Interview: Check Point MD explains how Covid-19 opened the floodgates to cyber threats

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Written by Arun Rawal
| New Delhi |

December 24, 2020 6:12:12 pm


Deepfake videos will be used to spread misinformation in 2021 (Representational Image)

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the way we do things whether it’s official or personal work. Offices had to squeeze years of developments in a few weeks or months to enable employees to work from remote locations. While people were adapting to the new normal of remote working, hackers and scammers were devising new ways to lay traps for the vulnerable people who were used to the IT department fixing everything for them.

We talked to the cybersecurity firm, Check Point Software Technologies about how the industry has evolved and whether they are poised to take on the challenges they will be facing in 2021. Sundar N Balasubramanian, Managing Director, India and SAARC, Check Point Software Technologies told indianexpress.com how the novel coronavirus forced drastic changes.

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“According to a study, a staggering 87 per cent of companies plan to expedite their cloud migration in the post-pandemic world, and 68 per cent of companies are using two or more cloud providers as part of their migration efforts. The increased use of the cloud means an increased demand for security solutions, especially technologies that secure workloads, containers and serverless applications on multi and hybrid cloud environments. Organisations in India too are looking to leverage their security investments to protect their data” he said.

Misconfiguration opened up employees and companies to threats

Balasubramanian also talked about how the lack of “basic cyber hygiene” led to employees and companies getting exposed to threats. “Organisation’s security priorities related to IT have changed in response to the new normal. With the rush to enable remote access, companies allowed connectivity from unmanaged home PCs that often lacked basic cyber-hygiene. In addition, many Infosec and DevOps teams rushing to the cloud did not scale their cloud security postures to the level of their traditional data centers,” he said.

“According to our 2020 Cloud Security Report, the highest-ranking threat was misconfiguration, with 68 per cent of companies citing this as their greatest concern (up from 62 per cent from the previous year). Misconfiguration takes place when a cloud-related system, tool, or asset is not configured properly, thus endangering the system and exposing it to a potential attack or data leak. This threat was followed by unauthorized access (58 per cent), insecure interfaces (52 per cent), and account hijacking (50 per cent).”

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Cybercriminals evolving

Cybercriminals also evolved during this time. He also pointed towards a study by the cybersecurity firm about the increase of ransomware attacks and that organisations should be ready for more in the upcoming year. He said, “Cybercriminals have been seeking new infection vectors improving their techniques to avoid detection. A study published by Check Point Research in October stated that organisations worldwide were attacked by a massive wave of ransomware attacks. In 3 months alone, the daily average of ransomware attacks increased by 50 per cent.”

“According to our predictions for 2021 blog, the year saw a sharp rise in the double-extortion ransomware attacks where attackers threaten to publish the data unless ransom is paid, putting extra pressure on organisations to meet hackers’ demands. This highlights how threat actors will always take advantage of major events or changes to exploit and target organisations across all sectors.”

More fake news

Additionally, not just companies but individuals are at risk of falling into the pit of misinformation. With Artificial Intelligence (AI) improving by the day, deepfake videos will also be a tool that will be used to fool people who are easily impressionable. A concerned Balasubramanian delineated the major threat as he predicted cybercriminals’ behaviour going forward.

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Must Read: Flooded with WhatsApp messages promising part-time jobs? Avoid these scam messages

“As a trend outlined in Check Point’s predictions for 2021, the techniques for fake video or audio are now advanced enough to play a major role in creating a targeted content to manipulate opinions, stock prices or worse. Earlier this year, a political group in Belgium released a deepfake video of the Belgian prime minister giving a speech linking COVID-19 to environmental damage and calling for action on climate change. Many viewers believed the speech was real even if it wasn’t. At a simpler level, audio could be faked for voice phishing – so that a CEO’s voice could be forged giving instructions to make a cash transfer to accounts staff, or to by voice recognition software,” he said.

He also outlined a few easy steps that would be considered a start to escape the cyberattacks. These tips included setting good passwords and not just their names or an easy sequence of numbers, not clicking on suspicious links on emails or websites before cross-checking even if they seem legitimate and also choosing the work device carefully along with installing anti-virus software to add another layer of security.

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