Last April, the 6th Annual Cyber Security Summit kicked off in Prague, in the amazing NH Prague City Hotel. Professionals from all over Europe came together to discuss and discover new trends and security solutions. One of our exceptional speakers was Viktor Larionov, Head of IT Architecture at Omniva. When I called him last week, we’ve got the chance to talk about hybrid attacks, online games and the necessity of cyber security.
Tell me a little about your career and background.
I’ve been in the industry for almost one and a half decade, mainly concentrating on infrastructure operations and security aspects of the business. I believe these aspects are my strongest sides. During this time, I have been mostly involved with fintech, online gaming and utilities sectors. I had a chance to lead the infrastructure management team at Playtech, the biggest gaming provider in the world. During that time, my team and I managed more than 10 000 UNIX hosts in 61 locations around the globe: from Sao Paulo to Singapore.
Apart from Playtech, I used to lead the IT operations team for one of the biggest Estonian insurance companies (head of server infrastructure management), Estonian Energy – the biggest employer in Estonia. Today, I am leading the entire IT architecture domain with Omniva – one of the largest supply chain and logistics providers in the Baltics. At the same time, I also run a business of my own called Nordicore Operations. We provide 24/7 infrastructure operations and SoC operations services to our customers, mainly in CIS and China.
During your session, you talked about hybrid attacks. How serious is the situation?
The situation with APT-s and hybrid vectors in general is quite serious. And I actually believe this is a natural development of things. We all know this cop and crook game. The moment the cops come up with a new trap, crooks will find a way to overcome it. Literally, it’s the same eternal game on the security market as well. It is quite obvious that the security industry has grown a lot over the past years. New mitigation vectors, new strategies, advanced scrubbing techniques and on premise active response tools. Inevitably, all these factors make attackers’ life harder.
On the other hand, it’s not only the security market that is moving forward. The attackers’ scene has developed into a full-size, consequential industry. And the demand for their services is growing every month.
So is everybody vulnerable?
Let’s take an example. The online gaming industry is the No. 1 target for attackers worldwide today. Yes, attacks against banks are old news. Like in every market, competition is tight. It takes minutes to run you out of business. When you are offline, there are hundreds of competitors out there to take your place. Loyalty in the gaming community is more or less near zero. If you cannot provide the correct service, your customers will immediately go to your competitor. And there is almost no chance that they will turn back. Simple as that.
The customer base is extremely volatile in the online gaming industry. It’s not like banking – you don’t change your bank in seconds. So no wonder, we see direct correlations between attacks towards our infrastructure and marketing campaigns run by our customers’ competitors on a weekly basis.
But why is this happening so often?
You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to pull up the strings here. As the security solutions evolve, so do the crooks. Especially when the demand is high. There are hundreds of commercial providers on the market explicitly providing an attack-as-a-service scheme. The competition is tight and the prices are more than affordable. You can run your competitor out of business for literally a small fraction of your monthly marketing budget. No kidding.
With that amount of demand, we see very sophisticated vectors coming up. It’s not just APT-s now. We are talking about full scale operations. Intelligence level I would say. The operations are combining all vectors. Social, technical and conventional attacks, combined with extremely sophisticated APT planting. Some vectors are there just to get your attention, the others to actually penetrate. As long as the target is locked and the customer keeps paying, there is a threat. Some time ago, I met some colleagues from the Middle East. They described to me some cases where physical surveillance was established for several key people in the enterprise. And it was all part of a hybrid attack against the company. So yes, the situation is serious, and I believe it will get worse in the future.
In what way did this event help you and why will it help potential attendees?
The best part of this event, apart from the really interesting presentations, was the networking opportunities. I met fantastic, one-of-a-kind people at your conference and we keep in touch ever since! I seriously think, that during those couple of days, I grew my network more and as I said, the people I met were very special. You don’t have such opportunities every day.
What are your expectations for our next event?
Keep up the good work! The amount of attendees, presentations and workshops was really good and the seniority level is high! If you want to go even higher, go hardcore! Organize more deep technical workshops and technical presentations.
I really liked the presentations this spring and you had amazing technical workshops too. But you know, there’s no limit to perfection. So keep it up and drive the level even higher! Just don’t cut the networking, as it’s really the pearl of this event!