Preventing the Bezos phone hack and the need for personal cybersecurity

We all make assumptions about an individual’s relative resources and capabilities based on their career. For example, you don’t expect the CEO of Goldman Sachs to go broke and you wouldn’t expect the CEO of Starbucks to serve you the perfect cup of tea. Therefore, when the CEO of the world’s biggest tech company is the subject to a massive personal data breach, it should raise a thoughtful eyebrow.

Deciphering the Bezos hack

Watching recent news about the Jeff Bezos phone hack has created a mental disconnect for many who are following the story. If you are one of the richest men in the world running one of the most powerful technology companies in the world, then your iPhone shouldn’t be so easily hacked.

Innovation and investment in enterprise-level cybersecurity has not been matched for individuals. When cybersecurity first became important around 15-20 years ago, most people worked in a traditional corporation at a desk and cyberattacks were primarily directed at corporations. It is no longer the case that most people work within a monolithic corporate structure and attacks are no longer limited to large enterprises.

People are now using the same devices for ‘work’ and ‘personal’ time. While corporations have millions of dollars invested in protecting their corporate infrastructure, the personal devices of their employees often have zero protection (despite being used sometimes for work). Cyberattackers are actively exploiting this systemic gap.

This was the case with Mr. Bezos. The Bezos attack was relatively simple in the grand scheme of things. The attackers didn’t need to invest much time or money to infiltrate, given his relative worth and position.

Illustrating the gap in personal cybersecurity

The Bezos hack also spotlights a gap in personal cybersecurity between what happens when you purchase your phone and what happens when you use your phone. Though there is public speculation about whether the responsibility for the hack lies with Bezos’ phone manufacturer or the messaging platform that originally delivered the malware to the iPhone, the tech-blaming misses the real point. Security isn’t something you take care of once at the time of device purchase. Having an iPhone doesn’t make you secure.

With 93% of modern malware shapeshifting to avoid detection, the only real way to safeguard your privacy is with network-layer protection (vs signature-based protection found in traditional antivirus) and real-time monitoring of your device.

Now let me propose an alternate view of what happens when an executive device gets hacked, but that device is equipped with network-layer security like the kind the Rubica app provides.

How Rubica blocks cyberattacks

Schematic of how Rubica cybersecurity blocks malware

Had Mr. Bezos been a Rubica customer, this is how the situation would have played out:

  1. Rubica monitors device – Assuming this was a zero-day attack, no system would have detected new malware until it tried to actually send data out of the device. This is much like how a human immune system doesn’t develop antibodies until it detects an invader.
  2. VPN blocks malware – Once the malware was activated, it started sending massive amounts of data out of the device (hypothetically, extracting Bezos’ personal files.). This is where Rubica would have seen the 29,000% increase in network traffic flowing out of the device, setting off our alarms.
  3. Tools meet human analysis – Our Security Operations Center (SOC) would have seen where the data was being sent and what (suspicious) web address the device was communicating with. These threat experts would have flagged the spike in traffic and location of the traffic as an anomaly.
  4. Herd Immunity – After contacting the client and remediating the threat, Rubica would then write a rule into our security stack for early, automated detection or blocking of the threat for all of our customers so that everyone is protected.

Defining intelligent personal cybersecurity

All advanced security requires that perfect balance of expert tools and expert humans. It’s incredibly potent when machine learning can catch threats by churning through massive amounts of data that a person could not, then a SOC analyst takes that data and makes extrapolations that a machine could not. Security strategy that fails to factor in this dual analysis is like Monty Python’s One-Legged Knight, only partially able to defend.

Current systems like traditional antivirus simply can’t keep up with current malware. Rubica was built because there was nothing on the market that gave individuals affordable cybersecurity that is also user friendly and protects your privacy.

Put in perspective, within a few months there are projected to be 3 billion smartphones on the planet and the vast majority are unsecured. It’s a target-rich environment, especially if you own or help run a business.  Hackers are not just after your data. They’re after customer data, company secrets and anything else your phone cares to share. The time for personal cybersecurity is now.