Info@NationalCyberSecurity
Info@NationalCyberSecurity

Cybersecurity front and centre: In today’s world, cybersecurity is crucial to defend against evolving digital threats – Opinion News | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware


By Siddharth Pai

In the realm of cyberspace, where the line between the digital and the real blur, cybersecurity emerges as a necessary defense against the ceaseless waves of threats. Through the lens of George Lucas’ insights in “The Cyber (In)Security Threat in the Cyber Domain” from the anthology Technology and Society edited by Johnson and Wetmore, combined with the stark statistics from the CyberEdge Group’s 2023 Cyberthreat Defense Report, I uncovered a landscape marked by its perpetual battle against digital marauders.

The George Lucas I speak of here is not the filmmaker, but he very well could be, given the almost fantastical realm of interconnectedness he speaks of. The world he points to constitutes areas where we are truly interconnected—and such interconnection is not just the domain of the internet. It includes hardware like portable thumb drives that can be connected to the internet. So can printers, laptops, “over the top” (OTT) streaming devices in our televisions and many more. And it doesn’t stop there—phone companies, utility companies, gas, and oil pipelines, even sewage lines—anything with a network and endpoint is at risk. Such networks present easy pickings for hackers to play great amounts of mischief, wrecking our normal lives with impunity. The Internet of Things (IoT) is another example. Even small amounts of data that can be carried by decades old 2G and GPRS systems can be tampered with—and many of these appliances are now far-flung—they include the electronic counters in home water meters, for example. One light-hearted commentator says even our refrigerators constitute potential points of attack.

George Lucas weaves a cautionary tale, emphasising the omnipresent and evolving nature of cyber threats in this interconnected world. It highlights the necessity of understanding the cyber domain not merely as a technical challenge but as a societal one, urging a comprehensive strategy that integrates technology, policy, and widespread education to fortify our digital safety.

To understand the nature of this, Lucas presents an elegant example, at least with respect to the internet. If he places a call to his brother, it goes directly from his home line, carried across “twisted” copper wires and (increasingly) fiber-optic cables to his brother’s home in a distant city. The moment his brother picks up, he has confirmation that he has reached the right party upon hearing the familiar voice at the other end of the line. Not so when he sends an email to his brother. The Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) rules break up the email into several data packets and send each packet on the quickest route only to be reassembled when it reaches its destination. This means those packets can travel to anywhere in the world—though wherever they start up or end up—they will at some point pass through the Internet’s backbone, which is in the continental United States. (This is a vestige of how the internet messaging protocol was first defined in the 1960s as a military tool for crucial weapons communications). As a result of the worldwide distribution of discrete packets, verifying the authenticity of internet communications is extraordinarily difficult, and consequently, quite easily spoofed.

Echoing Lucas’ call to arms, the CyberEdge Group’s 2023 Cyberthreat Defense Report (hbit.ly/3QudNOq) provides a statistical backbone to the narrative of cyber (in)security. Surveying 1,200 IT security professionals across 17 countries and 19 industries, the report paints a sobering picture of the cybersecurity landscape. A staggering 85% of organisations reported suffering at least one successful cyberattack last year, underscoring the ubiquity and severity of the threat. Ransomware continues to be a particularly nefarious tool, with a record 73% of organisations falling victim to such attacks, often accompanied by threats beyond mere data encryption, affecting 78% of these incidents. This data suggests not just the scale of the problem, but the evolving sophistication and psychological leverage employed by cyber adversaries. Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDOS) attacks are now becoming more common.

However, the report reveals some silver linings. There is increased engagement between IT security leaders and their boards of directors, with a notable 97% reporting direct interactions. This reflects a growing recognition of cybersecurity as a top-tier strategic issue that demands attention from the highest levels of leadership. Additionally, the report highlights an encouraging trend of increasing security budgets, with a typical rise of more than 5% this year, suggesting that organisations are starting to allocate the necessary resources to bolster their defenses. This is in-line with what I see at the organisations I occasionally consult for. Cybersecurity has become a C-suite imperative, it is no longer solely the preserve of the IT department. Another positive is that the motivation behind pursuing careers in IT security transcends financial incentives. The report notes that respect and the intrinsic value of contributing to the safety and security of the digital realm are potent motivators for professionals, even more than monetary compensation.

These findings from the CyberEdge Group’s report offer a real-world counterpoint to the theoretical frameworks discussed by George Lucas and lays bare the critical crossroads at which we stand in the cyber domain. It underscores the imperative for a holistic approach to cybersecurity, one that integrates robust technological defenses with strategic policy frameworks and an educated, vigilant populace.

As we navigate through the digital age, these lessons are urgent imperatives for ensuring the security and resilience of our interconnected world. As cyber threats continue to evolve, so too must our approaches to defending against them, requiring a blend of theoretical understanding and empirical data to guide our actions in this ever-changing landscape.

The author is a technology consultant and venture capitalist

Views are personal



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