Gergő Gyebnár, Managing Director

Digitalisation was already one of the most important topics when it came to business competitiveness, and the pandemic has only reinforced this trend. The sudden pressure of teleworking has also generated cybersecurity risks on an astonishing scale. “The time has come for confidentiality and integrity to be given the same priority as availability, as the latter is directly at risk if cybersecurity is ignored”, said Gergő Gyebnár, Managing Director of Black Cell, an information security company.

According to the company’s estimates, the damage caused by cybercriminals and the amounts spent to prevent it worldwide rose to over USD 1 trillion in 2020, equivalent to more than 1% of global GDP. The number of phishing email attacks increased by 667%, many of which have been targeted at unsuspecting users using COVID-19 related topics. Crimes targeting business devices, laptops and online conference channels are on the rise, but ransomware is also becoming increasingly sophisticated and dangerous.

From cold calling to Machine Learning algorithms

Black Cell was started in 2010 from a block of flats in Újpest, ini- tially mainly providing firewall management and vulnerability testing, with customer acquisition the telephone. “We made 50 cold calls a day and, on the company’s 2nd birthday, I couldn’t even afford a can of beer”, Gyebnár said of the early years, but then perseverance paid off and the company became a thriving business.

They reinvested the money from their initial success back into the company, creating a cybersecurity operations centre called the Black Cell Fusion Center, where they analyse security incidents 24 hours a day and intervene when necessary. The centre is based on a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) system, which manages security data from customer devices.

Today, they mainly deal with cyber security problems, specialising in the protection of industrial equipment, critical systems and critical infrastructure. Microsoft or KPMG Global Services is just as much a client as a small business in Újszilvás, a village in Central Hungary. “We are involved in the development and adoption of machine learning algorithms, but we also offer antivirus software”, Gyebnár said of the diversity of their services.

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Nowadays, it is a common trend for businesses to keep sen- sitive data on a network; cloud services are increasingly used, and most businesses have firewalls, anti-virus and VPNs. How- ever, most cannot afford the right level of IT security in-house, not only because it would be a disproportionate financial burden, but also because there are simply not enough people with the skills to do it.

This is where Black Cell comes in, providing personalised protection through a monthly managed security service (MSS): threat analysts monitor, prevent and assess attacks, keeping a company’s defences up to date. The same could only be achieved by a client with expensive upgrades and a dedicated team.

Teleworking and the IoT are also major threats to enterprise systems

“We built a trap system against potential threats, where we created attractive targets in control protocols for attackers of industrial systems”, said Gyebnár, explaining the essence of one of his developments, which was eventually purchased by a US company. According to the Managing Director, this is one of their strengths: they build trapdoor-like detections to lure hackers away. “For a network, we create secondary admin usernames with passwords that attackers have a good chance of trying and, when they log in, we get an alert”, Gyebnár outlined.

Although their clients are quite diverse, most of them have in common that they work with industrial control systems. They are now indispensable, not only for factories and power plants, but also for utilities, public transport networks, offices, residential buildings and even smart homes. However, one of the biggest risks, according to the Managing Director, is precisely where industrial units and residential devices meet. Over the last few years, the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) and its integration into the industrial environment has brought unprecedented risks.

These control devices were typically not designed to be ever connected to the world wide web, but rather to operate in isolation, and the IoT has made them vulnerable. “By being connected to the outside world, these devices have become just as vulnerable as our personal devices, and in some ways even more vulnerable, because no one originally thought they could be exposed to this type of threat”, said the Managing Director, who said that such attacks could even put lives at risk.

In general, control technology in factories is something where companies spend money on everything but IT security, and unfortunately this is true abroad as well. 30% of Black Cell’s cli- ents are foreign, but their share is growing rapidly, with offices in Tallinn and Washington DC as well as Budapest.

According to Gyebnár, in the next few years, the control cybersecurity operations centre and the services embedded around it will be the growth drivers, but they are also working on a new development project, which is a tool that can map for the management what the organisation’s defence coverage is and what the current state of the company is from a cybersecurity perspective.