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Tech experts discuss the importance of cybersecurity awareness month

(Image credit: Image Credit: Geralt / Pixabay)

The 18th annual Cybersecurity Awareness Month is now underway this October. Created by the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, the holiday's aim is to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity globally, ensuring that everyone has the resources they need to be more secure digitally.  

This year continues the theme of “Do Your Part, #BeCyberSmart,” which emphasizes the importance of protecting businesses and individuals alike from threats. The holiday recognizes the importance of implementing security measures to keep digital assets secure year-round, especially as cyberattacks continue to rise.

Below technology leaders have reflected on what the month means to the industry, and best practices for businesses to implement a strong cybersecurity strategy. 

James Winebrenner, CEO, Elisity: 

“Ransomware has made daily headlines for hitting businesses worldwide and shows no sign of slowing down. With the rise of remote workers and an expanding hybrid workforce, along with the proliferation of IoT devices, the footprint of shadow IT has increased, and the attack surface has grown as a result. No individual or company is exempt from the persistent threat of ransomware, which costs an average of $4.62 million, according to IBM/Ponemon. 

That’s why National Cybersecurity Awareness Month serves as a reminder for organizations to manage and secure their digital identities, in addition to embarking on their zero trust journey. By trusting nothing, continuously verifying identity, context and posture, and limiting access only to the applications and assets that are required for a role, organizations can help prevent ransomware breaches. One strategy to help is turning to Zero Trust Access solutions, which are known for not only lower the risk of an initial breach, but also boost detection, response speed and effectiveness, and minimize the impact by reducing the blast radius of the breach.” 

Chris Ray, analyst, GigaOm:

“During National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and beyond, it’s important for businesses to follow best practices in securing their sensitive data. When I am asked to help bridge the gaps in security programs, controls, and training, I often see the same mistake made. Leaders and decision-makers spend an unjustifiable amount of time selecting the perfect program or security control. This is an arduous task, the program or control must align and enable business, but at the same time it must reduce risk.   

This is step one for organizations. And it is often their first mistake as well. They focus on selecting the perfect program or control, instead, the emphasis should be placed on selecting a good program or control and implementing it. Once it’s online, you have reduced risk and now can make small adjustments as needed to nudge it closer to perfection. A perfect example of this is a financial institution I worked with. They spent six months gathering information on Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP). Then they spent two months collecting additional information and eventually settled on the vendor they initially identified as a ‘good fit’ prior to beginning their lengthy exploration into the field of MSSPs. It is far better to have a tangible reduction in risk, than it is to have several perfect plans awaiting selection.”  

Greg Murphy, CEO, Ordr: 

“National Cybersecurity Month is a great reminder that one of the biggest challenges we’re facing as a cybersecurity community is ransomware. The combination of availability of ransomware-as-a-service, easy cryptocurrency payment options and the expanding attack surface of connected devices make this our next cybersecurity “pandemic”. It is critical that we come together – defenders and governments to tackle this threat together. 

A cybersecurity ransomware strategy needs to encompass process, people and technologies, and a very specific plan around the criteria for whether or not you’ll pay a ransom. You also need to ensure you have a strategy for your connected devices, particularly with almost half of them agentless and un-agentable, in other words, unable to support security endpoint agents. Knowing what assets you have, identifying the ones at risk, and baselining their behavior are critical to locking down compromised devices during a ransomware attack.” 

Simon Chappell, CEO of Assured Data Protection: 

“The bottom line today is that businesses need to be more resilient to reduce the impact of a ransomware intrusion. Cybercriminals are ruthless and indiscriminate. Every company should assume it will be targeted at some point, and that it is your recovery that mitigates the damage caused. For too long now, companies have treated cybersecurity and backup as separate functions, when, in fact, they serve the same purpose – protecting a business’s digital assets and data.  

Having an integrated data management function puts your business on the front foot – when detecting a vulnerability, data can be moved to a safe, secure and encrypted environment, while the threat is tracked with forensic detail using threat detection and remediation technology. This data recovery platform creates a data insurance policy that allows the business to function as usual with little to no downtime, and also enables support for law enforcement to investigate the attack and help bring the perpetrators to justice. Cybersecurity defenses play a critical role in repelling attacks, but companies can only really achieve cyber resilience with integrated data management solutions that incorporate the latest threat detection techniques.” 

Marcus Bartram, Co-founder and General Partner, Telstra Ventures: 

“Ransomware attacks have been rising at an alarming rate — with damages ranging from Apple’s $50 million ransomware mess to threatening national security. Despite potentially catastrophic damages, fewer organizations are choosing to pay ransoms as they realize few cyber extortionists uphold their end of the bargain. In Q2 2021, 50 percent of organizations facing just a data leak threat opted to pay, according to Coveware, down from almost 65 percent in 2020. CISOs are instead doubling down on precautionary measures. They’re purchasing backup storage, beefing up data and privacy operations, and even purchasing specialty cybersecurity insurance (a $7.8B market projected to reach $20.4bn by 2025) to proactively shift the potential impact of cybercrime.  

As companies hire security strategists to set security strategy and inform enterprise IT strategy, we’re seeing new AI functionalities added that automate resource-intensive cybersecurity functions. A new breed of fast-growing startups is emerging that provides innovative AI-driven and automated cybersecurity solutions that help classify company data, manage access rights, encrypt sensitive data at the right time, and put governance policies in place. These technologies — along with coordinated actions across industry, government and law enforcement — will be key in driving both immediate and long-term success.”

Patrick Harr, CEO, SlashNext: 

“The cybersecurity industry has done a great job protecting machines, but most solutions have largely ignored the weakest security link – users. Protecting users is extremely critical now, with work from anywhere, BYOD and the blending of personal and business access. We are seeing a significant rise in multiple forms of phishing and social engineering, which causes 95 percent of successful breaches including ransomware, data loss and financial fraud. These are targeted attacks from platforms like LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Messenger, text, and chat, as well as popular collaboration tools like Teams, Zoom and Slack.   

It's crucial to recognize that phishing is not just an email problem anymore, and bad actors can reach users the same way they regularly communicate with their trusted contacts - text, messaging, chat, etc. They can be – and often are – lured into providing personal information, sharing credentials, or installing malicious apps that can undermine even the most sophisticated cybersecurity defenses.” 

Priya Rajan, CMO of DataVisor: 

“Heading into the peak retail season, credit card issuers and online lenders must implement proactive fraud detection to combat increasing rates of identity theft, transaction and application fraud, and other types of criminal activity associated with online purchasing. Reactive approaches to fraud detection — such as labeling, writing rules and manual case reviews — are inefficient, and by the time fraud is identified, the loss has occurred in a ‘buy now/pay later’ model. Real-time detection and being able to identify fraudulent users and transactions — and stopping them before they result in a loss — is an essential tactic to grow the business while reducing fraud risk. 

DataVisor leverages holistic data analysis to surface coordinated groups of fraud rings and bot-initiated applications, to proactively uncover suspicious behavior, before an attack occurs. Advanced machine learning enables fraud teams to spot new and evolving fraud patterns early, without labels, and our flexible and scalable Knowledge Graph visualizes connections and patterns among data points, eliminating tedious manual case reviews while providing real-time decision-making based on data intelligence. This results in high approval rates with less impact to good customers and a frictionless experience.”

IT experts