Putting cyber security at the core of our operations

Cyber Security has become one of the prominent subjects of this technology era, and this is bound to become more important as we increase our activities in the areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, Quantum computing, Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), Internet of Things (IoT) and other prominent technologies. It is therefore essential that we give Cyber Security the importance it deserves. It affects everyone, from techies right down to citizens.

The eSkills Malta Foundation, in collaboration with various stakeholders, organised an event on Cyber Security. The event was hosted at MITA’s Data Centre and was based on two half-days. Both days were well attended by around hundred people coming from private companies and government entities. On the first day there were talks by prominent personalities in the area, including Dr Mark Joseph Vella from the University of Malta, Keith Cutajar from PwC Malta, Glenn Camilleri from MITA, and Rodrigo Marcos from Secforce.  On the second day, PwC, MITA and Secforce showed practical Case Studies on Malware reverse-engineering and Red Team Operations.

Carm Cachia, Chief Administrator of the eSkills Malta Foundation delivered the opening introduction. In his introduction, Mr Cachia explained the pillars making up Cyber Security, namely Application Security, Network Security, Information Security Management, Operations Security, Disaster Recovery, and End-User security. He then gave interesting information on the current main threats followed by an explanation of the competencies, skills and roles found in the e-Competency Framework.

Dr Mark Joseph Vella explained that Cybersecurity threats are nowadays affecting various aspects of critical business processes and personal safety alike. The increasing trend in having everything connected to the Internet from business information systems to home appliances and industrial control systems; from personal cloud storage to bank accounts and government data; is straining preventive security mechanisms. The setting up of various Security Operations Centres (SOCs) has been a direct result of this situation. In turn, SOC staff must work closely with Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRTs) to ensure security issues are addressed quickly upon discovery.  He explained how the University of Malta is carrying out a CyberForensics project leveraging on scientific research about the core idea that in-memory artefacts cannot be avoided by cyber-attacks. It has so far been explored within the contexts of intrusion detection; cloud and mobile device digital investigation; malware and vulnerability analysis; and adaptive access control for Bring-Your-Own-Device deployments. So far, all research has been mainly the undertaking of undergraduate and postgraduate students, under the supervision of academics at the faculty of ICT.

 

Keith Cutajar then took the stand to explain how Malware is considered by leading industry experts as one of the leading cyber threats in the form of spyware, ransomware, Trojan-worm attacks on a daily basis, with the nature and flavour of the attacks constantly improving and differentiating themselves. He then showed how Digital Forensics technology evolutions, in relation to malware reverse engineering, has provided a number of toolkits and knowledge in how to disassemble malware so as to understand its characteristics, understand the techniques used and gather information pertaining to its creator. IT professionals use such findings to block malicious command-and-control centres as well as to contain propagation. This session took the attendees through a typical case-scenario of a malware attack and highlighted techniques used and value the findings of such an exercise.

Glenn Camilleri then gave a good introduction to Post Quantum Cryptography. He said that until lately, quantum computing was often seen as a capability that might arise in the distant future, or that it belongs to science fiction. The concepts have baffled scientists for decades and have been difficult to reconcile. However, he explained that Quantum computing has become a reality, with major innovations. In his presentation he went through an introduction to quantum computing, it’s a threat to current cryptographic algorithms and how to mitigate them.

Following this Rodrigo Marcos gave a very interesting and intriguing presentation about Red Team Operations. Security assurance has traditionally been done through penetration testing assessments. In recent years, due to the sophistication of attacks and the evolution of the security threat landscape, it has been shown that the traditional penetration testing would not provide the level of resilience that mature organisations require. He explained how Red Team operations recreate the scenario of a sophisticated hacking group targeting an organisation.

A panel discussion between all the presenters was held on the first day.  Carm Cachia moderated this discussion with questions on topical security issues of policies, threats, risks, procedures, security implications to technologies such as AI and Blockchain, threats to applications non-secure development of code, a typical day for a hacker, cybercrime and cyber law, the recently introduced Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign by MITA, and also the competencies, skills and important security certifications needed by the Cybersecurity roles.

On the second day, a number of practical scenarios were presented by Rodrigo Marcos from SecForce, Keith Cutajar from PwC, and David Galea from MITA.  These practical sessions were followed by questions and answers, as well as comments and experiences from some of the attendees.

All-in-all this Cybersecurity event clearly showed that Cyber Security is one of the most topical subjects, and hence why the importance is being given by all stakeholders.

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