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Confronting Pervasive Cyber Threats For 2022 And Beyond

Steve Durbin is Chief Executive of Information Security Forum. He is a frequent speaker on the Board’s role in cybersecurity and technology.

Cybercrime breaks new records every year, and 2022, in all likelihood, won’t be any different. With the world embracing hyper-connectivity, businesses intensifying their digitization efforts and consumers entering a new realm of augmented reality like the metaverse, it’s not hard to imagine cybercrime becoming more insidious. In 2022, organizations must stay vigilant against these four pervasive cyber threats:


Ransomeware will increasingly hold businesses hostage as organizations of all sizes, governments, critical infrastructure and supply chains become more frequently targeted by organized crime syndicates and state-sponsored cybercriminals. The inability to put fuel in your car from last year’s Colonial Pipeline attack, the sudden crunch in food supply from the world’s largest meat producer JBS, large electrical outages and even death are consequences of our new reliance on digitization.

Edge Computing And 5G

Edge computing (as opposed to centralized computing) is increasingly becoming a popular and attractive architectural choice for many businesses. Cloud computing and the move to push the processing of data closer to users where it’s needed can deliver higher levels of agility and effectiveness. However, this also expands the attack surface as it creates numerous points of failure across the organization.

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The emergence of 5G (higher internet through-put and pervasive connectivity) will lead to the massive adoption of IoT (Internet of Things), IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), internet-enabled OT (Operational Technology) devices and millions of IoT-enabled services (like connected cars, medical devices, public services, etc.). This in turn will create tens of billions of hackable devices or entry points for attackers to exploit.

The Never Normal

The “never normal” is really about organizations finding themselves in a new and constantly shifting world, having to revisit established technologies, policies and procedures around emerging cyber risks and elastic changes in the threat surface. Security teams will need to take a much more holistic view on how a business manages and uses information, designing security from the ground up and making real-time changes in their strategy as the threat surface evolves. Vulnerabilities like log4j or Solarwinds should force organizations into reassessing their security processes and security policies immediately. Security teams that fail to take heed to such cybersecurity warnings can subject their organizations to terrible consequences.

The Emerging Digital Divide

The growth in e-commerce, remote working, online services and virtual human interactions will widen the digital gap and worsen societal fractures. From a security standpoint, different parts of the world are at different stages of digital maturity and therefore a vanilla-flavored security approach to managing global corporate assets may no longer work. Cybersecurity design must take into account the differences in skills and capabilities, infrastructure, geopolitics and regulations, as these can not only impede the progress of digital inclusivity but also leave gaping holes in a company’s overall cybersecurity posture.

Seven Recommendations To Help Mitigate Emerging Cyber Threats

While security isn’t one-size-fits-all, the recommendations below can help build a strong foundation for security teams to expand upon.

1. Evolve, adapt and reprioritize. Identify and reprioritize critical assets that have changed in value on a regular basis. Maintain a pulse on the threat surface (internal and external) and adjust policies and procedures to align with the needs of your organization. Cyberattacks are an eventuality and therefore it is also critical for organizations to continue to scale, improve and invest in their breach response capabilities.

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2. Adopt a sound governance framework. An enterprise GRC strategy (governance, risk, compliance) is critical in identifying changes in the risk environment and can help ensure compliance on a local and global scale. GRC can help morph security strategy into repeatable tactics and procedures that in turn help lower risk, improve efficiency, increase visibility and strengthen security posture.

3. Stress test everything. Routinely stress test data centers, networks, cloud providers, backup facilities and devices to identify potential vulnerabilities. Keep technology risks within acceptable limits. Partnering with a third party can help provide an independent view of your whole risk profile.

4. Focus on supply chain integrity. Communicate regularly with key suppliers, review their threat surface and implement alternative operating procedures for those that no longer meet contractual obligations. Don’t forget, it’s our data that is flowing through the supply chains.

5. Attend to the workforce. The pandemic has altered work completely and made people more dependent on technology. Businesses need to pay particularly close attention to cyber fatigue and mental health issues; employees can be vulnerable and cybercriminals can take advantage of their proneness for distraction. Policies and procedures should reflect changes in hybrid work models. Employees and stakeholders can benefit from ongoing security awareness training and phishing simulation exercises to cultivate a habit of security.

6. Embrace zero trust. Zero trust is about understanding the overall corporate real estate across which data are being shared and moved. It’s about reimaging endpoint security, access management and sharing of data. Start by looking at your critical assets, ensure you have complete visibility of what is happening across your network, platforms and devices, and re-architect your environment from the ground up to ensure data integrity.

7. Adopt a business view. The role of security leaders has changed significantly from what we’ve seen in the past. We’re looking at people who not only have sound technical knowledge but also have softer people skills they can use to convey messages to the workforce, the board, partners and other stakeholders.

The bottom line is that cybersecurity cannot remain a back-burner issue. Starting in 2022, organizations must view cybersecurity as a legitimate business risk, deserving of the highest priority.

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