Five cyber risks that will define 2020

2019 was a bad year for data security. By virtually every metric, it was the worst ever. According to the Ponemon Institute’s 2019 Cost of a Data Breach Report, the average cost of a data breach reached $3.92 million, the highest amount on record. At the same time, the number of data breaches will reach an all-time high this year. The number of data breaches increased by 54% in the first half of 2019, with nearly 4,000 publicly disclosed breaches during that time. In total, more than 4.1 billion records have been exposed this year.

Increasingly, consumers and regulatory bodies are holding companies accountable for data breaches. An October 2019 survey found that 81% of consumers would stop engaging with a brand online after a data breach, which means the brand erosion and reputational damage that accompanies a breach is likely to add to the costs of a data security incident. Moreover, regulatory oversight like GDPR and CCPA are indicative of a growing regulatory trend that collectively raises the importance of data security in the year ahead.

For those charged with protecting company data, today’s expansive threat landscape can feel overwhelming, leading to increased levels of exhaustion and burnout. However, not all threats are equally prescient, as some are more likely and ominous than others.

Here are five cyber risks that will endanger company data in 2020.

Insider threats

While cybersecurity often elicits images of ominous criminals operating in backrooms, one of the most significant data security threats is likely lurking in the cubicle next door. Employees represent a significant threat to data integrity. Verizon’s 2019 Insider Threat Report estimates that insider threats cause more than a third of all data breaches.

To be sure, this threat category is uniquely nuanced, as things like intentional data theft, accidental sharing, and other data disclosure methodologies combine to create a robust threat that companies will need to address in 2020.

With a broad collection of employee monitoring and endpoint data loss prevention software available, every company can be equipped to defend against insider threats. As the consequences of a data breach continue to escalate, securing data against this known variable is a critical step to ensuring data integrity in the year ahead.

Phishing scams

Despite their best efforts, phishing scams are inevitably making their way into employees’ inboxes, putting company data at risk each time. Unfortunately, the deluge of data available from previous data breaches is being repurposed to craft authentic-looking messages that are increasingly difficult to detect.

In the year ahead, increased personalization and other deceptive tactics, like HTTPS encryption, will become normative, increasing the impetus for companies to provide awareness training to keep them aware of the threats landing in their inboxes.

Exposed databases

Cloud computing is among the latest trends for enterprises and SMBs alike. As the vast majority of businesses move their operations to the cloud, this transition presents an opportunity for data exposure. This technological oversight can have severe consequences for data security.

For instance, in November, a cybersecurity researcher discovered 1.2 billion records exposed on a single server, a surprisingly routine incident that underscores the threat of exposed databases to data security.

In 2020, companies need to understand that technological advancement can’t come at the expense of data security, and locking down these resources is often as simple as checking and rechecking that critical company data is password protected and not openly exposed to anyone able to locate it.

Fatigued IT admins

Cybersecurity professionals are faced with an incredible task. While they are defending against thousands of attacks every day, cybercriminals and internal bad actors only need to be successful once to inflict serious damage on a company. As a result, cybersecurity professionals are burning out and leaving the profession at a record rate. It’s estimated that 65% of IT professionals consider quitting their jobs, and a similar number are open to leaving the professional altogether.

This problem is endemic all the way to the highest levels of a company where chief information security officers have an average tenure of 18 to 24 months, which is, on average, more than four years less than other c-suite positions.

This high-stress, high-turnover environment puts data at risk, as a lack of continuity and unfilled positions create an environment where hackers can thrive. To assuage these concerns, companies need to prioritize automation as much as possible. In this way, they can protect their networks against insider and external threats without inundating cybersecurity staff with a continual deluge of risks to assess.

Wrong priorities

Despite the overwhelming evidence that data loss is one of the greatest threats facing companies in the digital age, there is growing evidence that c-suite executives are failing to appreciate the risks. In a survey of Australian CEOs, only 6% recognized that they had experienced a data breach, while 63% of CISOs noted a data loss event.

Similarly, only 26% of CISOs indicated that their company was ready to respond to a cyber threat, while 44% of CEOs thought their company was capable of a rapid recovery. Taken together, these numbers are indicative of one of the most notable threats to data security: indifference.

Simply put, companies and their leaders must acknowledge and appreciate the growing consequences of a data breach.

2019 has undoubtedly been a bad year for data security, and, unfortunately, there is no indication that 2020 will be any better. However, for companies that identify and respond to the most probable data security threats, it can be a differentiating factor, allowing them to thrive in 2020 and beyond.

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Five cyber risks that will define 2020