Cybersecurity has never been more important than it is today. Not only is our information more at risk, but so is our privacy, and even our personal safety. Complexity and distraction have contributed to us “taking our eye” off the ball, and there’s no better time than now to act.
What is cybersecurity?
This is a confusing word for some people. Even cybersecurity experts have different explanations of what cybersecurity is.
Cybersecurity is Managing the risk of unauthorized disclosure, modification, and destruction of information through technical means.
The key is managing risk, not eliminating risk. Eliminating risk would require us to eliminate all our information and the electronics we leverage to create, transfer, access, and use it. No more laptops, no iPads, no mobile devices, no Internet, and no data. Obviously, this isn’t feasible, and neither is eliminating risk.
Managing risk means we need to live with the fact that bad things can and will happen; therefore, detecting bad things early and having a prudent response are also important.
Why is cybersecurity more important than ever?
The simple answer is bad things are happening more often and the results are more impactful. We were riding a dangerous trend of increased incidents (ransomware, data breaches, etc.) prior to 2020:
- Over the past 10 years, there were 300 data breaches involving the theft of 100,000 or more records.
- There were 1,244 data breaches in 2018 and 446.5 million records were exposed.
- There were 4.1 billion records exposed in the first six months of 2019 alone.
- At the beginning of 2019, the World Economic Forum named cyber-attacks as one of the top five risks to global stability.
2020 has certainly been a year like no other, and things haven’t gotten better. The final numbers aren’t in for this year’s cybersecurity incidents, but we inherently know things have gotten worse. There are two primary reasons for higher risk in 2020; complexity and distraction.
Complexity is the greatest enemy of cybersecurity. Most business and home technology environments have gotten too complex to secure properly. Businesses and people struggle to know what things they’re securing, let alone how to secure them. At home the problem is getting worse with each new technology we add. In our lust for new technology and features, we’ve failed to slow down and think about the cybersecurity consequences of our choices. Technology complexity continues to explode with “smart” homes (Alexa, Google Home, Ring, etc.), “smart” cars, interconnected medical devices, and our 275 million “smart” phones.
In terms of impact, our lives have become so interconnected that we can no longer separate cybersecurity from privacy or physical safety.
2020 has been a debacle. We’ve never been more distracted. There are so many significant things going on, that many of us have taken our eye off the cybersecurity ball. COVID-19 flipped our world on its head. Offices closed, leading to an explosion of work-from-home. Schools closed, leading to an explosion in remote learning. Couple these events with health concerns, economic concerns, general uncertainty, and it’s understandable that cybersecurity becomes an afterthought.
If COVID-19 wasn’t a significant enough distraction, 2020 also brought real social justice issues, civil unrest, the presidential election, and disinformation campaigns that bombard our inboxes and social media feeds.
Complexity and life’s distractions in 2020 have made our digital lives a perfect attacker’s playground.
Why are cybercrimes on the rise? How did they evolve over time?
Cybercrimes are on the rise because the opportunities we give attackers are extensive and the return on the attacker’s investment has never been higher. It’s the perfect recipe for their success at our expense.
We continue to increase opportunities for attackers through our incessant need for more technology, while at the same time, we’re distracted by life’s events. These things combine to make attacks easier and more successful, leading to increased profit and return for an attacker. The cycle repeats itself when attackers re-invest their profits into better and more frequent attacks.
In previous decades, attacks were less nefarious, and it wasn’t uncommon for an attacker to be motivated by bragging rights or showing off. Those days are long gone, and criminals are organized much like legitimate businesses. Businesses are in business to make money, and so are most attackers. 71% of all data breaches are financially motivated and 25% are motivated by espionage.
The attackers we should all be most concerned about are the ones who are motivated by money and power; these are often organized crime rings and nation-state attackers such as China, Russia, and Iran.
What is the impact of a cybercrime to your organization, team, and/or self?
The impact of cybercrime depends upon several factors; the nature of the incident, your ability to detect and respond to the incident, the intent of the attacker, and the attacker’s ability or skill to carry out their intent. The impact can range from a simple nuisance to bankruptcy, and in rare cases even death.
For small to mid-sized organizations (250-449) employees, the downtime from a data breach varies:
- 43% reported 0-4 hours of downtime
- 45% reported 5-16 hours of downtime
- 12% reported 17-48 hours of downtime
Sadly, 56% of Americans don’t know what steps to take in the event of a data breach (including American businesses), an estimated 60% of small to mid-sized business fail within 12 months of experiencing a data breach, and in 2020 we read about the first (known) death related to ransomware.
The impact of cybercrime varies from low to severe. How low or how severe should not be left to chance because you can (and must) take steps to reduce your risk.
What can you do to protect your organization, your team, and yourself?
The most important thing for all of us is to understand and apply basic cybersecurity principles. The most basic principle starts with risk management. Cybersecurity is risk management. In order to manage risk, you and I must understand (assess) it. Find a good, fundamental risk assessment, and do it. You’ll need to assess risk personally (at home), in your third-party/vendor relationships (the people you share information with), and within your organization.
How can SecurityStudio help?
SecurityStudio is dedicated to our mission of fixing the broken cybersecurity industry by helping people with simple, inexpensive (even free), and effective information security risk management tools.
- Organization risk management starts with the S2Org tool, used by thousands of organizations of all sizes across all industries.
- Third-party/vendor risk management starts with our S2Vendor tool; integrated, organized, and automated (without taking shortcuts).
- Personal risk management (at home) starts with our S2Me tool; 100% free and simplified for everyday people.
- Work at home risk management starts with our S2Team tool; the most cost-effective insight into employees’ real information security habits.
If complexity is the worst enemy and if cybersecurity is risk management, then we all need simple and affordable risk management tools for everyone to build the best defense, detection, and response capabilities possible.
SecurityStudio is here to help, always dedicated to #MissionBeforeMoney.