Emad Fahmy, the Systems Engineering Manager for the Middle East at Netscout, speaks about the evolving threat landscape in the region
How has the security threat landscape evolved over the past few months?
Pandemic-driven work-from-home policies are likely to persist well into 2021, and for many, remote work will become a permanent change for a growing portion of the global workforce. This shift has caused a lot of turbulence throughout the global threat landscape, as threat actors have taken advantage of the vulnerabilities that have surfaced by the pandemic as they target these weak spots.
Cybercriminals have stepped up their efforts, launching a record number of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, with 83% of enterprises worldwide falling victim to these, and other cyber incursions globally. Many organizations require new tactics and strategies as their traditional cybersecurity methods need to be reassessed in the face of a distributed work infrastructure. This is only expected to continue throughout the industry for 2021 and onwards. Additionally, more investments are being made in the Internet Service Provider (ISP) edge, making security threats an even larger challenge to overcome. Companies need to consider fortifying their cybersecurity solutions to protect the remote workers and the data shared between them.
What sort of security challenges are people facing when working from home and how is your company equipped to handle those challenges?
The sudden shift to remote work has left companies unprepared for the possible cybersecurity threats. According to the findings from our 2020 Threat Intelligence Report, home networks are at a larger risk of being targets of brute-force attacks, as most home networks do not have the same enterprise-grade security control implemented in offices. Additionally, home networks are used by multiple individuals, which could also include children who are more likely to invite unrecognized apps and potential threats alongside the use of vulnerable IoT devices, jeopardizing others using the same consumer network.
Another security challenge is the use of personal devices, to access corporate documents. These devices could already be compromised or shared by the employee with family members or friends, making it more difficult to monitor its usage and the cybersecurity precautions required. This can expose the company’s network to threats directed at the employees’ IoT devices. These devices are more mobile therefore can be used on unsecured networks or public Wi-Fi, increasing the risk for unwanted users gaining entry and access to the company’s confidential files.
How has ransomware evolved during the pandemic period and what are you doing to tackle the problem?
78% of enterprises have been infected by ransomware in the UAE alone, a drastic increase from the pre-pandemic security threat landscape. The past year gave threat actors the resources, time, and perfect opportunity to refine their techniques, making ransomware attacks more complex and sophisticated than ever before.
Ransomware threat actors have initiated attacks worth millions of dollars as large companies were increasingly targeted through abusing the current work landscape and the lack of preparation of companies facing a new wave of digitalization which the need for online business continuity has brought on. The pandemic has caused the rise of new variants which are being sold on Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) models, making it much easier for cyber criminals to initiate attacks.
How can companies overcome digital security and privacy challenges?
With an ever-expanding and evolving cybersecurity threat landscape, it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to protect their digital footprint and ensure their data privacy. To do this, past methods of facing these threats need to be left where they belong, in the past. Companies need to be aware that advanced malware, which is not easily detectable by traditional defenses, is no longer the biggest risk for companies. A bigger threat has come along pushing aside individual bad actors, as more and more organized crime syndicates and state sponsored cyberterrorism arises. These threats are more sophisticated and complex, causing network and security teams a larger challenge than before.
A few important things that companies and ISPs alike need to understand are the importance of visibility, DDoS detection, threat intelligence and mitigation, automation and service enablement when considering their cybersecurity solutions. At NETSCOUT, these factors are key as we believe that the best way to handle cybersecurity threat is to eliminate them before they come. The way it works is like the COVID-19 vaccine. It does not claim to stop the risk of being exposed to the virus, however it does eliminate the dangers of the symptoms. It is all about prevention rather than trying to cure the disease once damage has already been done.
Do you believe companies today have accelerated their digital transformation initiatives?
The world is headed towards a digital future. We might not be at the stage predicted in 90s movies, with flying cars and hoverboards. Still, we are surely reaching a point where companies actively move towards having completely digitalized processes and operations. This change had already started years back however, with the pandemic serving as a harsh wake up call to companies. This reality was thrust upon businesses rather than the latter consciously choosing this cyber evolution however that has been accompanied by significant benefits such as the flexibility of workforces and an increased sense of confidence in the ability of the world to move forward when facing unexpected challenges.