Dark Clouds On The Horizon: The Rise Of Sophisticated Cybercrime

Dark Clouds On The Horizon: The Rise Of Sophisticated Cybercrime

Sophisticated Cybercrime

incapsula

The story reads as if it were pulled from the pages of a Tom Clancy novel: a collection of US banks suddenly starts receiving Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that are carefully timed to re-strike just as their systems start to repair themselves. The attacks are carried out by waves of botnet zombies pouring from infected servers across the world and aimed at the United States. The main source of the outbreak is an innocent general interest website based in the UK that has been poisoned by a web design company out of Turkey. The alleged perpetrators of the attack: a shady extremist group based in the Middle East.

This, however, is not fiction. It happened in January 2013 and exists now as one of the case studies/success stories of Incapsula, (www.incapsula.com) a cloud-based website security company based in Redwood Shores, a short drive from San Francisco.

As computing technology has grown in sophistication and power over the years, so has the criminal element that seeks to exploit it. Individual interest groups, religious factions, even entire countries are at work seeking any and every weakness available inside lines of code, forms, executable files and any other seemingly innocuous paths that can lead eventually to disruption, destruction, theft and chaos.

In this case, the computers and the experts at Incapsula were able to detect and thwart the attack before any major damage occurred, but as Incapsula security analyst Ronen Atias writes in his account of the event, “this is just another demonstration of how security [on] the internet is always determined by the weakest link.” He points out that the simple mismanagement of an administrative password on the UK website was quickly exploited by the botnet shepherds in Turkey. “This is a good example,” he says, “of how we are all just a part of a shared ecosystem where website security should be a shared goal and a shared responsibility.”

Incapsula CEO Gur Shatz agrees. As a veteran security specialist and former captain in the Intelligence Corps of the Israeli Air Force, he has seen it all, and he sees the problem as growing in sophistication.

The reason for the rise in Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) is less about who the perpetrators are, and more about risk versus reward,” he says. “The inadequacies of today’s defenses, juxtaposed with the ever-rising value of the information that can be stolen, represent a huge opportunity for cybercriminals. Personal or corporate devices are a tremendous intelligence source, carrying richer and more accurate data than ever before, but protections on these devices still mostly rely on outdated technologies such as passwords.

The interconnectedness of cloud technology presents both a good news and bad news scenario when it comes to the criminal element, Shatz says. The bad news is that the interconnected nature of the cloud has increased the exposure of an organization’s infrastructure. The good news, though, is that the cloud is a much less heterogeneous environment than the jungle of personal devices (smartphones, laptops, etc.), which means that the cloud-based production environment can be made more secure much more easily than corporate networks, which is where Incapsula comes in.

Shatz points out that in general, hackers are lazy and will almost always take the easiest path to infiltrate their target. The fact that an alarmingly large number of incidents involve simple password theft indicates that this is still a major issue. However, targeted attacks on more security-conscious companies certainly require more sophisticated tools, which are readily available to cybercriminals.

When assessing a company’ risk for exposure to APTs, is common for some to take a head-in-the-sand approach, thinking, for example, “I’m not a bank, I make farm equipment, so I do not have to worry.” But Shatz points out a company without any major secrets or critical online functionality is still subject to being used as a “mule” to conduct cybercrime, as with the “Tom Clancy”  scenario mentioned earlier. “Even small online businesses such as ecommerce sites, are vulnerable,” he says, “because downtime or slowness costs them both money and reputation damage. This makes them target to DDoS extortion (which is essentially the online version of the protection racket for physical stores).” Incapsula has seen several instances of this type of attack over the past six months.

Ultimately, Shatz says, shying away from the cloud rather than risking attacks of this sort is not an option, since even if you don’t go online, your competitors will. So it’s really a question of how secure your cloud environment and web applications actually are. Various types of solutions are available from companies like Incapsula and others. But avoiding the cloud, which is equivalent to putting your head in the sand and keeping it there, is not a solution.

By Steve Prentice

About Steve Prentice

Steve Prentice is a project manager, writer, speaker and expert on productivity in the workplace, specifically the juncture where people and technology intersect. He is a senior writer for CloudTweaks.

