With the rapid advancements in technology over the past couple of decades including but not limited to cloud computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual and augmented reality, edge computing etc. This technology-driven business world has practically transitioned into a space where clients’ data needs to be stored, shared and accessed through the cloud. However, this online data storage and sharing provides increased opportunities to a potential hacker. According to one research, cloud security at present is the fastest-growing cybersecurity market segment, with approximately 41% increase from $595 million in 2020 to $841 million in 2021. Though, an effort to counter this is already in process through zero-trust cloud security architecture which requires authentication and verifications at each and every step instead of granting permanent access to devices over the network. According to another report, there has been 82% increase in ransomware related data leaks in 2021 as compare to 2020. With such a huge amount of information available not only on cloud but also on unprotected machines in companies, it is important to protect this data which puts more emphasis on cybersecurity. This brief article will make an attempt to introduce cybersecurity and focus on initiating discussions as to why should organizations invest in cybersecurity.
What is Cyber Security?
Cybersecurity is the practice of safeguarding computer systems, networks, devices, services and programs from electronic digital attacks by hackers, cybercriminals or spammers through technologies, processes and various methods. The overall aim is to access, change or even destroy important sensitive information/data; interrupt routine business functions or money extortion beside others. It generally has following subdomains: –
Cloud security is a broad set of policies and controls designed to protect cloud-based data, applications, or associated infrastructure.
Process of writing codes (developing), adding, testing and implementing security features within the applications with a view to prevent unauthorized access by the attackers. It requires developers to write secure code, design secure application architectures, ensure strong data validation etc. to minimize unauthorized access.
Process of creating a strategic defensive mechanism (both hardware and software) with a view to protect an organization’s data and resources across its network is termed as network security. The overall aim is to secure the network from disruptions, unauthorized access or other abuses from within or outside the organization.
Staff awareness of cyber threats is important in the cyber security puzzle. Providing cyber security training to staff members on basic fundamentals of computer security will enhance their awareness level about organizational procedures, cyber industry best practices, remaining alert from such malicious activities as well as reporting them. This may include training in offices by the organization itself or even cyber security related certifications.
Identity Management and Data Security
This sub-domain is also known as Identity and Access Management (IAM) includes authorization of legitimate individuals and only legitimate individuals to an organization’s technological resources through various processes and activities. It also includes policies and technologies to properly identify and authorize people, groups or even software applications through setting user access rights and enforcing access restrictions.
This sub-domain secures information, both personal or organizational, saved on personal mobile devices (cell phones, tablets, laptops, PDAs etc.) from unauthorized access, loss or theft of device itself etc. it deals with the protection of our mobile devices from potential attack vectors as the devices can be targeted at multiple levels.
Types of Cyber Threats
Few common types of cyber threats include: –
The term “malware” is a combination of two words, “malicious” and “software” and is an umbrella term used for any type of software designed to harm or exploit any device or network. Cyber criminals use this to fetch information or any financial data for financial gains from the victims, both individuals and organizations. Malware include viruses, ransomware, scareware, worms, spyware, trojans, adware and fileless malware.
Politically motivated use of internet to carryout violent attacks with a view to cause severe social disruption or wide-spread fear amongst the masses is termed as cyberterrorism. It also involves accessing computer networks to cause data loss and even loss of life through malware, phishing, programming language scripts etc.
A network of hijacked internet connected devices under the control of a single attacking party, known as the “bot-herder to carry out scams and cyber attacks.” Bot herder is an individual who runs the botnet infrastructure remotely and uses the hijacked computers to attack target’s network, inject malware etc. Each individual device within the botnet network is called a bot.
Structured Query Language Injection (SQLI)
SQLI is a common attack vector in which malicious SQL statements are inserted into any entry field like search fields, login fields, URLs etc. for parsing and execution. Results could be unauthorized access to user lists, possible deletion of entire tables and even gaining administrative rights to any/all databases.
Fraudulent practice of sending emails, pretending to be from credible companies/sources to fool the recipients and encourage them to share personal information like credit card and passwords is termed as phishing.
Man-in-the-middle attack (MITM)
Also known as active eavesdropping whereby attacker inserts him/her self in a two-person online communication/transaction, gathering information/listening to their conversation, relaying their messages by altering them as per his/her needs, and making them believe that they are only talking to each other whereas the entire conversation was controlled by him/her. This can often happen on public Wi-Fi networks.
Denial of Service (DoS)
A DoS attack occurs when legitimate users are not able to access devices, information, or other network resources due to a cyberattack by the malicious attackers. It is done by sending numerous and continuous online requests to the target’s server/network with a view to overload server’s bandwidth. This overwhelming traffic eventually overloads the system and makes it incapable of responding to legitimate user requests.
Reasons for Organizations to Invest in Cybersecurity
Safeguarding an organization’s cybersecurity can help prevent serious issues that can eventually cause its downfall. Merely buying latest technology is not sufficient; the solution rather lies in finding right people to deploy that technology effectively. This requires a governance and cultural shift in the attitudes of the senior management and a detailed cyber policy to be in place instead of denial or short-termism, eventually harming a business, losing huge sales, upsetting shareholders or even bringing the company down.
