This article was originally posted at Forbes website here.
The growing prevalence of digital tools and technologies has introduced new and expanded capabilities, efficiencies and insights into a diverse range of industries. It isn’t just “tech companies” that rely on digital infrastructure and AI-powered solutions. Brands and businesses in everything from manufacturing and medicine to retail, banking and education have embraced the power and possibility of an increasingly digital future.
However, that power comes at a cost: increased vulnerability to a rapidly evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats. As digital assets become more valuable, the motivation for bad actors to find new ways to exploit those assets grows accordingly. From data breaches and sophisticated phishing efforts to crippling ransomware attacks, cyber crimes are on the rise.
Organizations and institutions need to understand how and why these threats occur, where and how their vulnerabilities lie and what they can do to mitigate those threats. They also need to develop a comprehensive and strategic plan that allows them to effectively manage the risk of cyberattacks while continuing to unlock innovation.
While specific cybersecurity tools and tactics will vary depending on industry and company-specific operational and technical specifics, what follows is an overview of some of the key points that IT professionals and decision makers need to understand about the landscape of current and emerging cybersecurity threats — and what they can start thinking about now as they plan and prepare for 2022 and beyond.
It’s an unfortunate irony that as we become more reliant on digital technology and connectivity, we are also becoming correspondingly more vulnerable to hacks and other cyberattacks. Many businesses that used to maintain an internal network now have more and more digital doors open to the outside world.
Every connection is a vulnerability. The Covid-19 pandemic and the spike in remote work and work-from-home models has accelerated that process. The health care industry and an increasingly vulnerable supply chain are also particularly ripe targets for hackers. In 2016, one of my colleagues told NBC News that the biggest cyber threat to watch for over the next few years would be ransomware. Unfortunately, that has turned out to be exactly right.
As hackers become more adept at exploiting vulnerabilities to hack into IT systems and execute ransomware attacks, the stakes are rising. The damage caused by cyberattacks could cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars on average per year. The potential losses from a cyber breach are so significant — and the level of risk in the current environment so notably increased — that a strong cybersecurity posture should now be considered a foundational cornerstone of business success.
Vulnerability And Blind Spots
Despite the potential costs and consequences of a hack, I’ve found that many businesses still have a great deal of work to do when it comes to preparing for and preventing cyberattacks. Anecdotally, almost all of the IT systems we have tested have had critical vulnerabilities. Perhaps even more alarming is the fact that, in most cases, the owners and IT directors of those companies believed they did not have any major security problems in their tech infrastructure. This disquieting disconnect is certainly contributing to the scale of the problem.
The Human Element
Against this backdrop of underestimated and underappreciated threats, there is a key element that every decision maker needs to recognize in order to optimize their cybersecurity resources and investments: Cybersecurity feels like a tech problem, but it is as much (if not more) a human problem. Humans carry out hacking, often by exploiting the psychology and behavior of humans, and defending against it requires a human response. When looking for an appropriate cybersecurity solution, make sure it includes human oversight and expertise. Also, any comprehensive solution should deliver clear and consistent communication, training and expertise.
The Best Defense
One way to upgrade your cybersecurity is to engage ethical hackers to find and fix vulnerabilities before malicious parties exploit them. These professionals have a deep and nuanced understanding of the mindset that bad actors take and the tactics they are likely to use to penetrate your company’s cyberdefenses. In conjunction with the work of a defensive cybersecurity group, you can create a layered security structure that is far more effective than any single approach.
Trust, Experience And Expertise
Cybersecurity is ultimately a business of trust. It’s essential that your security partner is able to demonstrate its expertise and reliability. Don’t be afraid to ask for references and specific examples of past work. However, the benefits of working with the right partner can be significant. The right cybersecurity expert can provide access to threat intelligence, offer insight into existing and emerging threats, and allow companies to take action against attacks before they happen. IT professionals and executive decision makers should also understand the value of enhancing security while minimizing disruption to their daily operations. Look for security providers and consultants who are able to conduct sophisticated and carefully controlled penetration testing to ensure minimal impact on operational continuity.
Unfortunately, the rise of cryptocurrency platforms has made it even easier for hackers to hide and move illicit funds — and the frequency, sophistication and cost of cyberattacks are skyrocketing. McAfee estimated that cybercrime losses exceeded $1 trillion in 2020, and Cybersecurity Ventures expects that number to top $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.
AI-powered tools have the potential to be a game-changing complement to the existing suite of cybersecurity solutions. Also, while legal and technical challenges remain, aggressive crypto-forensic follow-up in the wake of an attack is showing promise as an effective way to go after hackers and discourage future attacks. However, the bottom line is that, at a time when the number of attacks and the potential damage is so great, investing in cybersecurity solutions provided by genuine experts — using the very latest solutions and approaches — is more vital than ever before.