29 November 2018

Black Hat Asia 2018: Is AsiaPac ready for new cyber attacks?

“Today, it’s not a discussion of if hacking will happen, but when it will happen,” declared Chin Eng Tee, Printing Systems Category Lead for HP Singapore, as he kicked off his session on day one of Black Hat Asia 2018. His presentation was aptly titled, “Securing the Workspace: Are You Ready for the New Attacks?”

A sombre note to begin on, but one befitting the reality of the increasingly digitised world we live in today—and those sitting in positions of power are taking notice. How do I know? After making the rounds, it became apparent that cybersecurity has become a primary concern for everyone, from the on-the-ground expert to the CEO. And at Black Hat Asia—a gathering of the brightest and best in information security—there was no shortage of cutting-edge security products, solutions, and research to consider and mull over.

Spread cybersecurity awareness—especially for endpoints

It was clear that Asian companies are still somewhat behind the curve when it comes to information security. Unlike the Black Hat 2017 event held in Las Vegas, most of the attendees happily toted laptops and smartphones, taking selfies without a care in the world. No burner phones or paranoia here.

Understanding cybercrimes and the threats they entail is more fully formed in the West, and a lot of the companies with booths at Black Hat Asia 2018 were on a mission to educate the attendees. Take HP’s booth, for example. Their “Weakest Link” presentation and demos were a visual and engaging bombardment of facts and data emphasising the need for print security.

Wake up, IT: Nothing is secure

If you thought securing your printer wasn’t important, think again. As Chin Eng Tee’s presentation clearly demonstrated, network endpoints—which include your cash registers, computers, and printers—are, by far, the hacker’s favourite way to get into a system, since they’re usually not designed with security in mind.

Such threats will only become more developed and sophisticated over time. When it comes to cybersecurity, companies tend to be more reactive than proactive, but by that time, it’s usually too late—the damage has been done. Many people have the misconception that cybersecurity threats only come from downloading items. Modern hackers are far more well-equipped than before, though, which means your everyday generic defences aren’t sufficient in dealing with new, evolving threats.

Driving home this message is the appearance of imposing robot figures, brought in by companies determined to demonstrate how serious they are about tackling these issues. For most attendees (myself included), it was simply a great photo opportunity.

Take cybercrime seriously and act now

Throughout the event, I took away one clear message: Nothing “connected” is truly safe. A frightening notion given there will be some 20 billion connected things in use by 2020, according to Gartner. As silly as it might seem, while your fridge and car get “smarter,” you need to, in turn, be smarter about securing them. Start rethinking your information security strategy today, so you don’t get left in the dust. Welcome to the 21st century, indeed.