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Forescout Releases First Ransomware Vulnerability Study Converging IT and OT Networks

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Forescout’s Vedere Labs has launched new research titled R4IoT (Ransomware for IoT), a proof-of-concept study demonstrating how next-generation ransomware can exploit IoT devices for initial access and lateral movement to IT and OT assets, with the intention to cause physical disruption to business operations. The R4IoT study is an information report that includes a detailed playbook describing how organizations can protect themselves against a new type of ransomware attack that leverages IoT devices, such as video cameras, to deploy ransomware.

The rapid expansion in the number of connected devices in organizations exponentially increases the risk posture of nearly every business across the globe, all related to the growth of IoT devices in corporate networks, converging IT and OT networks, and the rise of supply-chain vulnerabilities. This is the first work to combine the worlds of IT, OT, and IoT ransomware and to have a full proof-of-concept from initial access via IoT to lateral movement in the IT network and then impact in the OT network. Beyond just encryption, the proof-of-concept on IT equipment includes deployment of crypto-miner software and data exfiltration.

The proof-of-concept ransomware described in the R4IoT report exploits the first trend by using exposed vulnerable devices, such as an IP video camera or network-attached storage (NAS) device, as the initial access point to the network, and the second trend to hold OT devices hostage, thus adding another layer of extortion to an attack. A video by Vedere Lab demonstrates how IoT and OT exploits can be combined with a traditional attack campaign. The impact on OT is not limited to standard operating systems (e.g., Linux) or device types (e.g., building automation), does not require persistence or firmware modification on the targeted devices, and works at a large-scale on a wide variety of devices impacted by TCP/IP stack vulnerabilities.

It also shows that to mitigate this type of attack, organizations need solutions that allow for extensive visibility and enhanced control of all the assets in a network with three important observations – First, Identification and Protection are possible because hundreds of very similar attacks happen simultaneously. For instance, Conti had more than 400 successful attacks on US and international organizations in 2021.

That means it is possible to identify devices and vulnerabilities being actively exploited so their protection can be prioritized. Second, Detection is possible because most tools and techniques these actors use are well-known. It presents the top Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) used by malware in 2021. Third, Response and Recovery are possible because attacks are not immediate and fully automated. The average dwell time of ransomware attackers was 5 days in 2021.

Implementing this mitigation requires extensive visibility and enhanced control of all assets in a network.

Cyber Security

New Hacktivism Model Trends Worldwide

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Check Point Research (CPR) outlines a new model of hacktivism now trending worldwide. Five characteristics mark today’s form of hacktivism, according to researchers: political ideology, leadership hierarchy, formal recruiting, advanced tools, and public relations. CPR gives the hacktivist group Killnet an example of the latest model, detailing its attacks by country and attack timeline. CPR warns that hacktivism that originates in conflict-related geographies has the potential to scale worldwide.

  • Before, hacktivism was mostly focused on a few individuals carrying small-scale DDoS and defacement attacks
  • Now, hacktivism is better organized, structured, and sophisticated
  • CPR believes the new model of hacktivism began in conflict areas in the Middle East and Eastern Europe and proliferated to other areas during 2022

Check Point Research outlines a new model of hacktivism now trending worldwide. The hacktivism of the new model is better organized, structured and sophisticated, compared to the past. Hacktivist groups no longer consist of a few random individuals who carry out small DDoS or defacement attacks on low-tier websites. These are coordinated organizations with distinct characteristics previously unseen.

Key Characteristics:

  • Consistent political ideology (manifestos and/or sets of rules)
  • Hierarchy of leadership (Smaller groups relay attack orders to “commanders)
  • Formal recruitment process (Based on minimum requirements)
  • Tools that the groups provide to their members (Advanced tools for notoriety)
  • Robust public relations functions (Presences on major websites)

Why now?
CPR suspects the shift in the hacktivism model began roughly two years ago, with several hacktivist groups like Hackers of Savior, Black Shadow, and Moses Staff that focused exclusively on attacking Israel. CPR believes the Russian-Ukrainian war has proliferated the new model of hacktivism significantly. For example, The IT Army of Ukraine was publicly mobilized by the Ukrainian government to attack Russia. The new hacktivism also saw groups that supported the Russian geopolitical narrative, with groups like Killnet, Xaknet, From Russia with Love (FRwL), NoName057(16), and more.


