Miroslav Koren, General Manager of Kaspersky for Eastern Europe – A third of internet users not educated about cyber threats
In early March 2019, Miroslav Koren from the Czech Republic became the General Manager of Kaspersky for Eastern Europe, in order to strengthen the presence of this Russian company in 16 markets, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, with his managerial experience.
In his first exclusive interview in Eastern Europe, with eKapija having been given the privilege, he talked about the dangers arising as a consequence of insufficient awareness of the possibilities of cyber attacks, whether individuals or companies are more at risk, which personal data we shouldn't leave online and which scenarios could play out if there is an attack of the software of a factory or a public service.
eKapija: Can it be said that we have become more aware as individuals of how our data can be misused online?
– I believe that, in general, people are increasingly aware of how their data can be misused online. However, more and more people are online and therefore exposed to risk – the number of smartphone users is growing among children and the elderly, who are not familiar enough with potential online threats. Our statistics say that a third of internet users do not know about the potential threats or how to protect themselves. In certain groups, this percentage is even greater, I'm sure.
eKapija: Has it become necessary to jeopardize our privacy in order to get information or a service or to make a purchase?
eKapija: What is it that the internet knows about us that we may not be aware of, which makes us susceptible to manipulation and fraud?
– It all begins with the fact that we share a lot online today. Very frequently, these data are not even important for certain transactions. We don't even know what the internet already knows about us.
The Pleaserobme.com website is a good illustration of this. It was created to raise awareness of the dangers of sharing information. This website collects all you Facebook check-ins and warns you of, for example, providing info about the location of your home and the fact that you are currently on vacation. Clearly, if this algorithm can connect these two pieces of information, anyone looking to rob you can do so even more easily.
Our private data sometimes end up in the wrong hands in other ways as well. For example, if you share private data with a company, which gets targeted by cyber criminals at some point, it's a big problem. Data theft and leaking occurs even in serious, responsible companies we give our trust. Recent examples of large data losses are the Marriott hotel chain, Sony or the British Airways.
eKapija: Who is more jeopardized today, individuals or companies?
– I believe that both segments are equally jeopardized. On the one hand, individuals are easier to target, especially through mass campaigns, or periodic campaigns.
On the other hand, companies protect their data much better, as most of them have cyber security strategies and invest in certain solutions, making them more difficult to penetrate. But, their data are more interesting to cyber criminals, as they mean larger profit for them.
It's hard to say who's more at risk today, but it's certain that we are all exposed to threats. Only several weeks ago, there was a cyber attack on the Ministry of Finance of Bulgaria, causing the loss of personal data of 5 to 8 million Bulgarian citizens. It is therefore equally important for us as individuals to pay attention to how we share our personal data and for companies and organizations to have adequate, robust and reliable protection systems.
eKapija: What are the potential scenarios when it comes to personal data theft and what are the scenarios for companies, institutions, services and other entities?
– As individuals, we most frequently lose data on fishing websites. Hackers create a website which acts as an online banking portal, for example. Let's say you want to make an online transaction. As an average internet user, you don't recognize that the site is fake. The moment you enter your password there, cyber criminals get access to your bank accounts.
In addition to the violation of privacy, this also leads to material losses. However, access to your account can also be used for illegal actions which count as civil or criminal offenses. Certainly, there are solutions which help in such cases, such as Safe Money, which tells you that the bank's website is valid by placing a green frame around it. This is one of the ways to enable people to protect themselves from fishing. Certainly, users must always check the addresses of the websites they access to make sure that they are not being tricked.
As for companies, in addition to material losses, the consequences of cyber security violations include the harm done to their image, user trust and other long term consequences to their business, which can lead to layoffs or even the shutdown of the company. According to our data, the average damage done to small companies is USD 120,000, whereas for large companies, it goes up to RSD 1.2 million.
eKapija: People from this part of the world are still not trustful when it comes to online payment. Is this fear justified and has this form of payment become safer?
– Above all, I believe that it is good for people to be cautious and not to believe everything they see. Banks are serious organizations and they mostly have adequate solutions making their users safe, and the data the bank owns protected.
Still, in early 2019, we registered 29,841 cases of users' devices being infected by banking trojans in Europe, a jump by 11,000 cases compared to the previous quarter. This is malware designed to download data about users' banking accounts by taking an unauthorized screenshot while you are entering your data, tracking the keys you are pressing or using a fishing method, leading you to a fake site where you enter the data yourself.
