News & AnalysisSecurity

When Hackers Are Smart, Businesses Should Get Smarter

Cyber Threats

India’s massive digital leap in the last few years has propelled ittowards a growth trajectory that is expected to bring the total value of the economy to $10 trillion by 2030, according to a report by Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).This will make India the third largest economy in the world, aided by significant shifts in economic activityin someof its key industries and sectors, most significantly as a result of the rising adoption of digitisation.

According to a report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the size of India’s digital economy is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2025. A majority of this growth is expected to be the result of businesses using modern technologies like cloud, big data, mobile, and social media. Although these technologies unlock a whole new set of capabilities and rewards for businesses, they also expose them tohitherto unknown risks. The growing rate of cybercrimes and hacking incidents affecting these businesses and industries, then, could prove to be a major barrier to India’s economic growth and digital aspirations.

Challenges to cybersecurity in the digital age

For modern enterprises, the road to digital transformation is fraught with several obstacles, most notably, those concerning the issue of cybersecurity. Today, when we talk about cybersecurity threats, it’s more a question of ‘when’, rather than ‘if’, an attack will occur. This is true especially in a time when enterprises around the world are shifting their focus towards achieving greater mobility and connectivity of technologies with the help of cloud applications and infrastructures, Internet of Things (IoT), etc. to help them achieve the level of efficiency they require.

Of course, all of these technologies carry with them massive benefits like better mobility and connectivity, which is what makes them both necessary and appealing in the first place. However, the associated risks that come with such tools could also increase proportionately as these technologies develop further, with the potential to drill a hole in the already vulnerable security infrastructures of businesses in the country.For instance, IoT devices house more than 70,000 known CVEs (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) that can be used by a cyber attacker. These threatsonly augment further when IT experts focus on addressing the known vulnerabilities, while ignoring theones that are undiscovered. This could lead to even weaker security for IoT devices if any of these known or unknown vulnerabilities are ignored by the device manufacturers.

Mobility and the rising connectivity of technologies, systems, processes, and peoplepresent a gamut of challenges to enterprises in terms of managing the security of multiple data points, as well as the intellectual property that is derived from them.The expansion of enterprise networks and cloud infrastructure to accommodate the influx of data and devices hasvastly extended the security perimeter to include nearly everything in an organisation’s internal as well as external environment.As a result, the new security parameter has come to include both traditional parameters, along with theentire Internet that’s the source of a majority of cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

According to Cisco’s ‘Annual Cyber Security Report 2018’,cyberattacks caused $500,000 worth of financial damages to Indian companies in the last year and half.Further, a survey report by EY (Ernst and Young), titled ‘Responding to Cybercrime Incidents in India’, revealed that the Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) and Financial Services (FS) sectors were among the top two sectors that saw the highest number of cybercrimes taking place. Coincidently, these sectors are also among the most prolific users of new-age technologies and services like cloud computing, cloud datacentres, and IoT, among others, which are usually delivered in the form of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) or Platform-as-a-Service (Paas) products sourced from third-party vendors. With the adoption of these technologies, enterprises need to be more vigilant than ever because cyber-attacks today are no longer random in nature.

In most of the cases reviewed in the EY report, it was found that the attacks were perpetrated with the intention of exploiting the vulnerabilities of specific companies for various motives, through well-planned assaults on their networks and servers. With more sophisticated cyber weaponries at their disposal, hackers are attacking banking infrastructures, or government records, like UK’s National Health Service (NHS) database, which was targeted by hackers through the ‘WannaCry’ ransomware attack in May 2017.

Unlike in the past when hackers would deploy adware, malware, Trojan viruses, phishing attacks or standard keyloggers on private systemsfor small gains, the focus of hackers and cybercriminals has shifted from individual users to big businesses and corporations since they make for more lucrative targets. But financial rewards arenot the only motive behind cyber-attacks.Gaining access to sensitive data and using it for illegal purposes, causeenterprises far more damage, not only in terms of financial losses, but also hurting the reputation they have painstakingly built over several years.

Hackers are alsoincreasingly deploying ransomware using social engineering, and DDoS attacks using botnets built from IoT devices, which can cripple an enterprise’s security infrastructure and extract massive amounts of data in mere seconds in the event that the intended victim does not pay up. Therefore, in such a threat landscape, reactive or preventive measures after an attack has taken place are no longer adequate. What is needed is for enterprises to take a more proactive approach to cybersecurity and deploy solutions that are capable of not only detecting threats in real time, but also responding appropriately to them.

How enterprises can equip themselves in an evolving threat landscape

One of the first and most essential steps for enterprises to tackle cyber threats is to update themselves, as well as their employees, with knowledge of the latest threats and how they originate.Also, businesses must make sure to never skip a single security patch. Interestingly enough, cybersecurity experts found that the WannaCry ransomware could have been entirely prevented by the organisations it affected, if only they had updated their security patches. Furthermore, it was found that 90% of the companies that have been victims of cyberattacks were targeted through vulnerabilities as old as ten years.

The rationale behind legacy cybersecurity solutions was to keep anything that is harmful far out behind the firewall. Unfortunately, many organisations still take this approach to information security, which often leads to situations wherein they are unable to defend themselves against the most basic of threats. In the present environment, however, cybersecurity solutions are driven by the awareness among users of technology that new threats are bound to find their way into their systems. Therefore, the challenge is in effectively dealing with them and minimising their impact. The other key issue is how much of the enterprise’s capacity does the management want to devote to security and finding the right solution that can keep operating and infrastructural costs within the desired limits.

Even if organisations do manage to make their systems as secure as possible, the possibility of new and evolving threats infiltrating them still remains. In such cases, enterprise-wide or full risk assessment offers organisations an efficient solution to help them quickly identify and prioritise critical, enterprise-wide risks and develop plans to manage and mitigate risks.Moreover, the risk assessment process can be embedded into existing business processes, thus enabling the enterprise to efficiently manage its network capacity. As a result, they can benefit from a fully optimised and continuous method of risk identification without compromising on the system’s capabilities. Further, adopting a full enterprise risk assessment solution can help organisations reduce, and more effectively manage operating costs, protect earnings, revenue streams, and relationships, while aligning their operations and security protocols to the expectations of key stakeholders.

There are also many enterprises promoting a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) culture, which opens a Pandora’s box of potential vulnerabilities and threats such as cryptojacking, phishing, and social engineering-based attacks. Hence, employees must be educated on how to protect their personal devices and data, as well as the organisation’s data which be accessed easily by hackers in the absence of adequate security measures. Endpoint detection and response (EDR) and mobile device management (MDM) solutions can help manage apps and extensions on users’ devices that are connected to the enterprise servers, and also advise employees on what apps or websites to avoid. EDR solutions are especially useful in the realm of enterprise security as it can detect threats at their exact source and the very instant they occur and deploy the right measures to prevent further damage.

Hackers are smarter and more resourceful than ever before, which means businesses need to be smarter too. Even if they may be inclined to think that the security measures employed by them are sufficient, businesses could still be vulnerable to cybercrimes considering that threats today are constantly evolving. The modern cyber threat landscape is such that investing heavily towards security is not only necessary, but mandatory for businesses to protect their data, customers, and their reputation.

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