Case Study: Killnet, from East to West
In April of this year, the group completely shifted its focus to support Russian geopolitical interests all over the world. The group claimed to have executed more than 550 attacks, between late February and September. Only 45 of them were against Ukraine, less than 10% of the total number of attacks.

  1. March: the group executed a DDoS attack on Bradley International Airport in Connecticut (US)
  2. April: websites belonging to the Romanian Government, such as the Ministry of Defense, Border Police, National Railway Transport Company and a commercial bank, were rendered unreachable for several hours.
  3. May: massive DDOS attacks were executed against two major EU countries, Germany and Italy
  4. June: Two very significant waves of attacks were executed against Lithuania and Norway in response to severe geopolitical developments between those countries and Russia
  5. July: Killnet focused their efforts on Poland and caused several government websites to be unavailable.
  6. August: Cyber-attacks were deployed on Latvia, Estonia and USA institutions
  7. September: the group targeted Asia for the first time and focused its efforts on Japan, due to Japan’s support for Ukraine

Sergey Shykevich, Threat Intelligence Group Manager at Check Point Software, said, “Hacktivism now has a whole new meaning. Before, the term meant a few random folks launching small DDoS attacks. Hacktivism is no longer just about social groups with fluid agendas. Now, hacktivism is better organized, structured and more sophisticated. I believe everything changed within the past year, especially with the start of the Ukraine-Russia war.”

“There are some key characteristics that mark the new model of hacktivism, including a consistent political ideology, a clear hierarchy of leadership, formal recruiting processes, sophisticated tool set, and robust PR capabilities. Though the change began in specific conflict-related geographical regions, it has now spread west and even further. Major corporations and governments in Europe and the US are being heavily targeted by this emerging type of hacktivism. All this allows the new hacktivism groups to be mobilized to governmental narratives and achieve strategic and broad-based goals with higher success levels – and much wider public impact – than ever before,” he said.

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Cyber Security

Global Cyber Security Revenue to Reach $334 Billion in 2026: GlobalData

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Cyber security has emerged as a top priority for organizations and consumers alike, especially following the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to new ways of living and working with a huge reliance on digital infrastructure that remains vulnerable to cyberattacks. Against this backdrop, the global cyber security revenue is expected to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.7% from $220 billion in 2021 to $334 billion in 2026, forecasts GlobalData, a leading data, and analytics company.

The surge in the volume and sophistication of cyber-attacks across organizations is expected to favor the enterprise cyber security market revenue growth over the forecast period. Madhumita Chaudhary, Practice Head at GlobalData, comments: “Despite the continued investments and growth in the cyber security space, the frequency of attacks and breaches have shown no signs of abatement. More than billions of records containing critical information were compromised since the pandemic. As such, enterprise cyber security will continue to dominate the overall cyber security demand in terms of market share, capturing a sizeable revenue share exceeding 90% in 2021.”

GlobalData’s latest report, “Cyber Security Market Size, Share and Trends Analysis Report by Type (Enterprise, Consumer), Product (Security Consulting, Managed Service Providers, Identity and Access Management), Vertical, Enterprise Size, Region, and Segment Forecasts, 2021-2026,” reveals that the consumer cyber security market too will register a healthy CAGR, exceeding 10% during 2021-2026. Chaudhary explains: “The rapid emergence of connected devices and associated security risks with no baseline security upgrades will favor the segment growth over the forecast period.”

In addition to the rising frequency of attacks, ransomware is also gaining prominence, and has been used in several high-profile attacks. It is the most concerning type of cyberattack for business leaders. Chaudhary continues: “Cyber security should be at the forefront of all digital transformation strategies. A lapse in focus could mean hefty repercussions in form of accelerated ransomware attacks.”

Asia-Pacific (APAC) is more vulnerable to cyber threats owing to the critical infrastructure and growing financial sector in the region. Furthermore, an increase in digital transformation initiatives, penetration of internet connectivity, and susceptibility stemming from IoT connectivity is likely to increase the adoption of cyber security solutions.

Chaudhary concludes: “Emerging countries in the APAC region like India, Singapore, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Taiwan are facing increasing cyber-crimes in terms of ransomware, phishing, and network attacks, and are projected to witness strong demand for cyber security products & services.”

