News Article

Coordinated Cyberattacks Require Coordinated Response

By Miriam Bello | Wed, 06/16/2021 - 12:00

You can watch the video of this panel here.

Cyberthreats are growing hand in hand with the digital transformation and cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated, warned experts during Mexico Cybersecurity Summit 2021 held on June 16.

While Mexico leads the list of vulnerable countries, the sector is receiving scarce attention, said Ricardo Zamudio, Managing Director at Gecko Ad. The dangers have only increased during the pandemic, opening a larger window of opportunity for cyberattacks. “With the migration to remote working forced by the pandemic, equipment was left unprotected. At the same time, the pandemic exposed the little penetration of a cybersecurity culture in Mexico,” explained Antonio Imperial, CISO at METABASE Q.

The financial sector remains one of the most vulnerable, especially as crypto currencies are giving cybercriminals many facilities they did not previously have, explained Imperial. Moreover, crypto currencies are leaving the financial sector in a gray area and giving cybercriminals the opportunity to cash out in any country, he added.

“The sophistication, knowledge and skill of cybercriminals has increased. There are also groups  that seek to spy, interfere or cause a cyberwar,” said Juan Carlos García, Director LATAM at Mandiant. Cybercriminals are also collaborating with each other, increasing their skills, which requires greater collaboration from a cybersecurity standpoint. 

Abel Garza, CEO at Quanti Solutions, highlighted that as individuals embrace technology in their daily living, such as with connected washing machines or refrigerators, they are exposing themselves to unforeseen risks. “We are connected to technology almost all the time and we use passwords for everything. We do not have protective software on many devices and we do not pause to think whether we are attractive targets,” said Garza.

A misguided sense of security is one of reasons why Mexico has become an attractive target to cybercriminals, which is worsened by “the economic interests of cybercriminals as we are a growing economy,” said García. “We have noticed that in Mexico there are two types of companies: the ones that have been attacked and the ones that have been but did not realize.” Worryingly, cyberattacks can lucrative as they account for 1 percent of the global GDP, “this is the crime that generates the most money,” said García. Investment in cybersecurity by countries and companies, on the other hand, is very low.

“Mexico is a good target due to its high volume of users,” added Garza. “We have seen many attacks to government sites, which is concerning. Government institutions have not invested in cybersecurity and have not followed the right measures to protect themselves. Cybersecurity is critical; investing in it should be too.” Companies and countries might mistakenly believe that they are not attractive and consider investing in cybersecurity unnecessary. Moreover, cybersecurity regulation has advanced in Mexico but nowhere near as much as in the EU. “There are companies trying to impulse regulation but we need more collaboration to really achieve this,” stressed Garza.

Poor awareness is another critical weakness. “There are simple attacks that users would totally fall for,” said Imperial. Users depend more on technology, becoming more susceptible to threats such as ransomware. He encouraged education to eliminate the mismatch between low prevention and high use of digital devices. “Users manage their tech devices poorly, using little backups and no passwords. This is happening from individual users with their cellphones to major government entities like PEMEX.” Advanced persistent threats (APTs) exist in every country but are kept in secret because they damage the country’s reputation, added Imperial.

There are new organized crime groups with technical specialization. “Large organized crime organizations generate platforms for other hackers around the world. It is like the cloud but for hackers. These organizations create the infrastructure for the cybercriminal.”

Under the current circumstances, more attacks on essential infrastructure services such as water or energy should be expected. “In general, national threats will become more common as power and money are also the main drivers for any cyberattack,” said Garcia.

To protect themselves, users and companies must be proactive instead of reactive. “Instead of waiting for and attack, be prepared. We have car insurance to protect us in an accident; we should take the same protection approach for our data,” said Garza. Investing in raising awareness must be a top priority, said Imperial, as individuals can become the perfect gate to access an entire association. “We need to have hygiene protocols for our information and be aware of out digital footprint. As users, we give information and leave our personal data everywhere. This needs to change and we need to become aware of the power simple actions can have,” said Imperial.

The government also plays a large role in raising awareness and has a responsibility to do so, added Imperial. On the meantime, companies should take a posture on cybersecurity. “This way, we can draw more precise strategies, know how much we want to invest and be able to classify out attacks,” said García.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst