Outwitting one’s enemy has been a key element of warfare since the ancient Greeks began laying siege to the city of Troy.
That 10-year mythological conflict was brought to a sudden end through the use of subterfuge in the form of a giant wooden horse, concealing an elite fighting force, which was wheeled into the citadel by the unsuspecting Trojans.
More recently, the Allied nations employed an equally effective deception strategy to divert the German high command’s attention away from Normandy, the planned site of the 1944 invasion, which signalled the beginning of the end of World War II.
These lessons in prevailing over formidable and determined adversaries which the cybersecurity sector has begun taking on board.
That’s all to the good of Australian organisations that are serious about minimising risks to the availability and integrity of their critical systems and the privacy of customers whose data they collect and store.
Can trickery enhance traditional security strategies?
Traditional cyber-defence strategies have focused on patrolling the perimeter – using tools and technologies to throw a protective barrier around high tech assets – but emerging ‘deception technology’ solutions take a very different approach.
Rather than only seeking to repel adversaries with a ring of steel, it allows for the possibility that the attacker is already inside and aims to misdirect them with a clever ruse: setting up decoys and lures that look like real networks and systems, which are designed to appear as though they are able to be infiltrated without detection.
A well-spun fabric of deception is one that has mirror-match authenticity – network attributes, operating systems, software, services, and credential identities that strongly resemble the genuine article and an environment populated with credible content.
Historically, it’s been the bad actors who’ve looked to pull a fast one on organisations and individuals.
Usually, it’s been by way of a convincing social engineering gambit that tricks them into revealing confidential credentials or downloading malware, thereby compromising corporate systems or data.
Cyberattackers have the luxury of time on their side and, in some instances, may spend weeks or months in the reconnaissance phase, staking out an organisation, identifying key players and gathering intelligence, before moving in for the kill.
By contrast, defenders are often caught on the hop – forced to respond reactively and often with little context, to contain the threat and mitigate the damage.
Gathering information about the malefactors and their modus operandi is usually less of a priority than ejecting them off the network and dealing with the havoc they’ve wreaked.
Very often, that havoc can be significant and the fall-out financially crippling, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises.
According to Stay Smart Online, cyber-crime attacks cost Australian businesses an average of $276,323, when including business disruption, equipment damage, and information, revenue and productivity losses in the tally.
Attacks which result in significant breaches of customer data can also cost companies dearly on the compliance front.
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, Australia’s privacy watchdog, has the power to impose fines of up to $1.8 million on organisations which experience serious or repeated data breaches.
Local enterprises may also find themselves subject to the EU’s punitive GDPR privacy legislation if their customer list includes citizens of the bloc.