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CYBER ATTACKS ANALYSIS: WHAT IT IS AND HOW IT WORKS

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CYBER ATTACKS ANALYSIS: WHAT IT IS AND HOW IT WORKS

When we started this research in 2011, our aim was to raise awareness and improve understanding of cyber threats.

At the time, “cyber” risks were not even considered in the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report, in which they were only introduced in 2015, and communicating the urgency of dealing with IT security was complex in the absence of quantitative data able to illustrate the problem and its evolution over time.

If 11 years ago, however, the situation could have seemed worrying to us, at this point it is no longer a mystery that we are in full emergency and that no one can consider themselves safe from cyber attacks.

So let’s see how our classification of cyber attacks works.

CLASSIFICATION CRITERIA

In over 10 years, the analysis and classification of cyber attacks has greatly evolved.

The methodology used has been refined and updated over time, both from the point of view of the number and quality of the sources, and the quantity of variables to describe the different phenomena and the taxonomies used to classify the data, completely revised to comply with what as much as possible to internationally recognized standards.

THE VICTIMS
The classification system of the product sectors adopted to map the victims of cyber attacks is derived from the ISIC (International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities) of the United Nations and from the NACE (Nomenclature statistique des activités économiques dans la Communauté Européenne) of the European Commission. , from which also the Italian ATECO Codes derive.

Our classification of victims has obviously been adapted to also include the types of cyber attack targets excluded by the previous standards and includes a total of 20 product categories and 141 sub-categories.

THE ATTACK TECHNIQUES
The classification of attack techniques is derived from the MITRE ATT&CK®, the Threat Taxonomy of ENISA (European Union Agency for Cybersecurity), the Open Threat Taxonomy and several other frameworks.

It includes 8 macro-categories and 59 sub-categories.

THE ATTACKERS
The classification of the attackers derives from our experience in the field and represents a mapping between the main families of “bad actors” and the reasons for the attacks observed in over 10 years of investigations.

It includes 4 macro-categories and 13 sub-categories.

THE SEVERITY
Since 2017 we have introduced an index of the severity of the analyzed attacks, classifying them on the basis of increasing levels, which allows us to carry out an analysis of the different impacts caused by the various IT incidents and to offer interesting information to both companies and institutions.

SAMPLE CONSIDERATIONS

In 11 years, we have identified, classified and evaluated over 14,000 cyber attacks (on average more than 100 per month).

Of these, 7,144 occurred in the last 4 years, from 2018 to 2021 (of which 2,049 in the last year alone), demonstrating an impressive acceleration in the frequency and severity of cyber threats.

The sample includes successful cyber attacks that have become public.

This allows us to photograph the situation of the threats that have managed to overcome the defenses in the field and that have also had reputational repercussions, in addition to further economic, technological and often even legal damage.

On the other hand, our sample is necessarily partial in that some attacks never become public domain, or the victims manage not to advertise them (unless forced by circumstances or by regulatory obligations), or due to their nature they emerge more difficult (this is the case of cyber espionage and information warfare activities, certainly underrepresented compared to cybercrime and hacktivism).

It is therefore plausible to assume that the scenario depicted by the analysis of cyber attacks is even less critical than the situation on the ground.

Another reason to continue to evolve this analysis and use this data strategically.

Contact us for more details and see a sample of our data on our Dashboard!

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ARE INSTANT MESSAGING APPS SAFE?

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ARE INSTANT MESSAGING APPS SAFE?

Instant messaging applications are becoming more and more popular.

And not only for personal messages: since now smart working became a common alternative, the trend is to use instant messaging apps to exchange information business related too, as an alternative to emails and phone calls.

But are these apps really safe?

All major instant messaging applications now use of the end-to-end (E2E) encryption mechanism.

With this system, messages are encrypted with a pair of keys, one public and one private, which are exchanged only between sender and recipient.

The advantage is that in this way the messages cannot be read if intercepted by a third party (a type of attack that is called “Man in the middle” or MITM).

But, while the public key is attached to the first message sent, the private key is instead tied to the device where the app is installed, making it the weak point of the system.

If the device is stolen or hacked in any way, someone else will be able to access and read the messages.

Data encryption, therefore, although very important, has limitations.

And it is not the only parameter to be evaluated to protect yourself from privacy risks.

Another aspect to take into consideration is the Metadata management. Metadata are all the data that can be collected on the user’s account and his activities and that can be considered the electronic fingerprint.

In the case of instant messaging apps, metadata collected may include the sender and recipient phone numbers, the contact list, the duration and time of the conversation, the used device, the IP address, etc …

Through the metadata, even if it is not possible to read the content of the messages, it is in any case possible to deduce useful information and profile the user and his interlocutors.

However, each app can have a different policy for managing metadata, and this is certainly a good starting point for getting useful tips on how to identify the safest apps.

Among the various instant messaging applications, WhatsApp is undoubtedly the most popular in the world.

But is it really safe?

The app has been using an extremely secure E2E encryption protocol since 2016 (the same as Signal, see below).

Furthermore, this system is active by default, without giving the user the possibility to deactivate it: an advantage from the point of view of managing privacy risks.

However, Whatsapp keeps user metadata on its servers.

Since Whatsapp is owned by Facebook, the chances for users of being profiled by both applications increase dramatically.

