CISO Should Prioritize Biz Functions Besides Security

by Priyanka Pugaokar    May 19, 2017


Digital transformation is currently the latest buzz word in the enterprise segment. Organizations are rapidly adopting digital technologies such as Cloud, IoT, Artificial Intelligence, robotics to enhance their business efficiency. However, due to the lack of security frameworks, enterprises worldwide are falling prey to the massive ransomware and DDoS attacks.

According to the Fortinet India Threat Landscape Report 2016, ransomware attacks doubled in 2016 with around 30000-50000 devices getting infected every month. India too was the prime target of cybercriminals and witnessed the steady increase in the botnet and other types of cyberattacks along with ransomware.

Despite of growing threat of cyberattacks, the security maturity in India is still very less compared to the western countries. Due to the lack of awareness many organizations overlook the security risks associated with digital initiatives they intend to implement. Here the CISOs can become a best guide to the organizations not only in terms of awareness but the selection of the technology.

The role of CISOs is steadily becoming critical in the organizations in India but they should proactively involve in the business discussions and collaborate with other business heads on the technology deployments. In a candid interaction with CXO Today, Michael Joseph, Regional Director – System Engineering, India & SAARC, Fortinet, explains how CISOs role should be driven towards security infrastructure deployment in the organization.

CXOToday: According to the Fortinet India Threat Landscape Report 2016, the botnet attacks have steadily increased in India in recent years. What is a current threat landscape of botnets in the country?

Michael Joseph: India is rapidly emerging as a hub for botnet activities with number of vulnerable IT systems being used to launch massive amount of botnet attacks. The Fortinet India Threat Landscape Report 2016 reveals that Botnet activity rose slowly over the year, with an average activity level of 800k connections per day recorded by the Fortinet sensors in Q4 2016.

Thanks to the decreasing prices of data, people are getting connected to the internet but without basic security hygiene. The amount of the internet bandwidth available to users makes it a good target to hackers to launch botnet attacks. There is huge numbers of infected systems in India which are highly vulnerable to cyberattacks. Many organizations use outdated software to cut cost or do not regularly patch their systems with the latest updates. That makes the entire IT infrastructure vulnerable to the botnet attacks. For instance, Microsoft has stopped supporting Windows XP, but we see many government organizations are still using the outdated operating system.

India still lacks a robust legal framework to ensure prompt reporting of data breach incidents. The RBI has taken a step in that direction and has issued guidelines to banks on data breach reporting. But is RBI abled to enforce these guidelines on all banks? I am not very sure about it. The government is mulling to link all the banking and financial transactions and subsidies to UIDAI, but I have a big reservation on the security of the UIDAI infrastructure.

So from a security maturity perspective, India still has a long way to go as compared to the European countries where security standards are very high. Until and unless there is a strict regulatory mechanism comes in force, we will not have the correct picture of the current cyber security landscape in the country.

CXOToday: Ransomware attacks topped the chart of cyberattacks worldwide in 2017. How the concept of Ransomware-as-a-service is evolving in the dark market?

Michael Joseph: Ransomware attacks are mainly carried out by individuals or underground organizations. Many people start attempting it for fun initially and then get into wrong direction for easy money. If you look at most of the common ransomware which are creating havoc today are the updated versions of ransomware discovered in 2012-13. The Cerber ransomware, which targeted the MS Office 365 corporate users in 2016, is actually the sixth or seventh version of the original ransomware.

There are certain dark markets which offer Ransomware-as-a-service and provide readymade toolkits. In fact in certain countries the whole economy is depended on such kind of activities.  A lot of information you will not get unless you enter into these dark markets. Our FortiGuard Research team is very active in such markets. There end objective is to get the information about the activities in such dark places and use it in a productive way.

CXOToday: How CISOs role is gaining prominence in the enterprises and how they are driving the security policies in their organizations?

Michael Joseph: I think the CISOs role should be majorly driven towards deployment of the security infrastructure and they need to actively get involved in the business conversations. I think CISOs should also get involved in new business initiatives and processes besides just looking at the security posture. CISOs can play a vital role in terms of how business initiatives that needs to be taken and educate the business stakeholders on the risk involve in business initiatives they are contemplating to initiate.

CXOToday: The rapid adoption of digital technologies is also opening up backdoors to cyber criminals. What steps enterprise should take to protect their data in the digital era?

Michael Joseph: Whether it is on the cloud or on premise, the ultimate responsibility of protecting critical data lies on organizations. Therefore, it is imperative to evaluate the security risk associated with the step business leaders are taking and how these steps will mitigate the security risks and at what levels. It is important that how CISOs or IT heads enforce the control on the internet access, BYOD and IoT devices.

CXOToday: What are your key thrust areas in 2017 in terms of business expansion?

Michael Joseph: We started our India operations in 2003 and we are consistently growing yoy. We had a descent growth in 2016 and the growth target this year is on the similar lines. As per the IDC figures, we are at number 3 in the network security space in India and the target is to move from number 3 to number one in the coming years. We are closely working with the central and State governments on couple of strategic projects, where we are offering our expertise to develop a complete connectivity infrastructure. We currently have a team of 200 and we will be expanding our sales and pre sales teams. Our R&D team is based in Bangalore and the DDoS Development team is based in Hyderabad. We have a direct presence in all the major cities and we will keep expanding our presence here in India.