Samir Mujović, Watchdog: “inner threats are just as serious and more likely to arise.“
We all make mistakes; that is how we learn and grow. In cyber security, however, human errors are often neglected, resulting in devastating outcomes.
As a result of human error, security breaches are often caused by unintentional actions by employees. This can mean a wide range of actions – from downloading malware-infected attachments to failing to use a secure password. That makes tackling it rather difficult.
Fortunately, there are now a lot of firms that can help to resolve these issues, including Watchdog – a highly acclaimed anti-malware software. We welcomed its CBO, Samir Mujović, to speak today on global cybersecurity and the most critical threats of the day.
Watchdog has been around for more than two decades. What has your journey been like throughout the years?
Being a start-up in the cybersecurity sector has its own unique differences and struggles, compared to other industries. One of the challenges that all of the start-ups in the cybersecurity sector are facing is keeping pace with the constant and rapid growth of emerging threats.
This is a challenge that requires not only knowledge and willingness to be a cybersecurity vendor, but more based on passion and persistence. While it is challenging it is also very exciting since you’re motivated to constant learning and improvement. In 2020 we completed the rebranding process and focused solely on the development of our products.
We started with Watchdog Anti-Malware. Watchdog Anti-Malware is designed to be lightweight, non-intrusive, and auto-operating software with the goal to complement security with pre-existing cybersecurity solutions on users’ computers.
Can you introduce us to what you do? What are the main issues you help solve?
Watchdog is a group of cybersecurity enthusiasts, that are gathered around a common goal: to contribute to cyber-security with new products and features. With the current threat landscape, we believe that a unified front is essential to combat the advanced cyber threats the world faces today, and so we seek to collaborate with and have the utmost respect for all other cybersecurity vendors.
We aim to connect with people and companies with a similar mindset in order to form a community where we could share information that will improve cybersecurity for the well-being of every single person who is “connected”.
What are cybercriminals usually trying to gain by deploying malware?
There can be two types of reasons for cybercriminals’ actions: Financial and Non-financial gain. Cybercriminals that are deploying ransomware, spyware, various advanced scamming software and etc. have a simple and precise goal: To exploit the weakness of the system and obtain certain financial value from the victims.
However, the non-financial gain of cybercriminals is visible in today’s present cyberwarfare, where the end goal is to damage the IT infrastructure of your opponent. The non-financial gain comes in form of fame and popularity when cybercriminals showcase their skills with new malware techniques exposing a certain system flaw.
Also, children could inadvertently download malware on the unmonitored home Wi-Fi, which could then gain access to protected corporate resources. The castle-and-moat security model that most organizations adopted at the time is ill-suited and ill-advised for this new remote work environment.
How did the pandemic test cybersecurity worldwide? Were there any major gaps or flaws that came to light?
With the pandemic restrictions imposed by governments, companies had to adapt to the “new normal”. During this process, they had to accelerate their digital transformation and let their employees work from home. Naturally, this happened suddenly without a proper cybersecurity setup and preparation.
As the employees migrated from the secured corporate environment to their unsecured (compared to the company grounds) homes, they became more vulnerable to cyberattacks. According to various cybersecurity reports, cyberattacks doubled when employees began working from home.
Furthermore, even though businesses provided a safe remote-working environment with their own protection/deterrent measures, employees did not enjoy these restrictions in their own homes. Thus, cybersecurity become a major concern and precautions created a dilemma.
Besides regular scans and checkups, what other security measures do you think all modern companies should have in place?
Humans are the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain because they are prone to making mistakes and are unpredictable. Even if a company has the best technology and strict rules to prevent cyberattacks, hackers can easily infiltrate and damage the company due to human error.
In other words, human error leads hackers to attack people rather than technology. Although corporate security measures (rules and cybersecurity software – such as anti-malware, antivirus, etc.) are a must to prevent cyberattacks in general, it is also very important to train employees on cybersecurity.
This way, they will not unknowingly grant access to hackers and the company can reduce the risk of getting hacked. Humans are susceptible to social engineering and even bribes or extortion by criminal groups.
What are some of the most dangerous cybersecurity threats nowadays that, unfortunately, are easily overlooked?
With Covid-19, we’ve experienced a huge increase in sophisticated phishing campaigns that are completely relying on the human factor. Hence, the human factor remains to be the most dangerous cybersecurity threat nowadays. Employees can grant access to hackers unknowingly or knowingly.
Hackers can trick employees into providing them with the information they need or engage in malicious content (such as malicious URLs, malware, viruses, etc.) with various types of phishing attacks and/or social engineering. On the other hand, employees can go rogue to get revenge on the company or make a profit by selling breached information.
Another threat is using outdated hardware and software. Software updates are usually designed to repair or fix bugs so that the software runs more smoothly. In some cases, these updates fix known security vulnerabilities/bugs. If hackers know of a security issue in software, they can exploit that weakness by writing code that targets the vulnerability and is perfect for injecting malware into the computer/network.
Then the malware can steal data, allow the hacker to gain control over the computer, and encrypt the files. If a company uses outdated operating systems, anti-malware or anti-virus programs, applications, or tools for their operations, the company won’t have an adequate defense mechanism, as hackers know very well how to bypass weak defenses and evade detection.
In your opinion, what are the most common myths and misconceptions that people tend to have surrounding malware?
With few exceptions, there are generally two types of organizations: those that have been hacked and those that do not yet know they’ve been hacked. Here are some of the typical myths and misconceptions people tend to have:
- “I cannot be hacked! I am 100% protected from cybercriminals”.
- “I don’t need an AntiVirus,” or “I have enough cybersecurity measures” – we can tell from our experience, that the more protection you have the better! In other words, there is no cybersecurity solution that is perfect and hence second opinions should be considered as well.
- “Hackers don’t target small or medium-sized businesses” – is one of the most common myths. Most small and medium-sized businesses think they are too small and do not have enough information to attract the attention of hackers. On the contrary, small or medium-sized businesses are perfect targets for hackers because these companies often lack advanced security software and skilled security teams.
- “Cyber threats only come from external actors”. While external threats should be a concern for the organization, insider threats are just as dangerous and more likely to occur.
- “We have never experienced a cyberattack, so we will not get hacked”. Every company has the possibility of being affected by a security breach or cyber-attack at some point. Therefore, when it happens, every company needs to act in time to perform the incident response plan to prevent further damage and reduce the impact on the business.
- “We are too unimportant for hackers to be attacked”. User data has turned out to be a very profitable asset for online eCommerce. At the very least your hardware can be a part of BOTNET that can pawn in the botnet attack.
Are there any early signs that indicate that there is malware or viruses hiding in the company network?
- Slow running computer
- Regularly crashing computer
- Annoying ads or repeated system error messages
- Disabled antivirus or antimalware solution without the user’s input
- Unfamiliar icons or suspicious shortcut files on the desktop
- Increased Internet traffic
- Inaccessible control panel
- Unremovable software
- Suspicious unusual running process or behavior of your device
And finally, what’s next for Watchdog?
Despite being present in the cybersecurity sector for quite some time we feel that we’re just at the beginning of our journey. In August 2022 we released yet another product of our own: Watchdog Anti-Virus. It is a rudimentary anti-virus solution and our goal is to improve the product by having additional features that will improve the protection of the end-users.
Our focus will be on cyber security improvement for the well-being of end users nevertheless whether they are just regular users, small-business or enterprises. The next steps will be the implementation of various techniques and feature development that will push us toward the goal of helping end-users get better cybersecurity protection. And we invite all other cybersecurity evangelists to contribute to Watchdog’s journey.
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