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Cyber Security

Seven Ways to Keep your Smart Home Devices Out of the Hands of Hackers



Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. has seven tips to keep your smart home devices out of the hands of hackers. In an increasingly connected world, it would be hard to find a home that doesn’t have some sort of smart device. Whether it’s a speaker that can also curate a shopping list, a doorbell with a fully functioning camera, or a smoke alarm that connects directly to your mobile phone to remind you to replace those batteries, these devices are here to stay. However, while these gadgets provide much convenience for consumers, they are also simultaneously multiplying the number of access points that hackers can use to steal private and personal information.

An investigation by Which? reported that, on average, homes with smart devices are vulnerable to 12,000 hacking or unknown scanning attacks from across the world in just a single week, which tells you the size of the problem. From there you only have to switch on the news to hear horror stories, ranging from smart devices listening to private conversations to hackers using camera-enabled gadgets to gain access to a constant stream of live video from inside our homes.

Plus, as if that wasn’t enough, these intruders can then go that one step further, and take advantage of the world’s new shift towards working from home, to then jump over to our often unprotected work devices that are connected to the same compromised wi-fi and gain access to the corporate network. By using our smart home devices as a gateway, these intruders can leave behind a path of total chaos, affecting not only personal privacy but also resulting in a possible corporate-wide data breach.

Ram Narayanan, Country Manager at Check Point Software Technologies, Middle East said, “As consumers, we’re hyper aware of the precautions to take to prevent burglars from entering our homes and stealing our physical possessions. However, most often, we overlook the hidden threats posed by our smart home devices that allow malicious hackers with sinister intentions to watch and listen to our most private conversations conducted in the comfort and confines of our own homes.

“With every year that passes, we are seeing a constant trend of hackers becoming ever more aggressive and, as a result, any device connected to the internet is ‘fair game.’ In the landscape we now live in, it’s not enough to assume that these incidences just ‘won’t happen’ to you and all owners of these devices should be taking extra precautions to keep their information protected as it only takes only one overlooked device for a hacker to create untold harm and distress.”

Tips to keep your smart home devices safe and secure:

  1. Update software: Keeping your finger on the pulse and updating your devices when required is a must to keep your home and your data protected. This is because the way that bad actors try to attack devices is constantly changing. So it’s important to have the newest form of protection against these evolving threats.
  2. Set up a standalone wi-fi network for your devices: Most routers will allow you to create a separate network for your smart home devices, which will create more obstacles for hackers to overcome when trying to access your devices. You may also wish to consider creating a ‘guest setting’ for your wi-fi that will still allow your friends and family to access the internet but without the added risk of having to write down or virtually share your primary network log in details.
  3. Level up your passwords: When it comes to creating strong passwords for your devices, make sure that they are random and not personal to the individual that owns the device. This is because this information is very accessible to threat actors and won’t offer the best protection for your home. If you find that complex passwords are harder to remember, consider using a password manager to help keep your devices protected.
  4. Double authentication: By setting up an additional form of authentication, known as two-factor authentication or 2FA, hackers can be deterred from accessing your devices. While this may pose a mild inconvenience to the consumer, it’s nothing compared to the turmoil a hacker can cause once they’ve gained access to your smart home devices.
  5. Encryption: By ensuring that your router is using the highest level of encryption you can keep your data safe from unwanted threats. Make sure not to forget any internal wi-fi extenders or powerline home networks that will also have a setting to allow encryption across the home network. This, in turn, will add an extra layer of protection for, not only your router but also for your smart devices.
  6. Change the default password on your router: This is separate from your wi-fi passwords but just as key. Most routers are given a simple default password to allow for easy setup when first installed but as a result, are just as easy for hackers to guess, there are even lists of the most common ones online, so be safe and change them as soon as possible.
  7. Keep your work devices protected: With more of us now working from home, it’s important for your work devices to be just as protected as your personal devices when they are relying on your home wi-fi. You can do this by making sure that your devices are up to date with the latest anti-malware technology. By keeping them secure, you can reduce the threat posed to your smart devices.

