Today’s cyber threat landscape and mitigating appropriately


Eclectic IQ’s Aleksander W Jarosz, Threat Intelligence Analyst, on how we can respond to today’s cyber threats

Already this year we have seen a plethora of new threats organisations need to be aware of when considering their respective data risks.

From the birth of fake news, through to the rise of malware campaigns, strict GDPR requirements and the relatively new phenomenon that is fake crypto currencies – organisations need more than ever to be alive to these threats.

GDPR and identifying new threats

Since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) deadline in May 2018, the entire cyber security community has been working hard to ensure organisations are compliant, whilst getting used to new ways of working. Under the new regulations, any company which stores an individual’s data is no longer permitted to share or publish any information which a third-party could potentially use to identify that individual.

It is having a significant impact on the cyber security industry, specifically in relation to the new restrictions on the amount of data being made available to threat analysts and the sharing of this data. With analysts and security teams being so heavily reliant on a combination of cyber threat intelligence and intelligence sharing, the effort to stay one step ahead of cyber criminals has become more difficult.

Ultimately, analysts will never stop working and closely collaborating in their efforts to identify these threats. For the time being at least, they will need to assess the GDPR compliance risks that could possibly arise from exposing and sharing information around malicious actors.

Ransomware and its current formats

Essentially ransomware is a form of malware that alters files on an endpoint, database, or server, using encryption to change the format of files within a computer system.

Ransomware is effectively simple in its approach and remains a popular form of attack. It is highly visible, large ransoms are paid, and it employs strong encryption algorithms which are nearly impossible to break.

Such attacks are becoming more sophisticated and organisations need to be on high alert to their latest variations.

Our report – 2019 Ransomware Snapshot: Understanding the Current Landscape – looked at 20 different pieces of ransomware and found there are well over 100 variants chief information security officers (CISOs) could be worried about on any one day.

The rise of fake news

Unfortunately, in recent years, social networks have increasingly been used as a means of spreading misinformation, sowing confusion and eroding our faith in the system of government.

Names such as WikiLeaks, Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica have become increasingly known amongst the general public, serving as evidence of the extent to which Western democracy is now believed to be under threat.

Psychological operations have been employed over the internet as a means of changing public opinion toward a particular economically or politically motivated agenda.

People losing their faith in democracy can be a very dangerous thing; it opens up space for extreme forms of populism at each end of the political spectrum, something we are already seeing evidence of across Europe and the U.S.

Instead of focusing on the technical aspects of the information operations employed by nation states, and what they are attempting to influence, organisations would be better off considering how they are influencing people, and what this means for the democratic process and for society itself.

The vulnerability of crypto-currencies 

There have been significant fluctuations in the value of crypto-currency in the past twelve months, a volatility that has already enabled some traders to reap the rewards. However, it is not just the financial watchdogs that are worried.

Beyond traders, there is another group profiting from the turbulence of cryptocurrencies – cyber criminals. The digital bank heist of tomorrow is quickly becoming a reality, with a notable increase in crypto exchange breaches and reports of crypto malware on the rise.

It is clear that criminal activity in the crypto space is only going to increase further. As such, organisations across the world must ensure they stay abreast of developments in the crypto world and have adequate measures in place to defend their networks accordingly. It is also vital that employees themselves understand how cybercriminals work and the threats associated with social engineering. Only then can an organisation effectively protect against this new – and prolific – type of threat.

Counteracting cyber threats using threat intelligence

Unfortunately for organisations and their CISOs, online threats are significant and have increased exponentially in the last year.

Although there are a number of cyber threats at present, there are adequate countermeasures CISOs can take. For example, with the right structured threat intelligence, CISOs can really target and identify these threats before they strike.

By utilising threat intelligence and narrowing the focus window in an intelligent way, CISOs can extrapolate into the future and see where better intelligence practices can be adopted.

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