoveries suggest that the malware might be linked to Lazarus, a state actor group believed to be involved in the infamous SWIFT attack against the Bangladesh Central Bank of February 2016. So far, the authors have neither spent nor transferred the Bitcoins they obtained. At this stage, it is difficult to make further assertions on the attribution of the attack.

Main takeaways

As previously mentioned, the exploit used in this attack was leaked in April this year. By that time, the vendor had already released a patch to correct the flaws. Unfortunately, many users ignored this threat and were not much eager to install the patch. This episode should serve as a reminder that threat actors will reuse leaked tools and that without a proper prophylaxis an incident is just around the corner.

As reported by the media, a young IT-security researcher could temporarily curb the attack by registering a “kill-switch” domain that told the ransomware to stop spreading itself. Unfortunately, new versions of the malware without this feature have already been spotted in the wild. Furthermore, the threat intelligence community generously shared a lot of indicators and advices helping organisations to identify, prevent and dwarf the impact of infections. These common efforts have to be praised and should continue in the future.

Recommendations

If not done yet, apply the MS17-010 patches immediately. As short-term actions, your IT team should consider to:

  • disable all external SMB access (blocking ports 137, 139 and 445 to/from the internet);
  • disable the use of the SMBv1 network file sharing protocol;
  • ensure two-factor authentication is in place for all necessary external accesses to systems (e.g. VPN and RDP);
  • update the antivirus signatures;
  • rapidly isolate the infected system from your corporate network to curb the spreading of the infection;
  • backup the encrypted files in case a decryption tool become available, if you have already fallen victim to the ransomware.

On a more long-term approach, consider to plan and exercise a business continuity programme, adopt and test an incident response strategy, a consistent patch and vulnerability management, as well as a regular backup policy and security awareness raising trainings.

PwC can provide you with the necessary assistance and counsel to address these issues and improve your overall security posture. PwC strongly believes in a holistic approach to cyber security by offering a wide variety of services covering all the phases of the cyber lifecycle: from strategy and policy development to its implementation and review.

In case of questions, please contact us at
cyberinvestigation@ch.pwc.com

 

Transforming Businesses through Drone Technologies

Tuesday, 30 May 2017, Papiersaal Sihlcity, Zurich

The digital transformation agenda is revolutionising business operations and impacting technological progress as well as improving economic results. The disruption through drones is a perfect example of the transformation of operational processes and PwC is pioneering on this front with the development of a dedicated solution that helps businesses.

PwC’s Drone Powered Solutions sees the commercial application of drone technologies which provides the ability to capture unparalleled levels of both data volume and data accuracy that are analysed to suit the business’ requirements. After a presentation of PwC’s global thought leadership report “Clarity from Above” which focuses on the commercial application of drones technologies, we will highlight case studies that demonstrate how drone solutions can be integrated in insurance, construction and agriculture industry businesses. We will follow with workshops around opportunities and challenges facing drones technologies implementation.

We would like to welcome you to presentations and discussions that focus on drone technologies. The event features drones in flight, virtual reality and the opportunity to engage with subject matter experts in this exciting topic.

Date and Time: Tuesday, 30 May 2017 – 10:00 – 16:00 hours
Venue: Papiersaal, Alte Sihlpapierfabrik, Kalenderplatz 6 (Sihlcity), 8045 Zurich
Costs: There will be no costs charged for this Event
Programme: Find the detailed programme online

Please register online

We are looking forward to your participation!

Switzerland targeted in sustained global cyber campaign

PwC and BAE Systems have recently concluded an intensive investigation into an espionage network dubbed APT10. Our Advanced Cyber Defense team in Switzerland has been involved in the detection, response and remediation of the attack in multiple sectors where Swiss based clients have fallen victim to this campaign.

Over the last year we have seen sustained targeted attacks against major organisations in Switzerland. The attacks have specifically targeted managed IT service providers (MSPs) and used these networks to reach MSPs customers. This potentially gave unprecedented global access to the intellectual property and sensitive data of those MSPs and their clients.
As part of the investigations carried out by our Swiss, UK and global teams, we have linked these activities to similar attacks in more than 14 countries. PwC has gone public with this because although we have already seen several companies compromised, there may be many other organisations affected. We recommend performing a cybersecurity breach assessment to detect whether your organisation has been previously compromised, and to use tailored threat intelligence to manage risk effectively.

World-wide, the campaign has targeted many Japanese state entities, and in the US, defence-related as well as telecommunication companies. The construction, retail and consumer, energy and mining, technology, professional services, metals, industrial manufacturing, and public sector were also targeted.

