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Cyber Security

2022 in Review: 10 of the Year’s Biggest Cyberattacks



Written by Phil Muncaster, guest writer at ESET

The past year has seen the global economy lurch from one crisis to another. As COVID-19 finally began to recede in many regions, what replaced it has been rising energy bills, soaring inflation, and a resulting cost-of-living crisis – some of it spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ultimately, these developments have opened the door to new opportunities for financially-motivated and state-backed threat actors.

They have targeted governments, hospitals, cryptocurrency firms, and many other organisations with impunity. The cost of a data breach now stands at nearly $4.4 million – and as long as threat actors continue to achieve successes like those below, we can expect it to rise even higher for 2023.

Here are 10 of the worst cyber incidents of the year, be it for the damage they wrought, the level of sophistication, or geopolitical fallout. The list is in no particular order, but it makes sense to open it with malicious cyber operations that took aim at Ukraine and immediately raised concerns about their wider ramifications and associated cyber risks faced by the wider world.

Ukraine under (cyber)attack: Ukraine’s critical infrastructure has found itself, yet again, in the crosshairs of threat actors. Early into Russia’s invasion, ESET researchers worked closely with CERT-UA on remediating an attack that targeted the country’s grid and involved destructive malware that Sandworm had attempted to deploy against high-voltage electrical substations. The malware – which ESET named Industroyer2 after an infamous piece of malware used by the group to cut power in Ukraine in 2016 – was used in combination with a new version of the destructive CaddyWiper variant, most likely to hide the group’s tracks, slow down incident response and prevent operators of the energy company from regaining control of the ICS consoles.

More wipers: CaddyWiper was far from the only destructive data wiper discovered in Ukraine just before or in the first few weeks of Russia’s invasion. On February 23rd, ESET telemetry picked up HermeticWiper on hundreds of machines in several organizations in Ukraine. The following day, a second destructive, data-wiping attack against a Ukrainian governmental network started, this time delivering IsaacWiper.

Internet down: Barely an hour before the invasion, a major cyberattack against commercial satellite internet company Viasat disrupted broadband internet service for thousands of people in Ukraine and even elsewhere in Europe, leaving behind thousands of bricked modems. The attack, which exploited a misconfigured VPN device to gain access to the satellite network’s management section, is believed to have been intended to impair the communication capabilities of the Ukrainian command during the first hours of the invasion. Its effects were felt far beyond Ukraine’s borders, however.

Conti in Costa Rica: A major player in the cybercrime underground this year was the ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) group Conti. One of its most audacious raids was against the small South American nation of Costa Rica, where a national emergency was declared after the government branded a crippling attack an act of “cyber-terrorism.” The group has since disappeared, although its members are likely to simply have moved on to other projects or rebranded wholesale, as RaaS outfits generally due to avoid scrutiny from law enforcers and governments.

Other ransomware actors: There were also in action in 2022. A CISA alert from September explained that Iran-affiliated threat actors compromised a US municipal government and an aerospace company, among other targets, by exploiting the infamous Log4Shell bug for ransomware campaigns, which isn’t all that common for state-backed entities. Also intriguing was a US government compromise in November that was also blamed on Iran. An unnamed Federal Civilian Executive Branch (FCEB) organization was breached and crypto mining malware was deployed.

Ronin Network: This was created by Vietnamese blockchain game developer Sky Mavis to function as an Ethereum sidechain for its Axie Infinity game. In March it emerged that hackers managed to use hijacked private keys to forge withdrawals to the tune of 173,600 Ethereum ($592 million) and $25.5 million from the Ronin bridge, in two transactions. The resulting $618 million theft, at March prices, was the largest ever from a crypto firm. Infamous North Korean group Lazarus has since been linked to the raid. The hermit nation has been traced in the past to thefts worth billions of dollars, used to fund its nuclear and missile programs.

Lapsus$: This burst onto the scene in 2022, as an extortion group using high-profile data thefts to force payment from its corporate victims. These have included Microsoft, Samsung, Nvidia, Ubisoft, Okta and Vodafone. Among its many methods are bribery of insiders at firms and their contractors. Although the group had been relatively silent for a while, it re-emerged at the end of the year after hacking Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar Games. Several alleged members of the group have been arrested in the UK and Brazil.

International Red Cross (ICRC): In January, the ICRC reported a major breach that compromised the personal details of over 515,000 “highly vulnerable” victims. Stolen from a Swiss contractor, the data included details of individuals separated from their families due to conflict, migration, and disaster, missing persons and their families, and people in detention. It was subsequently blamed on an unnamed nation-state and occurred when an unpatched system was exploited.

Uber: The ride-hailing giant was famously breached back in 2016 when details on 57 million users were stolen. In September it was reported that a hacker, potentially a member of Lapsus$, had compromised email and cloud systems, code repositories, an internal Slack account, and HackerOne tickets. The actor targeted an Uber external contractor, most likely grabbing their corporate password from the dark web.

