Tech Talk: Bill Magee
It reads like a tale of industrial espionage worthy of gracing the pages of a Le Carre novel and centred on a deadly global virus. But not Covid-19. Enter the “Wicked Panda.” Wicked what..? you might ask. Read on.
Businesses should realise there is another virulent outbreak out there and in terms of commercial survival every bit as lethal.
Just as they cannot afford to ignore the Covid-19 pandemic, companies must double-down when it comes to this other one that can all but close a firm down with the click of a mouse.
Cyberspace has come to the rescue of firms that feel they’re under siege daily from the impact of the novel Coronavirus outbreak. Effects that can, and are, proving devastating as each day passes.
The Internet has enabled growing numbers to maintain a form of business-as-usual by adopting online flexible homeworking practices. As a consequence, the office, as we know it, will never be quite the same again.
This is especially the case when it comes to a novel online communication like Zoom that has grown in popularity since the commercial and consumer lockdown.
However, theregister.co.uk warns a business must ensure strict end-to-end encryption. Its mass usage comes with concerns about the conferencing app business model and security practices.
Register has also raised a question-mark over Zoom being able to mine data from conferencing calls which is then targeted through tracking-based advertising and marketing campaigns.
The trouble is that in the rush to rescue the situation the question of cybersecurity is in danger of being overlooked. How bad can it get? Early evidence serves as a dire warning.
Donald Trump, with an intent that’s deliberate and typically clumsy, described the pandemic as a “Chinese virus.” That apart, California-based IT security firm FireEye has identified a rising wave of connected malicious cyber attacks occurring during the latest business quarter (Jan-Mar) that do appear to come from the Far East, coinciding with Covid-19 and labelled “APT41” with the street name “Wicked Panda”.
And, yes, FireEye IT claims it has strong evidence the hacking group is linked to China’s security services.
They further point to how there was a significant lull in such nefarious online activity between 23 January and 1 February – this just happens to be consistent with the Chinese New Year. Maybe the hackers took a holiday.
Wherever it emanates from geographically the effects make for grim reading.
Targets have included organisations operating in the UK, USA, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, Poland and Saudi Arabia, according to computing.co.uk.
Sectors hit include telecoms, healthcare, defence and manufacturing along with the public sector, non-profit and educational bodies. Just about everyone, really.
Suffice to say that the panda – wicked or otherwise – specializes in probing at the very core of organizational IT infrastructure and systems. Such a concentration of cyberhacking effort singles this particular attack out from innumerable others.
Three market leading multinationals so far hit include: Cisco, the one-time bellwether company and currently holder of record numbers of network security-related IT routers patents, including the largest patent portfolio within other companies; Citrix, which is behind the NetScaler all-in-one web application delivery controller; and Zoho Corporation, an India-America software development company.
If you’re in any doubt of the seriousness of an online-pandemic in the making, ask your IT department to elaborate.
Time to cyber-buckle up…