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Four Reasons to Migrate to an Open Architecture Access Control System

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Written by Wissam Acra, Regional Sales Manager at Genetec

In the recent decade, the access control market has changed dramatically. Previously, archaic access control systems (ACS) with proprietary hardware confined companies to single manufacturers and stagnant solutions. It is now more open, and the introduction of new technologies has offered businesses more options when selecting systems and components. As a result of the expanded variety, they can better address their individual needs because they can do more with their ACS.

However, while many firms have completed the leap, several are still using obsolete ACS technology because upgrading is too tricky. They’re terrified of the expenses of migration, so they put their effort and money into preserving their outdated systems instead. One of the key factors driving their concern is the way they look at upgrading. However, some organizations see investing in a new ACS as a capital expense rather than a straightforward return on investment (ROI).

According to Frost & Sullivan, the Middle East commercial security market was expected to reach US$10.2 billion by 2020, growing annually by 24 percent in value since 2015. This means that despite the growing importance of physical security solutions in the region, companies still approach their ACS as a capital expense and cannot see any options beyond simple system maintenance.

While many companies have transitioned, others are still utilizing outdated ACS technology because upgrading is too complex. They’re afraid of the costs of migration, so they devote their time and resources on keeping their antiquated systems.

Protect your business
A unified ACS can do more than lock and unlock doors. It can protect an organization’s people and assets more effectively and can help improve business operations and decision-making capabilities. By tracking key indicators and information, dashboards put events into perspective.

For example, designing a dashboard that tracks active alarms alongside other metrics, including the number of patrons waiting in a security line, can warn security operators of escalating situations. This helps organizations identify potential issues before they become problems and make better decisions aimed at improving every area of operations.

The real cost of legacy systems
Legacy systems were designed to address an organization’s needs at a specific point in time. As needs change and technology advances, they can lag. For example, some legacy systems limit an organization’s ability to integrate new technologies into its physical security system, including wireless locks and mobile credentials. One of the main post-pandemic concerns of physical security professionals in the EMEA is aging infrastructure, as 48% of the EMEA State of Physical Security 2021 survey respondents believe it is a significant hurdle.

An older ACS can also require constant upgrading and support to keep working. Parts for these older systems can be challenging to find and are frequently costly. And, when an ACS is proprietary and heavily integrated into a physical security system, this can further increase maintenance costs.

Increasing ROI by going beyond the door
To avoid the long-term setbacks associated with closed systems, organizations need an ACS that will evolve with their ever-changing needs, provide solutions that go beyond the door, and allow them to move to the cloud with confidence. With a flexible, open ACS, organizations can address current requirements and evolve their systems with new technologies as their needs change.

An open ACS provides the ability to scale up through additional hardware integrations, bolt-on software modules, and open software integrations with third-party products. These solutions allow organizations to customize their systems by selecting hardware that addresses their specific security objectives. It can also save time and money by enabling them to reuse existing hardware instead of migrating to an entirely new system.

They also provide a global view of environments by correlating data, enabling security teams to assess and respond to incidents quickly and effectively.

Legacy systems are no match for today’s cybercriminal
With the average cost of a data breach in the UAE and KSA rising to over $5 million, it’s never been more critical for organizations to be educated on the risks associated with legacy systems and the advantages that a new cyber-secure access solution can offer. Access Control Systems (ACS) are a powerful infrastructure tool that tends to be overlooked as a potential cyber-attack vector. As access control systems tend to be connected to an organization’s network, if a cybercriminal breaches a legacy ACS, they can open and close doors without permission and gain control over any other system connected to the network.

Threat actors often move around a breached network to search for information that will generate the most financial gain. By compromising a single user’s active directory account, a cybercriminal can disguise the funds they steal, making it virtually impossible for cybersecurity solutions to find them. According to the EMEA State of Physical Security 2021 survey, 67% of respondents set out to prioritize improving their cybersecurity strategy. To protect their data and networks, organizations need an ACS that is secure from server to the credential.

Conclusion
Keeping a legacy ACS is time-consuming and costly. It can expose a company to new hazards, such as cyberattacks, and it cannot keep up with changing access control requirements. Open access control solutions make modernising simple. An open architecture solution’s flexibility allows enterprises to scale their ACS as their needs evolve. This enables them to improve security while generating a higher return on investment continuously.

Cyber Security

Telecom Sector: Cyber Attack Target Number One for Nation-State Actors

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Written by Roland Daccache, Systems Engineer Manager MEA, CrowdStrike

Telecommunications providers play a unique and crucial role in modern societies. Businesses, governments, and individuals rely on the smooth functioning of communications. However, it is precisely this centrality and ubiquitous presence of telecommunications systems that also make them valuable targets for governments and criminals worldwide.

