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Sophos Anticipates AI-Based Attack Techniques, Prepares Detections

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Sophos, a global leader in innovating and delivering cybersecurity as a service, has released two reports about the use of AI in cybercrime.

Sophos Anticipates AI-Based Attack Techniques, Prepares Detections

The first report—“The Dark Side of AI: Large-Scale Scam Campaigns Made Possible by Generative AI”—demonstrates how, in the future, scammers could leverage technology like ChatGPT to conduct fraud on a massive scale with minimal technical skills.

However, a second report, titled “Cybercriminals Can’t Agree on GPTs,” found that, despite AI’s potential, rather than embracing large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, some cybercriminals are skeptical and even concerned about using AI for their attacks.

On the the dark side of AI, using a simple e-commerce template and LLM tools like GPT-4, Sophos X-Ops was able to build a fully functioning website with AI-generated images, audio, and product descriptions, as well as a fake Facebook login and fake checkout page to steal users’ login credentials and credit card details.

The website required minimal technical knowledge to create and operate, and, using the same tool, Sophos X-Ops was able to create hundreds of similar websites in minutes with one button.

“It’s natural—and expected—for criminals to turn to new technology for automation. The original creation of spam emails was a critical step in scamming technology because it changed the scale of the playing field. New AIs are poised to do the same; if an AI technology exists that can create complete, automated threats, people will eventually use it. We have already seen the integration of generative AI elements in classic scams, such as AI-generated text or photographs to lure victims.

“However, part of the reason we conducted this research was to get ahead of the criminals. By creating a system for large-scale fraudulent website generation that is more advanced than the tools criminals are currently using, we have a unique opportunity to analyze and prepare for the threat before it proliferates,” said Ben Gelman, senior data scientist, Sophos.

For its research into attacker attitudes towards AI, Sophos X-Ops examined four prominent dark web forums for LLM-related discussions. While cybercriminals’ AI use appears to be in its early stages, threat actors on the dark web are discussing its potential when it comes to social engineering. Sophos X-Ops has already witnessed the use of AI in romance-based, crypto scams.

In addition, Sophos X-Ops found that the majority of posts were related to compromised ChatGPT accounts for sale and “jailbreaks”—ways to circumvent the protections built into LLMs, so cybercriminals can abuse them for malicious purposes. Sophos X-Ops also found ten ChatGPT-derivatives that the creators claimed could be used to launch cyber-attacks and develop malware. However, threat actors had mixed reactions to these derivatives and other malicious applications of LLMs, with many criminals expressing concern that the creators of the ChatGPT imitators were trying to scam them.

“While there’s been significant concern about the abuse of AI and LLMs by cybercriminals since the release of ChatGPT, our research has found that, so far, threat actors are more skeptical than enthused. Across two of the four forums on the dark web we examined, we only found 100 posts on AI. Compare that to cryptocurrency where we found 1,000 posts for the same period.

“We did see some cybercriminals attempting to create malware or attack tools using LLMs, but the results were rudimentary and often met with skepticism from other users. In one case, a threat actor, eager to showcase the potential of ChatGPT inadvertently revealed significant information about his real identity. We even found numerous ‘thought pieces’ about the potential negative effects of AI on society and the ethical implications of its use. In other words, at least for now, it seems that cybercriminals are having the same debates about LLMs as the rest of us,” said Christopher Budd, director, X-Ops research, Sophos.

 

 


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NITDA Urges IT Stakeholders to Collaborate with Government to Nurture Start-ups

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The National Information Technology Development Agency’s commitment to nurture an innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystem as enshrined in its Strategic Road-map and Action Plan 2.0 received a major boost in Lagos at NITDA Co-Create West Africa Tech Expo, an event put together by GAGE Award in partnership with the Agency to showcase innovative businesses locally and across the globe with physical presence in Nigeria.

Kashifu Inuwa, CCIE, NITDA’s Director General, while delivering his keynote address at the event which has its theme as “Evolve” averred that both the government and ecosystem need to work together to nurture the younger ones and help them to transform their ideas from conceptualisation to impact.

He said, “We need to help our start-ups to have access to capital for that will enhance their ideas and provide platform for them to network and learn from the ecosystem.

While acknowledging that the Nigerian Start-up Act Implementation is one of the several initiatives under the pillar, the NITDA boss urged the participants to forge a strategic partnership and collaborate to develop the ecosystem.

He said, “This event is one of them. This is a private-public partnership. We co-created the conference, and the conference itself is to promote co-creation. We do a lot of these activities. We believe no one should live in isolation, so we need to work as an ecosystem to create value together.”

