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Understand risks, defend against them

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Singapore not immune to threat of ransomware

Ransomware has been capturing significant attention globally over the past year, with businesses and individuals alike falling victim to these cyber attacks.

Often, the results end with companies compromising to meet ransom demands of attackers to recover their data, since the risk of having important data completely destroyed is unthinkable.

Such attacks continue to evolve in sophistication. While the majority of cyber criminals seek to profit from their endeavours, others simply want to cause harm.

Therefore, it is crucial for companies to understand the cyberthreat landscape and the potential threats they might be exposed to.

After all, it is only by understanding the risks that preventive measures can be put into place to defend against them.

Attackers constantly find new ways to successfully breach their victims' networks and systems. Some years back, cyber attacks might have been initiated by highly skilled attackers, and exploits capable of causing global outbreaks such as WannaCry used to be a rare event.

It is no longer the case now. Individuals with little to no programming skills can also utilise the widely available tools online to simplify the task of launching attacks for a relatively small sum of money.

These tools are referred to as "malware-as-a-service", and we see the attackers shifting the burden of managing the associated infrastructure to the providers of such "services".

Today, attacks are being released on a monthly basis, allowing those willing to leverage them to cause significant damage. The trends are certainly alarming.

One concern being discussed in the wake of the NotPetya attack (the successor to the WannaCry outbreak) deals with the question of trust. The NotPetya attack traced its origins to an accounting software vendor, with infected software updates being the delivery vehicle for the malware.


Organisations are now taking a close look at their supply chain and reassessing exactly who they can consider a trusted party. As breaches continue to happen worldwide, Singapore has not escaped unscathed.

AXA Insurance Singapore's Health Portal was recently compromised, with data belonging to 5,400 customers stolen. This is a reminder to businesses to escalate their security efforts especially relating to medical and personal records.

At the same time, security teams are tasked with keeping a growing number of devices safe. Mobile users with smartphones and tablets, and a push to move traditional data centres to the cloud, have resulted in the need to secure a greater number of assets than ever before.

As the reality of building smart cities fast approaches, critical infrastructure needs to be adequately protected to avoid attacks on the services we all take for granted, such as utilities and transport.

The danger of attacks on public infrastructure has prompted the Government to draft a cyber security bill requiring critical infrastructure operators to work closely with government agencies to keep the public safe.

Other countries are implementing their own policies, with compulsory disclosure laws forcing companies to take security seriously, as breaches can no longer be swept under the carpet.

While there may be inherent risks operating in a connected world, online safety can be vastly improved through increased security practices and preventive measures. Unless businesses are improving their resilience towards cyberthreats, they remain unprepared in the face of a cyber attack.

The same applies for individuals. Smartphone apps that are downloaded from official app stores may also contain malware that slipped through the security controls of the respective app stores.

As a result, individuals may expose their particulars to theft, and in some cases, their devices may be used as a delivery vehicle (i.e. zombies) to prompt a bigger attack. A little effort can go a long way to protect personal data from being stolen.

The writer is chief strategist, threat prevention, APAC, Middle East and Africa at Check Point Software Technologies.