Under Threat: Why Your Organization is at risk

Posted on: February 15, 2017 by Zeina Zakhour

In honour of International Data Protection Day I have been looking at the security implications of Big Data: the challenges and possible solutions for businesses. Today I’ll be looking ahead; here are the malicious techniques and tools that future hackers will use to target your business…

When it comes to cybersecurity, there are two types of organizations: those who have suffered a breach, and those who don’t know it has happened yet!

Hackers are highly motivated and have found a lucrative niche in which to operate. And with pre-packaged malware available for purchase on darknet markets, it has never been simpler to bring an enterprise to its knees. And with such huge potential for reward – cybercrime damage is estimated to cost the world $6 trillion by 2021 – it’s no surprise that hacking continues to take place on both the small and large scale.

Critically, it is the volume of cyberattacks that is so dangerous, leading to a scenario where it is a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’. If we learnt anything from the high-profile cybersecurity incidents in 2016 – which numbered some of the world’s largest and most influential organizations; including SWIFT global financial messaging system,Tesco Bank, US Department of Justice, Yahoo, Ukrainian power grid – it’s that everyone is a target. Large or small, your company is being threatened. For global enterprises, the size of the attack surface is huge; with every device, server and employee being a potential backdoor for hackers. For smaller businesses, the threat is even worse – with many operating completely in the dark and without any cybersecurity measures they represent low hanging fruit for attackers.

Perhaps the most important lesson an organization can learn is that it is at risk. The faster a business understands that no industry, or market is safe, the faster they can begin to steel themselves against the constantly evolving threat.

And given how quickly threats change and develop, it can be nearly impossible to predict the next nefarious technique or tool to be used by hackers. However, over the last year several new attack styles have thrived …


Taking servers and data sets hostage, Ransomware attacks have been a lucrative practice for many hackers with unfortunate companies being forced to pay up for the safe return of their IT infrastructure. And with so many organizations failing to back-up properly, or often paying up out of embarrassment (hoping to keep the incident quiet) it will continue to be a potential goldmine for cybercriminals.

IoT Security Vulnerability:

one of the easiest ways to access a company’s IT is through the multitude of connected devices. Rarely sufficiently secured, the Internet-of-Things may have profound implications for connectivity but it is a serious threat to cybersecurity. Cybercriminals will continue on targetting IoT systems & devices, including connected cars & medical devices, for extortion and data theft. IoT malwares will proliferate, recruiting IoT botnets (we have 20B IoT devices most are vulnerable by design… rise of the machines)

Adaptive Malware:

Possibly one of the most frightening developments in the hacker’s arsenal. Adaptive Malware will be situation aware. It will study a firm’s infrastructure, test and understand the environment to then automate its response, bypassing the victim’s anti-evasion solutions and reaching its target furtively & effectively

Cyber Hoax Smoke Screening:

Best illustrated by the case of Vinci SA – hackers are propagating false announcements that manipulate stock prices, allowing them to make money from trading. We expect cybercriminals to use cyber hoax as a decoy in smoke screen attacks where organizations will be mobilized to counter the false announcements while cybercriminals are exfiltrating sensitive data.

Defending Against Threats

There is no magic bullet in defending against these attacks, but once you understand that most hackers are motivated by financial gain it becomes easier to plan your data breach prevention strategy.

Implementing a risk assessment is a must. Understanding the value, location and security of your infrastructure and data can help you see where gaps in security or back-up processes might be lurking. Understanding the changes & associated threats that your digital transformation is introducing, is also a must. For example, when it comes to customer data, encryption may well be the best strategy, ensuring that should it fall into the wrong hands, it will remain private and confidential.

Right now, enterprises are overly reliant on reactive actions. Businesses must get ahead of the cybercriminals, being proactive in their defence and building their emergency response capabilities. This proactivity is especially important in the face on the EU’s GDPR ruling, where a data breach could end up costing a business four percent of its total revenue.

Ultimately, it is most important that companies understand the depth of the threat they face. Hacking is no longer the work of bored teenagers working from their bedroom; it is an economy backed by private firms and, in some cases, nation states.

Getting through 2017 unscathed will be nearly impossible, but with the right practices and processes in place – as well as an educated and prepared workforce – it will be possible to limit the damage and emerge all the stronger.

Look at my previous blogs for further information on the cyber risks of Big Data projects and stay tuned with my next post on the challenge of Advanced Persistent Threats.

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About Zeina Zakhour
Fellow, Global Chief Technical Officer, Digital security, Atos and member of the Scientific Community
Zeina Zakhour is Vice-president, Global CTO for Digital Security in Atos. Zeina has twenty years of experience in the Cybersecurity field covering the end-to-end spectrum of cybersecurity from security advisory, to security integration, Managed security services/Managed Detection and Response, to securing digital innovations (Cloud, IoT, Edge, AI etc…) as well as risk management, compliance and privacy. She holds a Bachelor of Engineering in C.C.E from Notre Dame University Lebanon, a M. Sc. From Telecom SudParis and an Executive MBA focused on Innovation & Entrepreneurship from HEC School of Management. Zeina is a member of the Atos Scientific community and a Fellow in cybersecurity. She is also a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and a certified ISO 27005 Risk Manager. She was the recipient of Atos Innovation trophy in 2013, was named in 2019 among the “100 fascinating Females Fighting cybercrime”, was listed in the CTO/CIO/CDO French top 10 influencers and was recognized as 2020 Cyber security leader by the Cyber Security Observatory.

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