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Cybersecurity in the age of digital transformation

Danielle Uskovic
Danielle UskovicHead of Digital Marketing Asia Pacific
I’m a Digital Marketing aficionado with a passion for all things innovation. I have lots of experience across business-to-business and consumer sectors leading award winning sales and marketing teams for ASX 100 and Fortune 500 companies. Currently, I am head of Digital Marketing for Lenovo Asia Pacific. I’m passionate about innovation and the difference technology can make in our lives. It’s an exciting time to be working in digital and seeing the impact it is having on businesses everywhere.

Follow me on Twitter @uskovic

Cybercrime is at an all-time high. Ever-evolving technologies like cloud networks, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) increase points of entry for hackers and create a plethora of new ways to phish for company and customer data. As companies move their business deeper into the Internet of Things (IoT), security risks continue to increase. With more devices than ever connected directly to the web, the challenge of ensuring a secure pathway and network for sensitive information is quickly escalating to a top-tier priority.

Digital transformation has brought with it an array of cybersecurity challenges that most brands aren’t yet equipped to meet, even though 62% of global executives realise that cybersecurity threats can devastate them. Here’s a quick primer on the state of cybersecurity in today’s digital world, and how you can prep yourself to lead the charge.

 

Why cybersecurity matters

Today’s cybercriminals are cashing in on $450 billion globally. The average company faces 200,000 security events every day, which include myriad hacking and phishing attempts. But the attempted breaches aren’t being led by your old-school garage-hackers. The cybercriminal of the digital age has become a force to be reckoned with, employing both man and machine to carry out the malicious deeds.

With smarter social engineering on the rise, and the ability to turn even good AI systems rogue, it’s imperative to take immediate action. The super intelligence of underlying cybercrime has rendered 53% of companies underprepared to effectively and efficiently fight back. As threats continue to encroach from all digital angles, 64% of executives are increasing their spending to protect company data.

In 2015, 76% of Asia-Pacific banks and other companies reported attacks—costing them a total of $81 billion. In 2016, the number of attacks increased to 90%. Despite Australia and the U.S.’s top rankings as major phishing targets, Asia-Pacific is quickly climbing the ranks. While cyberattacks like the recent WannaCry ransomware devastated organisations around the world, it also clued leaders into their lack of preparedness. Now, considering their vulnerable points, leaders are taking the initiative to make security a priority.

 

Rethinking cybersecurity

Just as the digital transformation is causing IT teams to consider new ways of doing business, 69% of senior executives across the globe are rethinking their cybersecurity strategies in light of changing technologies. New security policies and systems are set to strengthen lines of defence, and help anticipate and prevent future attacks. In an effort to protect their sensitive and vital data, IT departments around the globe are focusing on enhancing their systems in the following ways to keep up with the all-encompassing technological transformation:

  • Prevention

Over the next few years, businesses will spend more than $100 Billion to fortify themselves against hacking attempts by ramping up their security, fortifying their internal and external networks and processes, and hiring and putting the right people and systems in place.

  • Incident response

Over the next year, 68% of companies will enhance their incident response capabilities through new policies, AI implementation, digitally savvy IT teams, and faster response times.

  • Data protection

Companies are examining how they can protect their data better in light of new threats and technologies. From China modifying its Cybercrime Law to the EU reforming data protection laws to better serve a company’s sensitive assets, more companies around the globe are ramping up their efforts to protect themselves and their clients.

 

Cybersecurity in an AI world

In the digital age, companies want to create scalable, automated systems to streamline workflows and protect company and customer data. And they’re looking to AI to lead the way.

But with increased entry points, there’s a growing concern that governments, corporations, hackers and unethical individuals would unsuspectingly tap into, or rewire, AI systems to dominate and destroy cyber systems and infrastructures—from within.

As AI becomes more capable and intelligent at exploiting companies and infrastructures and penetrating networks to encrypt information, spread viruses and prey upon unsuspecting users, the only way to combat it is by fighting fire with fire. While hackers are using AI to wreak havoc around the globe, AI is also aiding companies in the good fight against cybercrime.

AI improves threat detection and streamlines defence responses by sorting through layers and layers of data that pass through the system every moment. The massive amounts of data passing through the digital realm every second are limited by human inability to analyse more than 10% of that data—making them more prone to attacks. But companies are implementing AI systems like IBM’s Watson to read reports and security research 60 times faster than humans, enabling companies to analyse every digital byte of data. Innovators like Cylance are creating software that uses machine learning algorithms to quickly analyse past attacks to anticipate and ward off future attacks.

 

How IT managers can fortify their company and team

Cybersecurity is a fast-growing sector, and by 2020 it will be a $101 billion market. But by 2022, the cybersecurity global workforce will have 1.8 million unfilled positions, because ethical talent is hard to come by.

Enter AI. Implementing machine learning gives managers a way to overcome skill shortages and to help companies improve their defence. For companies that don’t want to spend all their time and resources mapping existing attacks, AI provides a promising pathway toward anticipating and preventing attacks without the need for a team of security analysts. AI can gather and digest information quickly and implement it to create a more secure data centre.

Still, AI should not be left to its own devices. While companies are using it for sifting through data, IT and human capability must still keep it in check, and solve complex attacks that bypass the machine’s algorithms. Having the right team in place to oversee and execute strategies is crucial.

While companies once looked for traditional tech skills and security credentials for their IT teams, savvy managers are being forced to think outside the box to find generalists who can learn and adapt to changing needs—because cyber criminals constantly are.

  • Find generalists

Hire people with varied backgrounds to supplement your AI systems and your usual tech skills. Every hard skill can be learned, which is why it’s crucial to equip your team with ethical, curious people passionate about solving challenges, and understanding and assessing risk.

  • Create a culture of learning

Your new recruits are eager to begin their new role of safeguarding the company through technology and know-how. Train them to implement your cybersecurity prevention, response and protection strategies. Keep them informed on the latest technologies and systems to ensure they’re always ahead of the curve.

  • Encourage creativity and engagement

Savvy IT leaders need to fortify their teams with creative, progressive thinkers. Create an environment that encourages engagement, initiative and communication to keep your strategy moving forward.

 

The future of cybersecurity

Risks are a very real part of every technology implementation, and AI’s ability to learn, improve and act autonomously poses the concern that it will go rogue. But it also poses new opportunities to beat the cybercriminals at their own game.

AI is spreading fast, and as it creates more efficient, accurate processes for anticipating and dealing with hacking attempts, it will become more prominent as a cybersecurity tool. Existing systems still have their limitations, despite their fast processing and response times. But over the next 3-5 years, quantum computing will overtake machine learning as a faster way of weeding out cyber threats fast, and helping IT teams find and eliminate malicious triggers before they can wreak havoc.

While AI cybersecurity is still in its rudimentary phases, early adopters have the chance to learn and grow with the system and process. Understanding how AI can impact IT strategy, for better or for worse, can inform your ongoing strategy for improved user experience and data security—long into the future.

 

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