It’s no secret that cyber threats are constantly evolving and morphing — new risks are appearing every day. In Q2 2022, cyberattacks increased by 32` percent compared to Q2 2021. Furthermore, over 10 billion IoT devices were connected as of 2021, which will rise to 25 billion by 2025. The natural consequence of more gadgets connected to the internet is that hackers will have more chances to take advantage of any vulnerabilities.
When you factor in more organizations automating their processes, there is a surplus of online data. This opens up a Pandora’s box of internet security dangers, such as data breaches and theft, which are frequent for organizations of all types and sizes. In fact, in Q1 2022, hackers were the cause of more than 90` percent of data breaches.
The hybrid workforce trend, cloud-based processes, sophisticated ransomware, and cyberattacks on the supply chain have exposed technological flaws — and there’s a shortage of cybersecurity experts to address the issues.
Let’s dig deeper into these trends and discuss how organizations across various industries can adequately prepare.
The remote working conundrum to rumble on
The widespread adoption of remote working can provide many benefits to employees, from a better work-life balance to more flexibility. However, the processes and technologies required to protect a dispersed remote working environment differ from when everyone worked on devices provided by an organization and on a controlled network (in the office).
Organizations that are slow to adjust and invest in cybersecurity, especially addressing the unique needs of managing remote work data security, will be the most vulnerable. This is one of the reasons why we’re seeing such high rates of ransomware attacks in the public sector, like schools and local governments. Public institutions rarely have the budget or the expertise to invest in advanced cybersecurity protections, making them easier targets in today’s remote and hybrid working environments.
Organizations should adopt a couple of solutions for safer remote working: properly configuring VPNs for all remote staff. It’s also vital to install antivirus software on all devices connecting to the workplace network and enforce a strict password policy that demands different passwords for every website. Additionally, user behavior analytics (UBA) via machine learning and data science can recognize users’ regular habits (such as accessing the same networks) and flag questionable behavior that could point to a user’s credentials being hacked.
The rise of ransomware
Unfortunately, ransomware isn’t going to go away anytime soon. We’ll continue to see attacks across all industries in 2023 because they are among the most common cybersecurity threat.
Furthermore, phishing attacks will be rampant on mobile devices due to the increasing sophistication of criminal tactics — geo-targeting, brand spoofing, spear phishing, and lateral phishing. Spear-phishing emails, in particular, are used by almost two-thirds of all known groups carrying out targeted cyber attacks, with 96` percent of these attacks gathering intelligence in the process.
Organizations will undoubtedly push back against these ransomware gangs by fortifying defenses, which could lead hackers to pursue other more abnormal routes. We have already seen the trend of encrypted data infiltration, locking the user out of previously encrypted data that is then sold on the dark web. We can expect this trend to continue, given that more organizations are using cloud applications to store data than ever before.
The difficulty of regulation
The topic of regulation has always been contentious in cybersecurity. Currently, several federal and state regulations mainly cover data privacy, with some mention of data security. However, most of these don’t have teeth, meaning there aren’t any consequences for breaches or non-compliance.
Additionally, the debate around whether to restrict or pay ransomware demands is heating up. Some believe federal law should block organizations from paying the ransom to regain access to their data. This, advocates argue, would decentivize criminal gangs and terrorist groups from using ransomware as a revenue generating tactic. The idea is that paying ransoms is the same as funding terrorists and aiding criminal activity, which is illegal in other contexts.
The main argument against banning ransomware payments is that it is more likely to create a scenario where the victim becomes the criminal while they’re doing the best they can in a bad situation.
A focus on critical infrastructure and publicly-funded organizations is prudent. Federal law should make it illegal for government-funded organizations to pay ransoms. Over a period of time, this will serve as a strong disincentive for hackers to not target these types of organizations.
Regulators are also looking into cybersecurity and ransomware payment reporting requirements, which could be beneficial, but can easily become detrimental if not done well. They will need to work with organizations across all sectors to make sure there’s a balance and clarity in the language. Otherwise, regulation will become more of a detriment than a positive.
Generally speaking, government regulations are usually “a day late and a dollar short,” particularly regarding highly technical, innovative, and fast-moving issues like cybersecurity. FCC’s E-Rate program, for example, has been outdated now for several years, and the inertia of federal agencies deters much-needed innovation for the education industry’s cybersecurity needs, resulting in the terrible and increasing attacks against school districts, libraries, and higher education we’ve seeing in recent years..
The top brass of organizations must start taking cybersecurity seriously and spending money on defenses outside the IT department. It’s unacceptable that most IT departments have appallingly low budgets and staffing levels. It’s also crucial to keep in mind that most data breaches still result from human error, demonstrating the inadequacy of traditional security awareness training. Modern companies must abandon compliance-based awareness campaigns from the past in favor of extensive behavior and culture change programs that promote safer workplace practices. Once again, this requires proper funding.
Charlie Sander is CEO of ManagedMethods, a Boulder, Colorado-based data security and student safety platform for K-12 schools. With more than three decades of experience in the IT industry, Charlie has been an executive at some of the fastest-growing companies in business. He holds 10 patents and graduated from the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin with a BSEE degree.