by Bozhidara Georgieva

The professionals help us to avoid cyber dangers in 2022

The increased connectivity of the public and the private sphere, and of people and devices, combined with an economy crisis, the war in Ukraine, the turbulent development of crypto currencies and the continuing trend for working from home as the result of the Covid-19 pandemic: cyber crime is destined to boom in 2022. The recent attack on the Bulgarian postal services proved it. The breach delayed the payment of thousands of pensions and forced an unknown number of business clients to seek alternative, and more expensive, ways to deliver their products.

The main cyber threats in 2022 are not new in character, but their scale is unprecedented. The Covid-19 pandemic has already increased the number of cyber crimes by staggering 600%, and this year they will become more costly than before. If in 2015 the global damages were calculated to $5 trillion, in 2025 they are projected to reach $10.5 trillion.

The consequences for organisations who were successfully targeted by cyber criminals can be so grave that they could go out of business altogether: financial and productivity losses, reputational damages, legal cases by affected clients and partners. Most often, hackers attack organisations in the fields of banking and finance, healthcare, corporations, higher education, not only because of their ready cash, but also because of the large amount of data, including personal information, that they keep. Unfortunately, weak protection also means that system breaches are registered very slowly. According to an IBM survey, this has taken affected companies an average of 197 days. Limiting the damages has taken them an average of 69 days.

Social engineering that uses psychological tactics to trick individual users or employees to give access to information is the top cyber security threat of 2022. Its most popular forms are phishing and fake emails.

Another top risk is the attack on third parties who possess client data of another company or organisation. In 2022, the danger is increasing as more companies outsource some of their activities – and with it access to sensitive information, to external organisations or freelancers. According to a CyberArk survey, 96% of organisations working with outside partners give them access to vital systems and thus expose themselves to hacking.

Mistakes in configuring implemented cyber protection systems are also a common occurrence. Tests by Rapid7 detected such problems in 80% of the surveyed companies.

Poor cyber hygiene, like using personal data while connected to unprotected WiFi networks, can have serious consequences to corporate and individual users. Using a VPN or multifactor identification is a must. According to surveys, a staggering number of organisations rely on their employees remembering passwords (60%) or keeping them on stick-it notes (42%), while 54% of IT specialists have not implemented two-step verification in the organisations where they work.

Mobile and IoT devices are both extremely vulnerable. The average IoT device is attacked within 5 minutes after it has connected to the Internet.

Ransomware attacks are getting more expensive – between 2018 and 2020 the average payment has jumped from $5,000 to $200,000. The expenses businesses had to make to recover after such an attack also jumped, from $761,000 in 2020 to $1,850,000 in 2021. In 2022, ransomware attacks are expected to become more complex, popular and easy to do.

Inadequate post-attack procedures also hide significant risks. Each breach in security should be patched as soon as possible, but it is astonishing how many companies fail to do it. A 2021 survey showed that 80% of firms that have experienced a ransomware attack were targeted again soon afterwards.

The situation resembles a true digital jungle where it seems impossible to survive. But there is a solution: being proactive. The main steps that we need to make include risk limitation and developing a strategy on what to do in case of a breach. The first part of the solution has both technological and human dimensions – human mistake is the most common cause for cyber security breaches. Individual and corporate users should be aware of the dangers and know how to avoid them. Data transferring should be limited and used only via cloud services. Downloading should be done carefully, from trusted sources. Passwords should be complex and change often. Software should be up-to-date. The systems should be regularly checked for leaks and breaches. A clear plan for what to do in case of a breach is also needed. It should include not only secure and current backup copies of the information, but also insurance against cyber risk and possible legal cases by affected clients.

This is a gargantuan task for individual users and even organisations. The field is in a constant flow and it is not realistic to expect everyone to be aware of the latest threats or each company to have an adequate cyber security department. For best results one should use the services and solutions offered by specialised cyber security companies.

