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Cybersecurity key to reap digital dividends in economic rebound

Cybersecurity key to reap digital dividends in economic rebound

Source: Business Times
Article Date: 06 Jan 2021

The challenge will be to provide adequate security to what is essentially a hybrid environment, where work and personal tasks comingle in one machine in the new normal.

One of the lasting legacies from 2020 is the rapid digitalisation and accelerated use of technology by both companies as well as individuals in an effort to combat the devastating effect of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

A McKinsey survey, done last October, has shown that the response to the pandemic hastened the adoption of digital technologies by several years and many of these changes are here for the long run. As economic activity starts to pick up, digital technologies will help in the growth rebound. Another major takeaway from last year is that traditional cybersecurity has struggled to keep pace with the new - and extended use of - digital technologies. As a result, exposed digital assets were plum targets for nimble cyber criminals.

All sectors (including healthcare, education, finance and manufacturing, among others) witnessed a dramatic increase in cyber attacks in 2020. One estimate reckons there was a hacking attempt every 48 seconds. According to cybersecurity vendor Kaspersky, in 2020 it detected an average of 360,000 new malicious files every day. This represents an increase of 5.2 per cent compared to 2019. Expect more of the same this year.

Known cyber threats like phishing, ransomware, Trojans and botnets will continue to be the major attack tools of cyber criminals. This year is likely to see cyber criminals refine these tools with increased automation, tailored to find personal information that could be mined from company websites, social networks and individuals' devices including smartphones.

Automation of threat vectors means that their frequency and reach will increase exponentially. As attacks and social engineering campaigns are automated with the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), cyber criminals will be able to assess and fine-tune their methods until they have a truly dangerous threat with a considerable success rate.

Remote working or work from home (WFH) will likely stay this year and the challenge will be to provide adequate security to what is essentially a hybrid environment, where work and personal tasks comingle in one machine. Last year, Singapore saw an increase in attacks on the WFH segment, and security vendors are being increasingly required to provide enterprise-level security to home users who connect remotely to their corporate networks. This adds to the complexity of network security.

Organisations will need to adapt to the new reality and also automate their response. In 2021 and beyond, cybersecurity and data protection are likely to be a battle between automated AI and ML engines of hackers and cyber defenders. As 2020 has shown, traditional system-level protection in the form of anti-virus software and firewalls will not be sufficient anymore both for corporate and home users.

New strategies need to be formulated to protect workloads, data and applications across multiple domains both within and outside the network. This will require a high level of automation and system monitoring for vulnerabilities along with traditional endpoint protection. The current year is likely to set the stage for what the future of cybersecurity will look like and every stakeholder - organisations, governments, cyber research institutions and individuals - need to be prepared for the long haul to ensure that the digital dividend that is likely to help in rapid economic recovery is not destroyed by malicious actors.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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