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PROTECTING FROM CYBER ATTACKS: HERE ARE THE MAIN SOLUTIONS

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PROTECTING FROM CYBER ATTACKS: HERE ARE THE MAIN SOLUTIONS

After the description of the main techniques used in cyber attacks which, although evolving, always remain effective for cybercriminals, this time we will examine the main solutions.

As we have seen, threats types are numerous and not always easy to contain.

It is therefore clear that there cannot be a “magic wand” solution capable of defeating them all.

On the contrary, to mitigate these problems, it is necessary to put together multiple solutions in an organic way.

So let’s see the main tactics to protect yourself (as much as possible) from cyber attacks and prepare to better manage the major cyber threats:

  1. Anti-malware

    Malware is the leading cyber threat, used in over 40% of known cyber attacks. The first defense measure in these cases is to try to intercept this problem before it starts to violate computer systems by acquiring a good anti-malware.

    The market offers countless solutions for this purpose and basically all the main antivirus vendors provide good quality products.

    These software, installed on every computer device (and it would be good to include mobile ones too), have the task of detecting malicious codes, but it is important to emphasize that often they can only recognize threats already present in their database.

    For the correct functioning of a good anti-malware solution it is therefore essential that it is not only present on the systems, but also that it is updated regularly in order to recognize and disarm the latest threats.


  2. Backup

    In the case of ransomware, in addition to a good anti-malware product, backup remains the best solution.

    The goal of the ransomware is in fact to obtain the payment of the ransom to provide the encryption key that allows the data to be recovered.

    It should be remembered, however, that it is never recommended to comply with the requests of a criminal, without any guarantee, among other things, of actually obtaining the encryption key in exchange for payment.

    A good backup solution, on the other hand, is the best preventive measure against this threat, allowing the company to recover its data without considering to pay any ransom.

    For this solution to be effective, however, it is necessary that the backup is updated, appropriately configured and kept separate from the systems it protects (to avoid it being a victim of ransomware in turn).


  3. Assessments of computer systems

    Computer system vulnerabilities are exploited in 16% of known attacks.

    These issues include mis-configurations and installation or design defects that plague computer systems, particularly in the presence of very complex or rapidly growing networks.

    Vulnerability Assessment is the periodic check of the systems in search of these problems and it is the main defense for this type of threat.

    Through this check it is in fact possible to identify the systems and applications to be updated or any problems not yet known.

    It is also very useful to associate a Penetration Test with the Vulnerability Assessment: with this second type of verification it is possible, in fact, to test how a possible cyber criminal could exploit the problems encountered and what damage it would be able to cause once the systems are violated.

    Performing both checks has the advantage of obtaining a good picture of the company’s risk level, as well as the priorities to be assigned to remedial interventions.

    Researchers, as well as criminals, continuously discover new vulnerabilities, so it is good to periodically perform these assessments: ideally every 6 months, but at least once a year.

    Continuous vulnerability assesment and remediation is called Vulnerability Management and is highly recommended for critical systems or large enterprises.


  4. Cyber ​​Security Awareness trainings

    Phishing and Social Engineering are threats that try to exploit the only vulnerability that does not include security patches: the human factor.

    The solution to this type of threats are the Cyber ​​Security Awareness trainings, specific trainings in order to illustrate the main and most up-to-date types of threats and to learn more about how to recognize them.

    It is important that these paths are provided for all personnel who use company systems, for employees, therefore, but also for collaborators and, ideally, suppliers.

    The management should have a clear idea of responsibilities in the event of systems and data breaches, both of the company itself and regarding customers data.

    Finally, it is a good idea to organize these courses at least once a year in order to be updated on the latest news from the cyber world and the main examples of cyber attacks.


  5. CDN and WAF

    DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) can be very insidious and make inoperable websites or web applications.

    The first solution is to reduce the attack surface by limiting the services exposed to the Internet to a minimum or by redesigning them so that critical applications are properly shielded.

    Once identified the smallest number of servers and applications that need to be exposed on the Internet, a good practice is to protect them by adopting a CDN (Content Delivery Network) system.

    The CDN consists of a network of servers connected to each other to optimize the distribution of the contents of a service or web application.

    The use of a CDN allows to manage the traffic load directed to web services in order to solve, among other things, any overload problems.

    It is also a great way to improve the loading speed of website content, optimizing its positioning in search engines.

    Another good solution is to have a Web Application Firewall (WAF), a system capable of filtering and managing traffic at the application level directed to web services.