Inuwa, while using the occasion to share the new NITDA’s Strategic Road-map and Action Plan 2024-2027 which is in sync with one of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s defined priority areas of “Accelerating Diversification through Industrialisation and Digitisation” to the participants who were majorly IT stakeholders and tech enthusiasts maintained that for the ecosystem to succeed, stakeholders must join hands with government to build a strong institution which could only be achieved by transforming government’s services into solutions.

He said, “I want to invite you to embrace the spirit of cooperation and collaboration. If you and government can work together, we can do better things; because there are things you can do, government cannot do and there are things government can do, you cannot do, but together, we can do greater things.”

The new NITDA’s Strategic Road-map and Action Plan which is billed to be unveiled in the first quarter of 2024 provides for eight pillars which are; Foster Digital Literacy and Cultivate Talents, Robust Technology Research Ecosystem, Strengthen Policy Implementation and Legal Framework, and Promote Inclusive Access to Digital Infrastructure and Services.

Others include Strengthen Cybersecurity and Enhance Digital Trust, Nurture an Innovative and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, Forge Strategic Partnerships and Collaboration and Cultivate a Vibrant Work Culture and an Agile Workforce in NITDA.

Meanwhile, the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission, who was represented at the event by the Director, Public Affairs, Mr. Rueben Mouka in his goodwill address advised that Nigeria should approach the tech global market with a clear understanding of its strength, challenges and realistic potentials adding that although Nigeria possesses  three comparative advantage of vibrant and youthful population, strategic location and the gateway to African market, the nation must be ready to also confront the challenges that threaten to impede its progress.

While identifying infrastructure deficits, unreliable power supply and poor internet connectivity as some of the barriers that affect investor and innovators alike admonished that Nigeria should focus on “fostering an enabling environment that nurtures innovation, promotes entrepreneurship and addresses the underlying infrastructure and infrastructure challenges.”

He said, “the nation must leverage unique strengths  such as a deep understanding of local markets to develop solutions that address the needs and preferences of not just African consumers but the world at large.”

Earlier in his welcome remarks, the convener, GAGE Award, Mr. Johnson Aroh described that the NITDA Co-Create West Africa is more than just a showcase of the latest technological concepts that exist in the ecosystem but a platform that fosters creativity, drives digital transformation and builds the ecosystem where ideas flourish.

He stated that the conference would offers a rare privilege of experiencing first-hand cutting edge solutions and groundbreaking projects that embody the spirit of technological excellence and ingenuity.

He said, “ Let us embrace the diversity of perspectives and expertise that enrich our collective understanding of technology transformative power.  Together, we can chart the course toward the future of technology as a force for driving positive change and empowering individuals and communities across Africa.

While commending the leadership of NITDA  for its vision in co-creating the event, Mr. Aina said the Agency’s unwavering commitment to promoting technological innovation and digital inclusion have been instrumental to the level the nation has attained today.


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NITDA Unveils e-Government Master Plan 2.0

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The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has unveiled the second phase of the Nigerian e-Government Master Plan, towards ensuring a seamless and inclusive access to digital services with the aim of enhancing transparency in government processes.

The Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa CCIE made this known at the handing over of deliverables to CEOs of  NITDA, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) on Thursday which was held at the e-Government Training Centre, Kubwa, Abuja.

The event symbolises the implementation of the first phase of the Nigerian e-Government master plan, which was sponsored by the joint implementer, the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

Inuwa, who was represented by Mr Oladejo Olawumi, Director I T Infrastructure Solutions in the agency, said that the aim of the event was to strengthen the progress made so far and properly position the general government enterprise architecture as a cornerstone of building the foundation for digital governance in Nigeria.

The DG said under the Strategic Road map and Action Plan, which was named SRAP 2.0, the pillar of infrastructure in the project was committed to ensure seamless and inclusive access to digital services.

“The enterprise architecture is a disciplined way of organising enterprise resources, which includes business processes, data, information, tech, finance, ETC, to provide the capabilities required to consistently achieve outcomes of the organisation’s functions and mandates.

“It specifies the principles, practices, standards, and policies that guide the way capabilities enable the IT to evolve over time and continue to deliver results even under continuous changes in political, administrative, and economic conditions.

“It is therefore in line with this administration’s commitment to ensuring the implementation of sustainable initiatives and programmes that will stimulate and rejuvenate the economy that the Federal Ministry of Communications.

“Innovation and digital economy’s strategic plan of driving towards a resilient, inclusive and prosperous digital Nigeria by utilising ICT to drive transparency in government as well as improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of public service delivery in Nigeria,” Inuwa explained.

