Are You Really at Risk From Organized Cybercrime and Espionage?

Posted: August 3, 2015 / Author: Dror Liwer
Businesses can no longer ignore the threat posed by cybercrime. The potential havoc such security breaches cause is anything but pretty, with recent estimates suggesting that this damage is likely to cost businesses over $2 trillion by 2019. What’s even more disturbing is that it’s no longer just big corporations like Sony, Target and Goodwill that are targets. As cybercrime becomes more prolific and increasingly sophisticated affecting large and small businesses alike, a more nuanced understanding of the threat at hand is called for. How else will businesses successfully mitigate the damage caused by such security breaches? The world of cybercrime and cyber criminals is largely split into two camps; Organised cybercrime and Cyber espionage. There is of course state driven activities which we will not address here. Organized cybercrime The important thing to understand is that not all cybercrime attacks are the same. At the most basic level we see cybercriminals forming organized crime circuits to gain access to sensitive financial information. By exploiting weaknesses in WiFi connections, organized cybercrime syndicates are able to target businesses as well as individuals. Today’s profit-driven cybercriminals are strategic and more organized than ever. In many ways, we’re seeing the formation of an online mafia who are using the internet to carry out major theft and fraud. The effects of this can’t be ignored. A recent study by McAfee indicates that in 2013 alone 40 million people in the U.S., 54 million in Turkey and 16 million in Germany had their personal information stolen in cyber attacks. The economic impact of this is even more disturbing with some reports estimating that cybercrime costs the global economy $575 billion annually. However this is but one aspect of cybercrime which, in our hyper-connected world, has quickly become a multifaceted, global phenomenon. Are you a target? Yes. For this kind of cybercrime, anyone who uses public wifi and cellular connections is a potential target. Cyber espionage While certain cyber attacks may be easy to detect and contain, others like cyber espionage can go undetected until long after the initial security breach. The sad reality is that more and more companies, particularly those that make use of unprotected public WiFi hotspots, are falling prey to corporate spies who use the technology at their disposal to intercept communication and steal company information. A study conducted by Verizon found that cyber espionage occurrences tripled in 2014 to reach 511 of which an estimated 306 cases resulted in significant data breaches. What makes these findings particularly interesting is that Verizon traced 49 percent of these attacks to China and Korea with the rest coming from Eastern Europe. Another report by Kaspersky shows that since 2009 a cyber espionage syndicate has been targeting top-level business executives in hotels across Asia. Are you a target? Yes. Anyone handling sensitive information and uses wifi or cellular connectivity is a target. Corporate employees that travel abroad often, especially to Eastern Europe and Asia are a target in particular. Attacking cybercrime head-on Many businesses have resigned themselves to the fact that cybercrime isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. For many the best approach isn’t prevention, but risk management. While there may be an element of truth to this, there are still proactive steps companies and individuals can take to attack cybercrime head-on. Staying clear of WiFi is one of the best ways to prevent an attack. This includes resisting the urge to surf during flights, which is particularly risky. Interestingly, the Kenyan government has just passed a regulation, which requires devices with wireless capabilities to be registered at the Kenya Network Information Centre. This will be mandatory for anyone who wants to connect to WiFi. The idea is that this will help the government curtail cyber attacks. While an intriguing idea, there are less severe alternatives. Using a VPN can be an effective way to stay safe while connected to a WiFi hotspot. Of course proxy sites aren’t without their fair share of controversy. One researcher found that of all the VPN services he surveyed, 79 percent forbid secure, HTTPS traffic. Then there is Hola, a VPN service which has been accused of turning users into a botnet used to carry out criminal activity including DoS attacks against 8chan. And investing in a ‘stronger’ VPN isn’t the answer either as these services can easily be blocked. This forces the user to find another option making them even more vulnerable to cyber attacks. Paying attention to SSL certificates can be helpful, but isn’t without its risks. SSL protocol is meant to encrypt information, like e-commerce transactions and emails, ensuring this data can’t be intercepted. However as SSL vulnerabilities like Heartbleed and Poodle have proved, this isn’t the case. Exploiting the SSL protocol, cybercriminals are able to trick a host server into sending sensitive data including encryption keys. A user’s only defense is to check a website’s SSL certificate. But once again, this isn’t foolproof. Adapt or die As awareness about cybercrime increases, so too does the demand for viable cyber security products and services. An IDC report indicates that this market has increased from $53 billion in 2011 to $58 billion in 2013 with businesses’ demand for cyber security solutions increasing by over 14 percent in the same period.  Most businesses are aware that unless they adapt, they’re vulnerable to attack. Currently almost all solutions available on the market fall short. Desperate many business resort to either encapsulation or end-to-end encryption. While a good idea in theory, encapsulation fails because it’s easy for hackers to go undetected until the damage is already done. As for end-to-end encryption, the problem is that with enough time even the most secure encryption can be bypassed. Perhaps the recent rumors that Russia and China hacked Edward Snowden’s heavily encrypted documents shed a light on just how precarious and ironic talk of secure encryption really is. After all if this bastion of internet freedom is no match for cybercrime, what chance do the rest of us stand? That’s where CoroNet comes in. This lightweight software solution not only detects malicious networks in real-time but prevents devices from connecting to hotspots that have been compromised. Unlike other solutions, CoroNet goes beyond the computing layer to provide protection at the radio layer.
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