You have 10 free articles left this month. Get your freeBasic subscription now and gain instant access to more.

INTERVIEW - Hackers in SEE most often target public institutions, finance firms

INTERVIEW - Hackers in SEE most often target public institutions, finance firms Photo: IBM

SOFIA (Bulgaria), June 28 (SeeNews) - Public institutions and finance companies are the most common target of hacker groups in Southeast Europe (SEE) - unlike in Western Europe, a senior cybersecurity expert at global tech company IBM told SeeNews.

"Unfortunately, as you can imagine, public and finance customers in our region are most interesting for the hacker groups for different political and economic reasons," Dusan Milidrag, CEE Security Business Unit Executive at IBM, told SeeNews in an interview during a security event held in Warsaw, Poland, earlier this month.

While in the Western world it is usually finance and telecommunications companies that are being attacked, in SEE different ministries top the list, followed by finance institutions, he added.

According to data by market research company IDC for last year, 50% of national governments in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) would roll back, postpone, or cancel plans to introduce e-elections, such as electronic voting stations and Internet voting, because of cybersecurity fears and concerns about potential election tampering.

"Basically, what we are seeing now is that the whole IT business is confronted with a big disruption, [...] meaning that IT security has to change also. We are moving data to the hybrid cloud, security also needs to follow. The traditional ways of doing security are not good any longer," Milidrag commented.

An IDC survey conducted in 2018 showed that four out of five companies in SEE are using some form of cloud, with 67% planning to use new cloud services in the next 12 months. Within two years, three in five companies see themselves as cloud native, whereas only one in four companies will have an ad hoc approach to cloud.

At the same time half of the companies surveyed in CEE find their security staff levels insufficient, according to IBM data.

Milidrag went on to say that IBM is investing heavily in the region of Central and Southeast Europe to gain new knowledge.

"It is absolutely needed to confront new hackers that are coming. This is a very challenging task but our presence in almost every country in SEE and our local knowledge that is complementary to the global knowledge and expertise that we are bringing from the U.S., we believe that we are in the No. 1 position to fight these challenges," he said.

According to IBM data, CEE generates more than a third of the world’s cybersecurity attacks. One reason is that with more than 230,000 graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), CEE has the largest talent pool of this kind in the EU. Slovenia and Poland lead the pack, with almost 20 STEM graduates per 1,000 citizens aged between 20 and 30.

"Central and Southeast Europe is recognised as a kind of a hub for many different hacker groups," Milidrag explained. "We are proud to say that we were between very few commercial companies that were able to confront these attacks from day zero, meaning that we were able to protect our customers so that when they are attacked they are not hacked."

Milidrag stressed that providing an adequate response to hacker attacks is key.

"Everybody is attacked, we cannot stop that. IBM is attacked all the time but we are fighting not to be hacked. And most important, if we are somehow unfortunately also hacked, we know how to remediate this, how to respond to this incident."

IBM monitors 70 billion security events per day in more than 130 countries. For IBM, cybersecurity represents over $3 billion revenue per year.

IBM Managed Security Services teams based in Poland manage 15,000 incidents per month, an average of 500 incidents per day for the global pool of clients, where every fifth incident belongs to clients from Europe. The company's TheX-Force command centre in Poland employs about 250 security experts and is expanding rapidly.

SEE too features high on IBM Security's business plans.

"IBM Security is growing in SEE and we are hiring almost all the time. I would say that now Bulgaria and Romania are in focus," Milidrag said. "We are seeing now that the business climate in Bulgaria and Romania is very good and we need to follow it."

To ensure strong supply of skills to accommodate future growth,  IBM is collaborating with local academic centres to help train potential employees. The company is also enabling new security startups in the region such as Blinking in Serbia - a blockchain-based digital ID solution provider that gives users control over their data using Hyperledger Fabric on the IBM Cloud.  Individuals create their own digital identity with a Blinking ID and then authenticate themselves with their chosen providers using a variety of techniques including password, facial recognition and fingerprint scanning.

Other IBM Security clients in SEE include IGT gaming company, Telekom Slovenije, BH Telecom and Croatian food and beverages company, Atlantic Grupa.