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K-12 Cybersecurity issues. What can be done to protect our students and staff?

Imagine being a student watching your classmate present during YouTube live, and then all of a sudden, you hear someone interrupt your classmate’s presentation, to say your classmate’s name and then speak about how much he admires her.  Then how about this? The intruder then says, “You cannot mute me because I am a HACKER!”. I have to admit; this particular scene played out in real-time in front of me during a class I attended this past April.

            The Facilitator of the course, feeling comfortable to do so, inadvertently posted the class Zoom details to a live YouTube feed. The Facilitator was genuinely embarrassed and apologetic to my classmate and his students. I do not think he thought that we would experience an invasion like that ever. I mean, we were in class, and everyone there was trying to learn.  These types of cyber attacks are becoming increasingly common, especially now during this Covid-era.

            I recently read an article by The K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center and The K12 Security Information Exchange (K12 SIX), which provide information regarding school-related cyber issues, and are dedicated to helping protect K-12 schools from cyber threats. It is worth mentioning that the U.S. public K-12 is a $760 billion sector managing and storing data for 50 million students. However, in some situations, IT system infrastructure is stored on-premise or shared with other districts, which increases the risk of protecting student and staff confidential information.

            In 2020, K-12 saw a staggering increase in publicly disclosed cyber attacks. Examples of K-12 Cyber attacks include Denial of Service attacks, Phishing, and Ransomware, to name a few. With these cyber attacks, data retrieved by an adversary and, in most cases, sold. This situation then becomes detrimental to parents’ livelihood but more specifically to their children and School Staff. For example, children under 18 receive mail telling that tells them they have been denied credit, or sometimes the information the adversary has obtained is used to Bully children or School staff online. Also, the article spoke about that Wealthier, more prominent, and suburban school districts were more likely to have a reported breach, with Ransomware being an example of an attack method. The Ransomware attack is successful when an unsuspecting person opens an email which then activates the malicious software.

            With remote learning being the norm, a secure and safe environment must be created for students and School Staff. School districts with student and School Staff data still on-premise should look for ways to encrypt data-in-rest and store it in locked storage. School districts can implement at least basic security awareness training and security hygiene practices to maintain a high level of security controls in place for all facets of their IT infrastructure.

   If you are interested in learning more about K-12 Cyber incidents, feel free to visit k12cybersecure.com.

References :

https://k12cybersecure.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/StateofK12Cybersecurity-2020.pdf

Leveling up with RangeForce

How many times have you applied for a Cybersecurity job to receive a day or weeks later a rejection letter that you have not been considered for the role? Or maybe you have been shortlisted for a role because you met the minimum qualifications, transferrable skills, even hold Cybersecurity certifications, and have an evident passion for the role? According to (ISC)2, the number of unfilled cybersecurity positions now stands at 4.07 million, up from 2.93 million this time last year. The unfilled positions include 561,000 in North America. The shortage of skilled workers in the industry in Europe has soared by more than 100 percent over the same period, from 142,000 to 291,000.

            Ok, so now you finally land the interview; the interview went well, and yet you are still rejected, and your chance to finally land that Cybersecurity role appears to diminish right in front of you. You may feel defeated. You may feel like you are not cut out to be a Cybersecurity Professional, and then you decide to give up on your dream. I know the feeling. However, if there are so many unfilled Cybersecurity roles worldwide, why can we not land the

Cyber role? I have often heard that if you want to get into Cybersecurity, you have to show that you have the skills, like command-line skills and more.

            So in 2018, I decided to transition to a career in Cybersecurity and to develop my skill-set.  I started by searching online for Cybersecurity boot camps, certificate, and degree programs. However, since I already held a master’s degree in information science, the thought of going into debt again was not an option for me. So I decided to try online Cybersecurity and IT workforce development platforms. I did not have a great experience with the platforms I tried. For example, I would get stuck at a step in a challenge, and there were no tips provided to help me understand how to complete the task and move forward. Sometimes my VM instance session would have an error and then shut down as I was completing a challenge. These roadblocks were very frustrating because  I would have to refresh my browser and then re-start a module from the beginning. After those experiences, I gave up on using any online Cybersecurity and IT workforce development platforms, essentially placing the development of my skills on hold until BlackGirlsHack introduced me to RangeForce in February 2021.

