One of the most challenging – and interesting, and frustrating – aspects of cybersecurity is the sheer unpredictability of industry developments still to come. Sure, analyzing recent history, preparation strategies and common mistakes can offer some direction forward in the security space. However, when a major event takes place, its size and depth usually has something to do with the fact that too few people saw it coming.
Despite a lack of clear foresight about how data protection and security will evolve, organizations always have the opportunity to assess their own blind spots for the future. Below are three ways to learn from 2016’s mistakes and prepare for the risks, threats and attacks that 2017 may hold.
1. Keep building your ransomware defense plan
In nearly every industry, ransomware attacks threw organizations for a loop in 2016 – and they’re not going away anytime soon. Instead, ransomware is getting more sophisticated. Some strains will assess the systems they’re attacking and tailor the attack in response, focusing on certain types of software or specialized activities. Others will decrease the window of time that victims have to respond, reducing the chances of finding a decryption key; still other strains will delay the attack and lay dormant on systems to corrupt older backups and reinfect the device over and over again. At the same time, the average price of a ransom is skyrocketing – the days of paying $100 and moving on with business are over.
Defending against ransomware is the only way to stop the trend’s momentum. Educate your employees about warning signs in emails and other communications, such as suspicious links that might launch malware attacks.
Keep your IT strategies and solutions updated, and ensure your systems and data are frequently backed up and easy to restore. By combining these elements, your organization will be able to withstand ransomware and avoid letting the attacker profit from your situation.
2. Focus on unified threat management – especially if you’re an SMB
Although the security landscape continues to change, malicious messages and links are still one of the most common ways malware and other attacks reach core systems. Unified threat management solutions, which offer gateway-level protection at the point where data enters a business’ IT environment, are one of the most reliable ways to ensure that a weak link in your company’s chain won’t break the entire network.
SMBs should particularly consider investing in such defense tactics, as the gateway between a business and its internet connection is a key piece of real estate that many SMBs haven’t focused on. As organizations increasingly move data and applications to cloud platforms, they also need to be vigilant about tightening access permissions, keeping employees in the loop about what might happen when security systems fail, and staying up to date about the latest attacks sweeping the industry.
3. Prepare to have your passwords stolen (again)
The next record-breaking attack – the ones that dominate headlines, damage reputations and cause consumers to take a stake in personal cybersecurity – probably won’t involve a flashy new strategy or elusive data theft incident. Instead, it’s probably going to involve a malicious party stealing user credentials, again. Such attacks aren’t hard to pull off, as people often reuse passwords and other authentication factors. As a result, when one service is compromised, cybercriminals find themselves with a wide variety of opportunities to continue exploiting victims.
An industry-wide increase in multifactor authentication will likely be the first step toward shutting down the success of such attacks. However, as services make it easy for users to automatically input secure information, user credential attacks won’t fully cease any time soon.
4. Know that CSO and CIO jobs will be in high demand
CSOs are valuable individuals in a constantly changing security landscape. Business-savvy technology professionals, such as CIOs, are also in high demand as companies seek to evolve their defense tactics while preparing for business success in an uncertain future.
At this time, there’s not enough talent of this sort to go around. As 2017 progresses, prepare to see more professionals in the beginning or middle of their careers striving to prepare their resumes for eventual CIO and CSO positions. If your organization already has an outstanding CIO or CSO on the team, actively work to retain that talent and give the person room to grow in the next year.
As cybersecurity evolves, organizations should avoid taking anything for granted – from assumedly secure networks to talent within their core teams. By focusing on employee education, analyzing the industry and preparing systems and colleagues for anything 2017 might have to offer, your team can withstand the next wave of security threats and continue to grow as a business.