In 2018, security breaches should be thought of as inevitable, rather than something that can be completely avoided.
Dubai - No organisation is safe, so you'd better be vigilant.
As the Fourth Industrial Revolution opens up unprecedented business opportunities, it also increases the inevitability of a cyber-attack, and businesses need to be prepared. Not only do security measures need to be built into technology from the start, an awareness should be ingrained into company culture, while significant investment is also essential. Global spend on information security products and services will grow to a massive $93 billion in 2018, according to the latest forecast from Gartner.
With that in mind, these are some of the broad cyber-security trends that we'll see moving into 2018:
Cyber-security skills continue to evolve
As technologies progress, the skills needed to deal with cyber-security needs are changing. The challenge is to train cyber-security professionals so that they can deal with threats as quickly as possible and also adapt their skills as needed. There will be some 3.5 million unfilled cyber-security roles by 2021, according to a Cyber-security Ventures report, so it's up to governments, universities, schools and businesses to collaborate in order to bridge this substantial skills gap.
Shift from protection to prevention
In 2018, security breaches should be thought of as inevitable, rather than something that can be completely avoided. As a result, the focus is shifting from prevention to resilience. Businesses must talk openly about vulnerabilities, promoting awareness and accountability. Resources that are currently focused on prevention need to be redeployed towards the timely detection of and response to potential security hacks.
Digital ecosystems drive next-gen security
As smart technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) become more widespread, safeguarding customer data is even more important. As data breaches that reveal sensitive information can have a direct physical impact, organisations have become responsible for people's safety. Accountability is a key challenge and technology companies must ensure that their devices, services and software ensure a certain level of security for their users.
Bigger, more sophisticated threats
Up to 70 per cent of e-mails today are spam, and the vast majority of these still involve phishing. Other common hacking threats include ransomware, malware and distributed denial-of-service attacks, all of which have been responsible for major data breaches in recent months and which can leave both company and customer data vulnerable to cyber-criminals. A massive 93 per cent of data breaches are motivated by financial gain, according to a recent Verizon report. Hackers aim for the highest return for the least amount of effort, which is why smaller businesses with lax security are often successfully targeted.
Emerging tech a double-edged sword
Emerging technologies have enabled cyber-criminals to use increasingly sophisticated methods but ironically, these innovations could also help to boost defence against hackers. For example, there is an increasing threat of artificial intelligence-enabled attacks, but AI could also help to speed up the process of identifying potential risks. AI is set to be so integral to cyber-security in future that it is estimated that the global AI security market will reach $18.2 billion by 2023, according to a recent report.
Threat landscape continues to evolve to target vertical industries
While cyber-threats are a key concern for businesses across all industries, here's what the security landscape looks like for a number of key sectors:
. Banking, financial services and insurance: The sector is under growing pressure to update its legacy systems to compete with new digital-savvy competitors. The value of the customer data they hold has grown as consumers demand a more convenient and personalised service, but trust is essential. Some 50 per cent of customers would consider switching banks if theirs suffered a cyber-attack, while 47 per cent would "lose complete trust" in them, according to a recent study.
. Healthcare: The digitisation of patient records completely revolutionised the world of healthcare, with health-monitoring wearables and apps bringing further improvements. What's more, emerging technologies including AI and IoT are now being used to speed up diagnoses and improve patient care. However, the sensitivity of the data involved and greater connectivity increases the risk.
. Retail: The emergence of online shopping and data analytics has helped retailers to craft a more convenient and personalised experience for customers. However, with that comes a huge responsibility to safeguard their data, which could include not only their shopping preferences and login credentials, but their banking details and home address.
. Telecom: There is a significant cyber-security risk for telecom firms as carriers of internet data, and therefore a huge responsibility. Providers need to integrate cyber-security measures into network hardware, software, applications and end-user devices in order to minimise the risk of a serious data breach, which could leave customer credentials and communications vulnerable.
. Manufacturing: The manufacturing sector is the third-most targeted industry by hackers, according to IBM research. Being financially motivated, hackers in this area tend to concentrate on industrial espionage, aiming for the increasingly connected production line that features robotics and 3D printing. A security breach enables hackers to access product blueprints and potentially even alter machinery to sabotage production. Not only could this kind of breach have significant financial cost, it could also endanger the lives of factory workers.
. Government: No organisation is immune to data breaches, not even government agencies. The data held by governmental departments, from voter details to military defence plans is incredibly sensitive and therefore a major target. While governments around the world are gradually increasing their spend on cyber-security measures and implementing response plans to deal with any security breaches as quickly as possible, there is still some way to go.
The writer is senior vice-president of global product management and data centre services at Tata Communications. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.