Cyber attacks 'inevitable' in smart world
dubai - Experts warn cyber attacks are not going to diminish
Cyber attacks are "inevitable" as governments and organisations around the world continue to adopt 'smart' technology and the Internet of Things, according to cybersecurity experts gathered at the 'Cyber Defence Live' conference in Dubai.
The event, which was organised by FireEye, a California-based cyber security firm, gathered dozens of experts, as well as representatives of government entities such as the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) and Etisalat.
"Cybersecurity is one of the most important concerns of our age. We live in an era that is completely different from all in the past, as advanced technologies such as smartphones have entered various aspects of our lives," said Majeed Al Mesmar, acting director-general of TRA. "Smart cities and the IoT (Internet of Things) are imminent."
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According to Tony Cole, FireEye's vice-president for global government, in many cases cyber criminals use social media platforms like LinkedIn to launch probes and find the right people to target in a network.
"Let's say, if I want to go after a bank. The first thing to do is go to LinkedIn and gather information on what databases the bank is running," he said. "If its a large bank, it will take just a couple of minutes to see how many database administrators have similar skill sets."
"More than likely, they're so big that everything is patched and updated. I'll craft a PDF about a new job I've got (on offer), as the director of database engineering for (another) bank," he added. "It happens to be a weaponised attachment with a fake account and a fake credit card, and I'm in."
"As technology has brought prosperity and progress to the lives of millions of people, it has led to serious security risks," he added. "There is no signs these risks will diminish."
As evidence, Al Mesmar pointed to recent statistics that indicate that cyber crimes are expected to cost the world $6 trillion by 2021, compared to $3 trillion just a year ago. Another report, from IT company Gartner, estimated that the increased risk led spending in cyber security to reach $80 billion in 2016.
Threats from all angles
Tony Cole, FireEye's vice-president for global government, said that security breaches are "inevitable" and "will happen" as attackers grow more sophisticated and target societies in which more and more devices are interconnected.
"It's going to get a lot worse than it is today," he said.
As an example, Cole noted that seemingly innocent household goods such as refrigerators are now connected to the internet, and can be used by cyber attackers.
"The biggest challenge we have in that space is that everybody wants to be first to market, and get that market penetration so they can make a lot of money," he said. "Security is not being baked into that...it's lagging far behind it (technological advancement)."
"Think about some of the refrigerators that have had embedded tablets into them. (With) the initial ones, manufacturers didn't even have a structure for updating their systems built in...some family might have saved for two years to buy this super cool fridge, and then the government tells them there is a majority vulnerability in that Internet-enabled fridge and that (they) need to disconnect it...these companies need to understand that they have to build security structures into the products they're selling."
Situation in the GCC
Cole noted that the awareness level of cyber security in the GCC "is rising", which prompts organisations and governments to be aware of the scope of the threat they face in the cyber realm.
"As the awareness level rises, we see more information about breaches, simply because people are starting to look for that," he said. "Those breaches have been here all along."
"We're just starting to see GCC governments really understand that this is a major threat," he added. "We're seeing more recognition of the activity that is already taking place here."