MENA governments, businesses increasingly targeted in cyber attacks

Published October 21st, 2015 - 09:35 GMT

Trend Micro sees increased level of security breaches in the Middle East as companies are not doing enough to protect themselves, according to senior official of the security software company.

"Security is not expensive but if breach happens it's priceless," Trend Micro vice-president for Mediterranean, Middle East and Africa Ihab Moawad told Khaleej Times during an interview at Gitex Technology Week.

Trend Micro's global Smart Protection Network is currently tracking more than six thousand active command and control centres across the globe, while also monitoring a botnet of 6.9 million machines, targeting computers all across the globe, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

These command control centres are bases in the United States of America, Holland, France, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Russia, China and Philippines.

"This alarming level of threat activity is just in the past 14 days, but more troublesome is the fact that a command and control centres can appear any time at any given country. Here in the region, infection rates were at 100 per cent back in 2013, and that has not changed, not only that, the mind-set of the IT decision makers have not reformed, and that continues to put business and government entities in serious harm's way," Moawad said.

The threats are growing exponentially over the last couple of years, he said, adding that the organised attacks are coming more and more to regional governments and their entities this year.

"We see a lot of groups very much focused on attacking government entities. We have seen unprecedented attempts to attack and penetrate UAE government entities. The amount of attempts to penetrate has been doubled in the last nine months ..because of the political instability that's going on in the region," he said.

"Saudi Arabia has always been a target of cyber attackers but what's so special and new the growth in cyber attacks on UAE is almost 200 per cent since the beginning of this year," he revealed.

Trend Micro work very closely with Interpol and local law enforcement agencies to deal with any threat to any country and region. "Our job is not just to sell but we always provide our services free of charge to Interpol and government to protect people and communities," he said.

Trend Micro's latest research into the Deep Web has revealed a number of interesting facts about the Internet's hidden side, offering a closer look at how cyber criminals take advantage of the Deep Web to launch cyber crime operations. It's not all about cyber crime though. A lot of "contemporary" criminal operations have taken advantage of the anonymity that the Deep Web offers by setting up shop to trade illegal goods and services.

Despite having gone through a number of high-profile arrests and takedowns, the Deep Web economy is thriving, with marketplaces that peddle stolen or hacked accounts, drugs and weapons, fake passports, and even assassination contracts. Some of the most interesting numbers gathered, include, $5,900 price of a US citizenship on a deep web site. $100 for 100 PayPal accounts, and $250 for the price of a German PayPal account with a $500 - $700 balance. Other alarming figures include $180,000 as the price of assassinating a celebrity or politician, on the site of an organised criminal website.

The Deep Web, simply put, is the unindexed portion of the Internet. It is invisible to everyday users because its pages and elements cannot be reached using typical search engines. The Deep Web is often associated with TOR, Freenet, and other anonymizing networks. All three can be classified as darknets, and are a part of the Dark Web-a section of the Deep Web that requires highly specialized tools or equipment to access.

The Deep Web can best be pictured as a subterranean mining operation in terms of scale, volatility, and access. Certain parts of the Deep Web are unreachable via traditional means, making it a digital safe haven for cybercriminals or those looking for a place to trade illegal goods and services.

At the Gitex, another focus area for Trend is Deep Discovery - a specialised security solution that uniquely detects and identifies evasive threats in real-time, then provides an in-depth analysis and actionable intelligence an organization needs to protect them.

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