Channel Talk

Entrust Signs Up CyberKnight as New Distributor for the Middle East Region



Entrust has announced its new distribution partnership with CyberKnight to address compliance and simplify cyber threat management. In line with evolving regional compliance regulations and standards, Entrust’s new partnership with CyberKnight as its newest regional distributor will see the two companies jointly build solutions for the Middle East market that achieve the highest standards of cyber security.

Entrust and CyberKnight are strategically aligned on their security vision with a ‘Zero Trust’ philosophy at its core. With the aim of increasing access to the highest standards of security for Middle East customers, Entrust’s new partnership with CyberKnight will further enable the delivery of digital security solutions to customers, by tapping into CyberKnight’s local network to offer advice, education, expertise, and confidence.

“Digital transformation in the Middle East continues to evolve at a phenomenal pace, especially as the demands of the past two years called for a rapid implementation of cloud-based systems to manage the unprecedented shift to remote workforces,” said Scott Kemish, Global Vice President Channel Sales, Entrust. “In order to support local customers championing cloud adoption while meeting the requirements of local compliance regulations, as well as protecting themselves against an all-time-high of cybercrime, we have entered a stage of channel development that requires our channel distribution partners to stand up and make a difference; CyberKnight has all of the right attributes that we are looking for in the market.”

“Our partnership with CyberKnight further cements our commitment to the region, and we look forward to helping more customers transform their digital security in line with the requirements of this new age,” Scott continued. Over the last two years, the rapid adoption of cloud solutions to enable remote working resulted in an increase in cybercrime globally, as it provided cybercriminals more opportunities to target victims at home. Cybercrime is set to cost the global economy $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. And industry research reveals that, in the UAE, the average cost of remediating a ransomware attack is over $500,000.

“The pandemic has reminded us that cybercriminals are constantly fine-tuning their skills and techniques. If we do not help our customers do the same, then they will be playing catch-up,” said Avinash Advani, Founder & CEO of CyberKnight. “Our partnership with Entrust as our newest vendor will enable us to continue helping customers fill the existing gap between their digital transformation efforts, and their security posture by securing their digital ecosystems as well as supporting them with their zero-trust security journey. We are very excited about working with them to further support our local customers across the region.

Entrust’s certificate solutions, PKI, identity and access management, encryption key management and hardware security modules are available to local customers through the partnership. Later this year, Entrust will join CyberKnight’s annual roadshow, set to take place in November 2022.

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Cyber Security

The Rising Risk of Ransomware Attacks on Organisations and How to Mitigate it



According to the 2022 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report, “ransomware volume increased 105% year over year and is up 232% since 2019.” With the risk of ransomware attacks continuing to rise, it’s crucial to shield your organization from these attacks to avoid unwanted financial fallout.

Ransomware attacks commonly target an organization’s file servers and databases using malicious code to encrypt files such as documents, images, and videos on the system. Ransomware can also be programmed to find vulnerabilities on the network and use these to spread to other systems in an organization. Ransomware attacks are typically executed through social engineering like widespread phishing attacks, but cybercriminals can also specifically target a certain entity, sometimes a popular one. These attacks have the potential to cripple an entire organization’s database.

Once encrypted by ransomware, files are almost impossible to retrieve without the decryption key. To get this key, the victim is demanded to pay a ransom—often millions of dollars—within a short timeframe, usually 24 to 48 hours. If the victim organization keeps a backup of its files, then it’ll be able to restore those files and avoid paying the ransom. If not, the organization often has no option but to pay the ransom.

However, if you fall victim to a ransomware attack, it’s strongly recommended that you don’t pay the ransom to regain access to your encrypted files. This is because you are relying on the integrity of a cybercriminal. The cybercriminal may not give you the decryption key after the transaction or, even worse, they may continue to target your organization and repeatedly demand higher ransoms now that they know you’re willing to pay.

In recent years, it has become much easier to develop ransomware, resulting in the continued rise in ransomware attacks. Cybercriminals can develop and execute a ransomware attack with readily available open-source code and with easy-to-use drag-and-drop platforms. It is also hard to track these cybercriminals because transactions involving ransomware are commonly made using cryptocurrency.

