Global cyberattacks are becoming more and more severe and frequent. In June, a modified version of the Petya ransomware, which was unleashed last year and demanded money from victims in exchange for their data, struck several companies, especially in the Ukraine and Russia.

The latest list of victims included the National Bank of Ukraine and the State Savings Bank of Ukraine, known as JSC Oschadbank, which is one of the largest financial institutions in Ukraine.

The Russian state oil giant Rosneft, the radiation monitoring system at Chernobyl, the Website of Kiev’s Boryspil international airport, the Danish sea transport company Maersk and the US pharmaceutical giant Merck were also targeted.

Kaspersky Lab, a Russian multinational cybersecurity and anti-virus provider headquartered in Moscow, identified it as ExPetr encryption malware.

According to Kaspersky Lab Belgium experts, cybercriminals are shifting their focus from regular users to attacks on organisations. These attacks pose a threat to businesses with critical infrastructure as malware activity can crash and stop the production process. The ExPetr incident was yet another example of this worrying trend.

In May, a similar virus called WannaCry infected more than 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries.

Asking the experts

At the 2017 Fujitsu World Tour held in Brussels on June 8, New Europe spoke to two cybersecurity experts Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, the director-general of DigitalEurope, and Rudolph Bos, the head of Cyber Security BENELUX at Fujitsu.

When asked about the measures the EU should take to combat cyberattacks, Bonefeld-Dahl said prevention is key.

“I believe that preventing crime has and should be in focus,” she said. “The EU and member states of course have to get up to speed on cybercrime, especially with booming number 20bn devices, that will be connected in 2020. Cyber Crime is not local and the investments in prevention within EU will be crucial to insure trust of companies, consumers and citizens.

“First step is education and enlightenment of companies, users and not least institutions, e.g. implementation of security guidelines would make a change,” she added.

According to Bonefeld-Dahl, cyber security is a global problem and its solution requires international cooperation.

She also stressed the need to organise education and communication campaigns to reach out to institutions, companies and users, as well as training initiatives.

“We will continue to have good collaboration with the European Commission to find solutions on regulations and the collaboration internationally with other associations,” said Bonefeld-Dahl.

Asked about the most dangerous kinds of cyberattacks, Bos said this depends on the impact.

“Say your car is broken open and the navigation is stolen,” he explained. “That will cost you time and may be money although you might have insurance to cover this. When somebody breaks into your house and steals some jewellery, the insurance will cover this as well, but the personal impact of somebody in your house and the emotional impact of the loss of the jewellery can be much higher. So, what is more dangerous. The attack that cost more, or the attack that has more impact? Is it the ransomware or the (state-led) disruptive type of attack?”

To better identify attackers, Bos noted that the use of Artificial Intelligence is necessary to detect behaviour instead of scanning in software (attachments) for patterns. “AI will help us to see unusual behaviour and respond upon that behaviour.”

As for the preferred targets, Bos says it is where the money is and where the chances of being caught are the lowest.

“Spear targets are more likely to happen than mass attacks like WannaCry,” he said.

“Therefore, a spear attack aimed at C-level will gain more effect, since they have the most valuable information and are unfortunately due to busy schedules and work less suspicious when opening email and or attachments.”