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GlobalData: Zero Trust Key to Catastrophic Cyber Attack Risk Reduction

January 25, 2023

Geopolitical instability is exacerbating the risk of catastrophic cyberattacks, according to the Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2023 report, which was launched today at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos. Over 93% of cybersecurity experts and 86% of business leaders believe “a far-reaching, catastrophic cyber event is likely in the next two years” and there is a critical skills gap that is threatening societies and key infrastructure.

The Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2023 findings were based on surveys, workshops and interviews with over 300 experts and C-suite executives. Half of the companies surveyed said the current landscape is making them re-evaluate the countries in which their organization does business.

Despite challenges, organizations are improving cyber resilience, one of the key priorities of the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Cybersecurity. The report, written in collaboration with Accenture, says that awareness and preparation will help organizations balance the value of new technology against the cyber risk that comes with it.

The report highlights the need to address the shortage of talent and skilled experts. Some 34% of cybersecurity experts said they lacked some skills in their team, with 14% saying they lacked critical skills. The problem is more pronounced in key sectors such as energy utilities, where nearly 25% of cybersecurity experts said they lacked the necessary critical skills to protect their organizations’ operations. Expanding the cybersecurity talent pool is needed to solve this problem. Several successful cybersecurity skills programmes are under way around the world, but many have difficulty scaling to large numbers. Greater cross-industry collaboration and public-private is needed to overcome this.

Geopolitics is reshaping the legal, regulatory and technological environment. “As global instability increases cyber risk, this report calls for a renewed focus on cooperation. All stakeholders from public and private sectors who are responsible for our common digital infrastructure must work together to build security, resilience and trust,” said Jeremy Jurgens, Managing Director, World Economic Forum.

“When it comes to cyber resilience, everybody within an organization needs to pull their weight,” says Isabelle Dumont, SVP at the cyber insurance provider Cowbell. “Of course, larger organizations need a dedicated IT team, but arguably just as important are educated employees who know cybersecurity hygiene and how to spot phishing emails, for example. With or without an IT team, it’s imperative to work with outside security vendors who can help you implement cybersecurity best practices, as well as get a standalone cyber insurance policy. Those policies can help kickstart your company’s cybersecurity management as well.”

Perspectives from cybersecurity experts and business leaders

On awareness:

“The research shows that business leaders are now more aware of their organizations’ cyber risks, however, there is the need to go further to assessing and translating the business risk into actionable next steps across the entire organization. Long-term cyber resilience requires a closely coordinated team effort across the C-suite to gain a clearer view of the cyber risks so security can be embedded in all strategic business priorities and protect the digital core. As our digitally connected world expands, now is the time to build cyber resilient businesses for customers, employees and supply chain partners.”

Paolo Dal Cin, Global Lead, Accenture Security

On addressing the skills gap:

“The threat landscape continues to expand and evolve with cyber adversaries targeting organizations of all sizes, locations and industries around the world. The disruption of operations or services and the compromise of data due to cyberattacks against the backdrop of a global skills gap places every individual, organization and even nation at risk. When we work together to encourage best practices we see greater progress in the fight against cybercrime. Shared data and trusted global partnerships can enable more effective responses and better predict future attack strategies to deter adversary efforts.”

Ken Xie, Founder, Chairman of the Board and CEO, Fortinet

On regulation:

Leaders are now more likely than one year ago to see data privacy laws and cybersecurity regulations as an effective tool for reducing cyber risks across a sector. But speed is an issue.

“Standardization can take 18 months but a cyberattack takes seconds. The speed at which emerging technologies are implemented often outpaces our ability to build security measures around them. We need to go beyond simple compliance with regulations if organizations are to be cyber-resilient.”

Hoda Al Khzaimi, Director, Centre for Cybersecurity, Founder and Director EMARTSEC, New York University (NYU), Abu Dhabi

On investing in cybersecurity:

According to the report, the speed at which new technologies are implemented means that real and lasting cyber resilience comes from embedding cybersecurity into an organization’s culture and decision-making processes.

“Cyber attackers don’t rest with macro-economic challenges, they double down on them. There is no path to success that is not heavily driven by AI and automation. As companies accelerate their digital transformation journeys, the time for reimagining and investing in cybersecurity architectures – intelligent platforms – is now. Boards and the C-suite must embrace a strategy whereby cybersecurity is deeply embedded across the enterprise from operations to innovation. Only then will organizations be able to create a state of resilience that enables, not inhibits, their strategic business outcomes.”

Nikesh Arora, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, Palo Alto Networks

A lingering, vexing challenge is how to price cybersecurity. “Board members are interested in risk, opportunities and investment in cost,” said one survey respondent. “We need to better respond to the question, ‘What is the return?’ How do I know this is a good investment across the myriad of things that I could potentially be invested in? How can we improve at making effective metrics to help boards make better-informed decisions?”

Cybersecurity is also influencing strategic business decisions, with 50% of participants in the Cybersecurity Outlook 2023 research saying that cybersecurity was a consideration when they evaluated which countries in which to invest and do business.

Building a cyber-resilient organization:

Compared with last year, the report found that board-level executives are more likely to prioritize cyber risk and are more aware of their own role in addressing it. This has led to increased interaction with cybersecurity leaders, “cyber leaders, business leaders and boards of directors are now communicating more directly and more often”. The bad news is that they “continue to speak different languages”.

All too often, when security and business leaders discuss cybersecurity, the rapidly evolving contours of cyber-risks get lost in translation. Chief information security officers may fail to convey the complex data they have gathered – on risk points, threat actors, mapping of criminal campaigns – into an accessible story that results in specific mitigating actions in their organizations.

