Digitising business transactions makes cybersecurity extremely critical

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The onset of the pandemic has changed several aspects of our daily lives including the way we conduct our businesses. A major part of business transactions has got digitised and cyber security has become one of the most crucial aspects of business. In this article we will take a closer look at the evolving trends in cybersecurity and associated technologies.

Most trading activities have started to get digitised and professionals are looking for trends in cybersecurity, including business trends, technology adoption and regulations/compliance that help tell the story. Meanwhile, businesses are moving services and data to clouds, AI and machine learning models are on the rise and governments mandate new regulations. In case a business protects data, considering the following cybersecurity trends is important to its success.

The financial service industry is particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks. Hence, the need for cybersecurity for the industry has never been greater. Financial Institutions (FIs) have always been and will continue to be the subject of cyberattacks by adversaries. In 2019, 86 per cent of breaches were financially motivated, and the records exposed in all breaches increased by 284 percent. In addition to that, the average cost of a breach as disclosed by public firms in 2019 was $116 million. Given the magnitude of this issue, these are the top trends seen in cybersecurity this year.

Projections are that cybercrime will exceed $6 trillion annually by 2021 up from $3 trillion in 2015, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. Perhaps the most remarkable factor driving this acceleration is the increasing efficiency of cybercriminals. In the recent years the dark web has turned into a thriving black market where criminals of all means can gain the capabilities necessary to launch sophisticated cyberattacks. It’s no longer necessary that attackers be highly skilled to launch an attack. The dark web has commoditized attack tools in many ways while also providing a means of trading the spoils of an exploit. A potential attacker now has access to a plethora of malicious capabilities that include ransomware as a service, botnets for rent, and malware as a service, to name but a few. With barriers being lowered for entry and the financial payoff, expect cybercrime to continue rapid acceleration.

As most FIs have realised, cyber threat intelligence is a critical component of a successful cyber programme. Understanding adversary behaviour and tendencies can help a firm anticipate and react quickly before or shortly after an attack. Many firms have instituted ‘Cyber Fusion Centres’ to facilitate this interaction.

That said, significant challenges exist in operationalising intelligence in a way that prioritises activities for cyber defenders. A significant problem is the sheer volume of data available from multiple sources and the challenges associated with culling it into actionable intelligence to inform defensive processes like reducing attack surface, detection logic creation or red team scenarios. Additionally, security and orchestration technologies in existence today typically do not integrate well. Going forward, expect continued emphasis on developing the next generation Cyber Fusion Centre to extract value from cyber threat intelligence in a more streamlined and efficient manner.

It’s unfortunate that benefits can also accrue to those with nefarious intent – firms are moving to the cloud at an amazing speed and with good reason. Greater efficiencies, quicker speed to market and many enhanced capabilities drive up demand. Additionally, underlying cloud infrastructure can be more secure than legacy infrastructure thanks to additional attention paid by the cloud vendors as well as a consolidated and integrated approach. That said, there are pitfalls from a cybersecurity perspective. Primarily among them is the need for comprehensive security solutions that incorporate the cloud as well as legacy infrastructure. Given the shortage of cloud security expertise and the lack of hybrid solutions that span cloud and legacy, companies are challenged to build in system-wide security. Also, due to the consolidation effects of the cloud, small errors in misconfiguration can have devastating consequences, as demonstrated by many recent breaches. Expect to see both increasing use and misuse of the cloud driving up the need for talent and integrated cloud security solutions.

Nowadays clients today are demanding the ability to transact fully and securely in the digital domain and competitors are offering new choices daily. Hence, FIs are realising that keeping up in contemporary world of rapid digitisation means adopting agile development. When done well, agile allows FIs to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change; however, building security into the process presents a whole new set of issues. Agile development includes small teams working quickly and iteratively, where you don’t write requirements down, design and risk decisions are made just in time, and manual testing and compliance can’t keep up with the speed of delivery. Traditional waterfall approaches to building security can’t keep up anymore. In order to succeed, agile teams must have a deeper understanding of security issues, willingness to adopt security practices, and must take increased responsibility for the security of their systems. Additionally, security experts must work swiftly and learn to view cyber risk and mitigations in more incremental terms. Although all these changes are possible, success often requires changing deep-rooted cultural drivers and incentives. It will not happen without a clear plan as well as an organisational commitment at all levels.

There’s been a rapid increase in the adoption of cloud-based Infrastructure-as-a-service offering for running business systems with sensitive data on public clouds. These services often reduce operating costs and increase an organisation’s speed to bring new services to the market. One often comes across news stories of attacks against these cloud services due to misconfigured settings. Microsoft reported a 300 per cent rise in cyber-attacks in 2017 on its cloud users.

Another protective mechanism is Sandboxing. It is an automated technology for malware detection used in traditional antivirus programs and other security applications. Sandboxing keeps running programs separated so malware cannot run in those programs while the security software executes the malware to determine what it is. Although any malware has long been coded to try to bypass sandboxes, new techniques aim to hide complex threats and attacks over longer periods of time.

Cybersecurity professionals continue to hone the AI and machine learning models to combat what some estimate as 250,000 new malicious programs every day. Fundamentally, the idea is for machines to learn through human guidance, and trial and error, until they recognise threats tied to certain URLs or malware. Just as new technologies evolve, so do the attacks meant to evade them. Cybercriminals are turning to adversarial inputs, data-poisoning attacks and model-stealing techniques to push back against the advances this burgeoning technology has made.

In view of the emerging threats, cybersecurity organisations have been closely tracking trends and figuring out innovative ways to build safety features into products to address threats. These safety features continue to help organisations from fraud prevention to endpoint security for Internet of Things, Internet Security and antivirus software for consumers worldwide.

Article by Arijit Nag
Arijit Nag is a freelance journalist who writes on various aspects of the economy and current affairs.
Read more article of Arijit Nag


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