            Founded in 2015, RangeForce was created to provide impactful training experiences to individuals and teams throughout the cybersecurity industry. They improve a learner’s ability to detect and respond to the latest cyber threats while identifying skills gaps and providing the training needed to upskill learners quickly. I have been using RangeForce since February 2021, and I can say it is the best platform I have used. RangeForce’s user experience is excellent, with it being easy to navigate between pages. Each module contains clear and concise content for the topic or instructions for an assessment. They also offer tips within each assessment to help a Learner if they find difficulty completing an assessment alone. RangeForce is also very concerned with their Learners’ experience with each module and asks for general feedback after each of them.

            I am always excited about using RangeForce, and I think you would be if you tried it too. If you want to level up your Cybersecurity skills, when you have a chance, please feel to visit RangeForce for more information.

Sources:

1. https://www.rangeforce.com/blog/founding-story-rangeforce-cyber-attack-cyber-range-simulation

2. https://dataconomy.com/2021/01/cyber-attacks-increase-threefold-4m-unfilled-cybersecurity-positions/

Cyber Attack on Water Plant Facility

Last month, dangerous winter storms rolled into the South, creating a challenging situation for thousands of residences in the area, and most were left to survive in the cold with little to no power or running water. People I know were forced to stand in lines to obtain their ration of water for the day.  Water is an essential part of our very existence, and every cell in our body needs it to grow and function. Per Worldometers.info, 657million+ liters of water have been used so far in 2021. Now, think about non-developed countries that lack quality water supply. Per UNESCO, one in nine people worldwide uses drinking water from unimproved, unsafe, untreated sources.

In the United States, we are fortunate to have access to treated water. Also, drinking from US Water Supplies is considered safe. However, on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, two days before the Superbowl, a cyber attempt was made against a small water facility in Oldsmar, Florida. Using the internet, the adversary managed to connect to software called TeamViewer. It was installed on the workstation used to control the water treatment process. TeamViewer is a popular tool used by technicians, and it allows personnel to gain remote access to a computer and use it as if they were physically in front of it. Once in the network, the adversaries tried to increase the sodium hydroxide levels or lye.

However, thankfully a Supervisor on duty was alerted by an Indicator of Compromise (IoC), a cursor moved across his computer screen. Due to his alertness, he was able to prevent a catastrophe from occurring. Think about it for a second – what if the Supervisor had not seen the cursor move — many unsuspecting customers, travelers, or residents could have been poisoned.  Unfortunately, this type of situation is not uncommon. Operations staff and equipment vendors need to remote access into industrial machines and to utilize software such as TeamViewer to manage our critical infrastructures such as our water supply.

How can this type of incident be prevented in the future? Prioritize installing a firewall in your network like a Network Intrusion Detection System (NIDS)/Network Intrusion Prevention System(NIPS) or even a Host Intrusion Detection System (HIDS)/ Host Intrusion Detection System(HIPS). This way, you can be alerted about, or the system can prevent suspicious or malicious events. Consider placing industrial networks in DMZs to prevent external IP addresses from accessing your internal networks. Do not use default credentials on servers or applications and conduct a vulnerability assessment every six months.

Sources: https://www.hstoday.us/subject-matter-areas/infrastructure-security/perspective-cyber-attack-on-water-supply-is-a-wake-up-call-for-state-and-local-governments/

Sources: https://en.unesco.org/waterquality-iiwq/wq-challenge Sources: https://www.worldometers.info/water/

Help A Hacker Fundraiser

BlackGirlsHack is kicking off its Help-a-Hacker Fundraiser! As a newly formed non-profit organization; waiting on our 501c3 designation, we are caught between rapid growth and reality. The reality is that we are growing much faster than we anticipated, and the squad is getting sooooo big. What that means is, we’ve got hundreds of future cybersecurity professionals who are trying to get their foot into the door of cyber. To do this, they need TRAINING, HANDS-ON SKILLS, and CERTIFICATIONS. For our future K-12 students, we are providing exposure to cybersecurity and ethical hacking as a profession. There are many financial barriers to entry for these professionals. This includes the cost of certifications, resources for a home lab (we plan to remedy this issue by implementing a BGH Cloud Labs program), and hands-on skills to help prepare qualified workers for the vast number of open cybersecurity jobs. To help fulfill our mission of increasing diversity in cybersecurity, we need YOU to help us level up. Donate now using the QR code above or on our website at blackgirlshack.org/donate.

