Kaspersky Lab senior researchers warned at a cyber security conference in Baku, Azerbaijan that major cyber attacks on infrastructure in the Middle East are pending, with governments, companies and individuals mostly unprepared. The average ransomware is now $551,000, and security researchers find 310,000 new viruses every day.
Ghareeb Saad, a senior researcher at Kaspersky Lab, said the scariest cyber attack is cryptoware, which deletes files and encrypts them without the victim’s knowledge before the victim faces a demand to pay a ransom in bitcoin to recover the information. Saad said the criminals even have a call center to tell victims how to pay ransoms.
The conference included technologies who gathered to advise corporations, governments and individuals about impending disasters that call for immediate security measures.
Most Attacks Not Reported
In 2010, the Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear facility generated a lot of attention. However, researcher Mohammad Amin Hasbini said there have been many smaller attacks that have not been reported by the media. The reason they were not reported is that the impacted organizations did not want the publicity.
Last December, hackers disabled Ukraine’s power grid, causing 250,000 people to lose power for six hours.
This past March and April, attacks victimized a French hydroelectric system, a Swedish public water system serving 2.5 million customers, a Korean transport system and a U.S. dam. It was only by chance that a major disaster was averted, Hasbini said.
He said 295 industrial attacks took place in 2015 in the U.S., many of which were not reported.
Such things occur “all the time,” he said, but the media does not cover them. He said an attack could do “real damage.”
In the first quarter of 2016, “2.2-B” cyber attacks occurred, according to Kaspersky. In addition, half of Internet users faced some form of attack.
Breaches were especially common in Turkey, Egypt and Qatar. The most secure country in the Middle East is Lebanon.
Ransomware Attacks On Rise
Ransomware attacks in the Middle East rose 15% to 160,000 in the first quarter of 2016. Most came from emails, websites, USB sticks, routers and social networks.
About 17% of attacks occur on Android devices, 11% through Java, 61% from browsers, 4% from Microsoft Office and 3% from Adobe Reader.
The lack of awareness from governments and public utility contractors is the weak link, Hasbini said. The attacks are not digital, but in the physical world. The attacks can stop people from being able to live their lives normally. He said there is now a new threat every day.
Saad said gaming and banking systems are under constant attack from hackers. The most serious threat, however, is to public utilities and critical infrastructure, which hackers can remotely access using a simple password and login.
Yury Namestnikov, a senior security researcher, said everything today is “smart,” but not everything is secure.
Denis Legezo, a technology positioning manager, said everything online is vulnerable and searchable.
Best practices to prevent attacks include using an anti-virus software, using strong passwords, allowing “system watcher” on devices, and not opening email attachments from unknown sources.
Also read: Cryptocurrency for ransomware may fuel ‘largest crimewave in modern history’
Attackers’ Targets Vary
Matvey Voytov, solutions business lead, said most attacks target either money or things that have monetary value. Some cyber criminals, however, seek information and intelligence. Others attackers look to push an ideological cause or disrupt competitors.
Kaspersky Lab has 400-M individual users for its product and 270,000 customers in 200 countries. Eugene Kaspersky, CEO, said he is no a mission to save the world from cyber crime.
Featured image from Shutterstock.