The cases of cyberattacks are becoming frequent and more costly every day. For instance, the FBI’s 2020 Internet Crime Report confirms that incidences of phishing, malware, extortion, nonpayment, no-delivery scams, and other attacks increased by nearly 70% in 2020, resulting in more than $4.2 billion in losses. Though the monetary costs of mitigating an attack are often steep, the unquantifiable damage to a victimized business’s reputation and brand can be disastrous.
Another recent survey by PwC revealed that nearly 90% of consumers are willing to stop doing business with companies that have experienced data breaches. As consumers become more concerned with their data security, they’ll show little sympathy for companies that can’t keep it safe. Therefore, businesses that cannot enhance their cybersecurity are at risk of being forced to close down their operations despite their types and sizes.
Cyberattacks refer to the process by which cybercriminals such as hackers illegally access computer networks and systems, intending to destroy them. In other cases, cybercriminals could acquire data contained in those systems and use it for unethical purposes. Even with the constant evolution and steady advancement of cybersecurity practices, some critical weaknesses remain. Among these is that cybercriminals can too easily acquire new tools and techniques to access, infect, or steal sensitive information from organizational domains.
As the methods favored by perpetrators become more sophisticated, fending them off will become increasingly difficult. This will require continuous surveillance across digital assets, including extensions into third-party supplier ecosystems. Ultimately, there is a mission-critical need for businesses to become more resilient with fail-safe cybersecurity.
Don’t trade speed and low cost for average security
Business owners, executives, and security leaders are constantly facing tradeoffs regarding cybersecurity. An excessively complex cybersecurity program can hamper operational speed and agility and strain budgets. Product launches, mergers and acquisitions, and other mission-critical initiatives might be delayed as compliance teams conduct thorough certification checks and perform additional due diligence. Employee engagement and productivity could decrease due to extensive validation requirements. Customer experiences could be affected, putting companies at a significant disadvantage.
When business owners negotiate against proven security models to avoid complexity and cost, they expose their businesses to significant risks. For instance, an organization’s lack of reliability makes its IT infrastructure vulnerable to attackers. If a breach does occur, companies that aren’t prepared will inevitably experience punitive damages that extend well beyond business recovery times. Whatever regulatory penalties for noncompliance and nonconformance can exacerbate financial losses they suffer.
When companies approach cybersecurity as a series of tradeoffs, they’re setting themselves up for challenging times. Vulnerable systems and inefficient business processes are open to hackers, espionage activities, disgruntled associates, and other known and unknown adversaries. At the very least, tradeoffs will affect operational resilience and create ongoing issues. Therefore, leaders must approach data privacy and cybersecurity as a strategic business imperative instead of settling for tradeoffs that negatively impact businesses.
There are five steps to protect and secure your most valuable information systems:
- Commit to continuous improvement.
Operational resilience is a journey. Leaders should aim for an acceptable baseline for cyber resilience, implement it, and continually improve by applying adaptive and agile security models and processes. They should adopt proven frameworks (e.g., zero trust) and governance models (e.g., NIST, ISO 27001, and CIS 20) to ensure they have adequate controls in place and to minimize risks.
In addition, security teams must consistently monitor and evaluate the improvement process. This would be important because if the implemented models fail to introduce the desired improvement, there are ongoing opportunities to make corrections or rearchitect suitable models. In doing so, they will gain insights to guide their investments and drive decisions toward allocating resources for maximum impact through ongoing governance. A continually evolving cyber resilience model is the only viable defense mechanism against next-generation threats.
- Manage third-party risks.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, various challenges have been seriously impacting business operations. For instance, the pandemic has disrupted global supply chains and forced businesses to find new ways of working together. Amid the shift to remote work, many organizations have given vendors unprecedented access to their business systems to ease the burdens of remote maintenance and monitoring. Risk-management practices should adapt to this shift. Third-party supplier risk-management practices should critically identify and manage risks across the complete value chain.
To effectively focus on cybersecurity risks (as well as prioritize other types of risk), it’s important to consider strategic risks, ethical risks, performance, and reputational risks, among others. All these areas could facilitate the risk of cyberattacks. For instance, if an organization suffers from ethical issues, the personnel in charge of accessing and identifying the organization’s risk of attack by cybercriminals may willingly fail to perform the tasks appropriately. Hence, the organization could fall victim to cyberattacks.
- Extend governance to the cloud.
The secure and compliant adoption of cloud services is a strategic imperative for companies now in the midst of digital transformation. A practical cloud governance framework would be characterized by attributes for data controls and compliance, plus security policies. Despite acting as a roadblock, a solid framework will set the foundation for ongoing evolution in the cloud.
Extension of governance to the cloud can be achieved by developing strategies that support applications and data and which can be moved easily from private clouds to public clouds and vice versa, or even between public cloud providers. It is essential for businesses to take advantage of cloud governance solutions now while it is a rapidly developing area.
- Take advantage of advanced automation capabilities.
Digital transformation initiatives pave the way to leverage robotic process automation and cybersecurity bots to step up and drive efficiencies. Automation models can efficiently design resilience plans for the increasing threat of ransomware events. Companies that lag in automation endeavors tend to fall victim to emerging cyber threats more often than their peers who prioritize automating inefficient processes.
For example, it isn’t easy to scale cybersecurity effectively when it takes months to identify assets and classify data manually. Automation also adds to organizational efficiency by reducing costs associated with hiring personnel.
- Leverage machine learning to detect and defend.
Machine learning and automation concepts are mature capabilities available to decision makers to design cyber-defense plans. Such investments in advanced technologies are crucial due to the persistent, ever-evolving nature of cyberattacks as we approach 2022. Hackers are more resourced, better coordinated, and increasingly aggressive each passing year. Thankfully, machine learning continues to evolve rapidly, and its future is well invested. Endpoint detection and response solutions are examples of machine learning used for cybersecurity detection and defense. Machine learning also facilitates real-time remediation and control through automated policy enforcement, a key component of sound cybersecurity.
Ultimately, cyberattacks can impose severe consequences to any business institution. Advancement in technology continues for both business and cybercriminals, meaning just as one attains a strong position, the other will gain a foothold and leap over their opponent. To maintain a winning position in cyber governance, a progressive cyber resilience strategy must be holistic in its approach. Procedures of combining traditional concepts with new advancements in technology are vital and organizations must not only invest in defense, but meticulously test its efficacy through frequent exposure assessments and recovery drills. It’s the surest, safest way forward.
Written by Srini Pallia.
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