Are Entry Level Cyber Jobs A Thing?

So this started off as a conversation within the port eight club on clubhouse. Someone asked the question about whether entry level cyber jobs really existed. Ever the contrarian, I argued that I didn’t think they did. I did a search of indeed in my area the other day for entry level cyber security jobs and saw such gems as:

  • 3-5 years experience with an OSCP (Advanced Level Cert)
  • 2-4 years experience with a CISSP (This cert requires 5 years experience mind you)

Now full disclosure, I actually found what seems to be an entry level job in the Dulles VA Area, its in the Slack #jobs Channel. More of this later…

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year

Just some programming updates:

Registration will be moving away from meetup and onto the BlackGirlsHack website. If you wish to participate in our events please register using the link in the menu bar above.

BlackGirlsHack is offering two new workshops, the New Year, New Lab and the New Year, New Lab from Scratch. The New Year, New Lab is for existing CEH Students to upgrade their home lab to add a windows machine. The New Year, New Lab from Scratch workshop is for people who do not have any sort of home lab. Both labs are done using VirtualBox with Windows, Kali, and BWA VMs. Both workshops are free and open to all. Signup is on meetup.

BlackGirlsHack is offering a Friday Night Labs training workshop which will show beginners in cybersecurity how to get hands on lab skills to supplement their learning efforts. The workshops are every Friday in January and signup is on Meetup.

BlackGirlsHack is offering a free CEH study group which will be an immersive 15 week program that will be covering the 7 domains of the CEH Ethical Hacking Exam currently at version 10. We will be using the Shawn Walker All In 1 and Ric Messier CEHv10 Study Guide books. This study group is offered on Tuesday evenings from 7-10 pm. Signup is on Meetup for the current cohort. The next cohort will start March 30, 2021 and signup is available to registered users.

BlackGirlsHack is offering a free Security+ study group which is a 7 week offering that covers the Security+ 501 exam. The study group is offered on Saturday Mornings from 10-12am. Signup is on Meetup for the current cohort. The next cohort will start February 6, 2021 and signup is available to registered users.

Cybersecurity’s Not So Secret Diversity Problem

Happy National Cybersecurity Awareness Month! In its 17th year of existence, National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) is continuing to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity across the nation. In an age where almost every week we are being notified of breaches of digital information, NCSAM offers the opportunity to continue to educate Americans and corporations about the importance of their cybersecurity teams, their software, and the importance of securing their customer’s information online. The NCSAM’s theme this year is “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart” and in supporting that theme, Black Girls Hack is doing our part to highlight the impact of the lack of diversity in Cybersecurity.

While Cybersecurity has many diversity problems, none are more glaring than the lack of women, and the lack of African Americans. In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics performed a survey of employed persons detailed by occupation, gender, race and ethnicity. In that survey, African Americans represented 7.6% of Information Security Analyst positions and women represented 17.1% of those roles. Similar statistics exist for all the Professional and Related Occupations including Systems Analysts, Programmers, Software Developers and Network and System Administrators to name a few. The lack of diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) roles, is a direct reflection of the amount of diversity in STEM undergraduate and STEM graduate programs and in STEM programs in high school, and middle school and elementary school. *Insert infinity mirror*

More than just lacking representation, and role models, the lack of diversity in Cybersecurity has many unintended side effects such as adding bias to artificial intelligence, signature analysis and definition, and systems themselves. Malicious actors are creative and diverse in their way of thinking and to stay ahead of the game, cybersecurity professionals must be reflective of that trend and of society.

