Unplugging Cyber Threats
Written by Katia Bonello
The ever-changing technology and the wide use of digital media are making attackers smarter! Risk and severity of cyber-attacks grew considerably as 2020 brought about a fresh wave of cyber security threats that people and businesses need to be aware of!
Last year Cyber Security Malta, the national cyber security awareness and education campaign led by MITA, held the first national cyber security summit. This year, the same event went online in view of the COVID-19 restrictions. Regardless of the platform, the participants had the opportunity to follow an interesting line-up of renowned national and international speakers, all experts in different areas of cyber security. Staying ahead of the game, Cyber Security Malta and MITA organised a specialised webinar focusing on new and emerging cyber threats and hence the title of the webinar ‘Emerging Threats . . . unplugged’. Ian Busuttil Naudi, the guy from Gadgets and the host of the event, started off by setting the scene and listing possible reasons why participants might have joined the webinar.
Next Hon Clayton Bartolo, Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services and Digital Economy, delivered a message highlighting Government’s responsibility to offer the necessary means to protect our digital assets, our government and our country. Hon Bartolo mentioned the newfound challenges that we all need to overcome to guarantee the highest level of security possible in terms of the confidentiality, integrity and accessibility offered by systems and infrastructures – the three pillars on which digital information needs to be built on to ensure digital security. Hon Bartolo referred to the recent inauguration of the Security Operations Centre at MITA which is serving as a centre of excellence in the field of cyber security, an investment done in terms of facilities, tooling as well as human capacity. Finally, Hon Bartolo thanked MITA and the National Cyber Security Committee who are working on the articulation of the new cyber security strategy with a vision that looks beyond 2023.
MITA’s Chief Technology Officer, Jonathan Cassar, followed with his speech, stating that MITA is honoured for being entrusted by the parliamentary secretary to carry out both government and national mandates in cyber security. Referring to its national obligation, Jonathan stressed the Agency’s responsibility to be a role model for others and to deliver cyber security hygiene messages particularly to those who are oblivion to security and hence exposed to high risk. Jonathan also referred to the brilliant collaboration that Cyber Security Malta managed to secure throughout its inception which enabled Malta to participate for the third consecutive year in the European Cyber Security Month organised by the EU Agency for Cybersecurity, ENISA. He highlighted the threats that dominated the world this year including the web-based malware, exploit attempts on consumer-grade routers and IoT devices, and ransomware. Jonathan concluded by referring to recent figures indicating that year 2020 is on the verge to shatter the record for the total number of disclosed vulnerabilities and the lowest ratio ever recorded for vulnerabilities with active exploits in the wild.
Candid Wüest, Vice President at Acronis, was the first international speaker who dominated the screens and presented the top cyber threats that the world needs to know for 2021 to arm ourselves accordingly. Whether an Arsenal FC supporter or not, Christelle Heikkila, the IT Director from Arsenal Football Club, was next and explained how the cyber protection and football environment come together.
Heading on with the agenda and right into the first panel titled ‘Think Before You Act’ moderated by Martin Camilleri, Cyber Threat Intelligence Manager at MITA. The panel was composed of Candid Wüest, Christelle Heikkila, Jonathan Cassar in his vest as MITA Chief Technology Officer and also as a member of the National Cyber Security Steering Committee, and a representative from the National Cyber Security Centre UK. The questions were very intriguing and irrespective from which angle questions were answered, the common message that came through was that cyber threats are like bread and butter, they go along with technology and it’s a matter how well we are prepared to countermeasure such threats and attacks. Concluding the panel and the first part of the webinar, dedicated to the executives, were a number of interesting questions from the participants.
To the shots of the newly launched state-of-the-art Security Operations Centre at MITA, and Ian introduced participants to the second part of the webinar which was particularly enticing for the technical people. In fact, the webinar resumed with a presentation and demonstration by one of the most known women in the cyber security field, Ms Paula Januszkiewicz who is Cloud and Datacentre Management Microsoft MVP, Microsoft Regional Director for CEE, MCT, Cybersecurity Expert and Penetration Tester, CEO of CQURE and CQURE Academy. Paula delivered a session on how to hack and protect the endpoint. She explored how to thwart sophisticated hacking techniques with endpoint privilege management, develop comprehensive security at the endpoint, and protect against, block and contain attacks on the endpoint to lower the organization’s cyber risk and mitigate the damage potential of an attack.
For the next panel, ‘The Shifting Sands of Cyber Security’, Paula was joined by George Balafoutis, Technical Delivery Manager at Microsoft, and Robert Muscat, Information Security Specialist at MITA. This panel was moderated by Reuben Gauci, Security Operations Manager at MITA. The prevalent point that came out from this discussion was the requirement of sophisticated systems, such as Intrusion Protection and Detection Systems with the assistance of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, to help keep pace with the identification of and protection from cyber-attacks. The opportunity for participants to ask questions concluded this session. Ian wrapped up this webinar thanking everyone for the participation and cooperation.
We could not ask for more. The line-up of panellists gave us a current status of the cyber security scene from both the local and international perspectives. For sure that cyber security is a shared responsibility; we are all in the same boat irrespective of the size or geographic position of our country. Whether physical or online, Cyber Security Malta will meet you next year for another gathering amongst cyber security experts, policy coordinators, enthusiasts and more.
Risk and severity of cyber-attacks grew considerably as 2020 brought about a fresh wave of cyber security threats that people and businesses need to be aware of!