Cybersecurity is now a game of attack, not defence

It’s said that the best defence is a good offence. This is particularly true in cybersecurity, where the average cost of a security breach in Australia is more than US$100 per compromised data item, according to a 2017 Ponemon study. Considering how many data items can be at risk in the event of a breach, this could rack up quite a hefty bill.

The need for proactive, rather than reactive, security hasn’t gone unnoticed. Gartner predicts global IT security spending to balloon from $90 billion in 2017 to $113 billion in 2020. Here’s how businesses can stay one step ahead in a landscape of constantly evolving threats.

Build an electric security fence

The rise of cloud, mobile and software-defined networks has greatly increased the possible ways for hackers to breach a network. Accordingly, IT departments have been busy replacing their old firewalls, switches and routers with smarter, more secure devices. But clever hackers can still find cracks in these defences, so it’s important to monitor them constantly for suspicious behaviour.

One way is endpoint detection and response (EDR), which monitors network activity on each device and logs it for further investigation and reporting. Gartner predicts this and other ‘active’ security measures – including cloud access security brokers (CASBs) and behavioural analytics – will gain popularity.

Just as an electric fence helps keep pests out, these tools will be essential in repelling cyberattacks before they escalate into major incidents.

Beware automated attacks

A growing number of cyberattacks are triggered not by hackers, but by everyday users who fail to recognise abnormal system behaviour as security-related. Employees may be aware that they shouldn’t install a suspicious program or browser toolbar. But less obvious problems – such as a laptop slowed down by a botnet, or an unsecured network printer – will often go unreported, resulting in some attacks remaining undetected for a long time.

Improvements in technology have made it easier for botnets, and other automated attacks, to develop and spread. The problem will only grow as an estimated 20.4 billion internet of things (IoT) devices go online between now and 2020. A crucial pushback will be smarter users. While security technology is evolving fast, it’s also vital that companies have trained their staff to recognise the telltale signs of automated cyberattack.

Use (but don’t misuse) predictive analytics

What if you could detect threats before they occur? That’s the promise of predictive analytics, which uses AI-enhanced analysis of security data to detect possibly suspicious behaviour.

While the technology is promising, it’s important to remember that it’s no security catch-all, and people remain the most important line of defence. It’s more likely that human and machine intelligence will join forces against cyberthreats – as demonstrated in a recent MIT study which claimed 85 per cent success in threat detection.

The growth in cloud, the IoT and bring your own device (BYOD) will keep security experts busy in the years to come. But if you really want to root out the malicious attacks before they cost you time, money and customers, you must be ready to invest in proactive security measures.