Risk assessment key to counter cyber threats
May 22, 2018 | 5:09 PM
by Times News Service
Reuters file picture for representational purpose only.

Muscat: Most sectors in Oman, including manufacturing, are vulnerable to cyber security threats in general and ransomware attacks in particular, experts said.

They also suggested that firms undergo a risk assessment to understand the nature and scope of cyber threats and how to navigate them.

However, the finance sector is better prepared to deal with such threats because it is regulated by the Central Bank of Oman (CBO), which is engaged in standard practices, they added.

The suggestion comes in the wake of a report from the company, Dimension Data, called Executive Guide to the NTT Security 2018 Global Threat Intelligence Report, which revealed that the Middle East was among the most vulnerable regions as far as cyber security was concerned.

The report revealed that Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) accounted for 30 per cent of cyber attacks worldwide. This is higher than any other region, as the global average is seven per cent.

Ransomware is a kind of malicious software that blocks access to a user’s data or threatens to make it public, unless a ransom is paid. It is paid through crypto-currencies.

Ransomware attacks were the most prominent cyber security threats in EMEA, targeting the supply chain, finance sector, among others. The business and professional services sector saw a significant increase in attacks in the EMEA region, which saw 20 per cent of all attacks targeting this sector.

In 2017, there was a 350 per cent rise in ransomware, representing seven per cent of all global malware attacks (up from one per cent in 2016).

“EMEA was also the only region in which ransomware was the number one type of malware due to various cyber attack campaigns, including the WannaCry and NotPetya epidemic,” said Mechelle Buys Du Plessis, Managing Director – UAE, Dimension Data.

‘Security needs focus’

Vikrant Nath, Associate Director, Information Technology consultancy at Protiviti, a financial and technology consultancy firm, said that some work was needed to deal with cyber security threats in Oman.

“Sectors such as manufacturing are associated with industrial control systems and operational technology and are vulnerable to cyber security threats. The finance sector fares better as far as preparedness is concerned because it is regulated by the CBO," Nath said.

“A risk assessment is needed on the part of organisations. It can be a host of reasons. It can be because of denial of services, to cause reputational damage or to steal business data and intellectual property," he added.

“Also, one needs to conduct a comprehensive study to be able to understand the preparedness of companies across sectors. Some entities manage things better than others,” Nath remarked.

“New regulations, an alarming spike in ransomware attacks, and an uncertain geopolitical picture all contributed to unique cyber security challenges for the EMEA region over the last year. This sector includes organisations such as service providers and outsourcers, making them a prime target for the theft of trade secrets and intellectual property. If left unprotected, organisations may have their customer and partner data/credentials exposed. These can be used by cybercriminals to remotely access infrastructure, unimpeded,” Du Plessis concluded.


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