What is APT10?

APT10 has targeted “managed IT service providers” and has used them as a springboard to crawl through networks. The group behind the campaign has been using a wide variety of malware which has evolved over time. This has included: RedLeaves, PlugX, Poison Ivy, EvilGrab, and mimikatz. These tools used as part of the campaign have been around for quite some while and passed around within criminal circles.

The campaign uses an impressive network of command-and-control servers. PwC assesses the energy and resources invested into the campaign as high and sustained.

Attribution

PwC was successful in attributing the attack to the campaign by seeking analytical conclusions from a variety of disciplines and perspectives, all pointing to the same conclusion. Reverse engineering of the malware revealed a command-and-control infrastructure as well as recognisable characteristics. Additional folders and file conventions and paths further shed light on associated techniques, tools, and procedures (TTPs). Robust intelligence corroborated with similar indicators and activities across related victims. Lastly, the modus operandi, targeted information and temporal analysis of activities when compared to similar activities at the time and in the industry reinforced PwC’s conclusions.

Several indicators point to the instigators being located in East Asia. Most strikingly, the timestamps of registration of domains for the important network of command-and-control servers as well as the compilation time would appear to make sense for an actor based within this region. Many of these indicators could be faked to induce investigators to draw the wrong conclusions. However, to do so consistently across several types of evidence, and without hinting at another geographical location would be rather exceptional.

Further investigations are still being carried out to try to determine more exactly who could be behind the attacks. Attribution is a lengthy investigative process, but we believe that the report needed to come out quickly to help organisations protect their networks as much as possible.

What to do

The report includes a long list of Indicators-of-Compromise. It is advisable to upload these into your systems to protect against future possible attacks. Furthermore, for organisations in targeted sectors with high value intellectual property we recommend conducting a threat hunt into your network to identify whether you have been targeted by the attacks.

PwC also recommends at a minimum two factor authentication for jump posts where managed service providers (MSP) enter client networks. The compromise and data exfiltration is done via system and MSP administrator accounts so having stronger controls around these entry points are key. Additionally, increasing visibility across the enterprise through a holistic logging policy would further assist.

Should you need any help to conduct such assessment, PwC would gladly assist you in any way we can. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us: PwC Swiss Breach Aid Team

The report and the technical indicators can be found here
 

Reto Häni
Cyber Security Leader
+41 79 345 01 24
reto.haeni@ch.pwc.com

Besuchen Sie uns am IT Sourcing Forum 2017

PwC lädt Sie zum diesjährigen Swiss IT Sourcing Forum vom 19. April 2017 im Kultur- und Kongresscenter in Luzern ein.

Mehr als 300 Entscheidungsträger von Anwender-Unternehmen werden sich im KKL Luzern zum B2B-Event der Schweizer Cloud & IT Sourcing Branche treffen.
Als Platin Partner des Swiss IT Sourcing Forum 2016 ist PwC am 19. April 2017 persönlich vor Ort vertreten und nutzt die Veranstaltung für persönliche Gespräche mit Kunden, Interessenten und den professionellen Austausch mit Experten und Entscheidungsträgern der Branche. Gerne treffen wir Sie vor Ort und suchen mit Ihnen gemeinsam die beste Lösung für Ihr Unternehmen zur Umsetzung Ihrer IT-Strategie.

Zusätzlich zu den Vorträgen haben Sie die Möglichkeit an unseren beiden  Roundtables “Präsentation der Schweizer Ergebnisse aus der Digital IQ-Studie 2016″ um 11:20 Uhr und  “Cyber Security  – Von der Überlebensstrategie zum Unternehmensvorteil ” um 14:40 Uhr teilzunehmen.

Wir freuen uns sehr, Sie an unserem PwC Stand am Swiss IT Sourcing Forum 2017 begrüssen zu dürfen.

Online Registrierung


Datum:
Wednesday, April 19 2017, 09:30 – 17:30

Veranstaltungsort:
KKL Luzern, Europaplatz 1, 6005 Luzern

Mehr Informationen finden Sie hier

Lessons from a hack

What links spies, hackers, cookies and a grey Aston Martin DBS? The answer can be found in the indictment against four suspects that the U.S. Department of Justice published last week. The four individuals are accused of breaching into the networks of a large telecommunication company in 2014 and of stealing large amounts of client data. Despite the legal jargon (albeit with a few sparks of technical details), the reading of the document reveals some interesting aspects in regard to cyber security.