Find out more
View All Articles

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

On Demand With The Gig Economy

On Demand With The Gig Economy

The Gig Economy By now, you’ve probably heard the phrase Gig Economy or seen services offered as “on-demand”. If you’re like 90 million Americans, then you’ve participated in this freelance workforce revolution as either a client or provider. The rise of apps connecting professional services, goods, and lodging directly to consumers via their smartphone is…

5 Cloud-Based Customer Service Trends

5 Cloud-Based Customer Service Trends

Customer Service Trends Customer service has become the new battleground in today’s marketplace. In fact, 97 percent of customers around the world now say that customer service makes a key difference in whether they decide to go with a brand or not, Microsoft reports. Many of the biggest changes in today’s customer service landscape center…

Conquering Disease with Artificial Intelligence and IBM Watson

Conquering Disease with Artificial Intelligence and IBM Watson

Artificial Intelligence and IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is growing increasingly pervasive in today’s modern world. Perhaps the most publicized and recognizable application of AI to date, IBM’s Jeopardy-winning computer, Watson, is now being used to help cure cancer. IBM announced the development of Watson for Genomics on Wednesday at the National Cancer Moonshot…

The Fundamentals of Predictive Analysis

The Fundamentals of Predictive Analysis

Predictive Analysis  Article sponsored by SAS Software and Big Data Forum Analytics is playing an increasingly important role in our lives thanks in large part to internet of things (IoT) developments and a greater appreciation of Big Data. With solutions that range across business productivity, health care, individual and national security, new insights are regularly…

Clouding Around With The Unicorns

Clouding Around With The Unicorns

The Social Unicorn Early investors and technology consumers alike love the poignantly named “Unicorn” companies, or private startups that reach the $1 billion valuation. The most recent unicorn spotting is social media game-changer Snapchat, which was recently valued at $16 billion. According to a recent infographic from Alexa discovered via Adweek, Snapchat also proves to…

Fintech Investments Are Seeing Consistent Growth

Fintech Investments Are Seeing Consistent Growth

The Financial Services Cloud Fintech investment has been seeing consistent growth in 2015, with some large moves being made this year. The infographic (Courtesy of Venturescanner) below shows the top Fintech investors and the amount of companies they’re currently funding: Just this week, a financial data startup known as Orchard Platform raised $30 million in…

Cloud Computing Is Greener Than You Think

Cloud Computing Is Greener Than You Think

Cloud Computing Is Greener Than You Think Last week we touched upon how a project in Finland had blended two of the world’s most important industries, cloud computing and green technology, to produce a data centre that used nearby sea water to both cool their servers and heat local homes.  Despite such positive environmental projects, there…

Cloud Infographic – Interesting Big Data Facts

Cloud Infographic – Interesting Big Data Facts

Big Data Facts You Didn’t Know The term Big Data has been buzzing around tech circles for a few years now. Forrester has defined big data as “Technologies and techniques that make capturing value from data at an extreme scale economical.” The key word here is economical. If the costs of extracting, processing, and making use…

SaaS And The Cloud Are Still Going Strong

SaaS And The Cloud Are Still Going Strong

SaaS And The Cloud With the results of Cisco Global Could Index: 2013-2018 and Hosting and Cloud Study 2014, predictions for the future of cloud computing are notable. Forbes reported that spending on infrastructure-related services has increased as public cloud computing uptake spreads, and reflected on Gartner’s Public Cloud Services Forecast. The public cloud service…

Four Reasons Why CIOs Must Transform IT Into ITaaS To Survive

Four Reasons Why CIOs Must Transform IT Into ITaaS To Survive

CIOs Must Transform IT The emergence of the Cloud and its three delivery models of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) has dramatically impacted and forever changed the delivery of IT services. Cloud services have pierced the veil of IT by challenging traditional method’s dominance…

Three Factors for Choosing Your Long-term Cloud Strategy

Three Factors for Choosing Your Long-term Cloud Strategy

Choosing Your Long-term Cloud Strategy A few weeks ago I visited the global headquarters of a large multi-national company to discuss cloud strategy with the CIO. I arrived 30 minutes early and took a tour of the area where the marketing team showcased their award winning brands. I was impressed by the digital marketing strategy…

The Big Data Movement Gets Bigger

The Big Data Movement Gets Bigger

The Big Data Movement In recent years, Big Data and Cloud relations have been growing steadily. And while there have been many questions raised around how best to use the information being gathered, there is no question that there is a real future between the two. The growing importance of Big Data Scientists and the…