He also noted that NITDA, in line with its mandate had developed the Nigerian Government Enterprise Architecture as part of the implementation of the first phase of the Nigerian e-government master plan.

“The framework launched in March 2019 was developed as an overarching document to guide the effective and efficient adoption and implementation of IT projects in government so that expectations and outcomes of IT projects can be achieved in the short and long term.

“The implementation has led to the development of programmes and initiatives which include the clearing of many IT projects, improvement of the national IT clearance policy drive, IT systems and digital services assessment of 200 federal and public institutions, the Nigerian Government Enterprise Architecture portal, establishment of digital transformation technical working group DTTWG in 100 federal and public institutions, training of 442 members of the DTTWG and engagement of 10 FPIs under digital transformation performance and readiness,” he added.

He asserted that the Nigerian Government Enterprise Architecture is a critical factor in the implementation of the following e-government related regulatory instruments.

The Director General further explained that the Nigerian e-government interoperability framework was designed to enable interoperability between all the services provided by the government.

Stressing that the Digital Public infrastructure (DPI) as it were is key to the present administration’s drive towards making government services to be integrated among themselves.

He listed the national cloud computing policy and strategy; business process management guidelines,electronic document management system guidelines of FPIs, government digital service framework and digital government transformation performance assessment tool kit, among other core elements of the project.

Mr Songil Son, the Korean International Corporation Agency’s (KOICA’s) country Director,stated that ‘the project has four components,and the Enterprise Architecture is one of the components.

“NITDA is coordinating the whole process and so much progress has been made so far by properly positioning the overall government enterprises architecture as a cornerstone of building the foundation for digital governance in Nigeria’.

Earlier, representatives of Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Immigration Service took turns to express their optimism that the values outlined in the guide would ease the perfection of digital governance and foster inclusiveness, transparency and progress in the country.

They gave assurances that the services would be committed to leveraging the framework of the project as a catalyst for achieving the Nigeria’s strategic aspirations.


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Check Point to Expand Partner Ecosystem on Africa Growth

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Check Point Software Technologies is looking to grow its market share and strengthen its partner channel in Africa.

The security company launched a new partner  programme at its CPX APAC conference in Bangkok in January. This programme is underpinned by by two key components: and AI-powered, cloud-delivered cyber security platform that enables collaboration and end-to-end protection, and emphasis on prevention over detection It features a simplified, consolidated partner tiering model, a new pricing framework, free certification and training, and an improved app.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Check Point CPX EMEA event in Vienna in February, Itai Greenberg, chief strategy officer at Check Point, said the difficulty that customers face is the prospect of having to apply various security solutions from multiple vendors to ensure end-to-end protection of infrastructure.

“They will have so many different products from so many vendors, each one of them giving them a different level of security for the same level of attack,” said Greenberg.

This is where Check Point’s strategy plays out, he said. “We are providing a platform to protect against all attacks, across all platforms, and all vectors.”

The other component is the focus on prevention rather than detection.

“The difference between detection and prevention is huge,” Greenberg added. “Detection is about ‘I am telling you that you have a problem, go fix it’ whereas prevention is ‘I am very reliable, I am not slowing down your traffic, or making you wait for email to arrive, or the browser to open the website.’ “

During the same event in Vienna, Rupal Hollenbeck, president of Check Point Software Technologies, confirmed the company had established new channel partnerships in Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa.

Hollenbeck highlighted new infrastructure developments across various industries in Africa, and the potential to harness the continent’s predominantly young, ambitious, and skilled job seekers.

“We see industries making significant investments across Africa, and it’s imperative that security is integrated from the outset – what I refer to as ‘security by design’. With the emergence of new industries comes the development of supply chains to support this growth.”

In addition to building the channel and supply chain, Check Point advocates a collaborative approach to developing sought-after skills sets on the continent.

Hollenbeck said the company is dedicated to improving access to cyber security education, particularly within STEM learning, starting from childhood. She noted that at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, where Check Point actively participates in the cyber security centre, discussions with other companies highlighted the pressing issue of the skill gap.

“We reached a consensus that all the work – any of the work done by businesses – should serve to ‘lift the entire boat’, because that helps the industry.”

The rationale is that stakeholders in the cyber security ecosystem work together to develop skills rather than adopting a self-centred approach to skills acquisition.

Check Point offers several training and certification programmes including Quantum, CloudGaurd, and Harmony. The company has also established the CISO Academy, a global education programme targeted at C-level executives or those aspiring to enter this space.


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