ICT PULSE: Cyber threats and security in the Caribbean 2017 update – Interview with Niel Harper

ICT Pulse: Niel, give us a quick recap of what have been the most prevalent types of incidents in Barbados and/or in the Caribbean region over the past year or so? How has the threat landscape changed?

Niel Harper: Michele, it’s always difficult to quantify or qualify the number and types of cyber incidents that occur in the Caribbean because there are no mandatory breach notifications or transparency obligations in the various jurisdictions across the region. As such, public and private sector organizations do not notify the general public or individual data subjects when networks or personal data stores are compromised (yes I have said this a number of times, but it is still relevant and quite important). That being said, ransomware attacks have been quite prevalent across the region, and particularly targeting hospitals, educational institutions, government systems, financial services, and small-to-medium enterprises with insufficient resources to adequately respond to cyber threats.

ICTP: Over the past year, ransomware incidents appeared to have been quite plentiful across the region. Are they still as huge a threat?

NH: On a regional (and global) scale, ransomware has continued to be the most persistent business model for cybercriminals. One of the key reasons that ransomware has remained a major threat is because the tools used to initiate attacks are being continuously evolved and improved. For example, there was an over 150% increase in new ransomware variants in the first half of 2016. Moreover, cybercriminals are now operating Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) with lower buy-in costs that allow less tech-savvy perpetrators to distribute ransomware. And the success of ransomware attacks is high because related exploit kits have been popping up more and more on legitimate websites.

ICTP: What are some of the new and emerging threats of which we should be more aware? And are there any particular areas of concern that you have for Caribbean organizations?

NH: One of my biggest concerns with regards to new and emerging threats is that nation states are increasingly developing offensive cyber capabilities, essentially weaponizing exploits and actively eroding trust online through disproportionate mass surveillance, targeted attacks, and information manipulation (fake news). On the other hand, threat actors are ramping up attacks against hardware and firmware vulnerabilities in processors, DRAM technologies, BIOS, and in firmware on devices such as USB, chargers, and external hard drives. IoT malware is on the rise and threatening individual privacy via regular household appliances and consumer devices. In 2017, ransomware continues to grow, and malware authors are focusing their efforts on mobile devices — attacking data repositories both on devices and in the cloud. ‘Dronejacking’ has become a growing threat with a noticeable increase in attacks due to consumer drones shipping with weak protection mechanisms. While not necessarily a new or emerging threats, the pervasive insecurity of IoT devices is fueling the perpetual threat of DDoS attacks, especially against ISPs with unsecured services such as DNS and BGP. All of these threat areas should be of concern to Caribbean organizations and individuals due to increased use of Internet-enabled devices at home and in the workplace […]

The entire interview can be found on the ICT Pulse website at: http://bit.ly/2oCxMzM

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