Four cybersecurity trends HR should pay attention to

With employees constantly being vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks, HR needs to address these threats immediately.

As BlackBerry’s Chief Security Officer, Alex Manea regularly speaks to Fortune 500 C-Suites and leaders representing the world’s top global brands, listening and learning about what security concerns keep them up at night. Manea also tries to spend just as much time speaking with security researchers – ethical hackers devoted to discovering security flaws and vulnerabilities.

Based on countless conversations over the past 12 months with customers, partners, government officials, Blackberry’s internal cybersecurity experts, and leaders from both the security and research communities, below are Alex’s trends for 2018.

1. 2018 will be the worst year to date for cyber attacks

With 2017 being the worst year ever for cyber attacks, it is tempting to think that we have hit rock bottom, but what we have seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg.

The fundamental issues that have caused the majority of recent cyber breaches have not been resolved. IT departments are being tasked to manage increasingly complex networks, support new types of endpoints, and protect more and more sensitive data. Legacy systems are still rampant throughout most industries and cannot be easily upgraded or replaced. These systems often contain publicly known software vulnerabilities which can be exploited to penetrate the corporate network.

At the same time, attackers are getting increasingly sophisticated and have more incentives than ever to mount cyber attacks. From building ransomware or mounting DDoS attacks and demanding bitcoin payments, to working with organised crime and even national governments, malicious hackers have numerous ways to monetise their skills and to protect themselves.

Governments and enterprises are recognising these new threats and deploying modern security solutions, but it will take years to decommission all of the legacy systems. 2018 will be yet another year where the shortcuts of the past come back to haunt us. More importantly, we need to start planning for the future by addressing the new threats posed by the Internet of Things (IoT), which go well beyond anything that we see in today’s cyber attacks.

2. Cyber attacks will cause physical harm

Securing the Internet of Things is even more important than securing traditional IT networks for one simple reason: IoT attacks threaten public safety. A hacked computer or mobile device typically cannot cause direct physical harm. While it is certainly frustrating to have our personal information stolen, it doesn’t compare to the impact of being involved in a car accident or having your infusion pump or pacemaker compromised. IoT security will literally become a matter of life and death, and we cannot simply wait for that to happen.

There is a need for stronger IoT security standards, especially as we continue to move towards smart cities. With the growing ubiquity of IoT and lack of focus on security, it is only a matter of time until malicious hackers breach critical connected infrastructure and devices and cause direct physical harm to individuals and innocent bystanders.

3. Hackers will target employees as they become a growing cybersecurity vulnerability

IT departments typically focus their spending on preventing external attacks, but the reality is that most data breaches start internally – either by sharing documents through unsecured consumer applications or clicking on increasingly sophisticated phishing attacks.

While hackers are often depicted as technical geniuses using complex algorithms to break advanced cryptography, the reality is that simpler techniques can be just as effective. Criminal hackers are not seeking style points; they are simply looking to breach the system as efficiently as possible. As our technical defenses continue to improve, employees will become the weakest link, increasingly targeted by attackers as part of their overall strategy.

Manea has a simple advice to all CIOs and CISOs: go hack yourself. You can spend all of your time building and buying systems that you believe will stop intruders in their tracks, but until you bring professional ethical hackers and let them simulate a real-world cyber attack (including phishing and other social engineering techniques), you would not ever know if you are truly secure. Blackberry’s cybersecurity services team recently gained access to a customer’s network by simply getting T-shirts made with their company logo on it and stating that they were “with IT.” If your employees do not know how to use the technology you put in place, or realise that they all play a critical role in keeping your company secure, everything a CIO/CISO does is for not.

4. Insurance and cybersecurity products will go hand and hand

In 2018, it would not matter which system or employee proves to be the weakest link, major corporate data breaches will happen and insurance companies are taking notice. They are taking notice because attacks to their clients could be as harmful as it could be helpful to their bottom line.

This year we will see firms not only add more cyber policyholders to their roster, but also seek out two strategic avenues to help manage risk for them and their customers: products and experts.

Just like Progressive’s Snapshot plug-in device which helps the insurer provide personalised rates based on your actual driving, insurance companies will start selling products to help track their client’s security posture. They will even partner with security experts to appropriately evaluate a company’s ability to protect against a cyber attack. Scorecards will be given and companies that perform the best will be rewarded with a lower policy amount.

Next Steps

While many other things will impact the cybersecurity industry this year, Manea believes these are some of the biggest trends for 2018. Though these trends may seem bleak to some, they too present many opportunities and possibilities if we are well prepared.

The expert

Alex Manea, Chief Security Officer, Blackberry

 

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