CHEQ sat down with Lior Frenkel, Chairman of the Israel Cyber Forum and CEO and Co-Founder of Waterfall Security Solutions to discuss the current state of cybersecurity and what this means for businesses. The following is an interview with Frenkel.
What are some misconceptions about cybersecurity from a business perspective?
The big problem I see is lack of awareness. The bad guys are automating their attacks every bit as fast as we good guys are automating our defenses. And the attacks are across the board. Attacks like ransomware and website denial of service attacks are very visible, and come as rude surprises to the victims. But other attacks can be much more subtle. Everything looks like its working well, but the bad guys are subtly siphoning off competitive information, or marketing dollars, or otherwise interfering with normal operations.
What are some key business applications for cybersecurity?
Today, cyber is everywhere. Any information that we think of as confidential, especially information about our customers or even our vendors, is a target for ransomware operators. They steal the information and say “give us money or we sell your information on the black market.”
And even when there is no information to steal, it may be the automation itself that is the target. If the website is overwhelmed, we can’t take orders anymore. If the order processing system is swamped with fake orders, we need to spend time and money to clean out the mess and discover the real orders.
Are there particular threat types that you’ve seen affect certain areas of businesses?
The big news lately is ransomware. The bad guys use it to get into our networks. They steal information. Then they cripple our networks and hit us with the demand that we pay them to undo the damage to our networks, and to prevent them selling the information they stole. Some of these ransomware groups are using very powerful attack tools and techniques – the kind of stuff we saw only nation-states using a few years ago.
But it’s not just about the big headline-grabbing attacks. We see a lot of businesses losing money every day to more mundane attacks. Take click fraud for example. Sometimes it takes victims months or even years to figure out that they are paying a large fraction of their display ad budgets or video ad budgets into the hands of criminals. People who’ve never seen click fraud in action may simply assume they have a particularly successful marketing campaign on their hands. “Look at all the visitors we’re getting!” they think, “And at such an affordable price per click as well!”
What are some ways businesses can mitigate risks?
For ransomware threats we see people locking down remote access and keeping much better offline backups. And we see people keeping customer information and other important information locked away much tighter behind multiple layers of security protections.
But we see businesses investing in security protections even for every-day threats. In the click-fraud example I mentioned, the advertising vendors will tell you they have AI and algorithms and refund policies to figure out the fraud and refund your money. But we’ve seen businesses with 90% of their clicks being fraudulent, while the AI’s and algorithms identify as little as 1/3 of the fraud. This leaves businesses with half of their ad budget going down the drain every month. When businesses add up the costs, they can see how quickly a small investment in security will yield a return for them.
Are there particular sectors where you are noticing companies are using cybersecurity from a business perspective?
We see cybersecurity being deployed across the board. Information is everywhere. Computer automation is everywhere. Everyone has a website. Pretty much everyone advertises and does not want their ad money going into fraudsters pockets. And nobody wants to increase the size of their website or marketing CRM or order processing infrastructure five-fold or ten-fold to deal with a constant stream of cyber attacks.
What are some benefits of utilizing cybersecurity from a business perspective?
Proper cybersecurity lets businesses spend their money and expertise on business, not clean-up. Not cleaning up after a ransomware attack. Not dealing with the reputational damage of an information breach, or a website breach. Not cleaning out the database after a bot dropped gigabytes of nonsense into it.
Any other general trends you are seeing in cybersecurity?
What a lot of people are talking about on the attack side is supply chain attacks – hiding ransomware and other malware inside security updates to bypass security. These attacks are not very common, but when they occur, they affect huge numbers of victims at once.
On the defensive side, the big trend is AI. It might be AI learning the patterns of legitimate network activity and raising alarms when something suspicious happens. Or learning patterns of memory usage and execution and network activity on individual laptops and taking action when something suspicious happens. Or maybe learning patterns of website visitors to identify fraudulent ones.
One thing about cybersecurity is clear though. As long as we continue to automate and deploy more computers and more software systems, the security problem is going to continue to get worse. It’s been getting steadily worse for 30 years after all. Security is in all our futures.
For more information on Lior Frenkel, you can view his bio here.
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