How Middle East tech leaders can secure against virtual-event hacking

Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the rise in virtual events to steal attendees’ personal information, which can give them inroads into your own systems. Here are expert tips to protect your enterprise and your data.

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The latest evolution in the cybersecurity threat landscape is the rise in attacks aimed at virtual event attendees. Microsoft recently reported that an Iranian-linked group successfully compromised 100 attendees of two global conferences hosting international leaders, ambassadors and senior policy experts. And the threat is close to home; ­one of the targeted events was the Think 20 (T20) Summit in Saudi Arabia.

In a post describing the attacks, Tom Burt, Microsoft's corporate vice president for customer security and trust, said the attackers had been sending possible attendees spoofed invitations, which if clicked on, would take them to one of several known credential harvesting websites.

The attacks against both the T20 Summit and Munich Security Conference were a blend of old school phishing attacks with advanced spear phishing to compromise an individual, notes Morey Haber, CTO and CISO of software company BeyondTrust. By making each attack customised to that attendee, the attackers were able to bypass basic scrutiny, and by guiding users to open a non-malicious PDF, they were able to bypass antivirus systems.

Virtual events are easy targets

The move to remote work and virtual meetings is changing the threat landscape in the Middle East. The rapid adoption of virtual events since the start of the pandemic, coupled with communications and conferencing tools designed for ease of use rather than access controls, make these events an easy target for bad actors. While GITEX — the biggest tech conference in the Middle East — was held as a physical event last month, there are innumerable virtual conferences and meetings being held in the region.

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