Instead, they need to tell stories that align with their corporate and business priorities. “Boards should be presented with a cyber posture that resonates with customers’ and authorities’ expectations and helps address sectorial ecosystem challenges,” said Christophe Blassiau, Senior Vice-President, Cybersecurity & Global Chief Information Security Officer, Schneider Electric.

Despite this challenge, the report found the disconnect between cybersecurity managers and business executive has begun to close. Both increasingly perceive the elevated degree of risk exposure and are allocating more resources to coordinate responses in an effective manner. The priority today is on speed.

Following the release of a survey by the World Economic Forum showing that businesses feel a catastrophic cyberattack is likely in the next two years; Analysts at GlobalData offered their views of what 2023 holds for cybersecurity.

David Bicknell, Principal Analyst, Thematic Intelligence at GlobalData, comments: “There will be no let-up from the cybersecurity threat in 2023 and beyond. Geopolitical strife, especially the Russia-Ukraine conflict, will be the genesis of continued cyber threats, and we will see continued ransomware attacks, possibly fuelled by artificial intelligence (AI). This will put under-resourced corporate cybersecurity teams under constant pressure. Curbing the payment of ransoms will eventually lead to fewer attacks, but that will take time.

“Despite fears of wide-ranging cyberattacks in the future, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. 2023 will be the year many organizations’ maturity levels when it comes to the adoption of zero-trust security architectures increases. A zero-trust approach to security should give organizations better long-term damage limitation, even in the face of a feared catastrophic cyberattack by 2025. This ensures all access to corporate applications is verified and authorized, strengthening defenses against attack. In some cases, a zero-trust officer will be appointed to coax, cajole, and bully companies on their zero-trust journey.

“In 2023, we will also see wider use of passkeys as a replacement for passwords, and, following the conviction of Uber’s former chief information security officer (CISO) Joe Sullivan for failing to report the company’s 2016 data breach, a greater focus on the responsibilities of a CISO’s role.”

Sarah Coop, Analyst, Thematic Intelligence at GlobalData, comments, “With a global recession looming in 2023, companies must control costs. Mass lay-offs are becoming commonplace across the tech industry, with Salesforce and Amazon announcing significant job cuts in the first week of 2023. Despite cost control, proactive cybersecurity should remain a strategic priority for all companies as we enter global economic downturn. Preventative measures are more critical than ever for organizations to stay ahead of potential threats.

“It costs more to recover from a cybersecurity attack than to prevent one. According to IBM research, the average cost of a data breach in 2022 was $4.4 million, up 3% from 2021. Investing in preventative cybersecurity can reduce costs in the long run. Companies should increase cybersecurity budgets in the face of a recession to avoid costly attacks.

“However, more security doesn’t always mean more secure. According to GlobalData forecasts, companies spent over $156 billion on security solutions in 2022. This will increase to over $171 billion in 2023. However, organizations still find it hard to protect their IT infrastructure. Companies must have full visibility of their IT estate, including third-party vendors, and test for vulnerabilities, to mitigate and prevent the cyberattack risk.”

Rajesh Muru, Principal Analyst, Global Enterprise Cyber Security Leadat GlobalData, comments: “GlobalData’s discussions with security heads and CISOs over the last two years indicates that, as enterprise digital transformation accelerates in parallel to cyber threats, the practicality of decisions around cybersecurity and networks will be challenging for enterprises in the next two years. In particular, there will be greater involvement of the enterprise senior executive team in relation to security and how security measures translate to positive business outcomes, positive revenue, and overall limit enterprise risks. Therefore, its mandatory that CISO strategies utilize the foundations of business benefits gained and risk reduction.

“Based on GlobalData’s discussions with enterprises, the traditional cybersecurity vendor engagement model will have to change in the future to create market relevancy and be effective in tackling cybercrime in vertical sectors like in financial, pharma, manufacturing, and government.

“Vendors will need to engage and serve the IT and CISO functions within an organization, to embed themselves and their capabilities in the client risk management decision process around corporate objectives and the role security plays in that chain. Vendors will also need to align cybersecurity to business priorities, often working from the top down with different teams in a client organization outside the IT function in mapping out how a cybersecurity strategy will support business unit outcomes and business plans.

“Lastly, there will need to be greater focus in centralizing teams across security within an enterprise, as well as highlighting to security vendors the need for simplification, unification, and standardization when it comes to cybersecurity. This will be fundamental for corporates, as we see an exponential rise in cyber attacks. I believe that, for investors, the market will provide strong overall growth in cybersecurity—particularly when investing in cloud and network security, and particularly security products and services aligned to secure access service edge (SASE), zero trust architectures (ZTA), extended detection and response (XDR), security information and event management (SIEM), and identity and access management (IDM) solutions.”

Amy DeCarlo, Principal Analyst, Global IT Hosted and Managed Services at GlobalData, notes: “There is a simmering level of frustration among security professionals that, despite important strides in security technology, they still can’t keep ahead of the threat volume. The move to hybrid work operations has presented cybercriminals with an opportunity they have been quick to exploit. Although there has been considerable work done in areas such as endpoint detection and response (EDR) to close some security gaps, hackers are finding ways to navigate around protections.

“In 2023, GlobalData expects to see more concerted efforts around integrating security into network services through wider Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) technology deployments—even as organizations grapple to understand exactly what constitutes SASE. Zero Trust Architecture implementations will also gain more traction as organizations seek to mirror work already done by entities such as the US Federal Government, which is in the midst of a multi-year migration to deploy a Zero Trust Architecture. However, ongoing geopolitical tensions and related threats from both state-sponsored actors and related organized cybercrimnals continue to loom large as organizations try to mount effective defenses against hackers.”

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