Increased Reliance on Technology
Post pandemic, reliance on technology particularly use of IoT (Internet of things) devices, internet services, cloud storage has increased giving rise to increased exposure and warrants more/wise spending on likely cybersecurity threats that will equip an organization with robust defenses protecting both the employees and customers alike against a host of cyberattacks stated above and keeping sensitive and critical data secure. Generally, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) tend to invest less in cybersecurity as compared to larger enterprises and thus are more exposed to such threats. For these SMEs, striking a balance between investment and business continuity will be an uphill task.
Advanced Hacking Methods
Other than the traditional cyberattacks such as password hacking, access breaches, infiltrating in a network, messaging abuse, intellectual property theft etc. there are newer and advanced methods everyday cyber attackers go for. Imparting education and enhancing awareness of the same amongst the employees is extremely important and may include increased budget allocation for cybersecurity.
Increased Mobile Usage
With an alarming rate of corporate mobile usage, a plethora of opportunities are available for the hackers. New mobiles that come in the market are relatively unprotected and their loss due to any reason will pave the way for potential data theft. Organizations need to invest a little more in having secure communication devices as well as in imparting education to mobile users through proper training.
Earning Clients’ Trust
Cost of data breaches is much higher than one can anticipate. A reliable cybersecurity system and staff is an excellent selling, trust earning and a differentiating factor once it comes to investor/client acquisition as well as retention. This will boost clients’ confidence in you besides guaranteeing that company’s sensitive and critical information is well protected. Your clients will then become your marketeers; word of their mouths will spread resulting into more business. On the contrary, in this technology-driven era, organizations with no or poor cybersecurity policies and regulations will soon find themselves losing business rapidly. If an organization does not invest in cybersecurity, it might have to invest in having cybersecurity insurance which might cost even more. According to Forbes, in 2017, Target had a cyber insurance cost of USD 100 million. Creating a decent cybersecurity department and implementing cybersecurity policies is a wise investment that can save an organization millions, besides protecting its reputation.
Exposure to Lawsuits/Legal Repercussions
A cybersecurity breached organization may have to face legal consequences including audits, enhanced tax compliances, response policies/plans checking, etc. which might even lead to penalties besides ruining organization’s reputation amongst investors, and the business community.
A lot of money can be saved by investing in cybersecurity tools and methods and can be used for other business ventures. This way huge amounts of money would have to be paid in retributions after a cyberattack gets materialized. According to research by IBM in 2020, one single data breach incident could cost an organization US$3.86 million.
In case of a data breach, employees would be asked to stop working until thorough rectification of cybersecurity issues. They may not be allowed to get to their workstations let alone, resume work until damage is controlled. Detailed investigations to reveal the causes of breach so that appropriate counter measures can be taken, would further delay the work to start. This all would reduce overall productivity and affect business considerably.
Business and Customer Retention
Organizations will be considered trustworthy if the clients and business partners believe that their data and information is safe. This would result in increased loyalty and increased business.
Website Going Down
If the organization hosts its own website, a likely cyber breach could be catastrophic. Having a breached system means serious implications for the organization’s website forcing it to close down resulting into loss of money as a result from lost transactions.
Greater Risks for Remote Workers
Post Covid-19, there has been a significant increase in cyber related issues particularly on work from home workers. Connections at their respective homes are not as secure as they should be. Organizations in this regard can assist in formulating remote-work security policies for all employees besides securing virtual private networks (VPNs). Educating employees about phishing and malware attacks and addressing access issues would help in protecting them from being a victim.
Data – The Most Important Resource
For any organization, data is becoming more and more valuable and warrants higher level of protection from all. Organizations will have to handle data and its storage more methodically in order to remain valid in today’s world. Special attention and importance not only need to be given to data handling but should also be visible to all in any setup. Employees have to be educated about cybersecurity breaches and its implications as human error has found to be the key factor in these breaches. Policies have to be made in consultation with cybersecurity experts which might cost but will give dividends in the longer run.
Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT security is very critical, primarily due to expanded threats attack surface. Adding fuel to fire are the end users’ insecure practices who may have lesser resources or bleak knowledge to best protect their IoT systems. Apart from these threats themselves, they have serious and cascading effects as they can be translated into physical consequences easily. For example, in hospitals, where IoT devices are being used to monitor patients’ vital signs remotely, particularly during pandemic has proved to be extremely beneficial, however, attacks on such systems can endanger patients’ health and safety. Likewise, extensive use of these devices in organizations may expose them to cyber attackers.
Investing in cybersecurity these days is no more an option and has rather become a necessity. Having an internal cyber security team, no matter how small, would leverage one’s company a qualitative edge over its competitors and its staff an opportunity to learn how to protect themselves as well as their clients from such malicious attacks in order to remain valid.