The Russian invasion of Ukraine is not only causing harm to the people of a sovereign nation, but it is also causing cyberwarfare repercussions that will be felt for the foreseeable future.
Targets now extend beyond opposition governments; any organization is a potential victim, with critical infrastructure and high-value entities at the top of the list, according to the Armis State of Cyberwarfare and Trends Report: 2022-2023.
The study, which included responses from more than 6,000 participants globally and across various industries, such as healthcare, critical infrastructure, retail, and logistics, found that cyberwarfare was one of the lowest-ranking priorities for several organizations.
One-third (33%) of global organizations are not taking the threat of cyberwarfare seriously, identifying as indifferent or unconcerned about the impact of cyberwarfare on their organization as a whole, leaving room for security gaps, said the report.
Andy Norton, European Cyber Risk Officer at Armis, shared his personal insights on the study with The Cyber Express in a detailed interview. Excerpts:
The year 2022 was when the post-pandemic effects on cybersecurity came to fore. How do you see 2023?
The pandemic caused so much exposure to organizations. There was an awful lot of hastily created access across the board, without strategy, policy or risk assessment into those sorts of controls. And so, we saw many notable breaches over the last two years impact, not just the typical PII type data breaches, but also more disruptive threats. I think we’ve come out of that now. Organizations are looking for things that they can take control of, what’s in their power, what can’t be predicted, and what are bad guys going to do next.
There’s a lot of emphasis on people going back to basics and building a culture that empowers building blocks of cybersecurity. I’m very positive about what we’re seeing in the industry. People are taking a step back and saying, “No, let’s plan appropriately and proportionately for our risk profile”.
Your review of the year emphasizes on the effects of the Russia-Ukraine incident on cybersecurity. However, we know that a sizable number of companies are either unaware or taking things lightly when it comes to cyber warfare. What could be the cause of that? Is the lack of awareness or is it the general inertia when it comes to businesses and cyber?
I think there is a bit of blurred lines in terms of what cyber warfare means to different people. We saw a lot of people who were concerned by cyber warfare, but were unprepared for it. It was not a concern for some other organizations. Overall, there was a lack of strategy and direction in sorting out the priorities for those organizations.
Could you explain the specific types of cyber-attacks that were identified as the most popular ones in the report?
PII data breaches were very common, because they’re so easily monetizable. Intellectual property attacks were also prevalent in that space. On the OT side, we saw a lot more disruptive attacks and production outages.
Cybercriminals are always looking for weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and attack possibilities on credentials. So, phishing attacks are not going away anytime soon. Once cybercriminals got a foothold, we saw attacks on legacy protocols. The sort of legacy tech exist now worsens the situation.
Is the problem of legacy devices still an issue? The pandemic, along with all the ill effects, made a huge change in the IT infrastructure, devices, and technology adoption
You hit the nail on the head! Legacy tech might be less in IT but very much so in OT. It is worse in medical and IoT. It is easy to weed out tech debt in IT space. But in other environments, it really is not.
Coming back to cyber warfare, because insurers are washing their hands off from cyber intrusions resulting out of cyber warfare. What are the specific measurements organizations are currently taking to secure their assets against cyber warfare attacks?
Cyber warfare is generally excluded from all insurance policies. But this bit of a contentious area, a grey area. Cyber-attacks have extremely similar effects that that you would expect from, say, cyber warfare attacks. The prompt is political, resulting in economic or social damages. Insurance companies need better metrics for to understand the premiums that they need to apply to their prospective customers.
Insurance companies need to know the extent of the capability and the extent of the maturity for each of the defence measures. I think the cyber insurance industry is maturing. It’s learning from the failings of the past 10 years. It’s learning from their exposures and their liabilities in the space. And of course, they are amending their policies accordingly.
The best of the best systems can fall for one common threat: ransomware. All it takes is just one click on the wrong link, right?
Yeah! The saying goes that the good guys need to be right 100% of the time, but the bad guys need to be right only once right? Tactically, the good guys are not so disadvantaged. Their disadvantage is that their prioritization is somewhat drained out in the noise of all the security tools that they have in their environment.
If you look at any of the recent notable breaches, you’ll see that there were many opportunities for the good guys to intercept and change the path of a cyber incident. We are seeing a whole cultural change, which focuses on the concept of criticality that views things in terms of the severity of attacks and the sensitivity of the asset. What we need now is the evolution of adopting frameworks and risk assessment. I think good governance will help organizations to achieve that.
Has there been a major change in organizations’ policies on ransomware ransom payment?
We saw some companies that were quite happy to pay ransom. Some companies decided to pay depending on the type of data that was stolen. I think you’re essentially getting involved in a cover up if you pay a ransom and do not disclose that consumer data was stolen.
Such a move would just magnify the liability of the of the breach. We also saw that organizations in some countries, generally, were more eager to make a ransom payment. In the US, that probability was high. Ultimately, it boils down to the culture, policies, and the recovery procedures you have in place.
Is there any point in paying ransom?
It is downright illegal in a lot of regions. You are essentially funding criminals when you pay ransom. Trusting the criminal for not making that public is a bit naive. But I have seen people justify making ransom payments, because it’s the quickest way to restore life-saving or critical services
Were there any industry that you found particularly vulnerable for attacks compared to others?
I think manufacturing and healthcare tend to tend to stick out more than others.