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Cyber Security

New Vulnerabilities Coincide with Spike in Ransomware Attacks



Fortinet has released the 2H 2023 Global Threat Landscape Report. The latest semiannual report is a snapshot of the active threat landscape and highlights trends from July to December of 2023, including analysis on the speed with which attackers are capitalizing on newly identified exploits from across the cybersecurity industry, and the rise of targeted ransomware and wiper activity against the industrial and OT sector.

Based on the comprehensive analysis conducted by FortiGuard Labs, the company’s threat intelligence and research team, the report presents insights into global cyber threats, key findings on the latest advanced attacker tactics, and crucial guidance for organizations to safeguard their data and systems. It underscores Fortinet’s commitment to enhancing network security and building cybersecurity capabilities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, aligning with the goals of Vision 2030 for establishing a secure digital society.

The report found that attacks started at an accelerated pace after the public disclosure of new exploits –on average within 4.76 days. This represents a 43% increase in speed compared to the first half of 2023. It emphasized the importance for vendors to promptly discover vulnerabilities, develop patches, and transparently disclose them to customers. This would help mitigate instances of zero-day vulnerabilities and enable customers to protect their assets effectively.

Not only newly identified vulnerabilities posed a threat. 98% of organizations detected exploits targeting N-day vulnerabilities that had existed for at least five years. Surprisingly, Fortinet also continued to observe that threat actors were exploiting vulnerabilities that are over 15 years old. This highlights the need for organizations to prioritize security hygiene, maintain consistent patching and updating programs, and follow best practices to enhance network security.

Despite the plethora of known security vulnerabilities in endpoints (computers and network-connected devices), the report highlights the success of efforts to combat their exploitation. The data reveals a significant decrease in targeted attacks on these vulnerabilities, with less than 9% of endpoint vulnerabilities targeted in the recent period. This demonstrates the effectiveness of advanced security solutions in mitigating breach risks.

In 2022, FortiGuard Labs introduced the concept of the “red zone” to provide insights into the likelihood of specific vulnerabilities being exploited. In the second half of 2023, research found that only 0.7% of observed Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) on endpoints were under attack. This indicated a smaller active attack surface for security teams to focus on, allowing them to prioritize remediation efforts more effectively.

Sami AlShwairakh, Senior Director for KSA, Fortinet

Sami AlShwairakh, Senior Director for KSA, Fortinet said, “The 2H 2023 Global Threat Landscape report reveals a growing determination among malicious entities to exploit newly discovered security vulnerabilities. This poses a significant risk to organizations worldwide, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

He further explained that these threats pose risks to the Kingdom’s vital digital infrastructure, crucial for the realization of Vision 2030, encompassing both public and private sectors. With Saudi organizations increasingly reliant on digital solutions, they become more susceptible to ransomware, data breaches, and botnet attacks. These risks could result in substantial financial losses, operational disruptions, and data compromises.

Sami stressed the importance of Saudi organizations enhancing their security strategies by proactively fortifying their digital infrastructure. He underscored the importance of investing in advanced cybersecurity solutions, raising employee awareness about cybersecurity, and training them to recognize and mitigate cyber threats.

“Turning the tide against cybercrime requires a culture of collaboration, transparency, and accountability on a larger scale. Every organization has a place in the chain of disruption against cyber threats. Collaboration with high-profile, well-respected organizations from both the public and private sectors, including government entities and academia, is a fundamental aspect of Fortinet’s commitment to enhance cyber resilience globally,” AlShwairakh continued.

Industrial sectors faced a significant threat from ransomware and wiper samples, with 44% of such samples targeting these sectors. While overall ransomware detections dropped by 70% compared to the first half of 2023, attackers shifted to a more targeted approach. The energy, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and automotive industries were the primary targets for these attacks.

Botnets displayed remarkable resilience, taking on average 85 days for command and control (C2) communications to cease after initial detection. Although the level of bot traffic remained steady, well-known botnets like Gh0st, Mirai, and ZeroAccess persisted. Additionally, three new botnets emerged in the second half of 2023: AndroxGh0st, Prometei, and DarkGate.