Targeting the telecommunications sector is becoming more and more popular
The latest Overwatch Report from CrowdStrike shows that attacks on the telecommunications industry have more than doubled in the last 12 months. Overall, 40 percent of all targeted attack attempts detected by OverWatch experts were directed at this industry. Especially for nation-state actors, this target industry is very attractive, because targeted attacks can be used to realise their own surveillance, intelligence, and counterintelligence missions. It comes as no surprise that the telecommunications industry tops the list of the top 5 industry targets among nation-state actors.

Most attacks on telecom companies come from groups close to China. However, actors with an Iranian background have also been spotted attacking the telecom sector. The operations against telecommunication providers illustrate that the protection of sensitive data and critical infrastructure is becoming increasingly important. One more reason to take a close look at the constantly changing threat landscape and its actors is to find effective methods against their tools, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).

Attacks on the telecommunications industry – The typical TTPs
To gain initial access to their victim networks, communications sector attackers use a variety of techniques. Among the most common is spear phishing, exploiting vulnerabilities, compromising the supply chain, and misusing legitimate credentials.

Once the first step is taken, the attackers use native tools such as Windows Management Instrumentation or even various command and script interpreters such as Powershell to carry out their mission. To avoid detection and be able to carry out the attack without interference, the perpetrators keep looking for new hosts that offer the possibility to collect credentials to continue moving laterally through the target environment unnoticed.

To grab the desired credentials in Microsoft environments, attackers often use Mimikatz, read LSASS memory (often via comsvcs.dll or using ProcDump), or modify the WDigest registry key to store passwords in plain text.

In Linux environments, attackers often look at the contents of sensitive files, such as .bash_history, passwd, shadow, and other configuration files and administrative scripts when trying to discover credentials. OverWatch has also observed attackers using newer techniques. For example, in one case, an attacker deployed SSH daemons via a backdoor that was capable of logging credentials.

Cyber attackers also often use web-based login pages. They are modified in such a way that the login information can also be stored for later retrieval. Thus, hackers are no longer under time pressure for their initial access. So-called web shells also make it possible to manage multiple victim networks via a single interface. This leads to the very real danger of multiple attacks being launched simultaneously by one hacker group.

This is because the effort required to carry out operations is thus considerably reduced for the attackers. In addition, web shells can be used because of their simplicity and cross-platform compatibility or in different web server environments. With all these tools, actors manage to know when, how, and where call details and SMS messages are forwarded and recorded in order to strike.

Collateral damage from hacker attacks
To disguise their true goals and intentions, attackers often carry out very large-scale data exfiltrations. In reality, however, they are often only interested in specific information from very few people. The damage caused is therefore often immense. It is therefore all the more important to identify and stop the attackers. However, this undertaking is often more difficult than expected, because criminals often have extensive knowledge of a target network and are therefore difficult to distinguish from legitimate administrators.

A comprehensive cyber defence that also detects and successfully defends against these activities is therefore indispensable, especially for critical infrastructures. To successfully counter the tactics and techniques of modern attackers, it is advisable to rely not only on the latest technologies but also on human know-how and active threat hunting.  These specialists tirelessly search for novel and anomalous tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) of attackers that remain undetected by technical detection measures and stop them as soon as they are identified.

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Expert Speak

Security Flaws in Smartphone Chip Could Have Led Hackers to Eavesdrop on Android Users

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Check Point Research (CPR) identified security flaws in the smartphone chip made by Taiwanese manufacturer MediaTek. Found in 37% of the world’s smartphones, MediaTek’s chip serves as the main processor for nearly every notable Android device, including Xiaomi, Oppo, Realme, Vivo, and more. The security flaws were found inside the chip’s audio processer. Left unpatched, the vulnerabilities could have enabled a hacker to eavesdrop on an Android user and/or hide malicious code.

Background 
MediaTek chips contain a special AI processing unit (APU) and audio Digital signal processor (DSP) to improve media performance and reduce CPU usage. Both the APU and the audio DSP have custom microprocessor architectures, making MediaTek DSP a unique and challenging target for security research. CPR grew curious around the degree to which MediaTek DSP could be used as an attack vector for threat actors. For the first time, CPR was able to reverse engineer the MediaTek audio processor, revealing several security flaws.

Attack Methodology
To exploit the security vulnerabilities, a threat actor’s order of operations, in theory, would be:

  • A user installs a malicious app from the Play Store and launches it
  • The app uses the MediaTek API to attack a library that has permissions to talk with the audio driver
  • The app with system privilege sends crafted messages to the audio driver to execute code in the firmware of the audio processor
  • The app steals the audio flow

Responsible Disclosure
CPR responsibly disclosed its findings to MediaTek, creating the following: CVE-2021-0661, CVE-2021-0662, CVE-2021-0663. These three vulnerabilities were subsequently fixed and published in the October 2021 MediaTek Security Bulletin. The security issue in the MediaTek audio HAL (CVE-2021-0673) was fixed in October and will be published in the December 2021 MediaTek Security Bulletin. CPR also informed Xiaomi of its findings.

