Cyber Security In An Ever-Growing Digital World 

 Digitalisation brings a whole new and complex data network to protect, harness, control and manage. Due to technological advances, data no longer travels in the simple and linear journey that was historically between organisations and applications.

Now, data is transacted in several additional ways, including between humans and artificial intelligence, between trade and transactions and between firms and nations, all resulting in a digital divide at a global scale. As more data-driven infrastructure technologies are introduced, the risk of cyberattacks increases.

Digital transformation is rapidly accelerating. The global digital transformation market is projected to grow from $2.27 trillion in 2023 to $8.92 trillion by 2030, according to a report by Fortune Business Insights. Businesses use technologies such as cloud computing, SaaS, IoT, remote/hybrid working, and mobile devices to increase productivity and improve customer experience. However, the rapid expansion of digital transformation results in an exponential increase in the potential attack surface for cybercriminals, making it increasingly difficult for organisations to monitor, detect, and respond to threats promptly. 

Threat Implications

While the collective move to digitalisation is positive, change always brings a certain degree of risk. We've already seen that the rise of eCommerce in recent years has attracted cyber criminals in their droves. According to Juniper Research, eCommerce losses to online payment fraud were estimated at 41 billion US dollars globally in 2022, and this is expected to grow further to 48 billion US dollars in 2023. Transformation as we know it usually manifests itself as a singular occurrence, but digital transformation will more than likely accelerate throughout 2023 and beyond, continually evolving and inevitably resulting in more attacks.

However, digital transformation can put some businesses at a disadvantage in meeting cybersecurity expectations regarding technological and financial capability.

If this is the case, organisations should re-evaluate their security needs, cutting back on those expenses that aren't required and re-investing in more streamlined solutions capable of providing modern support. For example, organisations could outsource to a Managed Detection and Response (MDR) service. This would enable an organisation to tap into market-leading security technologies and expertise without the expensive subscriptions and wage needed to reach the same level of security maturity in-house. 

The Role Of Cloud In The Digital World

As cloud technologies provide the backbone of this digital divide, it's clear that cloud adoption will continue to advance by driving business performance and providing agility. SaaS and IaaS models power many cloud transformations, and the number of new interactions between applications in the enterprise continues to expand. As a result, organisations will inevitably add more third-party SaaS and IaaS providers to their technology stack, so having a solid third-party security posture will be crucial.

This means that cyber-attacks on centralised cloud services will have a more significant impact, as we will experience threat actors taking advantage of misconfigured APIs to exploit private data at an unprecedented scale.

This can lead to core software code repositories becoming compromised, impacting thousands of organisations across the globe. With the increase of applications comes the increasing implementation of container security automation, a feasible strategy to maintain secure and compliant cloud-native container environments. 

Getting The Fundamentals Right

The increase in digital technologies has meant that the number of individual digital assets has also grown exponentially. Therefore, securing these assets and their communication is critical for data security. 

Historically, Identity and Access Management (IdAM) has been essential in delivering successful digital services, however, we've seen that many organisations have been complacent in this field. Some businesses are not monitoring which identities are being used and not keeping up with the removal of those that are not - exposing a huge gap in the security infrastructure, and one that could be avoided. 

To resolve this, businesses can implement zero-trust models using policy-as-code, blocking all unauthorised run-time network, process, and file activities as default protection. No single tool can create a zero-trust environment. A combination of SASE (Secure Access Service Edge), network segmentation and IdAM must be employed to reach this goal. There will be a series of additional smaller steps that organisations can take to ensure the maintenance and enhancement of zero-trust frameworks. Third parties become an extension of businesses, so zero-trust and other necessary security steps need to extend to them. It will also be critical to monitor transaction-level instances to ensure that access is controlled and managed appropriately.

What Does The Future Hold?

We must return to basic cyber hygiene to continue and reinforce cyber resilience. Greater regulation, security frameworks, and national resilience strategies should be implemented globally. CISOs need to recalculate their understanding of the internal and external threat profile, evaluate cybersecurity risks, reshape protection strategies, and develop a core security team that can demonstrate a resilient response to cyber-attacks. 

We must address the skills gap shortage as part of looking forward and planning. Digitalisation means we will automatically need more autonomy. However, contrary to popular opinion, the answer to this isn't replacing humans but hiring talent with automation and security engineering skills that will supplement existing capabilities.

Much like an annual spring clean, businesses must now also clean up and ensure everything is set and in its rightful place before they can move forward. 

Carl Shallow is Head of Cyber Security Advisory at Integrity360

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