Ransomware attacks can result in exploitation and loss of your organization’s critical and confidential data. But there are steps you can take to prevent and mitigate these attacks.

Back-Up Your Data
Take regular backups of all your files and data; this way, even if your system is infected, you can erase the infected files and recover them using your backups. This cannot prevent a ransomware attack, but it can mitigate the risk of losing all your data.

Keep Your System and Software Up-to-Date
Maintain a healthy patching routine. This includes updating your software as soon as possible when patches for security vulnerabilities are released by vendors. To keep your device secure from ransomware attacks, use a security solution that can identify these attacks at their earliest stages and mitigate their impact.

Be Careful Where You Click
Beware of social engineering attacks and email scams, and avoid downloading files from untrusted sources as these can result in your system being exploited by malicious software like ransomware. What makes social engineering attacks so dangerous is that they take advantage of human error rather than system vulnerabilities.

Create Awareness Among Employees About Ransomware Attacks
Since human error is a major vector cybercriminal manipulate to carry out ransomware attacks, it is essential to educate and train employees on social engineering and email phishing attacks to effectively secure your organization against them.

ManageEngine’s security information and event management (SIEM) solutions protect your enterprise network from cyberattacks and insider threats. SIEM solutions collect and analyze the security data generated by your devices in real-time, alerting you about vulnerabilities, indicators of compromise, and any suspicious activity to help you mitigate the risk of ransomware attacks.

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Cyber Security

Ransomware Hit 59% of UAE Organizations Surveyed for Sophos’ Annual “State of Ransomware 2022”



Sophos has released its annual international survey and review of real-world ransomware experiences in the State of Ransomware 2022. The report shows that 59% of UAE organizations surveyed were hit with ransomware in 2021, up from 38% in 2020.

The report summarizes the impact of ransomware on 5,600 mid-sized organizations in 31 countries across Europe, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The main findings for the UAE in the State of Ransomware 2022 global survey, which covers ransomware incidents experienced during 2021, as well as related cyber insurance issues, include:

  • Many organizations rely on cyber insurance to help them recover from a ransomware attack – 85% of mid-sized organizations had cyber insurance that covers them in the event of a ransomware attack – and, in 100% of incidents, the insurer paid some or all the costs incurred.
  • Ninety-eight percent of those with cyber insurance said that their experience of getting it has changed over the last 12 months, with higher demands for cybersecurity measures, more complex or expensive policies, and fewer organizations offering insurance protection.

“The findings suggest we may have reached a peak in the evolutionary journey of ransomware, where attackers’ greed for ever higher ransom payments is colliding head-on with a hardening of the cyber insurance market as insurers increasingly seek to reduce their ransomware risk and exposure,” said Wisniewski. “In recent years, it has become increasingly easy for cybercriminals to deploy ransomware, with almost everything available as-a-service. Second, many cyber insurance providers have covered a wide range of ransomware recovery costs, including the ransom, likely contributing to ever higher ransom demands. However, the results indicate that cyber insurance is getting tougher and in the future ransomware victims may become less willing or less able to pay sky-high ransoms. Sadly, this is unlikely to reduce the overall risk of a ransomware attack. Ransomware attacks are not as resource intensive as some other, more hand-crafted cyberattacks, so any return is a return worth grabbing and cybercriminals will continue to go after the low hanging fruit.”

Sophos recommends the following best practices to help defend against ransomware and related cyberattacks:

  1. Install and maintain high-quality defenses across all points in the organization’s environment. Review security controls regularly and make sure they continue to meet the organization’s needs.
  2. Proactively hunt for threats to identify and stop adversaries before they can execute their attack – if the team lacks the time or skills to do this in house, outsource to a Managed Detection and Response (MDR) specialist.
  3. Harden the IT environment by searching for and closing key security gaps: unpatched devices, unprotected machines, open RDP ports, etc. Extended Detection and Response (XDR) solutions are ideal for this purpose.
  4. Prepare for the worst. Know what to do if a cyber incident occurs and keep the plan updated.
  5. Make backups, and practice restoring from them so that the organization can get back up and running as soon as possible, with minimum disruption.
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