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Resurging cyber threats target countries around SCS — experts

SUNTEC CITY — Cybersecurity experts are monitoring the apparent resurgence of cyber threats targeting countries around the South China Sea, including the Philippines.

During the Paleontology of Cybersecurity Conference, a part of the INTERPOL World Congress 2017 held here in Singapore recently, Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team researcher Noushin Shabab said there are indications that the advanced persistent threat (APT) named Spring Dragon is consistently targeting countries in the South China Sea region including the Philippines.

“In early 2017, Kaspersky Lab identified renewed attacks in the threat actor’s favored South China Sea region. According to Kaspersky Lab telemetry, Taiwan had the largest number of attacks followed by Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Macau, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Thailand,” Shabab disclosed.

Kaspersky Lab is a Russian cybersecurity firm.

Earlier, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer Eugene Kaspersky said about $450 billion a year is lost to cyber attacks worldwide.

He said cybersecurity should be everybody’s concern, not only among huge businesses but also among ordinary people, who have money in banks, as well as those using smartphones and other internet-based activities.

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“So, how much is lost in cyber attacks to the global economy. How bad are these guys? That is $450 billion, the price that we paid for their cyber threats,” Kaspersky said.

Shabab said Kaspersky Lab’s researchers have undertaken a detailed review of 600 Spring Dragon malware samples to help organizations better understand and protect against the threat.

“In early 2017, Kaspersky Lab researchers noted increased activity by an APT called Spring Dragon (also known as LotusBlossom). The attacks involved new and evolved tools and techniques and targeted countries around the South China Sea,” Shabab added.

Spring Dragon is a long-running threat actor that has been targeting high-profile political, governmental and education organizations in Asia since 2012, according to the expert.

Kaspersky Lab has been tracking the APT for the last few years.

She noted that organizations and businesses need to step up and manage risk on reputation and service guarantees.

The average loss from a single targeted attack, according to her, is close to $1,000,000, excluding reputational impact.

In the event of a cyberattack, Kaspersky Lab ANZ general manager Anastasia Para Rae said a considerable investment is made for urgent response to improve software and infrastructure.

“We must not wait for attacks to happen for us to take precaution,” she said. “We believe that Spring Dragon is going to continue resurfacing regularly in the Asian region and it’s important to be familiar with its tools and techniques. We encourage individuals and businesses to have good detection mechanisms for security,” Shabab added.

She advised that in order to protect your personal or business data from cyberattacks, organizations and businesses must implement an advanced, multi-layered security solution that covers all networks, systems and endpoints.

“Educate and train your personnel on social engineering as this method is often used to make a victim open a malicious document or click on an infected link. Also, conduct regular security assessments of the organization’s IT infrastructure,” Shabab said.

Restart SCS code talks

Meanwhile, international think tank Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi) has urged the Philippine government to restart discussions on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) a year after the Philippines secured a decisive legal victory against China from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

ADRi president Dindo Manhit said the Duterte administration is in a prime position to restart discussions on the formulation of a code, which observers say can help defuse tension in the disputed waters, one of the world’s busiest.

“As this year’s chair of (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), we have an opportunity to steer the discussion on the Code of Conduct,” Manhit said.

He added that as the foremost beneficiary of the landmark Hague ruling, the Philippines must take advantage of the decision and resume its leadership in fortifying international law.

“The Code of Conduct must reaffirm the Arbitral Tribunal’s Award to the Philippines as a guide for other countries’ behavior in the West Philippine Sea. After all, The Hague ruled that maritime entitlements should be governed by (the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and any claims not anchored on it should be denied,” he added. – With Pia Lee-Brago, Rainier Allan Ronda

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