Cybersecurity critical for mining companies as attacks surge – EY

12th June 2020

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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As mining companies progress their digital transformation strategies – accelerated by the various lockdowns implemented on the back of Covid-19 – cybersecurity needs to be at the forefront of risk mitigation frameworks.

As companies in the sector shut down or slow their operations and move their workforces online, their assets and information are put more at risk, says EY Canada cyberthreat management leader Chandra Majumdar.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, cybersecurity was already a risk for miners, ranking among the top ten risks cited in a report highlighting business risks and opportunities facing the mining and metals sector.

While digital transformation in the sector is significantly increasing the attack surface that companies now need to protect, the vulnerability is not always addressed adequately, he explains.

Without the appropriate planning and measures in place, companies could be exposed as a work-from-home culture is rapidly adopted, coupled with increased adoption of the cloud to facilitate this evolving culture.

“Overall, many organisations are simply not adequately prepared to handle the cybersecurity requirements of a remote workforce,” says Check Point Africa regional director Pankaj Bhula.

With a global and African workforce now largely working from home, the door has been swung wide open for cybercriminals to capitalise on security weaknesses created by the increasing number of devices accessing company networks for the first time.

“While a move towards digitally enabled workplaces and the resultant digital process have been ongoing for organisations over the past few years, many have been caught flat footed and ill prepared in the face of increased security threats,” he says.

The last place a company wants to discover it has a cybersecurity gap is in the middle of a crisis and this is exactly when opportunistic attackers ramp up their efforts to exploit fear and confusion.

A Check Point-commissioned survey undertaken by Dimensional Research shows that 71% of information technology and security professionals reported an increase in security threats related to remote working.

Both Interpol and Europol have warned of a huge spike in Covid-19 fraud, says Bhula.

According to Check Point’s threat prevention technologies, there have been 192 000 coronavirus-related cyberattacks each week since the last week of April – a 30% increase, compared with previous weeks.

This includes websites with ‘corona’ or ‘covid’ in the domain, files with corona-related file names and files that have been distributed with coronavirus-related subjects in their email, as cybercriminals capitalise on quarantine measures compromising companies’ incident response effectiveness and crisis management resources.

“The massive consumption of data and stories related to coronavirus information is a gateway for cybercrime,” Bhula comments, noting that domains closely resemble legitimate websites and associated emails, with potential victims clicking through to the sites, sharing details or inadvertently opening themselves up to malware.

About 17% of the 2 000 new coronavirus-related domains registered since the end of April are malicious or suspicious.

While phishing and targeted spear-phishing campaigns are on the rise, with the cyberattackers using the pandemic as click-bait to gain access to information through employees, phishing attacks also move beyond email, with a variety of other attack vectors aimed at tricking people into giving up personal information, login credentials or even sending money.

“Increasingly, phishing involves SMS texting attacks against mobiles or the use of messaging on social media and gaming platforms,” he explains, adding that impersonating popular videoconferencing applications, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, is a popular choice for cybercriminals.

Knowing what to look for and how to prepare for a new wave of cyberthreats is the first line of defence, says Majumdar.

The EY 2020 Global Information Security Survey found that, while 70% of organisations say their senior leadership have a comprehensive understanding of cybersecurity or are taking positive steps to improve, 77% are still operating with limited cybersecurity and resilience.

Further, 87% of organisations warn they do not yet have a sufficient budget to provide the levels of cybersecurity and resilience they want.

“While the current landscape will eventually stabilise, companies cannot lose sight of the fact that cyberthreats will follow them into the recovery phase of Covid-19,” he continues.

He urges companies to centrally manage and administer robust teleworking solutions to empower and enable employees, customers and third parties, and ensure all systems are patched and the latest updates are installed.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor




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