Cybersecurity trends to watch out for

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By Sandeep Bhargava, Managing Director, Asia Pacific and Japan, Rackspace Technology

It almost beggars belief that a supposedly secure QR code designed for online payment transactions could allow an intruder to invade personal bank accounts to steal money. If an everyday activity like making digital payments is vulnerable to such complex cyber frauds, one can only fathom the large-scale damage a cyber-criminal can cause. Trespassing into an enterprise’s private data lake is worth potentially millions and even billions of dollars. 

Of equal concern is the laissez-faire approach that far too many organisations bring to their cybersecurity processes and behaviours,  especially in the context of enterprise data being very much the new “gold”. Ensuring it is safely stored, transferred and consumed by only the approved audiences should be as routine and important as our daily hygiene. When confidential information lands in the wrong hands it can result in both a financial hit and reputational damage, which may be irreparable. Even the slightest compromise in data security leaves entire organisations, and sometimes complete industries, vulnerable to critical cyber risks.

The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), which is mandated to track and monitor cyber security incidents in the country, observed over 6.07 lakh cyber security incidents in the first six months of 2021. In the aftermath of the pandemic, as boundaries between remote workplaces and offices have eroded, cyber attackers are discovering new ways to intrude and misuse sensitive data, both personal and corporate. Concurrently, while automation and digitisation have presented infinite growth opportunities, they have also widened the technological surface for cyber-attackers to exploit. 

In support of this, multinational corporations and government organisations are spending heavily on cybersecurity investment, and according to a Gartner forecast, Indian enterprises will increase spending on security and risk management of their end users by 9.5 per cent to US$ 2.08 billion in 2021. To protect their interconnected networks, systems and data from malicious threats, organisations need to be aware of emerging cybersecurity trends to identify key risks,  potential impacts and best allocate spending and resources.

‘Security by design’ for complex environments

Every organisation is at a different stage of digital adoption; applying a blanket package of solutions to all of them would be woefully inadequate. Moreover, as companies move towards higher personalisation across varied digital ecosystems, they are likely to exchange ever more sensitive and granular information with stakeholders.

In this process, companies must access properly configured cloud security solutions and a unified platform that meets compliance rules and regulations; thereby, preventing attacks and mitigating the impact of breaches. Ignoring critical security updates while functioning on obsolete applications slows the operational pace, creating a fertile ground of weak links for hackers. 

Inherently secure systems are built with a ‘security by design’ approach to protecting complex environments and extended sources. Expertly designed from scratch, they function for the long-term without the need for intermittent add-on patches and upgrades, enabling self-regulated controls and crisis preparedness.

Phishing and ransomware scams

Ransomware, a type of malware, is one of the most challenging threats to businesses in India and globally. Usually started when someone inadvertently clicks on an attachment containing the ransomware itself, it will encrypt all of the files within an infected network, leaving them in place but inaccessible. Once the file or files are blocked, the ransomware demands payment to secure the decryption code to unlock the files. 

Another common threat is phishing, a malicious attack to get personal information such as bank information, passwords or credit card numbers on websites or links that pretend to be authorised. Cybercriminals send tactfully worded emails, text messages, or direct messages with emotionally charged, popular keywords on social media to make people respond with their details.

 Phishing is carried out to distribute malware, steal credentials or money, and everyone in the enterprise value chain is at risk when it comes to ransomware or phishing attacks. To ensure organisations prevent unauthorised execution of files and have fewer occurrences of these attacks, it is essential to keep the operating system up-to-date with efficient AI strategies, and frequently backup indispensable files. To ensure cloud data protection, it is important to enable security tools such as encryption, unauthorised access control and, most importantly, train all staff to be aware of less-obvious risks, fake news and disinformation.

New work-from-home culture

To navigate the pandemic, companies have been forced to adopt new working structures not only for select staff as practised earlier but a larger section of the workforce. With this set to continue long term, network and security managers need to rethink security for both on-premises personnel and remote workers. Cybersecurity is a topic in corporate and government offices, worksites, factories and now even at homes as education takes place in the cyber-classroom. Second, only to the safety of staff and employees; is the safety of data and increased emphasis on the good judgement needed by everyone to protect it. 

Inevitably the new work-from-home culture created by the pandemic has made it challenging to monitor unsecured home networks through the traditional access controls including firewalling and network intrusion detection systems. To protect against this risk, IT teams must work together to provide effective endpoint management solutions, such as mobile device management (MDM) tools and secure access service edge (SASE). 

Simplified third-party consulting

Third-party vendor management is probably one of the most important elements of a cybersecurity strategy. For an enterprise in the early stages of transitioning from traditional infrastructures to the cloud, liaising with multiple vendors and tools can increase vendor risk and complexity. 

 Creating security controls between multi-cloud functioning and vendors requires meticulous security audits of all third-party vendors to ensure a complete record of responsible data usage by third parties. Eventually, enterprises must consider consolidating vendor services for enhanced security and integrated operations. This will foster improved coexistence amidst different business verticals, reduce inconsistency and risk factors.

Navigating the cybersecurity skills gap

Protecting data calls for a security-smart workforce in constant communication with the business and operations teams to understand safety loopholes and problem areas. This exclusive team, composed of an expert CISO, external data security consultants and analysts, must be aware and fully understand the end-to-end risks to achieve business transformation goals securely.

 However, industries across the globe are facing a shortage of cybersecurity-skilled staff who can configure a working solution out of the many security tools available today; for example: manage physical security, endpoint control and monitoring, policy implementation and other technical needs of data protection.

 A clear roadmap for a cyber-secure future

The National Cyber Security Policy (NCSP) released by the Government of India in 2013, aims to create a cyber security framework, which leads to specific actions and programmes to enhance the security posture of the country’s cyberspace. It includes a roadmap to strengthen the Regulatory framework for ensuring a Secure Cyberspace ecosystem while encouraging all private and public organisations to allocate a specific budget for implementing cyber security initiatives to meet emergency responses arising out of cyber incidents.

Careful attention to risk trends over the years shows that attackers follow patterns that are modified with evolving technologies but are not impossible to decode. Well-defined cybersecurity measures by expert Managed Security Service providers mitigate security concerns and enhance the efficiencies of digital operations. With clever IT touchpoints and by exploring techniques that protect data while it is being used, not just when it is static or in motion, one can empower clients to remain protected from cyber vulnerabilities and deliver real value to end-users. However, if one is not prepared beforehand with a cybersecurity strategy that aligns with the business objectives, remediation becomes costly and may hamper planned business growth, transformation and reputation.

Although policies and statutory laws guide organisations on cyber-secure behaviour, there is a need for a fool-proof and recognised framework to safeguard critical information assets and minimise the damage and downtime from breaches. Until then, it is imperative enterprises comprehend vulnerabilities, create data-smart teams and gather solutions to secure data environments of the future.

Like any other crisis, a cyber-attack demands preparation well in advance with savvy operators working on the “not if, but when” principle of what has become an almost inevitable situation.

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