Medibank: All of the Australian health insurance giant’s four million customers have personal data accessed by ransomware actors in an attack that may end up costing the firm US$35 million. Those responsible are believed to be linked to the infamous ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) outfit REvil (aka Sodinokibi) with compromised privileged credentials responsible for initial access. Those impacted now face a potential barrage of follow-on identity fraud attempts.

Whatever happens in 2023, some of the cautionary tales from these 10 major incidents should stand everybody, including CISOs, in good stead. Get your cybersecurity processes and operations right, organize cybersecurity awareness training for all employees, and partner with reputable security companies whose solutions can stand up to the complex methods deployed by threat actors.

Cyber Security

Databases Are the Black Boxes for Most Organisations



Nik Koutsoukos, the Vice President of SolarWinds, says databases represent the most difficult ecosystems to observe, tune, manage, and scale

Tell us about the SolarWinds database observability platform.
Nearly everything a modern business does from a digital perspective requires data. Thus, databases are among the enterprise’s most valuable IT assets. This makes it critical for organisations to ensure their databases are optimised for performance and cost.

That said, databases represent the most difficult ecosystems to observe, tune, manage, and scale. Not only are there different types of databases that serve different purposes, but they are also populated by different types of data, adding to their complexity. The implications of not having visibility into your databases can be anywhere from a costly annoyance to a significant issue that causes business service disruption. For example, most application performance issues, between 70% and 88%, are rooted in the database.

For this reason, databases have largely been seen as a black box for most organisations. You know what goes into it. And you know what comes out and how long that took. However, the complexities that occur within the black box of the database are harder to discern.

This is where the SolarWinds Database Observability comes in. This offering is built for the needs of the modern enterprise environment and helps ensure optimal performance by providing full, unified visibility and query-level workload monitoring across centralised, distributed, cloud-based, and on-premises databases. Organisations armed with SolarWinds Database Observability enhance their ability to understand database implications as new code is deployed, utilise real-time troubleshooting of database performance issues, and isolate unusual behaviour and potential issues within the database.

How does database observability help IT teams track and manage infrastructure, applications, and possible threats?
Database observability collects data about the performance, stability, and overall health of an organisation’s monitored databases to address and prevent issues, and provides deep database performance monitoring to drive speed, efficiency, and savings. With SolarWinds Observability — which supports MongoDB, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQL Server database instances — database performance, responsiveness, and error rate are conveniently displayed in dashboards.

Moreover, alerts can be configured to notify admins by email or other methods when user-defined thresholds are crossed. This allows them to identify and remedy issues before they can develop. By gaining insight into the activities taking place inside their database instances, teams can understand user experience as well as ensure systems can scale to meet demand.

What sort of enhancements has your observability platform received recently?
Just this November, we announced major enhancements in the Database Observability capability within our cloud-based SolarWinds Observability platform. SolarWinds Database Observability provides full visibility into open-source, cloud-enabled, and NoSQL databases to identify and address costly and critical threats to their systems and business. It is now possible to navigate across all of the samples collected globally, giving IT teams an empirical distribution of random samples, which resembles the main workload.

What factors according to you will drive the adoption of observability tools in the MEA region?
The Middle East, Türkiye, and Africa (META) are riding a wave of rampant digital transformation as organisations seek to remain competitive. According to IDC, digital transformation spending in the Middle East will accelerate at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16% over the five-year period, topping US$74 billion in 2026 and accounting for 43.2% of all ICT investments made that year. As organisations continue to shift workloads to multi- and hybrid-cloud environments, the complexity of their IT environments still continues to increase. This raises the potential for visibility and monitoring gaps which ultimately translate to underwhelming or outright frustrating experiences for end users.

Tell us about the top three trends you foresee for 2024.
There are clear signs of the continued adoption of cloud technologies to allow enterprises to become more agile, giving engineering teams the ability to focus on their core competencies and expand and contract on demand.

The adoption of Kubernetes is also increasing as the refocusing introduced by the cloud enables the move to microservices-based architectures which require sophisticated orchestration management.

Finally, we are starting to see an uptick in Vector databases, as applications demand better handling of relationships between data points.

What is going to be your top priority in terms of strategies for 2024?
We will continue to deliver on our vision of making observability easy. OpenTelemetry is driving observability, but data collection is nothing if it can’t provide insights. So, we aim to ensure the data is both collected and curated such that users find it easy to consume and extract valuable insight.

Regionally, through 2024, we will continue to focus on our key markets of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the ongoing enhancement of our product portfolio, and the strengthening of our channel ecosystem to create more markets for our business and for our partners.

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Cyber Security

ManageEngine Intros Enhanced SIEM with Dual-Layered System for Better Precision in Threat Detection



ManageEngine, the enterprise IT management division of Zoho Corporation, today unveiled the industry’s first dual-layered threat detection system in its security information and event management (SIEM) solution, Log360. The new feature, available in Log360’s threat detection, investigation and response (TDIR) component, Vigil IQ, empowers security operations centre (SOC) teams in organizations with improved accuracy and enhanced precision in threat detection.