Slava Makkaveev, Security Researcher at Check Point Software, said, “MediaTek is known to be the most popular chip for mobile devices. Given its ubiquity in the world, we began to suspect that it could be used as an attack vector by potential hackers. We embarked on research into the technology, which led to the discovery of a chain of vulnerabilities that potentially could be used to reach and attack the audio processor of the chip from an Android application. Left unpatched, a hacker potentially could have exploited the vulnerabilities to listen in on conversations of Android users. Furthermore, the security flaws could have been misused by the device manufacturers themselves to create a massive eavesdrop campaign. Although we do not see any specific evidence of such misuse, we moved quickly to disclose our findings to MediaTek and Xiaomi. In summary, we proved out a completely new attack vector that could have abused the Android API. Our message to the Android community is to update their devices to the latest security patch in order to be protected. MediaTek worked diligently with us to ensure these security issues were fixed in a timely manner, and we are grateful for their cooperation and spirit for a more secure world.”

Tiger Hsu, Product Security Officer at MediaTek said “Device security is a critical component and priority of all MediaTek platforms. Regarding the Audio DSP vulnerability disclosed by Check Point Software, we worked diligently to validate the issue and make appropriate mitigations available to all OEMs. We have no evidence it is currently being exploited. We encourage end-users to update their devices as patches become available and to only install applications from trusted locations such as the Google Play Store. We appreciate the collaboration with the Check Point research team to make the MediaTek product ecosystem more secure.”

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Cyber Security

Mandiant Shares Cybersecurity Predictions for 2022

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Mandiant has released its predictions report – 14 Cyber Security Predictions for 2022 and Beyond.
“The only constant in our industry is the uncertainty in the cyber realm. Attackers keep evolving – getting more sophisticated and changing their tactics, techniques and procedures to try get one up on the defenders,” said Gordon Love, VP MEA at Mandiant. “This report provides security leaders with an overview of what to expect in 2022 and beyond, based on the trends we see now. Organisations have a lot to keep in mind for next year, but remaining vigilant will enable them to defend against upcoming threats—and respond to those that inevitably get through.”

The top cyber security threats identified in the report include:

No end in sight for Ransomware
The ransomware threat has grown significantly throughout the past decade, and it will continue its upward trend. The business of ransomware is simply too lucrative unless international governments and technology innovations can fundamentally alter the attacker cost-benefit calculation.

Threat actors engaged in multifaceted extortion will continue to find more ways to extort payments from their victims. In 2022 Mandiant expects to see actors ramp up new tactics, such as trying to recruit insiders within their victims or targets. More cybercriminals are expected to evolve as threat actors become more business savvy and learn what kind of situations their victims most want to avoid.

Focus on Operation Technology (OT)
Throughout 2021, Mandiant observed low sophistication threat actors learn that they could create big impacts in the OT space—perhaps even bigger than intended. Actors will continue to explore the OT space in 2022 and increasingly use ransomware in their attacks.

Attacks against critical OT environments can cause severe disruption and even threaten human lives, thereby increasing the pressure for organizations to pay a ransom. To compound the issue, many of these OT devices are not built with security at the forefront of the design, and there is a massive uptick in the number of vulnerabilities being identified in OT environments.

Iran to continue their aggressive stance
Iran will use its cyber tools in a much more aggressive manner to promote regional interests. Iran will also continue to target Israel and others in the Middle East. They’ve shown their capability and willingness to use destructive malware, so they are expected to take advantage of any presented opportunities. Ultimately, Iran will try to create more of a power balance shifted to its own interests. Mandiant has seen them targeting abroad, but their targeting will most likely be regional throughout 2022.

Afghanistan events may trigger espionage
With the assertion of Taliban control and departure of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, one can expect further cyber espionage and information operations. The usual information operations actors—Iran, China, Russia—are expected to push narratives to support their interests through the end of 2021 and into 2022. They’ll also play up negative perceptions around the events, notably the perception that the U.S. failed to live up to its commitments to organizations and countries.

Cloud and third parties introduce new chokepoints
Organizations will continue to increasingly rely on the cloud and cloud-hosted third-party providers for primary business tasks, putting more pressure on those third parties to maintain both availability and security. The proportion of Mandiant incident response investigations involving cloud resources has grown over the past several years, and they anticipate that cloud compromise and abuse will continue to grow in tandem with enterprise cloud adoption throughout 2022.

More internet of things (IoT) devices, more vulnerabilities, more attack surface
As the number of IoT devices grow, so will the number of vulnerabilities for bug hunters to track. These devices are connected, and the general attack surface expands with the potential for profound impact. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough emphasis on security in fundamental IoT device design to fix these issues, so the situation will only get worse in the years to come.

As we move into 2022, CISOs have a lot on their mind and remaining vigilant will enable them to defend against upcoming threats—and respond to those that inevitably get through.

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