The blurring line between cyber crime and cyber espionage

Cyber security experts have repeatedly pointed out that intelligence services are keen on taking advantage of the abilities of cyber criminals by hiring and mandating them for penetrating into their targets’ networks and siphon out sensitive data. The indictment confirms this practice. Two of the defendants are allegedly officers of a foreign intelligence service and have been accused of “[directing] criminal hackers, […], to gain unauthorized access to computers of companies”.

The increasingly blurring line between cyber crime and cyber espionage makes the attribution of cyber incidents more complex. As cyber criminals offer their services and tools on underground markets of the dark web, a same tool can be used in several campaigns and by different threat actors, even intelligence agencies. Hence, the approach for declaring the instigators of a cyber attack needs to go beyond the mere technical details (i.e., the so-called indicator of compromise [IOC], such as the signature of malware used or the IP addresses of command and control servers). The attribution process must take into account nontechnical aspects such as the nature of the target and the type of the information stolen. These elements are then to be interpreted within a geopolitical framework.

Tools, techniques and procedures

The indictment gives an interesting insight into the techniques used by criminals to gain unauthorized access to a system. The methods listed by the Department of Justice include advanced techniques such as spear phishing and cookies minting. In the first case, the hackers had sent ad hoc tailored e-mails designed to resemble messages from a trustworthy source luring the recipients to either open an attachment carrying a malware or to click on a malicious link. In the latter, the suspects had forged session cookies to gain unauthorized access to the e-mail accounts of the victim. Furthermore, in order to make the task of the investigators more difficult and to “reduce the likelihood of detection”, the criminals had covered their tracks by leasing servers in different countries and using VPN. Once inside the system of the breached company, they also had run log cleaners to erase their traces.

The indictment does not report either the malware used or any IOC, it however highlights the high skills and versatility of cyber criminals these days. They are professionals able to use a large set of tools and to combine different techniques ranging from social engineering to the use of malware. When defending your company’s network, you have to be aware of this and consequently implement a comprehensive security infrastructure without neglecting employees’ awareness training.

Collateral damage

The victim of the breach is a well-known e-mail provider with millions of users and even more e-mail accounts. By breaching the company’s network, the hackers had gained access to thousands of e-mail accounts. According to the charges, the suspects had had access to accounts of journalists, politicians, government officials, sales managers and even to the ones belonging to a Chief Technology Officer. Among the victims there were also 14 employees of a Swiss Bitcoin wallet and banking firm.

The intelligence officers were more interested in personal information about specific political targets; on the other hand, the hackers rather sought financial data for their personal enrichment. Apparently, the business activity was somewhat lucrative as the list of the forfeited goods mentions a grey Aston Martin DBS.

As widely reported in the media, the breached company was in the process of being acquired. In the aftermath of this very disclosure and of another previous one, the price of the deal was reduced by $300 million. Also, taking responsibility for the breach, the company’s CEO decided to renounce her annual bonus. Yes, a security breach can have heavy and real repercussions for the company and its employees.

Recommendations

This breach showcases the importance of not having your personal and business data on a single webmail without protecting it. We strongly recommend using encrypted communication for any sensitive information. Moreover, the criminals reused the stolen passwords to log into other accounts belonging to the users. As a good security reflex, you should never reuse your password across different services.

PwC strongly believes in a holistic approach to cyber security by offering a wide variety of services covering all the phases of the cyber lifecycle: from strategy and policy development to its implementation and to incident response. PwC cyber security services can help your company improve its security posture to face old and new threats.

Contact us if you would like to discuss this topic.

Reto Haeni
Cyber Security Leader
+41 79 345 01 24
reto.haeni@ch.pwc.com

Mark Barwinski
Director, Cyber Security
+41 58 792 20 89
mark.barwinski@ch.pwc.com

The end of trust? Balancing privacy with profits in the digital world

Over the past 20 years, technology has penetrated our business and personal lives at a speed and on a scale that few would have predicted. Yet while technology creates enormous opportunities, it also exposes us to significant risks. We can now source goods and services from across the world with a couple of mouse clicks, but that convenience comes at a price. Many of us, myself included, worry that we’re unintentionally compromising our privacy and the security of our personal data by shopping online.

