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Risky Business?

By Helge Skov Diernæs , IT Management Consultant at NNIT A/S

Some time ago, the German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom created a group of 180 “Honeypots” to lure in IT criminals and then study their operations. The Germans were concerned about reports of increased IT criminal activity on German networks [1] and the Honeypots are useful for intelligence gathering. They resemble ordinary, everyday company servers, often a bit more vulnerable, and typically contain outdated or bogus information. The resulting activity maps are quite fascinating and available here.

Hiding in the crowd

Based on the data gathered, Deutsche Telekom estimates that these days up to 15 million IT attacks per month hit German companies and private citizens. Much of it is scouting activity where automated scans of huge swathes of networks uncover known technical vulnerabilities, and then create hit-lists for human operators to pursue in directed attacks. With such an approach, seeking safety from Cyberspace crime by hiding in the crowd becomes difficult.

The Internet of Things

One reason for the increasing criminal activity in Cyberspace is the multiplication of targets driven by the rising connectivity of devices in both business and at home, the much-touted Internet of Things. This term covers the trend of connecting appliances such as alarm systems, television sets, cars, coffee machines and similar devices to the Internet. It offers significant legitimate benefits to users, such as software updates, remote support and remote control. The downside is that by connecting to the Internet, all these wonderful appliances also spawn additional potential entry points for IT criminals.

Money is another strong lure. There are significant financial gains to be made by IT crime today, for a very limited risk and at a low cost compared to more traditional criminal activities. The valuables accessible online, from intellectual property, patents, entertainment, bank accounts, and so on, has attained stupefying proportions on a global scale.

The weak est link

The ways to corporate treasures can be winding. It may go by an employee's 'home network', but once inside, IT criminals can start looking for clues about how to enter the corporate networks. These clues may lie in automated logon scripts with hard-wired passwords, be gained by monitoring the user’s keyboard entries during their logon sequence, or by adding viruses to legitimate files, which are routinely copied to the corporate network by the user, and so on.

The employees may be insufficiently prepared for the caution they must now exhibit. Business partners may not prioritize IT security sufficiently for cost reasons. The consequence is additional potential routes for IT criminals to gain access to company valuables, including research data, customer databases, business algorithms, or simply to enable the criminals to cause costly disruptions to business operations.

The IT Security Strategy

The risk will not go away. But like any other risk, it can be mitigated. Because the IT security risk to financial results and company reputation is real, a clearly defined IT security strategy must state management position on IT security risks, including a risk assessment of the different parts of the business landscape.

This strategy drives coherent investments in IT security technologies, processes and awareness across the enterprise to address clear, prioritized goals. If funds are scarce, they must be spent where they can do the most good.

A strategy can reduce uncertainty, ensure alignment across the company and build the foundation for changing the perception of IT security from a ward against a shadowy menace to a well understood mechanism for reducing a significant risk of doing business.

It’s a risky business, indeed.  But it is manageable.


About NNIT Security Insights

This is an article from NNIT Security Insights, a regular column where prominent NNIT IT security advisors share their thoughts on current and future IT security challenges and how to deal with them.

NNIT has its own Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). If lightning strikes, we have the necessary competencies in-house to respond and assist. We have also developed a range of services that can help businesses to achieve the right level of security protection to protect the business from financial and reputational damage. 

You are welcome to contact us at if you want to know more about how NNIT can help your business increase its information security level.



Helge Skov Djernes+45 3075 8868 hfsd@nnit.comInformation Security Management Consultant Skov Djernes



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