Cybersecurity is one of the hottest topics in IT today and for good reason. CIOs and other business leaders are constantly inundated with headlines about the latest data breach, ransomware attack or service outage as a result of a new era of criminal activity. We spoke to a range of business leaders to gain insight into what lessons CIOs should learn and carry forward into 2019.
The first lesson, above all others, is to be aware of the risk level and what this can mean for a business, as Shannon Simpson, Cybersecurity and Compliance Director, Six Degrees, commented: “According to Gemalto’s Breach Level Index, in the first half of 2018 alone, the equivalent to 291 records per second were stolen or exposed. In the UK only last month, cybercriminals stole the personal and financial details of 380,000 British Airways customers. Cyberattacks have crossed over into the mainstream and guarding against security breaches requires constant vigilance throughout your entire business, not just from the IT team.
“Damage to businesses following a cyberattack can be significant, which is why cybersecurity should be a continual undertaking that incorporates people, processes and systems. The recent British Airways attack offered some key lessons that businesses should keep in mind when developing their cybersecurity strategies: remember that prevention is better than cure; understand that attack vectors are constantly changing; and develop a cybersecurity playbook and keep it updated to protect your infrastructure against new threats.”
Respect and encourage the professionals
At the heart of this war on cybercrime is a new type of IT worker, the cybersecurity professional. CIOs should be looking to promote and invest in their cybersecurity professionals – which should be easy, given that according to Stephen Moore, Chief Security Strategist at Exabeam, this is a deeply rewarding role: “NCSAM (National Cybersecurity Awareness Month) is a time to appreciate those already working in the field that makes this data protection possible – and to highlight some of the benefits for those who may be interested. Positive sentiments around overall job satisfaction, salary and emerging technology show why cybersecurity is a great field to work in – on top of the fact that you get to play a role in keeping important information out of adversaries’ hands.
“A recent report revealed that 80% of those in the field feel secure about the future of their jobs, identifying the most satisfying aspects as: always learning something new, defending companies and catching threats and working with extraordinary people and teams. They get to work with cutting-edge technology on a daily basis — with most professionals finding endpoint detection and response (EDR), user behaviour analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to be the most helpful in pin-pointing cyberthreats. Plus, 75% agreed that advances in Machine Learning and AI can make their jobs even easier— with adoption increasing each year.
“This NCSAM, we hope consumers and businesses continue to educate themselves, cybersecurity professionals can take stock and be proud of their work, and those interested in the field begin to take the steps needed to enter and excel in it.”
Train your staff
However, cybersecurity expertise cannot just be confined to one team – increasingly, vulnerabilities should be everyone’s concern. CIOs should be looking to invest in the right training to address this, as John Williams, Product Manager at Node4, noted: “It is vital for businesses to recognise how to strengthen their security to help prevent potentially devastating attacks from affecting them. The first step is to find and understand what are their security flaws with a vulnerability testing programme – understand where the weaknesses are and support these areas, rather than spending money on unnecessary security infrastructures before knowing where the holes in the defence really lie.
“It’s not only the technology that needs to be supported, but also the staff. Regardless of how many layers of protection security experts implement, the weakest link is the people involved. Managing this portion is essential in any cybersecurity strategy, so it is important to ensure that employees are fully up to date with the latest security protocols and processes in their company, to help combat the ever increasing tide of cyberattacks. This is a key part of cybersecurity and even more so because the human element is the hardest to control and measure effectively.”
In many ways, this training needs to go back to basics, with CIOs helping their employees work out how to spot anything suspicious, as Jake Madders, Director of Hyve Managed Hosting, explained: “Many IT teams will be focusing on the latest technologies to help improve security and reduce the risk of a cyberattack. But what some may sometimes forget is that there is a lot of benefit to be gained from going back to basics. Even with all the sophisticated and innovative tech available, businesses remain constantly vulnerable to cyberthreats, which is why people are just as important in helping to strengthen the security posture of your business. They can mean the difference between malware accessing the system, or not.
“This is why businesses should have training and education programmes in place for employees to help empower them to spot anything suspicious from an internal point of view. In addition, making sure that your customers are fully aware of potential security breaches is also vital. Something as simple as a letter or email providing fake bank details, or using your company’s logo, could be enough to trick your customers into falling for a scam.
Invest in the core technologies
There are also a range of core technologies and best practices that can help. Gary Watson, Founder and CTO, Nexsan, advocates for investment in archive storage for storing data in the current threat landscape: “Today’s connected world is full of security threats and vulnerabilities. Unfortunately it’s a natural tendency to overlook just how dangerous hackers, ransomware, phishing and viruses can be. When you buy a bike you should purchase a helmet for safety and security just as IT pros should be purchasing the right protection for their technology. Equally important is to have a second line of defence in place when the inevitable does happen. Organisations should consider investing in archive storage – it’s a stable, reliable solution for storing data on a central, secure repository, both at home and at work. My advice for IT pros navigating through the modern technology world would be to buy your protection, put on your helmet and enjoy the ride.”
Investment in the right infrastructure management is also a theme that Luke Brown, VP EMEA, WinMagic, raised as a key part of minimising risk and meeting legislative requirements, both key parts of modern cybersecurity: “IT security teams are doing their best to protect themselves from cybercriminals, constantly playing a cat and mouse catch up game. A key part of their armoury is encryption. Almost as old as the Internet itself, it’s a fundamental point of defence in preventing against data leaks. It’s a time-tested tool that can severely hinder attackers in their goal to steal confidential user and customer data, trade secrets and more.
“However, the rise of new technologies such as mobility, cloud and virtualisation combined with an increasingly complex regulatory environment means companies are finding the need for encryption more than ever before. To make this worse, boardrooms are not adapting to these developments. As it is, encryption is being seen by IT operations as a tick box exercise, with point solutions encrypting only segments of network infrastructure. There is little to no push from leadership to ensure there is a universal encryption policy over the entire network. Without this overarching encryption solution with centralised key management, businesses create weak links in their armour.”
Consider new approaches and emerging technologies
However, as the threat landscape evolves, it may be time to consider new and emerging solutions, as Todd Kelly, Chief Security Officer, Cradlepoint, explained: “Despite the best efforts of the global IT community, cybercriminals continue to make their way into what many believe are secure networks. The fact is that when it comes to IT security, our businesses, organisations and government agencies remain outmatched by hackers who are becoming bolder and more sophisticated. Even while the network security industry introduces more effective detection and defence solutions, the traditional ‘fixed perimeter’ based approach to network security is quickly becoming obsolete.
“It’s more important than ever to use all the tools available and layer them where you can. For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now available in backup and recovery software to help you spot when a ransomware attack is taking place, so you can take remedial action. It will even automatically extend retention just in case you need to go further back in time. The same AI can also provide reports on whether you can meet recovery targets and will even re-schedule things and make other changes to help you meet them.”
In such a diverse and quickly evolving cybersecurity landscape, it’s clear that CIOs need to be considering a broad range of solutions to be as prepared as possible. From investing in training, considering the latest technology, or simply being aware of the hard work that cybersecurity professionals do, there are many lessons that business leaders can take forward into their 2019 planning, to be better prepared in the face of the next big cyberattack, whatever that might be.