The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) recently released the name of the hacker group that exposed sensitive and personal information on four top American athletes, Serena and Venus Williams, Simone Biles, and Elena Delle Donne, followed later by several international athletes.
As we hear more about this kind of attack, we need to take a step back and at least give credit to the names these people choose for their groups — in this case, Fancy Bear. You can't make this stuff up.
This wasn't a hack for financial gain, it wasn't for credit card numbers or Social Security details. The decision to first release information solely on U.S. athletes was simply to call into question their reputation, and that of the U.S. Olympic Committee, in direct response to the International Olympic Committee's decision to ban so many Russian athletes because of alleged "state sponsored" doping in Russia.
What's interesting about this attack is that the target isn't a group you would associate with being a likely target. WADA isn't an organization you would at first glance think would hold vast amounts of personal, health-related information on anyone, let alone some of the best athletes in the world. What's also interesting is that the organization may not have seen the risk and applied relevant safeguards.
Know What You Need to Protect
What can we learn from this event? It's clear that you have to know what you're trying to protect. In this case, it was the personal data of these athletes, their drug tests, and other medical information. Once you have identified the actual data you need to protect, you need to work out the "how," which is no easy task. In some cases, people do what they've always done and rely on the same old risk mitigations they've always used. In many cases, these safeguards haven't evolved with the times and can't protect against today's dynamic threat landscape.
Another fundamental mistake is to assume that you won't be attacked. Lots of IT security marketing centralizes on the message “you will be attacked” or "it's not if, but when," and so on. While this sounds like FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt), it is beginning to ring true. It seems that no one is safe anymore. From a personal security perspective, it's easy for your details and identity to be stolen. From a professional point of view, it seems that any company or organization is fair game now.
So, it really is time to reassess your risk and review your current protections. Are they ready to take on today's threats and attacks? Can they stand up to blended attacks? Can they protect data, applications, and identities, or do they still only protect your network?
We are going to continue to see more releases like Fancy Bear's until we step up our security and rethink what our security policies are and what they should be.