Cybersecurity Must Be the Top Priority for the Board

In the year ahead, organizations must prepare for the unknown so they have the flexibility to endure unexpected and high impact security events. To take advantage of emerging trends in both technology and cyberspace, businesses need to manage risks in ways beyond those traditionally handled by the information security function, since innovative attacks will most certainly impact both business reputation and shareholder value.

It is recommended that businesses focus on the following security topics in 2019:

  • The Increased Sophistication of Cybercrime and Ransomware
  • The Impact of Legislation
  • Smart Devices Challenge Data Integrity
  • The Myth of Supply Chain Assurance 

The Increased Sophistication of Cybercrime and Ransomware

Criminal organizations will continue their ongoing development and become increasingly more sophisticated. Some organizations will have roots in existing criminal structures, while others will emerge focused purely on cybercrime. Organizations will also struggle to keep pace with this increased sophistication and the impact will extend worldwide, with malware in general and ransomware in particular becoming the leading means of attack. While overall damages arising from ransomware attacks are difficult to calculate, some estimates suggest that there was a global loss in excess of $5 billion in 2017. On the whole, the volume of new mobile malware families grew significantly throughout 2017, in particular mobile ransomware. This should be expected to continue in 2019. Email-based attacks such as spam and phishing (including targeted spear phishing) are most commonly used to obtain an initial foothold on a victim’s device. Cyber criminals behind ransomware will shift their attention to smart and personal devices as a means of spreading targeted malware attacks.

The Impact of Legislation

National and regional legislators and regulators that are already trying to keep pace with existing developments will fall even further behind the needs of a world eagerly grasping revolutionary technologies.  At present, organizations have insufficient knowledge and resources to keep abreast of current and pending legislation. Additionally, legislation by its nature is government and regulator driven, resulting in a move towards national regulation at a time when cross border collaboration is needed. Organizations will struggle to keep abreast of such developments which may also impact business models which many have taken for granted.  This will be of particular challenge to cloud implementations where understanding the location of cloud data has been an oversight.

Smart Devices Challenge Data Integrity

Organizations will adopt smart 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 is being secretly captured and transmitted by devices such as smartphones, smart TVs or conference phones. When breaches occur, or transparency violations are revealed, organizations will be held liable by regulators and customers for inadequate data protection.

The Myth of Supply Chain Assurance 

Supply chains are a vital component of every organization’s global business operations and the backbone of today’s global economy. However, a range of valuable and sensitive information is often shared with suppliers and, when that information is shared, direct control is lost. In 2019, organizations will discover that assuring the security of their supply chain is a lost cause. Instead, it is time to refocus on managing their key data and understanding where and how it has been shared across multiple channels and boundaries, irrespective of supply chain provider.  This will cause many organizations to refocus on the traditional confidentiality and integrity components of the information security mix, placing an additional burden on already overstretched security departments.  Businesses that continue to focus on assuring supply chain security with traditional approaches, such as self certified audit and assurance, may preserve the illusion of security in the short term but will discover to their peril that the security foundations they believed to be in place were lacking.

A Continued Need to Involve the Board

The executive team sitting at the top of an organization has the clearest, broadest view. A serious, shared commitment to common values and strategies is at the heart of a good working relationship between the C-suite and the board. Without sincere, ongoing collaboration, complex challenges like cyber security will be unmanageable. Covering all the bases—defense, risk management, prevention, detection, remediation, and incident response—is better achieved when leaders contribute from their expertise and use their unique vantage point to help set priorities and keep security efforts aligned with business objectives.

Given the rapid pace of business and technology, and the countless elements beyond the C-suite’s control, traditional risk management simply isn’t nimble enough to deal with the perils of cyberspace activity. Enterprise risk management must build on a foundation of preparedness to create risk resilience by evaluating threat vectors from a position of business acceptability and risk profiling. Leading the enterprise to a position of readiness, resilience and responsiveness is the surest way to secure assets and protect people.

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