The good news is that in Bulgaria work established local and international companies that offer top quality, constantly follow the trends and know which solutions are best for each individual case.

"The Bulgarian professionals are significantly better prepared than their colleagues in the West, as they rely more on themselves rather than on expensive and modern systems," says Kaloyan Vasilev, founder of KiberSigurnost, a Bulgarian company (Sofia, 23 Academician Petar Dinekov St, киберсигурност.бг). "Sadly, they predominantly contribute to the Western market."

What should a company know and do to enjoy good cyber protection in 2022? "Recognize the fact that it is vulnerable and exposed to various risks and decide to do something about it," says Boris Goncharov, Chief Strategy Officer at AMATAS (Sofia, 141 Tsarigradsko Shose Blvd, www.amatas.com), a Bulgarian cybersecurity company with a global presence. "Cybersecurity is a complex problem that should be treated as a strategic priority. The question is not how much money we should spend or what product to buy, but what are the practical ways to make our organizations resilient. Of course, there are quick fixes that every organization should consider – enhancing user access control, testing for vulnerabilities and weaknesses, ensuring endpoint/network/web protection, educating the users, and establishing incident response capabilities."

"Complete cyber protection is something Acronis aims for," says Plamen Toshev, General Manager for Bulgaria for the international leader in cybersecurity solutions (Sofia, 59 G.M. Dimitrov, NV Tower, www.acronis.com). "A single solution providing safety of work on the Internet and in corporate environment. In our understanding, this solution should minimise the risks in the two major spheres in the field of security – the human factor and the complexity of cybersecurity solutions. Complete cyber protection effectively deals with these two major risks. Automation minimises the human factor and the integration of as many systems as possible in a single entity reduces the complexity. This is why Acronis has developed not just solutions, but a platform. It allows our partners to create their own solutions that can be fully integrated in ours and to practically work on one platform."

Do smaller means less protected? According to Accenture's Cost of Cybercrime study, 43% of cyber attacks target small businesses and just 14% of those are prepared to defend themselves. The most common dangers for them are phishing and social engineering, compromised or stolen devices, and password theft.

How can SMEs improve their cybersecurity? "Smaller means more agile and simple – both enablers for better cybersecurity," says Iva Tasheva, the co-founder and cybersecurity lead of CyEn (+32 493 405 612, www.CyEn.eu), a family owned micro-consultancy in Brussels. "If SMEs are also cyber aware and commit to security, they will be better protected with limited investment. My advice to SMEs: use the well-oiled machine of information security standards (NIST, ISO27k) to improve your cybersecurity. Empower your employees to defend the organisation with a cybersecurity awareness and training programme."

We should not forget that cyber security is important not only for adults, but also for children. The new generation has been present in the digital world since the day of their birth, and this hides many risks. Children can become easy prey to sexual crime or bullying, or to fall under the bad influence of popular TikTokers or YouTubers.

"The most vulnerable are the children aged 8-16," says Yavor Kolev, Director IT and Cybersecurity at Lev Ins insurance company (phone: 0800 10 200, www.lev-ins.com). Together with the company, he is also engaged with the Protect the Child on the Internet social initiative (www.detetovinternet.bg). "But the starting age is constantly decreasing. Parents nowadays give their 3-year-old a phone connected to the Internet and feel calm as the kid has something to do while they run errands. But at this moment the kid can open YouTube and find improper content that could disturb or traumatise them. Or can find on TikTok some of the teens who, in their desire for more likes, do reckless antics, like climbing to dangerously high places. This can provoke copycat behaviour among users, leading to potential accidents. The Internet is limitless, there you can watch what someone in Korea, Italy or Russia does, and there is no guarantee that this someone is well-behaved or has some common sense. This is why we have to control our children and teach them safe behaviour on the Internet from an early age."

From children to adults, from small organisations to corporations, all of us can be safer and more protected in the digital jungle when professionals are by our side.


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