    In this way it is possible to intercept and intervene in the event of malicious requests for access to web services, also with regard to further threats in addition to DDoS.
Whatever threat we are most concerned about or to which we are most exposed, it is important to remember that the solution will hardly be univocal and definitive.

Cyber ​​security must in fact be considered as a continuous process in which technological, organizational and managerial elements are integrated.

Good job!

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FIVE MAIN ATTACK TECHNIQUES

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FIVE MAIN ATTACK TECHNIQUES

Every year, for over ten years, I have been classifying and analyzing the trends of thousands of cyber attacks.

During this period of time I have witnessed various evolutions in attacks, from the most important sectors targeted, to the now uncontrolled spread of cybercrime.

The attack techniques, while always updated, remain in fact the same, especially those that I call “evergreen“.

So let’s see the classic attack techniques that have been confirmed for years as the most dangerous as well as the most effective.

  1. MALWARE

    The term Malware comes from “malicious software“, created and injected into IT devices (computers but also smartphones) to disturb operations, cause damage or steal information.

    Previously referred to as a “computer virus“, malware comprises several categories based on the main function it serves.

    Among these, also the virus, that is a piece of code able to reproduce and infect computer systems, in the same way that biological viruses spread in living beings.

    Another well-known type of malware is the trojan, which takes its name from the famous “Trojan horse” used by the Greeks to sneak undisturbed into the city of Troy, defeated thanks to this expedient.

    This term indicates a malicious program that pretends to be legitimate software in order to convince the victim to install it, thus completing the infection.

    Spyware, is instead able to collect data and information on the victim’s system and send them to the attacker.

    Ransomware, on the other hand, is the most famous and most used malware in this period, capable of encrypting infected systems in order to make data inaccessible.

    Following the infection, a message can be found on the systems where the attacker asks for the payment of a ransom, usually in bitcoin or another crypto-currency, to obtain in exchange the encryption key that will allow you to recover the data.

    The traditional ransom request has recently been accompanied by the use of double extortion, or a second ransom that the criminal requires in order not to publicly disclose the stolen data before being encrypted.

    The types of malware are varied and the risks of being victims remain remarkably high.

  2. EXPLOIT OF VULNERABILITY

    Vulnerabilities are problems that can afflict information systems and that, if not detected, could favor their compromise. Among these, the most common type is that of software vulnerabilities (also called bugs), or defects in the design, installation or configuration of software.

    Bugs are exploited by criminals to break into systems and carry out their cyber attacks.

    When new vulnerabilities are discovered, software manufacturers prepare appropriate corrective “patches“, which are installed on systems through updates.

    To mitigate these problems it is therefore very important that the operating systems as well as the applications are always updated to the latest version available and that this check is carried out continuously.

    Vulnerabilities that are not yet known and for which there are no remedies yet are called 0-day and can pose a serious threat to systems.

    There are also different types of vulnerabilities, from those concerning the protocols we use to surf the Internet, to the communication methods (for example encrypted or not, etc.), to the incorrect management of passwords (too short or trivial, too reused or not modified. quite often, …) and of utilities.

    The ever-increasing complexity of IT systems and the lack of reactivity in updates contribute to the spread of vulnerabilities, which have been confirmed for years among the most present threats in the cyber world.


  3. SOCIAL ENGINEERING

    Social Engineering includes all techniques that study human behavior to force victims to perform certain actions.

    In these cases, it is essential to carry out a preliminary phase of collecting information on the victim, in order to subsequently be able to devise the best way to achieve the set goal.

    This information can be collected from any available source: websites, social media, hobbies, social habits, and even from our junk.

    The attack using these techniques can be carried out in different ways, which use pretexts, false settings or baits.

    Phishing is also one of these types of attack, which will be described later.

    It is important to remember that social engineering can affect not only through IT means: on the contrary, the social engineering uses any means that can prove effective, including telephone calls.


  4. PHISHING

    Phishing is a particular type of scam where the victim is deceived and convinced to provide confidential information.

    The term derives from fishing and indicates the “trawling” which criminals are using to gain useful information such as credit card numbers or passwords by mass sending fraudulent messages that mimic legitimate content.

    Usually this type of threat is associated with e-mails, but it is not excluded that phishing can also affect via SMS (in this case we speak of “Smishing”) or on social media.

    The fraudulent message may contain an attachment with malware that is installed after the document is opened, or a link that leads to a fake website, a clone of a legitimate site.

    In any case, modern phishing scams are more and more accurate, constantly updated in order to take advantage of the hottest and not always easy to recognize topics.


