Oman reported 430,000 cyber attack attempts in 2018

Muscat: Omani cyberspace faced more than 430,000 attempts and more than 71,000 attacks against websites during 2018. This was revealed during the National Cybersecurity drill started here on Monday.

The drill was organized by the Information Technology Authority (ITA), represented by the Oman National CERT, and held in Kempinski Hotel, Al-Mouj Muscat from September 9-11.

The event, under the topic of “Malware and Dark Web”, hosted more than 72 government entities and critical infrastructure sectors such as banks, utilities, transport, logistics and oil and gas.

The drill aims to evaluate the readiness of cybersecurity response teams of the participating organizations and develop national capabilities and skills in this area.

The drill is a practical simulation of real-world cybersecurity incidents by using simulated scenarios based on the most common security threats and attacks nationally and worldwide. The drill will discuss several topics such as crypto-currency mining malware, phishing attacks, interactive protection simulation and dark web.

In her speech representing ITA, Aziza Sultan Al Rashdi (director of Professional Cybersecurity Services of the Oman National CERT) highlighted the importance of having the malware and dark web as the main topic of this year’s drill agenda saying “the importance of the 5th drill comes as a response to the increased level and complexity of cyberattacks worldwide, specifically the malware and the related usage of cryptocurrency, in addition to the criminal activities over the dark web including the crimes of selling computer viruses, spyware, and hacking software.” She also discussed the impact of this type of software saying, “Malware is considered as one of the highest risks in technology worldwide because of its high probability of occurrence and high impact as well, according to this year annual report by the World Economic Forum.”

“The report also refers to the negative impact of malware on economical levels. According to Kaspersky latest research, it indicates a 7% increase in the number of financially affected users due to malware in the first half of 2019 compared to the same period last year, and a 31% of malware infection rate, as double the infection percentage in 2018,” she further added.

Aziza Al Rashdi introduced some of the statistics about Oman National CERT, which shows that the centre handled 1,839 security incident in 2017 compared to 1,744 in 2016 and 2,334 successfully handled security incidents in 2018.

The statistics also show 432,978 cyberattack attempts discovered during last year within the Omani cyberspace, 71,472 cyberattacks against websites in Oman, and 203 malware captured by the antimalware systems.

Preventive measures play an important role in handling cybersecurity threats, Al Rashdi said, “Increasing readiness does not only include responding to occurred incidents but also include the measures that can prevent the incident in the first place and reduce the impact in case it happened.”

“We encourage all entities to follow and implement security policies, frameworks, and other security announcements about threats and vulnerability issued by Oman National CERT,” she went on.

She further explained, “The centre has issued more than 340 security threat announcements last year, which helped to handle several operating system vulnerabilities. The announcements were issued several months before the attacks to avoid what could have been exploited by attackers.”

The first day included several cybersecurity papers presented by experts that focused on the role of response teams in addressing cybersecurity incidents, and the importance of national skills development, within the rapid technological advancement, accompanied by the increased levels of threats and attackers capabilities.

The first paper addressed the future of threats in the new digital era, presented by Rami Al Dimati, Kaspersky while Haitham Al Hajri (Cybersecurity Executive, ITA) presented the second paper that talked about Crypto-jacking.

Crypto-jacking is a type of cryptocurrency mining malware that attacks computer systems and networks as well; usually, it is not easily detected because it is designed to be hidden.

The third paper addressed internet security and privacy, by Adel Abd Al-Monem, and Saif Al Hinai (Data Security Analyst) talked about dark web crimes.

The last paper by Almerindo Graziano (Silensec) talked about addressing security skills gaps and flexibility in the domain names.

It is worth to mention that A practical exercise for government entities is scheduled to be conducted today, on Tuesday. It will include a practical application for the most important security threats that target government entities and the proper way for addressing these threats.

The latest updates and recent threats will be presented on Wednesday, specifically threats targeting critical infrastructure sectors and government entities such as banks, utilities, transport, logistics, and oil and gas.


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