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20 Jan 2020

NBlog Jan 20 - Travelex vs Sony shootout

The Travelex ransomware case study is coming along nicely. Over the dull grey NZ weekend, I prepared a timeline of the ongoing incident to compare and contrast against the Sony Pictures Entertainment ransomware incident at the end of 2014. 

Already, Travelex is well ahead on points, restoring UK customer services within 3 weeks of the attack with more on the way. The incident timeline is substantially compressed relative to Sony's: they are getting through whatever needs to be done more quickly.

Travelex has done well to keep its retail customers updated throughout, from the initial rapid disclosure on Twitter through to brief informational pages on the web, an FAQ, plus a statement and talking-head videoblog by its CEO on Friday just gone. Full marks from me!

As far as I'm concerned, Travelex has managed the disclosures and public comms well, releasing professionally-crafted, informative briefings about the evolving situation, reassuring customers and not trying to cover things up or hide away. The CEO fronting-up is notable, confirming beyond doubt that senior management is on top of things, facing up rather than shying away. As with city's most senior policeman fielding a press briefing very shortly after the London bombings of July 2005, impeccably dressed, confident and impressive, the reassurance is very valuable, damping down rather than fanning the flames.

Although admittedly I have not hunted for them specifically, I haven't yet come across any informal/unauthorized disclosures by Travelex workers, such as those mobile phone photos of the scary skeleton threats plastered over Sony's screens. Despite what must surely be a tense atmosphere in the offices, the Travelex workforce is evidently pressing on with the job, all hands to the pumps. Good on them too!

In parallel, Travelex management must have been busy liaising with and reassuring its commercial customers/partners, industry regulators and the global news media too, while the fairly rapid restoration of services hints at a huge amount of work under way down in the IT engine room (presumably a disaster recovery approach, rebuilding servers from backups?).

Most likely there are incident investigation and information security activities going on as well, and possibly communications with the cyber-crims behind the attack and the authorities. We know virtually nothing about that aspect at present, which is to be expected since it is commercially sensitive and might be forensically relevant. Further information may or may not emerge over the forthcoming months and years ...

... which reminds me: this incident is some way short of being 'resolved' at this point. Even when all Travelex's customer services are fully operational, there will still be loose ends to tie off, business relationships to rebuild and lessons to be learned. Meanwhile, thank you Travelex (and Sony and the Metropolitan Police and others) for teaching us a thing or two about handling serious incidents.

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