Organizations are using artificial intelligence to do everything from deciding what to watch next, to driving, to interviewing and determining the best candidate, and criminal justice. Analysis has shown that the over-representation of men in the design of artificial intelligence leads to both cultural and gender bias in the developed systems. Machine learning, which is how systems gain their “intelligence” is built off the data that it is provided with and  if that data, and the design and development of the algorithms are biased, the resulting application of the technology will perpetuate that bias (Leavy, 2015).

More advanced intrusion detection systems for example use Artificial Neural Network based Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) to help detect attacks. These Artificial Neural Network IDS systems analyze large volumes of data and use that data to help predict attacks and learn from its mistakes (Garzia, Lombardi, & Ramalingam, 2017). Recent studies have shown that examination of facial analysis software shows an 0.8 percent error rate for light skinned men, and a 34.7% error rate for dark-skinned women (Hardesty, 2018). Three reviewed commercially released facial analysis programs from major technology companies showed both skin color/skin type and gender related biases. What that means for us, as consumers of these systems, is that these systems, having learned how to respond based on the data it was provided will have difficulty in identifying the way women make decisions, and differentiating black faces in video footage, and determining if a Black woman is a good fit for a job when it can’t accurately interpret her facial expressions.  Some companies are replacing first round interviews with AI assisted technology. Applicants are asked to use a webcam to respond to interview questions on video. The employers can then use AI to “review” the interviews to evaluate if the candidate matches in demeanor, enthusiasm, facial expressions, or word choice (Burke, 2019). Based on this evaluation the candidate is then recommended (or not) for the next round of interviews. When AI cannot properly analyze darker skin or gender based differences, and is built from data and developers with inherent biases, this serves the purpose of both eliminating diverse applicants from the hiring process, and reducing the number of diverse employees within the companies.

So why isn’t this being shouted from the mountain tops? It’s because research has shown that the people who often address gender and racial bias in Artificial Intelligence and developed software are often those affected by the bias (Leavy, 2015). Susan Leavy in her white paper on Gender Bias in Artificial Intelligence argues that by recognizing the bias, women are more likely to understand its impact and attempt to resolve it (Leavy, 2015). The problem? While women represent 47% of the occupational workforce, they represent 27% of Chief Executives, 28% of Computer and Information Systems Managers, 20% of computer programmers, 18% of software developers, and 17% of information security analysts. African Americans fare far worse representing 4% of Chief Executives, 9.6% of Computer and Information Systems Managers, 8.5% of computer programmers, 5.8% of software developers, and 16.6% of information security analysts (BLS.gov, 2020).

Cybersecurity has a diversity problem and until minority and gender discrepancies in hiring, education, and access to resources are resolved, America and its citizens will be worse off in every aspect of the industry.

BLS.gov. (2020, January 2020). Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey. Retrieved from BLS.gov: https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm

Burke, L. (2019, November 4). Your Interview With AI. Retrieved from insidehirered.com: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/11/04/ai-assessed-job-interviewing-grows-colleges-try-prepare-students

CISA.gov. (2020, October). National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Retrieved from CISA.gov: https://www.cisa.gov/national-cyber-security-awareness-month

Garzia, F., Lombardi, M., & Ramalingam, S. (2017). An integrated internet of everything — Genetic algorithms controller — Artificial neural networks framework for security/safety systems management and support. International Carnahan Conference on Security Technology (ICCST).

Hardesty, L. (2018, February 11). Study finds gender and skin-type bias in commercial artificial-intelligence systems. Retrieved from MIT News: https://news.mit.edu/2018/study-finds-gender-skin-type-bias-artificial-intelligence-systems-0212

Leavy, S. (2015, May 28). Gender Bias in Artificial Intelligence: The Need for Diversity and Gender Theory in Machine Learning. Retrieved from https://ame-association.fr/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/17.188_gender_bias_in_artifical_intelligence_the_need_for_diversity_and_gender_theory_in_machine_learning.pdf

Hello world!

Welcome to Black Girls Hack where it is our goal to share resources, information and provide training to increase representation of Black Girls and Women in Cyber and Information Security.

print(“Hello, World!”)

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        System.out.println("Hello, World");
    }
}