[How-to] Defend Your Business from Cyber-Criminals After Attacks on Vodafone and Orange
Detailed revelations in the media, across Europe, of cyber espionage tactics have surprised many in the past year.
Just recently British spy agency GCHQ have recently hit the headlines and highlighted the increasingly sophisticated tactics being used by both the authorities and cyber criminals alike.
This followed the widespread publishing of information on the UK Government’s intelligence agency, revealed by US whistleblower Edward Snowden, which showed that applications to phish personal details from social media websites were readily available.
These applications, which mainly target social media users, are an insight into the front line of hacking techniques available today.
But where is the line between tactics used by Europe’s security agencies and the world’s sharpest and most organised cyber criminals? The answer is that there is no line. Cyber criminals are deploying exactly the same tactics, in much the same way as security agencies. In fact, they are often one step ahead.
Businesses have been struggling on a global scale with hacking and phishing attacks and this has been highlighted within Europe in recent months. One of Europe’s largest telecoms providers, Orange, has been hit by repeated attacks resulting in data leakage falling into the wrong hands.
The mobile phone retailer revealed that 1.3 million of its customers’ data had been compromised including - names, email addresses, mobile and fixed telephone numbers, names of mobile and internet operators, as well as dates of birth.
In this instance it is believed that the hackers were plotting to send counterfeit emails to customers in an attempt to get them to use a click-through link and lead them to an undesirable site.
Vodafone Germany also reported the loss of two million of their customers’ personal and sensitive data. The information was stolen from the company’s internal database and the telecoms giant advised customers to be vigilant.
Although you may think social media use might be low in your office, regular sites such as Skype and LinkedIn are included in the list of threats and can often be highly trusted sites. An application to source real-time call records, instant messages and contact lists from Skype, dubbed ‘Miniature Hero’, was listed as an application being regularly used.
A recent study by Barracuda Labs recently revealed that, of all the social networking sites, LinkedIn was the most trusted by users. This, coupled with the fact it is so popular amongst business professionals, makes it a serious threat to business.
With companies across Europe being targeted, it is important for businesses and their employees to remain vigilant to threats or they could stand to lose competitive information, corporate secrets and financial data.
Education is the key
If staff are unaware of what to look for then it is time to familarise them with the enemy. The most venerable channel is likely to be via email. With so many employees having access to emails this is likely to be an avenue that is compromised.
Emails that include click through links, which are common from social media sites, cause problems as the email could be a malicious one with the link leading the employee astray, despite looking genuine.
Advise staff to always take note of the registered email address they receive updates from. Checking the address the email is from will only take a matter of seconds.
Ensure software is up to date
It is vital to make sure company defences are working to their full potential.
Protect databases by using Firewalls and again, it is key to run updates to keep software up to date.
Studying techniques used by International spy agencies in order to keep business’ corporate data security intact shows just how far cyber-criminal threats have progressed in recent years.
Being proactive and making sure a business is protected is now more crucial than ever but can be achieved by spending a few minutes on the education of employees and updating defences.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”