As our markets leader in Switzerland, I had the good fortune to be in Davos last month where we launched our 20th CEO survey to the global media. I can’t remember a time when trust has been more prominent than it is today. Although it wasn’t a focus area in the earlier years of our CEO research, it’s been steadily climbing up the agenda. And most, the financial crisis and the political focus on the tax affairs of multinationals have eroded both customers’ and other stakeholders’ trust in businesses. Our survey shows how heavily this erosion is weighing on CEOs. More than half (58%) were worried that a lack of trust in business would harm their business, a significant jump from 37% in 2013.

In some respects, technology has made us more trusting than before. This is best demonstrated by the sharing economy, where digital platforms connect strangers who are willing to share cars and homes. Overall, however, technology is acting as a drain on trust, especially where people believe they are dealing with ‘faceless corporations’ instead of someone like themselves. A never-ending stream of cyber attacks, system disruptions and phishing scams creates the impression – accurately, in many respects – that the internet is not a safe place. We increasingly have to differentiate ‘real news’ from ‘fake news’ and we fear that governments and companies are abusing our personal information. No wonder more than two-thirds (69%) of CEOs are firmly convinced that it’s getting harder for businesses to gain – and retain – people’s trust.

Customer data is a great asset to companies, which use it to influence purchasing behaviour. It will be an even greater asset still once the Internet of Things has expanded to include host of devices ranging from smart watches and heart monitors to refrigerators and cars. Understandably then, customer data is probably the most pressing trust issue for CEOs, with 91% saying that breaches of data privacy and ethics will have a negative impact on stakeholder trust in the next five years. Our research suggests they are right to hold this view since 84% of people we spoke to at the same time as we surveyed the CEOs confirmed that breaches do indeed undermine their trust in companies.

Of course, companies will want to use data generated by the Internet of Things to serve their customers better, but they must also avoid intruding on their customers’ privacy or allowing their customers’ data to fall into the wrong hands (and indeed new EU regulations in the form of the General Data Protection Regulation will come into force next year to help further protect individual’s personal data).

Another major challenge to businesses is cyber espionage, the modern-day equivalent of industrial espionage. This is the practice of using computers to gain access to confidential information held by another organisation. Furthermore, more than half (53%) of CEOs are afraid that trust will be undermined by global cyber warfare – where government-backed hackers target another nation’s crucial energy or security infrastructure, commercial assets or mass transport system.

CEOs recognise that trust is an opportunity as well as a risk. Significantly, 64% of those surveyed believe that how their firm manages data will be a differentiating factor in future. The businesses that flourish will balance getting and using data with the social consequences of those actions. They will actively engage with stakeholders and invest heavily in their IT security, risk and governance strategies. Ultimately, in an environment where the line of acceptability regarding data usage will be constantly moving, the ability to earn trust will be one of the greatest determinants of business success. Read more about what’s on the mind of the CEO in our 20th CEO Survey.

Cybersecurity: A peek into the nuts and bolts of a state cyber apparatus

WikiLeaks, the platform that has in the past released thousands of classified US diplomatic cables and, more recently, emails from the Democratic National Committee, has now published leaked documents which it claims came from the CIA. The documents detail tools the intelligence agency uses for surveillance. This includes notably kits to penetrate computers (from Windows to OS X), mobile phones (iOS, Android) and many other devices.

Why is this relevant?

It has been known for some years that intelligence services also launch cyber attacks. In so doing, they add new malware and create new “threats” to the security landscape. The secret way services operate has contributed to certain expectations, at times exaggerated, as to what their capabilities are. The leak offers us a peek into what a state intelligence service does and how it operates to breach systems. For cyber security specialists, this is in a way a boon to learn how they can make their network more resilient – provided that they are in measure to correctly digest the information.

Furthermore, because of their sometimes sizeable budget, a few intelligence services can set the tone as to what is the most sophisticated way to perform successful and stealthy attacks. The leaks provide, however, a slightly different perspective.

Should we be worried?

One of the stories to make the headlines concerned spying via Smart TV. It is, however, much less scary than it may sound. The TVs were not hacked remotely, but malware was introduced physically into them.

Many intelligence services go after specific targets. The way they operate means that they will seek to obtain further information about what a specific person is up to because the agency will already have received a hint from another source that the person is involved in terrorist activities, nuclear or chemical weapons proliferation, or organised crime for instance. The agency then works its way through to have surveillance in place – be it through remote cyber means or through human intelligence (HUMINT) and up-close support by a network of assets (recruits).

