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How Not To Waste A Trillion Dollars On Cybersecurity

How Not To Waste A Trillion Dollars On Cybersecurity

It’s budget season. As the current fiscal year comes to a close, business leaders everywhere will convene to discuss business strategy, opportunities and return on investment (ROI) while prioritizing next year’s budget spend. Amidst the planning and prioritization, it is a safe bet that IT organizations will renew their annual request for an increased budget allocation for security. After all, increasing cybersecurity spend will stop the attackers from compromising their infrastructure next year, right?

Cybersecurity Ventures recently predicted that global cybersecurity spending will increase steadily to exceed $1 trillion from 2017 to 2021. But the news site also claimed that the cost of cybercrimearound the world will rise to $6 trillion annually by 2021. Something seems wrong with any prediction that correlates increased spending on prevention with increased damages from successful penetration of those same defenses. That’s not because I disbelieve the numbers but because they show how truly broken the legacy approach to cybersecurity is. The industry has literally gone decades with no real improvement. How is this acceptable?

It is time we shined a light on the industry’s worst kept secret: Throwing more money at the problem simply does not keep attackers out or breaches from happening. It is a good bet both things will continue to happen. What’s more disconcerting to consider is that they have already happened and you just simply don’t know it yet.

Why The Math Doesn’t Add Up

The problem isn’t solely centered on technology, there have been many significant innovations in the cybersecurity industry in recent years. For many companies, the elephant in the room is treating security as only a technology problem. Just look at Facebook’s current situation. Modern-day CISOs have increasingly found themselves helpless to effect real change to secure an organization’s data and infrastructure because they lack the insight of the conditions that give rise to bad or risky behavior.

For instance, traditional IT security assumes everyone is a potentially malicious actor and therefore works to prove the guilt of someone who clicks suspicious links, visits dangerous websites or inappropriately accesses sensitive data. Not everyone is intentionally bad, but their behavior is a continuum that can change in an instant, especially when their identity is stolen. Even more basic, employees can make honest mistakes in today’s 24/7 culture. Pushing work-life balance to meet compressed deadlines, they may be too tired to recognize a phishing email compromising their credentials until after they clicked on it. What’s potentially more damaging, they could simply become disgruntled with their employer and decide to steal company data.

Behind Every AI Strategy Is A Data Strategy

Investments focused on securing a constantly changing IT infrastructure do not address the unpredictability of human behavior. Instead, organizations need to make a fundamental change in their approach to cybersecurity and reprioritize budgets to align with this newly defined reality of our modern society.

Rethink Operations Budgets To Focus On Behavior

The first step is to stop thinking about security as solely a technical problem with technical solutions. Today’s sophisticated threat landscape is a rich, multifaceted organizational challenge that requires insight on how data is used across myriad business functions. Shifting the focus to understanding the behavior patterns of people and their interactions with technology provides clarity in regard to who is using sensitive data, why and from where.

Having a baseline for behavior, a digital rhythm or routine, can help security and business leaders better manage risk. If an employee is working normally on the job, IT can get out of the way. But if the behavior is inconsistent with the organization’s mission, IT can recognize the risk and quickly respond with coaching or stronger enforcement policies. Context matters. Security teams that only focus on securing computers and servers will miss the broader perspective and the signs of an incident or data breach until months after it happened.

The cybersecurity skills gap has been another area where the security industry is struggling. With more seats to fill than there are educated and experienced people to fill them under the traditional model of cybersecurity, many cyber issues have arisen from simply lacking the time and manpower to find and resolve threats before they impact businesses. Businesses will always need skilled workers, but they can leverage automation and behavior analytics to help lighten the load.

Security leaders will also be more effective if they establish functional partnerships and strategic programs with human resources and legal teams. The HR and legal departments share the mission to secure the organization’s data and people. These business functions have a vested interest in user and data protection, from preventing confidential information from falling into the wrong hands to protecting the workforce by ensuring compliance, employee privacy, and safety.

It is no real surprise that the cybersecurity industry has been so resistant to changing its approach. Continuing reports of breaches are good for budget increases. But it’s clear this model is not good for global business, as breaches cost economies billions of dollars each year. It is time for a paradigm shift in the cybersecurity industry. When we understand people and their interaction with data, then we have the tools to mitigate cybersecurity risks before any real damage can be done.

Author: Matthew Moynahan
Source: Forbes