5 trends making cybersecurity threats riskier and more expensive

Risks increase as the world becomes more digital, regulated, and interconnected, but you can take steps to reduce their impact.

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Since the pandemic the cyber world has become a far riskier place. According to the Hiscox Cyber Readiness Report 2022, almost half (48%) of organizations across the U.S. and Europe experienced a cyberattack in the past 12 months. Even more alarming is that these attacks are happening despite businesses doubling down on their cybersecurity spend.

Cybersecurity is at a critical inflection point where five megatrends are making the threat landscape riskier, more complicated, and costlier to manage than previously reported. To better understand the evolution of this threat landscape, let’s examine these trends in more detail.

1. Everything becomes digital 

The sudden explosion in connectivity has accelerated digital transformation in governments and businesses by almost seven years, according to a McKinsey report. With infrastructure and related services far more internet accessible than they were pre-COVID, attackers have gained ample opportunities to compromise remote users, vulnerable systems, and defenses.

The pandemic also forced workers to become more digitally dependent. Nearly a quarter of jobs will become remote in the U.S. this year with forecasts calling for higher numbers in 2023, according to a Ladders report. The corporate perimeter that traditionally protected employees in an office setting has today become irrelevant. Workers are accessing corporate resources from personal devices, using unsecured public Wi-Fi networks, and putting organizations at increased risk of breaches and cyberattacks. 

2. Organizations become ecosystems 

Organizations are opening their infrastructure and resources to an extended body of manufacturers, supply-chain suppliers, and partners to share information and make trade barriers less obtrusive. Such changes are posing cyber risks for organizations because it is challenging to manage, secure, and regulate an entire ecosystem that is beyond the control of the enterprise. Cyberattacks in the supply chain jumped 51% last year according to an NCC Group study.

3. Physical and digital worlds collide 

As physical and digital worlds overlap, a hybrid threat landscape will emerge where attacks in cyberspace will have implications in the physical world (and vice-versa). This can come in the form of business disruptions, physical security and safety of infrastructure, theft or loss of confidential data, litigations, and even loss of life. Gartner predicts cyber attackers will weaponize operational technology (financial systems, fuel or gas pipelines, power grids, water supply, healthcare or the internet itself) to harm human life.

4. New technologies bring new risks

The emergence of technologies like internet of things, multi-cloud, 5G, and edge computing will create tens of billions of hackable devices and numerous entry points that attackers can exploit. Artificial intelligence will be subject to manipulation which can even institutionalize bias and make unfair or even unsafe judgments. The more connectivity the world has, the more widespread is the potential for disruption.

5. Regulations become more complex

The massive surge in cyberattacks and breaches is creating an urgent need for governments to regulate activities in cyberspace. Almost every major country is issuing some form of data protection or privacy legislation.  Regulations are evolving fast and depending on the number of geographies in which a business operates, tracking and implementing regulatory mandates can be a complex endeavor. Non-compliance can expose businesses to pitfalls including operational failures, costly fines and penalties and loss of customer trust.

Best practices that help boost cybersecurity performance

Organizations can follow these best practices to elevate cybersecurity performance:

  • Identify, prioritize, and implement controls around risks. Evaluate security maturity on a regular basis.
  • Adopt a framework such as ISO 27001 or NIST Cybersecurity Framework. Organizations that take an organized approach to security detect breaches faster and outperform others on key cybersecurity metrics.
  • Develop human-layered cybersecurity. Assess staff reflexes, behaviors, and patterns to create an employee culture that is attuned to cybersecurity values and risks.
  • Fortify your supply chain. Routinely perform supply chain risk assessments, focus on your critical suppliers, monitor your risk exposure, and implement a process of terminating suppliers that do not meet your security standards.
  • Avoid using too many tools. Follow a platform approach instead of deploying a group of disparate technologies. Ensure your security is multi-layered with equal focus on people, process, and technology.
  • Prioritize protection of critical assets. Be aware of the damage potential attacks on your critical infrastructure could have.
  • Automate where you can. Cybersecurity talent is already in short supply and monitoring the entire threat surface may seem overwhelming. It’s always a good idea to invest in cybersecurity tools that harness artificial intelligence and machine learning to supplement human effort and accelerate threat detection and response times.
  • Monitor security metrics regularly to help business leaders get insight into security effectiveness, regulatory compliance, and levels of security awareness in the organization.

Cybersecurity will always be a work in progress. The key to effective risk management is having proactive visibility and context across the entire attack surface. This helps to understand which vulnerabilities, if exploited, can cause the greatest harm to the business. Not all risks can be mitigated; some risks will have to be accepted and trade-offs will have to be negotiated.

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Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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