For this reason, caution is advised. Kaspersky has a solution which provides you with security when you access online payment services – Safe Money. Furthermore, there's a global rule that URL addresses beginning with https are secure when it comes to online transactions. Personally, I don't make a payment if the address is merely http instead of https. Also, I don't make financial transactions if I'm connected to the internet through a public wi-fi network or if I'm using a computer or a phone which doesn't feature an adequate security solution.
eKapija: According to you, which data should we not leave online at all? Which type of website should we avoid?
– Definitely, personal ID numbers, credit card numbers and even photographs, anything personal, especially if it concerns your children. This is especially important when it comes to financial transactions and financial data.
Websites where free software or games can be downloaded, usually containing malware, should be avoided. Those sites definitely expose you to risk. Also, you shouldn't fall for all those seemingly attractive offers for phones or other products for a euro, where you supposedly only pay for the postage only, by leaving your payment card data. In most cases, there's fraud behind such transactions.
When you receive an email, always check the address it was sent from before clicking anywhere inside it. Also, responsible internet users never visit the dark web.
eKapija: What is it that is so vulnerable in industry that easily attracts malware? Where do threats most frequently come from?
– At the moment, Kaspersky is focusing on industrial company safety, so as to protect production lines.
An attack on a factory or a facility can lead to production halts and large financial losses. If, for example, the attacker takes over the control over the software which controls production in a brewery, it's enough to merely change the pH value of the beer to make it necessary for all the beer produced to be withdrawn from the market due to the damage done. Many countries are exposed to such attacks. According to our data, such incidents most frequently occur in Vietnam, around 70% of all attacks, whereas the safest countries are Ireland, the Netherlands and some western countries. In general, we're talking 15% of the global cyber attacks. When it comes to attacks on large systems, you can imagine how much damage is done when, for example, a city's water supply system or the public transport system is attacked. Anything can be attacked.
There's been a case in Germany involving a wind turbine, where somebody hacked the system and changed the rotation speed, setting it to the maximum, eventually destroying the turbine. There are plenty of potential scenarios, and Kaspersky tries to counter those attacks with its solutions. For five years now, we have been developing the Industrial Cyber Security solution, through which we can test the IT infrastructure of a certain industrial system, detecting its weaknesses. Threats do not only come from the outside, but from the inside as well. For example, we can identify whether workers have access to important information and whether they can download certain data through flash drives, after which we prepare a report. We aim to make threats predictable in order to prevent these bad scenarios from happening. It's similar to insurance – maybe nothing will happen, but if you are not ready and if you don't invest, it may cost you much more.
eKapija: What is the advice for industrial companies to protect their security systems?
– The main advice for such companies is to create a security strategy and to invest in raising awareness among their employees regarding cyber security through regular training courses. I'd also advise them to start evaluating the current state, testing the systems and detecting the weaknesses. This process does not necessarily entail large financial expenses.
eKapija: What is Kaspersky's interest in IoT? How can those platforms pose a risk?
– According to the IDC research, there will be more than a billion connected devices in the next several years. IoT is a technology on the rise and it is present everywhere. We can see for ourselves that, at our homes, there are more and more devices connected to the internet and our local network. If they are not properly protected, it can mean that someone can very easily access devices in your home and access your computer or your phone.
Kaspersky is currently working on a specific operating system, which will be designed for IoT devices. Although we don't yet have the date when it will be commercial available, we believe that such devices require safe operating systems, in order to prevent all unwanted consequences of the proliferation of IoT devices.
eKapija: Are cyber threats the same in intensity for all countries today? Can it be said that one country is more jeopardized than another?
– In general, there's only one internet for the whole world and anyone can be attacked from anywhere. In theory, if a hacker is after profit, they will more likely attack users in richer countries than those in developing ones. However, developed countries know this and they therefore invest more in security. It can't be said with certainty that one country is safer than another. It can happen to anyone. The best example is the recent attack in Bulgaria, where citizens' personal data were hacked into.
eKapija: How successful has Kaspersky's "Privacy Audit" service been? Do you have any feedback on that?
– This app is not our commercial product – we have supported its development in firm belief that everyone has the right to know where their data are and who has access to them. It is free for all users and it even enables the deletion of data we don't want to share. I'd recommend everyone to try it and see whether they have already shared too much personal info online.
eKapija: What are Kaspersky's next plans in the context of developing tools and services which will help us protect our data?
– Our focus is always on providing maximum protection and making the world a safer place. We follow the idea of our founder that the cost of an attack should be greater that the cost of protection. This would make it meaningless for hackers to carry out cyber attacks.
At our development center and innovation hub in Moscow, we will develop and deploy new technologies, especially the increasingly present blockchain technology. In the upcoming period, Kaspersky will invest in enterprise sector solutions the most, and we will also continue upgrading the existing solutions for individual users. If an attack occurs, we do have a solution, but prevention is crucial.