Advanced threat protection: Key insights from the ComputerworldUK cybersecurity conference

Sony, eBay and JP Morgan are just some of the big names to have fallen foul to hack attacks within the last year. ComputerworldUK and security firm Fortinet looked at the current advanced threats at an event earlier this month - and here are some of the highlights and messages the delegates took away.

People made money on stocks thanks to Heartbleed

Opening the event, Bill Buchanan, Professor in the School of Computing, Edinburgh Napier University, took delegates on a whistle-stop tour of some of the most controversial hacks this year, including Sony's fall from grace.

While the talk around the Sony hack was of North Korean involvement, it is likely, Buchanan, revealed, that Sony was an inside job that could be traced it to a disgruntled employee who was about to leave the firm.

Pointing out that tech savvy people made money on stocks when the Heartbleed vulnerability came to light, Buchanan warned that employees could have financial motives to bring down an institution's reputation. And that keeping an eye on the systems admin is key.

'Keep employees happy' warned professor Buchanan. 'Its people, not tools that hack'.

Just twenty or thirty FTSE 100 firms have a full time CISO

Paul Simmonds, former CISO of AstraZeneca and Motorola, also took to the stage to share inside knowledge from within one of the UK's largest enterprises snd to give a preview of the launch of the new Global Identity Forum.

"Breaches are due to failing identity", said Simmonds, explaining that firms trying to secure their organisation are preoccupied with giving staff, contractors and customers a single persona. Instead, he said, "You need to look at all entities and components in a transaction chain." Good practice means focusing on "people, devices, organisations, code and agents which are all different identities", he added.

For example, firms should be less concerned about who is logging in, but whether it is an Android device logging in; whether there is a GPS signal that locates that person in Russia and whether it is coming over an unsecure network using protocols that aren't familiar.

Simmonds warned that security is not as well addressed within large enterprise as expected. In fact, he found that "only twenty of thirty FTSE 100 firms have fulltime CISOs with teams working for them."

Cybersecurity skills shortages are a real threat

Shortages of skilled staff are making security very expensive, said Steve Mulhearn, Fortinet's business development manager for Europe. An industry veteran, Mulhearn has been responsible for securing large enterprise, providing damage limitation for those that fall victim, and had a stint advising the US government.

Focusing on the recent breach at US retailer Target, that saw over 100 million customers' financial information hacked, he told the conference how to prepare for the worst.

"Nobody really knows for sure how long that [breach] was in the network. They (Target) could only estimate how many credit cards they (the hackers) got over a thanksgiving weekend."

Criminals appear to be a step ahead software vendors and organisations that deploy enterprise software. "They know as much about the systems we are designing that we do", he admitted.

Mulhearn called for both a technical response, the training of more cybersecurity experts and a focus on business processes. "I could have the best tech in the world but if I don't have the process to use it correctly there is no point," he said. "It is important to think strategically about your information and its value to hackers as well as yourself, he said. For example, intellectual property like algorithms for credit card fraud within banking is rarely the motive - but the credit information is. Thinking like a criminal can help you secure the right pieces of information. Think of your information as the value to the 'bad guys'."

Who is responsible

Serena Gonsalves-Fersch, Head of Cyber Academy at KPMG rounded off the presentations at the event by urging organiisations to look at security capaibilitiies and responsibilities, rather than staff certifications. She also warned that there was a lack of clarity at board level over who was responsible for cybersecurity.

"In 2013 CEOs were asked who they thought on their team was responsible for cyber risk, and nearly half said 'CFO'. Cybersecurity as a problem needs to be articulated amongst everyone but tackling it needs to be given to a dedicated person." Organisations need a CISO type person to lead the cybersecurity charge, while the CEO will always have ot take ultimate responsibility if things go wrong.


Margi Murphy

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