Saudi enterprises need a new approach as cybercrime rises

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Cybercrime is on the rise across the Middle East and in Saudi Arabia, and protecting against cyber threats is an ongoing management challenge for organizations in the country.

A recent annual survey by Gulf Business Machines (GBM) has found that approximately 45 percent of IT professionals in the GCC admit that their organizations had at least one IT security incident that they were aware of in the last 12 months. There are many weaknesses in traditional cyber security models, but there are also new and improved solutions arising in the market.


Cyber security risks are also potentially increasing with social media becoming more available within companies, said GBM in a study.

“Companies are more aware of IT security issues than ever before. Although organizations are showing more interest in preemptive measures against possible cyber threats, they are not always taking the appropriate measures,” said Hani Nofal, director of Intelligent Network Solutions (INS) at GBM. “Nearly half of the organizations polled spend up to 10 percent of their IT budget on security. However, we expect this number to increase in the future,” he added.

Today’s cyber security infrastructure contains a number of detection, analysis and remediation gaps. Saudi Organizations should be focusing on two things: detecting unknown threats and responding faster and more comprehensively to security incidents. However, currently organizations focus most of their attention on alerting and prevention tools.

Jason Mical, Vice President of Cyber Security, AccessData, said this is undoubtedly why the majority of security breaches are not discovered until months after the fact. When it comes to detection, most organizations rely primarily on signature-based alerting and prevention solutions, such as intrusion detection systems and antivirus, and they rely on data leakage prevention tools to catch data spills. These products only catch what you tell them to look for, which leaves serious detection, analysis and remediation gaps in your cyber security program.

Additionally, even when a compromise triggers an alert, it is difficult to identify the real threats among the tens of thousands of alerts these tools bubble up. There is very little integration among the tools within a traditional cyber security infrastructure, and the majority of them are designed to dump tons of information in your lap with no remediation functionality. The IT team within organizations are then tasked with sifting through all the noise and correlating data manually to figure out what is really happening.

Once an incident is detected, the response team is normally comprised of members from several disparate information security teams such as network security, forensics, information assurance and malware teams. These various teams each juggle their own sets of tools to analyze the data that is most critical in chasing down a threat. This includes network communications, computers, malware and so on. This approach is particularly dangerous when attempting to address an advanced persistent threat.

Most organizations do not have an integrated incident response platform that enables all this critical analysis within a single interface, and they have no real-time collaboration capabilities. They must correlate network, host and malware information manually and usually in person at “war room” meetings. Operating under this model, we will see response time increase as the number and sophistication of exploits increase.

The key to improving response times is automated and integrated analysis, as well as real-time collaboration. Organizations should implement an integrated incident response platform that allows groups such as network security, forensics, malware and information assurance teams to perform their respective analysis within a single dashboard. It becomes a virtual war room of sorts. When all of this information is available in a single platform and teams are collaborating in real time, all critical analysis can be conducted through a single interface and actionable intelligence is gathered in minutes, as opposed to hours, days or even months.

These tools that offer better real-time collaboration and integrated analysis, are the way of the future, better equipping Saudi organizations to protect their domains against the ever-changing and evolving cyber security threats of today.

To embed an intelligence-led decision-making process into an organization, a basic intelligence model must be in place. Law enforcement organizations use robust systems and processes to collect, analyze and act on intelligence.

While these models may vary, they are built on common components that are directly applicable to any organization seeking to develop an intelligence capability.

One basic intelligence operating model, shown here, is based on experience of improving intelligence management systems and processes in law enforcement. This paper primarily focuses on the processes that form the basic infrastructure.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.

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