Cyber attacks are shutting down countries, cities and companies. Here’s how to stop them

Cyber Attacks The Sting 2018

Credit UNODC. Photo: Credit UNODC.

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Noam Erez, Co-Founder and CEO, XM Ltd.

What if a cyber attack took over a government’s IT network, bringing an entire nation to its feet? Does this seem like a far-flung scenario? It isn’t. In April 2018, the small independent Caribbean nation of Sint Maarten faced a total public shutdown for an entire day. The previous month, the city of Atlanta was crippled by a ransomware attack that lasted two weeks and cost nearly $3 million.

In the US alone, Baltimore, Charlotte, Dallas and San Francisco have been victims of cyber attacks during the past year, following (ironically) a transition to smart city technology. Although the smart city concept has created more connected cities, the lack of cybersecurity preparedness often creates serious security vulnerabilities. So what can organizations seeking to advance to smart infrastructures, cloud networks and IoT environments do in the face of rising cyber threats?

The growing costs of a fading security perimeter

The cyber threat landscape is an immense challenge for security practitioners. Today’s Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) must contend with threats on multiple fronts, causing the perimeter to both expand and deepen in size. The jury’s still out on whether cyber attacks are a bigger threat to mankind than nuclear war, but networks are certainly more vulnerable than ever. The FBI reports that more than 4,000 ransomware attacks occur daily, while other research sources state that 230,000 new malware samples are produced every day.

The notorious attacks of the last few years have finally propelled cyber security to the top of the boardroom agenda, and raised the level of criticality to new heights. As a result, global security expenditure reached $86.4 billion in 2017, with no sign of abating. On the contrary, Gartner forecasts that industry spend in 2018 will reach $93 billion, as traditional security measures such as firewalls and anti-virus software prove to be inadequate.

The state of the cybersecurity frontier

The volume and severity of attacks over the past year mean that in 2018, organizations are no longer asking if they can be attacked; rather, they are asking how they will be attacked. Realizing that the perimeter is rapidly diminishing, organizations are waking up to a reality where the security battlefield is playing out inside their network.

A fading perimeter, combined with the transition to the cloud and deployment of myriads of IoT devices, mean that the attack surface is expanding. The risks for organizations are increasing greatly, as standards and policies fail to keep up. At this point, even consumers are worrying.

The early viruses and worms that targeted networks have evolved into something altogether more powerful and problematic. These new attack vectors prefer to be slow and low, moving laterally within networks and often slipping in and out unnoticed, as though the entire network was fenceless. They are forcing organizations to step up their knowledge of cyberattacks and adopt new Tools, Tactics and Processes (TTPs) for defending their network from within.

Here are some considerations towards 2020 in the attempt to contend with the advancing capabilities of threat groups:

Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) pushing the perimeter

The most lethal vectors of attack today can often be attributed to APTs. APT refers to a network attack by a third party that gains unauthorized access and remains undetected for a lengthy period. APTs are renowned for their high level of sophistication, use of bespoke software back doors and zero-day vulnerabilities.

An ominous trait of APTs is their ‘persistency’ factor, since advanced hackers seek to remain in the network undetected for a lengthy period, until they pursue their end goals. Today, APTs are particularly dangerous because of the strategic intent behind the bodies planning, funding and running them.

These threat actors launch APTs at networks to access sensitive data and systems, creating a reputational and operational risk for their targets. They often take advantage of shadow IT loopholes, poor IT hygiene and human error. Today no network, irrespective of size or type, is immune to these attacks.

The cybersecurity skill set crisis

While hackers are gaining expertise and APTs are becoming more sophisticated, existing security controls are not keeping up. A growing shortage of security personnel is making matters worse. By the end of 2018, one to two million cybersecurity jobs could remain unfilled. About six million cyber security analysts will be needed, yet only four to five million will be available to fill these positions.

Not only are IT security teams lacking the necessary skills for dealing with increasingly sophisticated and even automated attacks, but 36% of organizations say they believe turnover is higher among security staff than for other departments in the organization.

The rise of red team attack simulations

To address the skills gap, organizations have been turning to security service providers to test their resilience. These agents conduct staged attacks to find out how susceptible an organization is to cyberattacks.

Often referred to as red teams, they exercise focused offensive attacks on the organization’s applications, network and data. Although red teams conduct a simulated attack, they usually perform the task at a single point of time. They must also be highly coordinated with the internal security defence team, otherwise known as the blue team, to fix security holes and minimize time gaps.

Although highly trained red team experts can claim success at exposing security threats, they still represent the human factor. Unfortunately, operational setbacks and organizations’ ineffective approaches can limit their ability to deliver an ongoing strategy for preventing APT attacks. Even organizations that can afford their own internal red and blue teams struggle to prevent real-life attackers. Facing costly time gaps, as well as coordination and budgetary issues, they still enable attackers, in particular stealthy players, to continue to move laterally and work under the radar.

The transition to automated attack simulation

Automated attack simulation, coupled with the ability to follow up with rapid remediation, could tighten the noose around an APT attack and ease the skills shortage. A network that can run multiple attack campaigns at all times could, in effect, operate as an automated red team army 24/7, and keep the organization in a perpetual state of reconnaissance.

