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Imagine you walk into work early one morning. Coffee in hand, ready to pick up where you left off, to-do list growing and deadlines looming. You power up your computer to discover something wiped it clean. Spreadsheets? Server access? Vital research? Gone.
Malicious hackers’ motivations often involve crippling the digital environment of an organization with destructive malware. According to research, cyber attacks increased more than 150 percent between 2016 and 2017, but at Booz Allen we’re evolving our systems to stop hackers in their tracks.
This scenario occurred last summer during a widespread cyber attack, targeting hundreds of organizations—in 64 nations. Hackers behind NotPeyta ransomware rendered computers, research, and critical business-related information inaccessible. Security researchers quickly concluded NotPetya was no traditional ransomware, but a lethal wiper deployed to destroy networks.
Our client—a global manufacturing company—lost infrastructure and years of research.
One day later, a dedicated team of Booz Allen cybersecurity experts, risk analysts, and IT specialists arrived on site. Pulling from broad geographies and talent across our firm, the team assessed the ransomware’s reach, formulating a plan: Recover data and information, remediate and rebuild the infected infrastructure, and ensure client protection against similar future attacks. Our tactic hinged on a marriage of creativity and cybersecurity science—safeguarding information living across various systems and physical devices.
“We rapidly designed, set up, and are running a 24/7 cyber fusion center,” said Cyber Fusion Lead Steve Riffer. We integrated cyber threat intelligence with security and emerging tech—a mix of collaborative human brainpower, and the latest and greatest technology—aimed at identifying, assessing, and mitigating threats.
The team worked around the clock, nights, weekends, and through holidays. The motivation that kept them going: Certainty they were making a difference.
Incident Response Analyst Marlon Gajadhar recalls an especially touching moment.
“One digital forensics expert caught a last-minute flight, hoping to recover critical research—essentially the life’s work of a member of the client team. The Booz Allen employee worked through the night, and ultimately recovered the lost data.”
The client, with tears in his eyes, gave our employee a hug, thanking him profusely.
“We made the client’s mission our mission,” said Tony Gaidhane, engagement lead.
We helped them think about ongoing improvements to prevent another catastrophic event, and developed a blueprint for a larger transformation plan. Most importantly, the knowledge—and agility—we gained poises us to better assist future clients. It also helped us develop more efficient best practices and repeatable processes. In transforming our client’s cybersecurity program, we improved our own approach.
“The unique nature of this malware outbreak gave us insight into how to plan for attacks,” said Steve, describing malicious attackers as “mad geniuses.”
But Booz Allen is in tune to the latest breakthroughs in digital security research. We aren’t afraid to leverage the massive cyber defense community via extensive forums and global cybersecurity events.
“If you turn your back for more than a day, you’re behind,” Steve said. “It takes a village to protect against threats.”