CISA AND MS-ISAC RELEASE JOINT RANSOMWARE GUIDE

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) are releasing a joint Ransomware Guide meant to be a one-stop resource for stakeholders on how to be proactive and prevent these attacks from happening and also a detailed approach on how to respond to an attack and best resolve the cyber incident.


The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) are releasing a joint Ransomware Guide meant to be a one-stop resource for stakeholders on how to be proactive and prevent these attacks from happening and also a detailed approach on how to respond to an attack and best resolve the cyber incident.

CISA and MS-ISAC observed there are vast products and resources available, but very few that have them all in one place.

This one-stop guide is divided into two parts:

First, the guide focuses on best practices for ransomware prevention, detailing practices that organizations should continuously do to help manage the risk posed by ransomware and other cyber threats. It is intended to enable forward-leaning actions to successfully thwart and confront malicious cyber activity associated with ransomware. Some of the several CISA and MS-ISAC preventive services that are listed are Malicious Domain Blocking and Reporting, regional CISA Cybersecurity Advisors, Phishing Campaign Assessment, and MS-ISAC Security Primers on ransomware variants such as Ryuk.

The second part of this guide, response best practices and services, is divided up into three sections: (1) Detection and Analysis, (2) Containment and Eradication, and (3) Recovery and Post-Incident Activity. One of the unique aspects that will significantly help an organization’s leadership as well as IT professional with response is a comprehensive, step-by-step checklist.

With many technical details on response actions and lists of CISA and MS-ISAC services available to the incident response team, this part of the guide can enable a methodical, measured and properly managed approach.  

“It is a CISA priority to help our partners defend against ransomware, advise them on appropriate risk-management actions and provide best practices for a resilient, responsible incident response plan in the event of an cyberattack,” said Bryan Ware, Assistant Director for Cybersecurity, CISA. “The collaborative and consistent engagement with our industry and government partners support our concerted efforts to offer trusted, proactive and timely resources and services. This guide is based on operational insight from CISA and MS-ISAC and our engagements with varied sector partners.”

Recent events stress the important reminder that ransomware can happen at any time to any organizations, so we encourage all organizations with sensitive or important data stored on their network to take steps now to protect it, including backing up data, training employees, and patching systems to blunt the potential impact of ransomware.

Malicious actors have adjusted their ransomware tactics over time to include pressuring victims for payment by threatening to release stolen data if they refuse to pay and publicly naming and shaming victims as secondary forms of extortion.

One of the ways this guide can help is with identifying their critical data. It’s hard to have an organization determine after-the-fact what critical data was impacted by a ransomware incident if they did not have that understanding of what critical data they had ahead of time.

And, it is hard to revert to backups if an organization does not have or has not properly maintained and tested their backups.

This joint ransomware guide is written primarily for the IT professional, but every level of an organization can benefit from reviewing it. CISA and MS-ISAC are proud to provide this guide that can help them plan for a ransomware incident and understand the risk management, analytical, and response services available to them.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (September 2020)  CISA AND MS-ISAC RELEASE JOINT RANSOMWARE GUIDE

CISA Releases Guide for America’s Election Administrators

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released the Guide to Vulnerability Reporting for America’s Election Administrators. The guide walks election officials through the steps of establishing a vulnerability disclosure program.


Federal authorities say one of the gravest threats to the November election is a well-timed ransomware attack that could paralyze voting operations. The threat isn’t just from foreign governments, but any fortune-seeking criminal.

As a result, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released the Guide to Vulnerability Reporting for America’s Election Administrators. The guide walks election officials through the steps of establishing a vulnerability disclosure program. 

Vulnerability disclosures can be an effective way for organizations to benefit from cybersecurity expertise without having it resident to their organization.  

CISA released two new assessments and infographics on Election Infrastructure Cyber Risk and Mail-in Voting in 2020 Infrastructure Risk.

Each method of voting carries risk that you, as election officials, manage.

These assessments and infographics are voluntary resources intended to help the Federal Government and election officials understand and manage risks to election infrastructure and operations.

“Election officials have spent years beefing up security to their systems and closing these vulnerability gaps to keep our elections safe and secure,” said CISA Director Christopher Krebs. “Cybersecurity researchers can be great and responsible partners in this effort and we are creating this guide as a way to help state and local election officials understand the support they can offer and how to work with them in our collective, whole of nation effort to protect our elections.”  

The guide aims to help election officials understand the role that the cybersecurity research community can play in helping officials keep systems secure so that the American public’s voice can be clearly heard.

The guide includes a number of best practices for improving and addressing vulnerabilities within election systems, and offers a step-by-step guide for election administrators who seek to establish a successful vulnerability disclosure program.  

Accordingly, an electoral process that is both secure and resilient is a vital national interest and one of CISA’s highest priorities.

CISA is committed to working collaboratively with those on the front lines of elections—state and local governments, election officials, federal partners, and vendors—to manage risks to the Nation’s election infrastructure. CISA will remain transparent and agile in its vigorous efforts to secure America’s election infrastructure from new and evolving threats.

While ultimate responsibility for administering the Nation’s elections rests with state and local governments, CISA offers a variety of free services to help states ensure both the physical security and cybersecurity of their elections infrastructure.

Additionally, election infrastructure’s critical infrastructure designation enables CISA to provide services on a prioritized basis at the request of state and local elections officials.

Blogs to Follow:

CISA.gov (August 2020) CISA RELEASES GUIDE TO VULNERABILITY REPORTING FOR AMERICA’S ELECTION ADMINISTRATORS; ELECTION INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY

ALERT: Ransomware Impacting Pipeline Operations

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on Tuesday responded to a cyber-attack affecting control and communication assets on the operational technology (OT) network of a natural gas compression facility.


The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on Tuesday responded to a cyber-attack affecting control and communication assets on the operational technology (OT) network of a natural gas compression facility.

A cyber threat actor used a Spearphishing Link [T1192] to obtain initial access to the organization’s information technology (IT) network before pivoting to its OT network.

The threat actor then deployed commodity ransomware to Encrypt Data for Impact [T1486] on both networks. Specific assets experiencing a Loss of Availability [T826] on the OT network included human machine interfaces (HMIs), data historians, and polling servers. Impacted assets were no longer able to read and aggregate real-time operational data reported from low-level OT devices, resulting in a partial Loss of View [T829] for human operators.

The attack did not impact any programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and at no point did the victim lose control of operations. Although the victim’s emergency response plan did not specifically consider cyberattacks, the decision was made to implement a deliberate and controlled shutdown to operations.

This lasted approximately two days, resulting in a Loss of Productivity and Revenue [T828], after which normal operations resumed. CISA is providing this Alert to help administrators and network defenders protect their organizations against this and similar ransomware attacks.

The technical details stated that the victim failed to implement robust segmentation between the IT and OT networks, which allowed the adversary to traverse the IT-OT boundary and disable assets on both networks.

Cell Phones and Accessories

The threat actor used commodity ransomware to compromise Windows-based assets on both the IT and OT networks. Assets impacted on the organization’s OT network included HMIs, data historians, and polling servers and because the attack was limited to Windows-based systems, PLCs responsible for directly reading and manipulating physical processes at the facility were not impacted.

The victim was able to obtain replacement equipment and load last-known-good configurations to facilitate the recovery process and all OT assets directly impacted by the attack were limited to a single geographic facility.

US-Cert.gov (February, 2020) Alert (AA20-049A)- Ransomware Impacting Pipeline Operations

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