Ultimately, Whatsapp certainly does not prove to be the most privacy-friendly messaging app ever.

So, what are the alternatives?

Here are 3:

  1. Telegram

    Telegram is the best known alternative to Whatsapp and is often considered a safer application.

    It is certainly a feature-rich app, suitable for various uses and which also overcomes some limitations of Whatsapp, such as the number of participants in a group chat.

    But, from the point of privacy risks, things are more complex.

    Telegram is in fact an entirely cloud-based messaging app: chats and message history are saved on their servers.

    This feature, which on the one hand allows users to manage conversations from different devices, however, exposes to numerous risks as it’s easier for criminals to access data.

    As for encryption, the app offers only client-server encryption by default, i.e. from sender to server and from server to recipient.

    E2E encryption is only available in secret chats, but this option is not default and must be activated in advance.

    Therefore, if you think Telegram is a safer messaging application than Whatsapp you must change your mind and take all aspects into consideration.


  2. Signal

    Signal is a still little-known open-source instant messaging app, but it has interesting features.

    Recommended by several Cyber Security experts and even by the European Commission, Signal uses an E2E encryption protocol called “Signal Encryption Protocol“, considered among the best and subsequently adopted by Whatsapp and other instant messaging apps.

    While it needs a phone number to work, Signal has taken a respectful approach to the privacy of its users right from the start.

    In addition to the common characteristics of the messaging applications, Signal allows you to send messages that can be self-destructed and even to manage encrypted audio messages.

    Furthermore, it only stores the metadata necessary for its operation, such as phone number and profile information, not storing other metadata on their servers.

    It may not be the best known app in the world, but its uncompromising approach certainly makes Signal one of the most secure applications.


  3. Threema

    Threema is another open-source app, developed and maintained in Switzerland, and therefore subject to local data protection laws.

    Unlike previous applications, Threema is not free and is still almost unknown.

    However, it has the advantage of assigning a unique key to the user (Threema ID), so that it can be used in a totally anonymous way, without any obligation to enter a telephone number, an email or further information about the user.

    The most interesting aspect is that everything is encrypted with E2E encryption, from messages, to calls, to exchanged files.

    In addition, data, such as contact lists or group chats, are stored in a decentralized way on users’ devices, rather than on a Threema server.

    And the messages are deleted from the server after transmission.

    This ensures maximum privacy for users.

    Although it is definitely the least known application among the previous ones, as well as a not-free one, Threema by far guarantees the greatest degree of confidentiality.
In conclusion, it is important to distinguish the use we must make of instant messaging apps in order to evaluate the most correct application for our purposes.

If WhatsApp is indeed good for personal communications, with the advantage of being a widely used app, it is important to discourage its use in a professional setting and in all cases where sensitive or confidential data is processed.

Unfortunately, many cyber attacks have shown how dangerous it can be to manage sensitive information through these communication tools and it is essential to be aware of these threats in order not to expose yourself to unnecessary risks.

Good job!

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2022 News-EN

WHY CYBER SECURITY IS ONE OF THE BEST INVESTMENTS IN YOUR FUTURE

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WHY CYBER SECURITY IS ONE OF THE BEST INVESTMENTS IN YOUR FUTURE

Recently I was so lucky to have the opportunity to speak at the third edition of “99eLode“, a training organized by Fastweb Digital Academy, Cariplo Factory and iO Donna, the weekly magazine of Corriere della Sera.

Designed for 99 recent graduates waiting to understand what to do with their future, the purpose of the training was to provide information about the most requested digital skills on the market.

Among these, Cyber Security, which I described with Women For Security colleagues, taking into consideration not only the technical, but also the legal, marketing and communication aspects.

So, why is Cyber Security one of the best investments for your future?

Here are 3 good reasons.

  1. Fighting cybercrime will always be a priority

    Cybercrime caused $6 trillion of damages in 2021, the double of the amount of six years earlier.

    And it’s expected that in the next 3 years the cost for Cybercrime will exceed $10, with an exponential trend.

    Moreover, for some years now, the profits of cybercrime have exceeded those of the drug market, so that several criminal organizations are deciding to invest in this sector.

    The overall effect is that cyber defenses will face ever more numerous and aggressive enemies.

    Cyber Security will become and will remain a priority to protect individuals, organizations and also nations.


  2. There is a great shortage of jobs in the Cyber Security field

    From 2013 to 2021 we have seen a growth of 350% in Cyber Security jobs, a trend never seen before.

    There are currently 3.5 million cybersecurity job vacancies globally, 400,000 in Europe alone.

    In 2014, vacancies globally were “only” 1 million.

    Basically, there is no unemployment for those who decide to work in the Cyber Security sector (and it has been like that since 2011!)


  3. Not only Cyber Security “technicians” are needed

    Certainly, the technical jobs of Cyber Security are important.

    Penetration Testers, Malware Analyst, Vulnerability Researchers and many others are key roles in this industry.

    But they are not the only needed functions.

    Important roles equally must be able to manage the legal issues, privacy, regulatory compliance, the governance of cyber security.

    As well as project management, marketing, communication, pre and post-sales aspects, training, etc…
Cyber Security, ultimately, does not only concern those with technical skills but those who are able to commit themselves with their specific skills and abilities to protect companies, organizations and institutions from the threats and risks of the cyber world in constant increase.

Good job!

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