Sensitive and valuable data was once again under attack in 2017. Organizations of all types, from government agencies to healthcare organizations, have been jolted by the massive, public failures of their cyber security programs. The consequences are grave and pervasive: class action lawsuits, stalled mergers, identity theft and the exposure of personal health and financial information.
There’s no escaping the call to action.
In 2017, the pace and cost of data breaches increased, threat vectors multiplied, hackers were traced to foreign governments, global organized crime syndicates, and hacktivist groups. Insider threats also intensified: the negligence, human error, and malicious intent of those inside the breached organization led to a significant portion of data breaches, and these types of attacks are often harder to detect. Many breaches could have been avoided by deploying and following through on basic cyber security measures. However, attackers continue to become more sophisticated and their methods more advanced.
The impact and ripple effects of breaches are often unpredictable; only well prepared enterprises will be resilient enough to withstand the fallout. Organizations need to reinforce their cyber security programs, manage internal and external risks, and prepare to respond quickly and effectively to attacks. The stakes have never been higher: shareholder value, business reputation, and public trust hang in the balance.
The Information Security Forum has identified five predominant security threats that organizations need to prepare for in 2018:
- Crime-As-A-Service (CaaS) Expands Tools and Services
- The Internet of Things (IoT) Adds Unmanaged Risks
- Supply Chain Remains the Weakest Link in Risk Management
- Regulation Adds to Complexity of Critical Asset Management
- Unmet Board Expectations Exposed by Major Incidents
We’ve provided an overview for each of these areas below:
Crime-As-A-Service (CaaS) Expands Tools and Services
Criminal organizations will continue their ongoing development and become increasingly more sophisticated. The complex hierarchies, partnerships and collaborations that mimic large private sector organizations will facilitate their diversification into new markets and the commoditization of their activities at a global level. Some organizations will have roots in existing criminal structures, while others will emerge focused purely on cybercrime. Organizations will struggle to keep pace with this increased sophistication and the impact will extend worldwide, with cryptoware in particular becoming the leading malware of choice for its threat and impact value. The resulting cyber incidents in the coming year will be more persistent and damaging than organizations have experienced previously, leading to business disruption and loss of trust in existing security controls.
The Internet of Things (IoT) Adds Unmanaged Risks
Organizations will adopt IoT devices with enthusiasm, not realizing that these devices are often insecure by design and therefore offer many opportunities for attackers. In addition, there will be an increasing lack of transparency in the rapidly-evolving IoT ecosystem, with vague terms and conditions that allow organizations to use personal data in ways customers did not intend. It will be problematic for organizations to know what information is leaving their networks or what data is being secretly captured and transmitted by devices such as smartphones and smart TVs. When breaches occur, or transparency violations are revealed, organizations will be held liable by regulators and customers for inadequate data protection. In a worst-case scenario, when IoT devices are embedded in industrial control systems, security compromises could result in harm to individuals or even loss of life.
Supply Chain Remains the Weakest Link in Risk Management
Supply chains are a vital component of every organization’s global business operations and the backbone of today’s global economy. However, security chiefs everywhere are concerned about how open they are to an abundance of risk factors. A range of valuable and sensitive information is often shared with suppliers and, when that information is shared, direct control is lost. This leads to an increased risk of its confidentiality, integrity or availability being compromised. In the coming year, organizations must focus on the weakest spots in their supply chains. Not every security compromise can be prevented beforehand, but being proactive now means that you— and your suppliers—will be better able to react quickly and intelligently when something does happen. To address information risk in the supply chain, organizations should adopt strong, scalable and repeatable processes — obtaining assurance proportionate to the risk faced. Supply chain information risk management should be embedded within existing procurement and vendor management processes. This readiness may determine competitiveness, financial health, share price, or even business survival in the aftermath of a breach.
Regulation Adds to Complexity of Critical Asset Management
New regulations, such as the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), will add another layer of complexity to the issue of critical information asset management that many organizations are already struggling with. The GDPR aims to establish the same data protection levels for all EU residents and will focus on how organizations handle personal data. Businesses face several challenges in preparing for the reform, including a widespread lack of awareness among internal stakeholders. The additional resources required to address the obligations are likely to increase compliance and data management costs while pulling attention and investment away from other important initiatives. In the longer term, organizations will benefit from the uniformity introduced by the reform. But it is not just in the area of privacy where legislation will bite. The increasing burden of compliance and legislative variances across jurisdictions will increase the burden for multi-nationals and those businesses targeting international trade.
Unmet Board Expectations Exposed by Major Incidents
Boards will expect that their approval of increased information security budgets will have enabled the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and the information security function to produce immediate results. However, a fully secure organization is an unattainable goal, and many boards are unaware that making substantial improvements to information security will take time – even when the organization has the correct skills and capabilities. Consequently, the expectations of boards will quickly accelerate beyond their information security functions’ ability to deliver. Misalignment between a board’s expectations and the reality of the security function’s ability to deliver will be most cruelly exposed when a major incident occurs. Not only will the organization face substantial impact, the repercussions will also reflect badly on the individuals and collective reputations of the board members.
The Writing is on the Wall: Ignore it at Your Own Risk
If we learned one lesson from 2017, it should be that the consequences of data breaches extend well beyond individual identity theft and exposure. High-level corporate secrets, critical infrastructure, and fundamental government systems are constantly under attack. Organizations must be vigilant, analyzing the emerging threats that have shifted in the past year, as well as those they should prepare for in 2018.
It’s not possible to avoid every significant data breach or thwart every attack. However, defenses at most businesses leave much room for improvement. Moreover, we have to get better at learning from incidents, analyzing what went wrong, and sharing that intelligence. Building a realistic, broad-based, collaborative approach to cyber security and resilience should be a top priority for all types of organizations in the year ahead. Take advantage of the fresh start and resolve to earn the trust of your customers, employees, shareholders, and partners with a renewed commitment to risk management, information governance, and security.