It’s -30 Celsius in December. An entire city has gone dark. There is no electricity, heating, internet, or telecommunications—all because of one malicious email that now holds the city ransom for its data in exchange for some bitcoins. The truly alarming prospect is that this nightmarish scenario can hit any and every major city globally. In a race to digitally transform businesses, institutions, and governments cannot ignore these Trojan horses that have the potential to bring them to their knees. With data being touted as the new oil, it takes a proactive strategy to keep any organization’s wealth of stored data well protected, yet accessible, to the internal networks that need it. This has sparked tech giants like Apple, Google, IBM, and Amazon to offer cybersecurity solutions and rev their market ad campaigns on data, privacy, and security amidst waves of digital transformation. The fact is, for any element of a business to transform with new technology, that technology must be backed by an equally transformed security posture. Without it, vital data is put at risk. For organizations to successfully transform to meet standards set by today’s tech leaders, it requires fundamental knowledge of what cybersecurity is and what it isn’t.
Individual and organizational cybersecurity is human-centric
Is man or machine to blame for cybersecurity attacks? Unequivocally, man. While technology plays a huge role in the ability for cyber attackers to access sensitive information across devices and cloud solutions, a person is at both ends of an attack. This means every business and every person is susceptible. Even the most powerful and popular are not immune to cyberattacks. In 2015, both Taylor Swift’s Twitter and Instagram accounts were attacked by hackers demanding bitcoins. In an interview, the singer admitted that the hack was due in part to aspects of technology that she does not understand, an issue that undoubtedly applies to citizens around the world. “There’s someone whose entire job it is to figure out things that I don’t want the world to see,” Swift stated in the interview.
The user-friendliness involved in the majority of technology today makes it so anyone has the potential to be a hacker. A 12-year-old hacker in pajamas can be more dangerous than a trained U.S. Marine with access to the right information. Naturally, cyberattacks are more complex than the simple hacking of social media and banking accounts. Cyber war can lead to lead to a physical war that tears countries apart, as with Russia’s cyberattacks on Ukraine. Russian hackers infiltrated Ukrainian organizations and systems months and years before the actual invasion. These attacks were designed to compromise and terrorize Ukrainian citizens, bringing the country to a halt. Across the world, hacking has even become a popular professional sport. Though hackathons are designed to innovate cybersecurity safety procedures, not everyone can be trusted to use their hacking powers for good.
While the general population likely cannot afford to pay someone to protect their personal accounts, they can prepare and safeguard their personal information and accounts by implementing multifactor password authentication, backing up their data, and even running drills on how to react if and when they are hacked. When it comes to organizations with vastly interconnected systems and a wealth of sensitive customer and company data, the need for a robust cybersecurity strategy is complex and paramount. With companies of every size, industry, and location moving toward cloud technology, businesses are seeking ways to avoid the risk of cyberattacks, such as through edge security and institute redundancy. At the same time, amidst pressures to digitally transform, the creation of proper connectivity models and latency often are overlooked by even the largest companies across the globe in the face of competition. Many have rushed the process of digital transformation in the race for an immediate ROI. Companies that safeguard their profits over security and privacy often end up losing both.
Cybersecurity myths and steps to overcome them
Falling for myths surrounding cybersecurity can result in serious missteps. Here are some of the most prevalent myths regarding cybersecurity and how to overcome them:
- Myth: Digital transformation can come before security transformation. With the wave of digital transformation accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of today’s companies possess a “transform or die” mentality. Businesses are in such a rush to update their systems and provide convenience for their customers that they skip important steps in their company’s digital transformation: an equally transformed security strategy. For every investment in new technology, the security efforts surrounding that technology, its collected data and interconnected systems through application programming interfaces (APIs) must have an equivalent security approach that eliminates blind spots. APIs are on track to be the most frequently exploited attack vector. Similarly, information can be compromised through a service provider, as what happened with corporate giants General Electric and Microsoft in 2020. Cybersecurity does not start and end with devices but instead encapsulates the entire digital and non-digital ecosystem of a business as it transforms. By understanding the threat landscape and focusing security efforts on high-risk transformative technologies such as APIs and cloud-based technologies, organizations can mitigate risks and keep growth efforts secure.
- Myth: Password protection is enough. The hubris of forgoing additional privacy settings on personal and business devices can result in long-lasting consequences. Once hacked, individuals can suffer deep psychological stress and companies can lose business and customer loyalty as brand reputation plummets. It is critical to move away from the traditional password-based approach. Advances in identity technologies and standards have enabled additional identity and access management solutions such as user authentication with multi-factor authentication (MFA). These features move organizations and individuals toward password-less authentication across a wide range of cloud applications and resources.
- Myth: Cybersecurity is a response to cyberattacks or compliance. It’s not a question of if a person or organization will be hacked, it’s a question of when. Too often, companies fall into a reactive approach to address cybersecurity issues, mitigate risks, or meet compliance requirements. This leads to patchwork fixes that silo data and systems, creating gaps in identity governance that can result in cyberattacks. When organizations take a proactive, strategic approach that identifies risks at a holistic level and identifies threats before they happen, they take a comprehensive approach to security that achieves a unified security posture. This tactic brings together identity, access, and governance to help businesses keep a finger on the pulse of their interconnected systems at all times, rather than assume a reactive stance that addresses breaches after the fact or compliance needs one at a time.
Cybersecurity is a collaborative effort
Ultimately, homes, governments, and businesses can batten down the hatches by collaborating across industries and verticals to bust myths and invest in innovative solutions. Society can better avoid the costly and long-term effects of cyberattacks by being proactive with policies rather than reactive to the dreaded “worst-case scenario.”
The ultimate method of preventing cyberattacks and digital warfare amidst digital transformation is to ensure that those trusted with minding the digital borders are well-armed with training and knowledge. Like having a personal trainer for the gym, providing a cybersecurity trainer to teach safe augmentation and prevent cyberattacks is essential to the health of any system.
Gunangad Singh Maini
Gunangad Singh Maini is an expert in energy management and smart cities with over 13 years’ experience in strategic planning, project management and digital transformation for flagship projects such as the world’s tallest tower and largest airport and gas plant. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication engineering from Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology and an MBA from University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. For further information, contact email@example.com.