A quality SOC ensures people, processes, and cutting-edge technology function well. However, enterprise security is made difficult by staffing shortages and solution orchestration complexities. Following recent upgrades to the security analytics module of Log360 designed to facilitate SOC optimization through key performance metric monitoring, the company has focused on addressing pressing challenges in security operations.

“In a recent ManageEngine study, a majority of respondents revealed that their SOCs are understaffed. These resource-constrained SOCs grapple with significant obstacles, such as process silos and manual investigation of alerts, which are often non-threats, low-priority issues or false positives. These lead to extended detection and response times for actual threats. To overcome these challenges, we recognize the imperative adoption of AI & ML for contextual event enrichment and rewiring threat detection logic,” said Manikandan Thangaraj, vice president at ManageEngine.

“We pioneered a dual-layered, ML approach to heighten the precision and consistency of threat detection. First, Vigil IQ ensures genuine threats are discerned from false positives. Second, the system facilitates targeted threat identification and response. This advanced system significantly improves the accuracy of identifying threats, streamlining the detection process and allowing SOC analysts to focus their valuable time on investigating real threats.”

Key Features of the Dual-Layered Threat Detection System of Vigil IQ in Log360:
Smart Alerts: Vigil IQ, the TDIR module of Log360, now combines the power of both accuracy and precision in threat detection. With its dynamic learning capability, Vigil IQ adapts to the changing nature of network behaviour to cover more threat instances accurately. It will spot threats that get overlooked due to manual threshold settings, thereby improving the detection system’s reliability.

Proactive Predictive Analytics: Leveraging predictive analytics based on historical data patterns, Vigil IQ predicts potential security threats, facilitating the implementation of proactive measures before incidents occur. This predictive intelligence drastically reduces the mean time to detect (MTTD) threats.

Contextual Intelligence: Vigil IQ enriches alerts with deep contextual information, providing security analysts with comprehensive threat insights. This enrichment of alerts with non-event context accelerates the mean time to respond (MTTR) by delivering pertinent, precise information.

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Cyber Security

Cybersecurity on a Budget: Affordable Cybersecurity Strategies for Small Businesses



According to a survey by Statista, typically, global enterprises dedicate a minimum of 12% of their IT expenditure to information security measures. While larger companies can afford to spend a lot on building a robust cybersecurity strategy, smaller businesses cannot. So, let’s explore some affordable cybersecurity strategies for small businesses that may cost less but have a greater impact.

Train your employees
An article from Forbes found that, annually, 34% of businesses worldwide encounter incidents involving insider attacks. Whether intentional or unintentional, employees tend to be the reason for most data breaches. Per the same article, phishing emails account for 67% of accidental insider attacks.

Phishing attacks mostly instil a sense of urgency in the victim, making it harder for them to think clearly before making a decision. For example, employees may click an email announcement about a bonus that actually came from a malicious outsider impersonating your company’s CEO.

To avoid such mistakes, it’s imperative to train employees on the types of phishing attacks and the ways to identify them. Even going as far as sending a mock phishing email occasionally to test their instincts and educate them can go a long way.

Assess your vulnerabilities
One of the most important cybersecurity strategies is to assess all your risk points by periodically reviewing all your business processes. Pay more attention to teams that deal with a lot of customer data. For instance, sales and marketing teams may handle customer data on a day-to-day basis, so they are at high risk of leaking or mishandling data. Assess their daily activities, create a record of all the risk points, and find ways to mitigate them.

Encrypt your data
Encrypting your data can be an effective method to protect it in case of data leaks. Let’s say a hacker gets hold of your company’s data, but it’s encrypted. Unless the hacker gets the encryption key from you, they cannot access your company’s data. This adds another layer of protection in addition to the everyday cybersecurity best practices that you should be following in your company. So make it a point to encrypt all your data, especially sensitive and critical data.

Limit access to critical data
Not everyone requires access to all data. Try to limit access to critical and sensitive data to fewer employees by basing access on work duties or requiring approval for access, making it a multi-step process to access it. Additionally, periodically review who has access to what data to ensure there aren’t any misallocations of access.

Secure your Wi-Fi
A secure network will reduce the chances of a hack or unauthorized access to your sensitive data. So switch your Wi-Fi to WPA2 or later, as it offers more security. Your business might already be using it, but it’s best to be sure. Additionally, change the name of your SSID and have a strong pre-shared key to keep your Wi-Fi safe from hackers.

Prevent physical theft
Through April 2023, there were 3,785 robberies in London, and 1,765 were of mobile phones. This highlights how important it is to secure your physical assets, as they might contain critical and sensitive information about your organization.

Here are some ways to protect your physical assets, such as PCs, laptops, scanners, and printers:

  1. Restrict unauthorized access to assets.
  2. Install a physical tracker on all devices to track down lost items.
  3. Enable remote wiping of data to erase information if a device is lost.

Cybersecurity strategies are seldom drafted with affordability in mind. However, it is crucial to consider them from a financial perspective, as small businesses are also increasingly susceptible to cyberattacks. These tips can help you take the first step toward creating a secure IT environment. Learn more about cybersecurity solutions for your business.

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