Nevertheless, an offensive attack campaign cannot be truly effective unless the vulnerabilities discovered are remedied immediately. This is crucial, as there must be no opportunities for attacks to slip in between the cracks. Actionable and prioritized remediation by the blue team must follow suit immediately, after every blind spot and loophole is discovered. It must form a continuous and rapid attack and remediation loop that never ceases to function.

The new purple order

The task of continuously collaborating between the red teams and blue teams in a perpetual loop falls on the automated purple team. An automated purple team combines the attack vectors and vulnerabilities found by the red team with the defensive tactics from the blue team, to build the strongest security programme possible.

The act of collaboration not only forms a fluid 24/7 attack and remediation cycle, but also enables both the offence and defence teams to learn from each other and improve as they go. With a purple team running continuously, companies will be able to follow prioritized remediation guidelines and ensure that they are made aware of new threats as soon as they appear.

Finally, organizations, cities and countries will be able to regain network superiority, defend against relentless attempts to infiltrate their critical infrastructures, respond to the skills shortage and move to remediate attack vectors immediately.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Commission adopts proposal to make EU-U.S. agreement on tariffs effective

In Bahrain, Global Forum for Entrepreneurs and Investment examines empowerment of women, youth through innovation

Malaria: Focus on pregnant women and children, stresses UN health agency report

UN food agency begins ‘last resort’ partial withdrawal of aid to opposition-held Yemeni capital

Clean Mobility: Commission tables proposal on car emissions testing in real driving conditions

Migration: First unaccompanied children relocated from Greece to Luxembourg

UN rushes to deliver aid as key Yemeni port city is ‘shelled and bombarded’

COVID-19: What to know about the coronavirus pandemic on 3 April

Why are so few women buying into Bitcoin?

This robot boat delivered a box of oysters in a breakthrough for unmanned shipping

The future of work requires a return to apprenticeships

Corporations must help shape a better world – or risk being left behind

Commission launches new tool to support digital teaching and learning in schools

EU Civil Protection Mechanism must be sufficiently funded to save lives

Scientists have created biodegradable microneedles to fight eye disease

Gender is where the feminist and LGBTI movements meet. Here’s why

How can we make entrepreneurship serve the greater good?

UN chief welcomes event reuniting families on the Korean Peninsula

“Beyond the beach: tackling plastic pollution upstream”, a Sting Exclusive by Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment

Artificial Intelligence: These 3 charts show what people really think

4 lessons on human cooperation from the fight against Ebola

EU and Indian flags at EU-India Summit in New Delhi last October (copyright EU 2018, Source: EC - Audiovisual Service)

India and the EU get close to revive talks on proposed Free Trade Agreement

Parliament votes for €1 billion in aid to Ukraine

These are the countries that have made their climate commitments law

China joins list of nations banning the sale of old-style fossil-fuelled vehicles

Here are 4 of the most politically charged World Cup games ever played

Unemployment is down across the world’s largest economies

How fintech is setting Southeast Asia’s SMEs free

Primary Healthcare: Back to the Basics

LGBT community in Chechnya faces ‘new wave of persecution’: UN human rights experts

This member of the banana tree family could help us cut COVID-19 plastic waste

What companies gain by including persons with disabilities

Is it just visa-free travel that Erdogan demands from the EU to not break the migration deal?

All talk but no action against fraudulent bankers

AXA and Fremtind discuss how AI and analytics is changing insurance claims forever

Climate change helped destroy these four ancient civilisations

Solitary Britain sides with US aggressing Russia and chooses hard Brexit

These 5 charts show our shifting behaviour around coronavirus

Brexit: Only Corbyn and May in concert can make the needed compromises

Mobility package: Transport Committee backs deal with EU Ministers

COVID-19 Vaccination Campaigngs: anti-vaccine movement is still a challenge

Boris to end up in jail if he loses the next elections?

Hollande decisively rebuffs Merkel’s and Rehn’s austerity policies

New Disability Inclusion Strategy is ‘transformative change we need’, says Guterres

Terrorism diverts resources from ‘much-needed’ development to ‘costly’ security, warns UN envoy for Central Africa

“A divided Europe is not in China’s interests”, Ambassador Zhang of the Chinese Mission to EU welcomes Brussels

UN guidelines unveiled to prevent rising hearing loss among young smartphone listeners

Aung San Suu Kyi appears at ICJ as UN rights expert urges greater protection for Myanmar activists

Knowledge is power: why the future is not just about the tech

Tax evasion and fraud threaten the European project

The 13th round of TTIP negotiations hits a wall of intense protests and growing concerns

Scientists have created a new kind of plastic that could be infinitely recyclable

G20 LIVE: G20 Statement on the fight against terrorism

90% of European Jews say antisemitism is getting worse

UN highlights profound implication of population trends on sustainable development

Health privatisation: reviving Alma-Ata

India is failing 175 million of its young people. Here’s the solution

How technology is leading us to new climate change solutions

Israel @ MWC14: Israel The Start App Nation

Germany is the world’s most innovative economy

More Stings?

Advertising

Comments

  1. I suggest you on of the best security product for Cyber security that is LTS Secure. LTS Secure Intelligence Driven SOC is integrated Context-aware Security protection platforms that provides and integrate prediction, prevention, detection and response capabilities by leveraging adaptive security framework.

    Regards,
    LTS Secure

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s