How com­pa­nies can de­feat mod­ern-day hack­ers

Find out who the hack­ers are, what they want, and how your com­pany can pre­vent the next cy­ber­at­tack that could cost you bil­lions.

Singapore Business Review - - CONTENTS -

When you look at the anal­y­sis and the pathol­ogy of how malware gets on a sys­tem, you’re go­ing to find that the ma­jor per­cent­age comes from click­ing on an email at­tach­ment.

The re­cent data breaches and cy­ber­heists across the world un­masked one of the scari­est en­e­mies of pri­vate and pub­lic en­ti­ties alike: cy­ber crim­i­nals. And if the pro­gres­sion of the re­cent at­tacks are any­thing to go by, we can only ex­pect these per­pe­tra­tors to be­come even more so­phis­ti­cated and ag­gres­sive over time. This was one of the top­ics dis­cussed at the 2017 Netevents Global Press & An­a­lyst Sum­mit in San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia held on Septem­ber 27 to 29. In one of the key­note ses­sions, MK Pal­more, in­for­ma­tion se­cu­rity risk man­age­ment ex­ec­u­tive at the Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion San Fran­cisco, said the most pro­lific com­puter net­work in­tru­sion ac­tiv­i­ties through­out the world are those mo­ti­vated by fi­nan­cial con­cerns. He said the at­tack­ers who do it with al­most 100% anonymity are “mostly self-taught males aged 14-32 years old who have ac­cess to the dark web and to a lim­it­less amount of in­for­ma­tion.” What’s more alarm­ing is the fact that these at­tack­ers, par­tic­u­larly in the fi­nan­cial sec­tor, all know each other. Ron­ald Lay­ton, deputy as­sis­tant di­rec­tor at the US Se­cret Ser­vice, said, “They all are col­lab­o­ra­tive, they all use Rus­sian as a com­mu­ni­ca­tions modal­ity.” He added that the tech­no­log­i­cal so­phis­ti­ca­tion and ca­pa­bil­ity of threat ac­tors have in­creased. “The toolsets that you see to­day that are widely avail­able would have been highly clas­si­fied 20 years ago. So­phis­ti­ca­tion has gone up ex­po­nen­tially,” he said. So with these threats loom­ing, how can com­pa­nies pre­vent the at­tacks? Michael Levin, former deputy di­rec­tor of the US Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, said it all boils down to the ba­sics of se­cu­rity. “We’re hir­ing new peo­ple and putting them in im­por­tant roles, but we’re not telling them what they can and can­not do. Many or­gan­i­sa­tions do not want to take the time to ed­u­cate their peo­ple. It’s about time that ev­ery in­sti­tu­tion starts fig­ur­ing out a way to ed­u­cate peo­ple to pro­tect them­selves,” he added. Lay­ton con­curred and said or­gan­i­sa­tions pay a lot of at­ten­tion to what the ‘bad guys’ will use to fur­ther their own il­licit gain with­out check­ing if proper in­ter­nal bar­ri­ers are in place. “Con­ve­nience is the new nico­tine, and the new caf­feine is cu­rios­ity. When you look at the anal­y­sis and the pathol­ogy of how malware gets on a sys­tem, you’re go­ing to find that the ma­jor per­cent­age comes from click­ing on an email at­tach­ment. Hu­man fac­tors and the psy­chol­ogy of cy­ber is some­thing we must pay at­ten­tion to. One way to counter this is through cy­ber­hy­giene,” he noted. This mes­sage, whilst sim­plis­tic, is not be­ing fol­lowed by busi­nesses. “When you go through in­for­ma­tion se­cu­rity train­ing, there are ba­sics you are taught about pro­tect­ing sys­tems. We al­ways find that there’s some gap in cov­er­age in se­cu­rity that boils down to the fun­da­men­tal is­sue of se­cu­rity pro­tec­tion. We’re talk­ing about sim­ple things such as patch man­age­ment, au­dit and log man­age­ment, se­cu­rity and vul­ner­a­bil­ity as­sess­ments, or buy-in from lead­er­ship and man­age­ment,” Pal­more said.

Strength­en­ing cy­berde­fence

En­ter­prises can do three things to up their game against cy­ber­crim­i­nals, ac­cord­ing to Pal­more. First, there has to be a com­mit­ment from the lead­er­ship to in­vest in cy­ber­se­cu­rity. Sec­ond, they have to prac­tice the in­for­ma­tion se­cu­rity fun­da­men­tals, and lastly, they have to en­gage in in­for­ma­tion shar­ing. “As a busi­ness, you do not see the en­tire cy­ber threat land­scape. You have to plug your­self into an in­tel­li­gence ap­pa­ra­tus,” he added. In the pri­vate sec­tor, Levin said the con­cept of en­cryp­tion is an im­por­tant piece of the puz­zle. “One of the things we see all the time is peo­ple send emails with very sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion. This is why we are see­ing more or­gan­i­sa­tions en­crypt­ing their emails. So as the crooks get more so­phis­ti­cated, the pri­vate sec­tor needs to be more so­phis­ti­cated,” Levin said. He added that it is equally im­por­tant for firms to es­tab­lish a prac­tice that cre­ates a sense of com­mu­nity for se­cu­rity. “If you can cre­ate that sense within the or­gan­i­sa­tion, you’ll see a bet­ter re­sult,” he said.

MK Pal­more, Dr Ron­ald Lay­ton, and Michael Levin spoke at the Open­ing Key­note Ses­sion

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