  5. DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service)

    Denial of Service (DoS) is a type of cyber attack that aims to exhaust the resources of a system that provides a service (for example a website) in order to make it unusable.

    This is achieved by flooding the victim service with incoming data traffic.

    In its best known version, the Distributed Denial of Service (abbreviated to DDoS, or distributed DoS), these incoming data arrive from multiple sources at the same time, dramatically increasing the effectiveness of the attack.

    The set of attacking machines constitutes a botnet, or a network of computers infected with malware capable of controlling them.

    At the right moment, all infected computers are activated by the attacker, starting to overwhelm the target service with connection requests.

    Modern DDoS, thanks also to the spread of broadband Internet connections, can take on truly remarkable proportions, which can create many problems, especially if the victim system delivers a critical service.

    In some cases, the attacker can even ask for a ransom to stop or not repeat the attack.

    In these cases we speak of Ransom Distributed Denial of Service (RDDoS), one of the criminal tendencies that combines extortion with disservice.
The types of cyber attacks can be numerous and very complex.
The solutions to these threats will therefore have to be varied and put together in an organic way.

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HOW CONFLICTS CAN AFFECT CYBER WORLD

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HOW CONFLICTS CAN AFFECT CYBER WORLD

Last week we described how Cyber ​​space could become the scene of the Third World War, and in fact it already is the scene of numerous cyber conflicts.

This time we want to see instead how a conflict in the real world can have repercussions in the cyber world.

  1. Cyber ​​attacks in sight

    Due to the Russia – Ukraine conflict, the risk of cyber attacks has increased dramatically and not only for the countries involved.

    The world has lined up in support of the two sides and Cyber ​​criminals as well as activists (the Anonymous collective in primis) are determined to give a strong show of strength.

    The result is that an increase in cyber attacks has been predicted in this period, which could have serious consequences.

    Among the various countries at risk there is also Italy: recently CSIRT (Computer Security Incident Response Team) of the National Cybersecurity Agency (ACN) issued an alarm to warn of the imminent risk of cyber attacks against government and industrial entities of the country.

    The suggestion, as always, is to adopt all the protection measures of the computer systems and, in particular in this case, notify the authorities in case of any malicious activity.

    But it’s also important to remember that we are always subject to this risk, so do not panic unnecessarily.


  2. Should we uninstall Kaspersky?

    Many people suggest uninstalling the famous antivirus.

    Kaspersky is among the best-known security products in our industry, as well as one of the most effective.

    In Italy, Kaspersky security solutions are adopted by many public bodies, including ministries and security agencies.

    Unfortunately, Kaspersky is a Russian company.

    The fear is that the company may in fact be controlled by the local government and act as an entry point for any cyber attacks with products installed at their customers around the world.

    Is it a real perspective?

    From the point of view of feasibility, certainly yes.

    But the real question is: is it worth it for Kaspersky to destroy its ten-year reputation and relationship with its entire customer base?

    Probably not, although the doubt remains that he may not have a choice.

    Either way, there will be severe economic repercussions for Kaspersky.

    On the other hand, it is also true that, if there really is a risk of hacking or spying through similar technologies, this threat has always existed.

    Public administration as well as institutions should evaluate these risks before deciding to purchase software or hardware solutions.

    Are we ready to manage our technology purchases based on geopolitical alliances?


  3. Repercussions for cybercriminals

    The deployments in the real world have also produced deployments in the cyber criminal world: different gangs have decided to give their support to one nation rather than the other.

    And this has resulted in a series of escalating attacks on both sides.

    An example of this is what happened to Conti, the criminal group known for the ransomware that has upset organizations and institutions all over the world.

    Conti has publicly sided with Russia and, as a result, has suffered a series of attacks that have led to the data leak of the messages exchanged by the members of the group and even to the code of the well-known ransomware.

    The famous activist collective Anonymous, on the other hand, has pledged its support to the Ukrainian nation by carrying out a series of attacks on various Russian government entities and even on state TV.

    If the DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks that have slowed down or made it impossible to use the services of different institutions are certainly annoying, but not too worrying, the data leak of confidential information, on the contrary, could have dangerous consequences (such as, for example, in the case of the Russian Nuclear Institute).
So what to do to raise (and keep!) the alert level high?

  • Update systems and applications, especially (but not only) those exposed on the Internet;
  • Verify the presence and proper functioning of backup systems, in particular for critical and sensitive data;
  • Be prepared not only for cyber attacks with malware and DDoS, but also for Phishing that could facilitate the retrieval of useful information to subsequently breach systems.
It is good to remember that these recommendations always apply, even in times of “peace”.

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