During the second half of 2023, FortiRecon, Fortinet’s digital risk protection service, identified that 38 out of the 143 advanced persistent threat (APT) groups tracked by MITRE were active. Notable groups included Lazarus Group, Kimusky, APT28, APT29, Andariel, and OilRig. The evolving nature and volume of activity by APT and nation-state cyber groups, characterized by targeted and relatively short-lived campaigns, will continue to be closely monitored by FortiGuard Labs.

Cyber Security

Netskope Joins Google Workspace Security Alliance



Netskope has joined the Google Workspace Security Alliance to extend security and data protection for Workspace users. The Netskope One Platform provides a number of advanced security capabilities that protect data, defend against threats, and ensure users have fast and secure access to Google Workspace productivity and collaboration tools, including Gemini for Workspace.

As organizations increasingly adopt cloud technologies to drive innovation and efficiency, they are also challenged to secure sensitive data from a range of cyber risks, including:

  • Ongoing increases in the number of users uploading sensitive data to personal instances of cloud applications
  • New and evolving threat techniques such as abuse of certain applications for critical data access, back doors, and financial gain; compromise of credentials to access critical business data; insider threats; and more
  • Data exposure from the insecure use of both managed and unmanaged AI-based productivity tools

Netskope and Google Workspace empower organizations to embrace modern collaboration and productivity by enabling the secure use of AI-based productivity tools. Netskope provides advanced data loss prevention (DLP) techniques, delivering real-time visibility and control over users, data, and corporate vs. personal cloud instances. In addition, Netskope’s comprehensive threat protection through both API and inline controls detects threats in Google applications and monitors data movement and threat propagation between Google Workspace apps and third-party ecosystem applications.

“Netskope is proud to expand its partnership with Google Workspace by joining the Workspace Security Alliance. There are already thousands of customers using Netskope to safeguard their Google Workspace applications, and this new partnership further enhances the secure usage capabilities for application specific data protection policies,” said Andy Horwitz, VP, Global Partner Ecosystems, Netskope. “Together, Netskope and Google Workspace can help customers modernize their productivity stack. We look forward to helping customers safely optimize their employees’ daily productivity.”

The Netskope and Google Workspace partnership enables organizations to embrace collaboration and productivity while safeguarding critical data. Joint customers can now more effectively:

  1. Support best practice use of Gemini for Google Workspace: Leverage real-time user coaching to help enforce best practices in application usage. Organizations can gain visibility into data movement to minimize sensitive information sharing while achieving data compliance objectives.
  2. Protect sensitive data: Detect and manage access to sensitive data within Google Workspace applications, enforcing policies to prevent unauthorized data movement across platforms, including third-party services like Microsoft OneDrive, Box and Dropbox.
  3. Stop insider threats like data exfiltration: Prevent the download of sensitive data from Google Workspace business instances and then the upload to personal instances, which is one of today’s top reasons for data loss. Additionally, apply this control to unmanaged devices: allow unmanaged or personal device access to a specific cloud app for collaboration, however, do not allow downloading of sensitive data.
  4. Detect and stop elusive threats and malware: Protect against malware and phishing delivered from the cloud. Netskope’s multi-layered advanced threat protection (ATP) enhances security within Google Workspace and across cloud applications.
  5. Maintain compliance in Google Workspace: Ensure that organizations can adhere to regulations and meet compliance needs by enforcing security policies within Google Workspace.

“By partnering with Netskope, a leading SASE vendor, customers can confidently expand their Google Workspace adoption leveraging their existing IT infrastructure investments,” said Nikhil Sinha, Group Product Manager, Google Workspace. “Netskope instance awareness enables fine grained data governance policy differences to both corporate and personal Google Workspace accounts. We are excited to partner with Netskope to provide these advanced security capabilities to our customers.”

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Channel Talk

AmiViz and BitSight Join Forces to Elevate Middle East Risk Management



AmiViz has partnered with Bitsight, a leading provider of cyber risk management solutions. This collaboration marks a significant step forward in bolstering cybersecurity capabilities across the region and facilitating Bitsight’s expansion efforts in the Middle East.

