The Next 10 Years in Cybersecurity

In lieu of making predictions for the next year, let us study the past decade  to identify what the most significant cybersecurity incidents of the past 10 years have to teach us about what is next. 

We’re destined to see more disastrous results unless we release ourselves from cybersecurity “cargo cult science.” But I’m hopeful that a wave of accountability will play a key role in shaping the cybersecurity industry for the next 10 years.

1. Standard Reporting & Metrics

The past decade has seen an outrageous amount of cybersecurity damages that have impacted every corner and facet of society.  While in other fields, we’ve seen the rates of fatalities decline precipitously due to standardized incident reporting forms that are consolidated and made accessible, a culture of data-driven cybersecurity advancement has just begun.  

For years victims and cybersecurity companies have tried to keep data to themselves, or to manipulate data to serve their own purposes. This prevents making the Internet safer.  In this age of unlimited possibility, we are getting plenty of information about how the human genome works, yet we don’t have consistent timely and accessible data on cybersecurity incidents.

Take, for instance, reported damages from Business Email Compromise (BEC) phishing.  The FBI says that BEC has cost businesses more than $26 billion in losses since 2013. But we all know the numbers are deceptive — organizations significantly underreport financial cyber crime.

Progress is a never-ending process that always begins with data and that data must be both timely and uniform. Some patterns may be revealed that have large impacts and many will be based on smaller subtle insights that lead to important cybersecurity design advances.

2. Accountability for Cybersecurity Vendors’ Performance 

Despite the billions of dollars spent on cybersecurity, damages from cyberattacks continue to rise.

Typically when companies invest  millions of dollars and get the types of disastrous results, as the current crop of cybersecurity solutions have delivered, they don’t survive the ruthless equilibrium of the marketplace.

Over the next decade, organizations will increasingly demand solutions provide the value they ascribe.  This represents a distinct, dramatic shift in the way businesses think about cybersecurity investments.

The rest of the IT industry has already moved to pay for value sparked by the advent of the cloud business model. Security has been a laggard – but will soon follow suit.

Companies will want to pay only for solutions when and if they provide the unit of value being purchased.

3. If something doesn’t change, the 10 biggest breaches will start with phishing — again.

The 10 biggest breaches of the past decade – such as those involving OPM, Sony, Target and Stuxnet – all started with phishing. Phishing attacks impact everyone, and come from everywhere – other governments, hackers, and criminal groups. Phishing has enabled rogue wire transfers, diversions of funds, stolen customer data that lead to lawsuits, that lead to settlements … and causes business interruption and operational problems.

Gartner’s 2019 Market Guide for Email Security pointed out gaps in the advanced threat capabilities of legacy Secure Email Gateways (SEGs) — gaps that have left organizations susceptible to the most sophisticated cyber threats like Business Email Compromise and ransomware. SEGs were never designed to address the low-volume, “one and done” highly targeted attacks that today’s clever hackers launch.

In an attempt to balance out SEGs’ failures – combined with an erroneous belief that humans can be ‘trained’ out of their human nature – organizations are spending $1B a year (and growing) training employees to be ‘aware’ of phish.

However, the increasing speed, variety, and cunning of phishing attacks underscore that the solution for phish won’t come in the form of SEGs or end user human judgment. Instead, automation and better machines must be the solution for approaching cyber attacks for what they actually are: routine assembly line operations, neither extraordinary nor insurmountable to defeat.

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