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Cyber Security

Trellix Study Claims 53% of UAE Cybersecurity Professionals Are Fighting a Losing Battle Against Cybercriminals

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The majority of UAE-based cybersecurity professionals are feeling overwhelmed by the rapid escalation of cyber threats despite increased commitments from senior management and access to bigger budgets. This was one of the key findings in a global study commissioned by Trellix, the cybersecurity company at the forefront of extended detection and response (XDR).

The study polled 9,000 cybersecurity professionals across 15 countries, including the UAE, in organizations with 500 or more employees. Some 70% of UAE respondents said their organization’s cybersecurity investments had increased in the past 12 months and two-thirds (67%) reported regular meetings on cybersecurity and compliance with senior executives. But most (56%) also admitted that threats evolve so rapidly they still struggle to keep up.

There was widespread acknowledgment among UAE respondents of the need for change. Some 57% said their current security model needed to be updated to successfully predict, detect, and respond to attacks as they happened. Among those expressing such concerns, 13% described the necessary updates as “major”.

Amid these capability gaps, 53% of UAE cybersecurity specialists say they are “fighting a losing battle against cybercriminals”. Beyond taking a toll on the cybersecurity professionals — 54% of respondents cited being held back by the limitations of their cybersecurity infrastructure as one of their biggest work frustrations — this gap in cybersecurity is impacting UAE organizations’ bottom lines, with 80% of respondents acknowledging that their organization lost up to 10% of revenue in the previous year because of security breaches.

According to the findings, 60% of UAE SecOps teams are hampered by the patchwork of security solutions that have few, if any, integration options. Only one in nine (11%) have managed to eliminate silos and little more than a fifth (22%) are working towards this end. Some 59% are working with more than 10 separate security solutions and 60% decried the lack of efficiency this causes. To make matters worse, one-third (67%) of organizations have no plans to rid themselves of silos.

“Siloed security systems hand easy victories to threat actors and make life harder for SecOps teams everywhere,” said Vibin Shaju, General Manager, UAE at Trellix. “And yet many businesses seem prepared to accept siloed security rather than updating their security architecture to connect the dots and enable adaptive security. Nothing changes if nothing changes. Organizations that do not move purposefully towards a more integrated security model are painting a target on their back as an open invitation to cybercriminals.”

In the UAE, 69% of cybersecurity professionals reported dealing with up to 50 cybersecurity incidents per day and 42% characterize their daily routine as being “inundated by a never-ending stream of cyberattacks”. Respondents are plagued by blind spots within their infrastructure, with 27% citing such visibility gaps. Moreover, just over a third (36%) say their security ecosystem does meet their current needs but expressed concerns about their future capabilities if they continue to use the same security suite.

Against this backdrop, one technology that has come to the fore is Extended Detection & Response (XDR). In particular, an open, cloud-native XDR architecture that constantly learns from and adapts to the ever-changing threat landscape, can help organizations eliminate silos and identify threats before they can do harm. More than a fifth (22%) of UAE respondents said they had already implemented XDR, with an additional 41% saying they were exploring the technology for likely implementation in the next 12 to 18 months.

Among XDR implementors in the UAE, 78% ranked the ability to automate processes and prioritize critical concerns among the most important benefits of the technology. Not only was this the top priority for UAE organizations, but the proportion of respondents that cited it was significantly higher than the global average, suggesting that automation and alert triage are of specific interest to UAE enterprises — an understandable finding given the region’s extant cybersecurity skills gaps.

Among other important factors that compelled UAE companies to implement XDR was its capability to detect threats in real-time (76%), and the ability to deliver operational efficiency by freeing human analysts to pursue higher-value cyber work (37%). A quarter of UAE XDR implementors were drawn to the technology by its capability to learn from incidents and adapt to threats; and 38% were impressed by the reduction in response times. Some 46% said that because of the benefits they had witnessed, they were likely to recommend that their organization allocate budgets this year to advanced programs that include XDR.

“This research reveals how unsustainable the situation is for cybersecurity professionals today,” said Aparna Rayasam, chief product officer, Trellix. “Instead of relying on traditional siloed solutions that add complexity, businesses can reshape SecOps with a flexible, intelligent security architecture that consolidates security tools, so teams can work smarter and quickly remediate threats.”

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