The partnership between AmiViz and Bitsight will enhance the cybersecurity landscape in the Middle East by introducing state-of-the-art solutions designed to tackle the evolving cyber threats confronting regional organizations. With both companies committed to improving cybersecurity awareness and resilience, they are set to pave the way for a safer and more secure digital environment in the region.

Commenting on the partnership with Bitsight, Ilyas Mohammed, COO at AmiViz said, “Our decision to onboard Bitsight demonstrates our commitment towards the evolution of the cybersecurity landscape in the Middle East. As organizations grapple with increasingly sophisticated cyber threats, the partnership between these two industry leaders promises to deliver enhanced value by equipping organizations with the tools and insights needed to effectively manage cyber risks and safeguard their digital assets in an ever-evolving threat landscape.”

Bitsight’s solutions can proactively assess and manage their cyber risk exposure and provide organizations with actionable intelligence to optimize their security investments, streamline vendor risk management processes, and enhance cyber resilience. With a focus on continuous monitoring and data-driven insights, Bitsight empowers organizations to make informed decisions and stay ahead of emerging cyber threats.

The Middle East has often been an attractive target for cyber-attacks, and this partnership will empower companies to address vulnerabilities and protect their digital assets proactively. By combining AmiViz’s deep understanding of the regional market dynamics with Bitsight’s cutting-edge technology and global expertise, the partnership will offer next-generation cybersecurity solutions tailored to the unique challenges and requirements of Middle Eastern organizations.

“We are proud to partner with AmiViz to transform the cyber risk management landscape in the Middle East,” said Xavier Artiguebieille, Senior Vice President, EMEA Sales at Bitsight. “Our combined efforts will equip organizations with the critical tools and intelligence needed to navigate and mitigate the complexities of modern cyber threats, enhancing their overall security and resilience.”

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Artificial Intelligence

ESET’s New AI Assistant Streamlines Threat Detection and Response



ESET has introduced ESET AI Advisor, an innovative generative AI-based cybersecurity assistant that transforms incident response and interactive risk analysis. First showcased at RSA Conference 2024, the new solution is now available as part of the ESET PROTECT MDR Ultimate subscription tier and ESET Threat Intelligence.

Unlike other vendor offerings and typical generative AI assistants that focus on soft features like administration or device management, ESET AI Advisor seamlessly integrates into the day-to-day operations of security analysts, conducting in-depth analysis. Building on over two decades of ESET’s expertise in AI-driven endpoint protection, the offering provides detailed incident data and SOC team-level advisory. This is a game-changer for companies with limited IT resources who want to utilize the advantages of advanced Extended Detection and Response (XDR) solutions and threat intelligence feeds.

“As cybersecurity threats become increasingly sophisticated, ESET remains committed to providing cutting-edge solutions that address these challenges. The ESET AI Advisor module represents a significant leap forward in our mission to close the cybersecurity skills gap and empower organizations to safeguard their digital assets effectively,” said Juraj Malcho, Chief Technology Officer at ESET.

One of the primary benefits of this new solution is closing the cybersecurity skills gap. Security analysts of all skill levels can use ESET AI Advisor to conduct interactive risk identification, analysis, and response capabilities, which are provided in an easily understandable format. The user-friendly interface makes sophisticated threat data actionable even for less experienced IT and security professionals.

The ESET AI Advisor also excels in facilitating faster decision-making for critical incidents. Security analysts can simply consult the ESET AI Advisor to understand the specific threats their environment faces. Leveraging extensive XDR collected data, the ESET AI Advisor identifies and analyzes potential malware threats, providing intuitive insights into their behaviour and impact. It assists in recognizing phishing attempts and advising users on how to avoid falling victim to fraudulent emails or websites. By monitoring network traffic, the ESET AI Advisor can flag unusual or suspicious behaviour, helping security teams take appropriate action. Its ability to automate repetitive tasks is an additional advantage. Managing routine processes such as data collection, extraction, and basic threat detection, allows security teams to focus on more strategic initiatives.

In ESET Threat Intelligence, the new module will help researchers analyze vast quantities of unique APT reports and understand latest developments in world of cyber threats. With its conversational prompts and interactive dialogue, ESET AI Advisor empowers organizations to analyze and mitigate threats effortlessly and fortify their cybersecurity posture.

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