What the leaks show is that agencies, logically, can use their strongest assets to put such surveillance systems into place, humans: either they physically go in themselves or utilise these recruits to inject malware via up-close support. Regardless of an organisation’s cyber security, it is very likely that the agency will be able to circumvent it this way. For an intelligence service to use a Smart TV as a bugging device is in the end not so different than if they had installed their own in-house-developed listening device after breaking into a target’s home.

Therefore, if an organisation comes into the crosshair of an intelligence service, it may have bigger problems to worry about than only to know whether it is under surveillance.

Similarly and in addition, up-close physical contact is commonly utilised by such intelligence agencies in a broad set of countries to gain persistence into mobile devices. Such activities often take place in hotel rooms where unsuspecting users sometimes may leave telephones, iPads, and laptops unattended for a few hours at a time. It may only take a matter of seconds for a trained operative to equip a personal device with new software or hardware. If successful, these agencies may harvest a treasure trove of information, which could include all email communications, as well as the ability to monitor live sound and video, banking transactions, and geolocation coordinates and much more – essentially a complete pattern of life. (Patterns of life are akin to human fingerprints making it possible for intelligence agencies to maintain detail awareness of a target’s actions.) It is therefore wise to maintain awareness of the location of all personal devices during business trips to foreign destinations in order to minimise access to such devices by unauthorised individuals.

If there is a point on which to rejoice is that in this latest apparent tool release, a few commonly known communication applications, which use encryption to keep people’s conversations private, seem to be genuinely safe to use. As the leaks appear to indicate, state intelligence services utilise Trojans to penetrate targets’ cell phones, highlighting that they probably have not been able to crack the encryption algorithms. Users may find comfort in that their private sphere may very well remain protected in some circumstance and for some mobile device models.

What are the largest takeaways?

The toolkit exposed is less sophisticated and impressive than others, which would stem from a signal intelligence agency. This is probably because certain agencies can use other “human” means to gain an entry point into a network.

All intelligence agencies are not alike and many within the same countries operate under different mandates, authorities, and areas of specialisation. Such is the case for this most recent release of tools associated with an agency focused on the collection of foreign intelligence through highly targeted activities and sometimes via up-close tactical operations – mass surveillance is generally not considered associated with the operating principles of an agency not focussing on signal intelligence, in other words.

As a consequence, the released information does not contain zero-days, and shows that intelligence services can reuse portion of codes garnered on the internet or already deployed by criminals and other intelligence services. Albeit from being practical, this also adds to the confusion for whoever tries to attribute the attacks honouring the principles of deception and plausible deniability.

A second point which follows is that many of the leaks showcase that the agency merely makes good use of unpatched systems. Some of the released information may well be quite old – such as a document concerning the rapid copying of 3.5 inches disk – but it seems in accordance with PwC’s views that many unpatched systems still leave the door open as much to criminals as to intelligence services.

Open questions

The US intelligence community has been very much in the spotlight for the past couple of months – and the timing for the release of the leaks could not be more awkward. It comes at a time when intelligence agencies have likely been tasked to take action against those responsible for influencing the democratic electoral process in the country. The timing hence raises the question whether there are motives behind the leaks other than the obvious ones. If we are to accept recent reports of such activities, then such a release of tools may signal a pre-emptive action designed to hinder retaliation. This should incite us to be cautious as to how we interpret them and not to take information at face value, especially as some of it may also not be genuine.

Once more, the leaks appear to seek to damage the organisation at least in two ways: it will have to rebuild tools to ensure that it can continue its surveillance of terrorists and others; and it will have to double its efforts to ensure to its international partners that information they give to the agency will remain confidential.

Threat intelligence?

Now that this information about a state’s capabilities lies in the open, it makes sense to integrate it into an organisation’s security posture: professional criminals are likely to seek to reuse what they can perceive as top-notched hacking tips. To do so requires understanding the context of the information (of the leaks but also of the functioning agencies behind the leaks) and having appropriate technical systems in place.

PwC is a global leader in security services and has multiple threat intelligence teams globally including in Switzerland. Furthermore, PwC built one of the world leading threat detection and intelligence platforms “Secure Terrain”. The platform is based upon the most advanced analytics technology to pull information out of large amounts of data that traditional methods would not be able to digest. Combined with our threat intelligence, PwC can provide the tools, methods and (if needed) people to detect, and respond to, advanced attacks in an intelligence-driven way.

Contact us if you would like to discuss this topic.

Reto Haeni
Cyber Security Leader
+41 79 345 01 24
reto.haeni@ch.pwc.com

Mark Barwinski
Director, Cyber Security
+41 58 792 20 89
mark.barwinski@ch.pwc.com