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Threats businesses need to know about
October 2016, Cyber Security

If you’re thinking that Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Internet of Things (IoT), cloud and the ever-faster digitalisation of business are the most pressing areas for security improvement in your organisation at the moment, I’d like to remind you that some of the most dangerous threats to enterprises come in the form of targeted attacks – including stealthy advanced persistent threats (APTs).

Andrew Potgieter, security solutions director at Westcon-Comstor Southern Africa.
Andrew Potgieter, security solutions director at Westcon-Comstor Southern Africa.

An operation comprised of a new wave of targeted attacks was recently detected by Kaspersky Lab in 30 countries globally, including the UAE and Egypt. The attacks used spear phishing and emails that appeared to come from a UAE bank to target the education, logistics, engineering, industrial, manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries.

The aim of the attacks was to collect valuable business-related data stored in the victims’ networks. Emails in these attacks came with malicious attachments and were mostly sent to the top and middle level managers of numerous companies. Kaspersky Lab dubbed the attacks Operation Ghoul due to the greedy or materialistic nature of those performing it, and reported that it is the latest among several campaigns that are supposedly controlled by the same criminal group.

Emails appeared to be 'demand for payment' letters from the bank with a document attached, which usually contained malware. The aim of these attacks? Financial gain from either the sales of stolen intellectual property and business intelligence or from attacks on victims’ bank accounts.

These attacks are proof that in the current IT climate, personal and business devices intertwine to pose new threats to users. Kaspersky Lab has reported that though this group of cybercriminals uses simple malicious tools, they are extremely effective and as such, companies are unprepared when it comes to spotting the attacks they will likely suffer.

The problem with IT security in organisations today is that although the threats and techniques that cybercriminals leverage are constantly evolving, many business are relying on yesterday’s stagnant security technologies to protect against today’s fluid threats. To be quite honest, the fact that the cost of launching targeted attacks has reduced and the inexpensive and highly effective toolsets that modern cybercriminals have at their disposal means that all businesses are vulnerable.

Aftermath

I’m sure that most managers, CEOs and CIOs have grown tired of the sensationalism so often related with cybersecurity in the media. However, to put it into perspective for you, I’d like to share exactly what an attack like this could cost you and your business in the aftermath of an APT or targeted attack.

First off, you should know that although financial gain is often what cybercriminals are after, these kinds of attacks can cost you a lot more. Loss of priceless business and customer data, disruption of businesses data, regulatory and compliance issues as well as legal action by customers, suppliers or employees are just a few of the things you can look forward to if you are affected by an APT or targeted attack.

Perhaps the worst thing that can be affected is your business’s competitive position and brand image, as these take time to re-establish. You will also suffer reactive costs to prevent further attacks that will include training to improve security department skills and users’ security awareness, staffing in terms of new job roles, segregation of duties and the on boarding of additional security experts as well as the elimination of weak points to bolster system security, remove vulnerabilities and implement targeted security solutions.

Fluid security

Targeted attacks are overseen by highly-trained cybercriminals who adapt each phase of their attack. So how exactly do you ensure that your business is ready to defend against different types of attacks at any given time? Simply put, you need a security strategy that’s underpinned by constantly evolving security intelligence.

In a world of fluid threats where you can never be too sure what will be thrown your way next, a security strategy that’s able to adapt to challenges is probably the single most valuable thing to have in your business.


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