State and local governments under siege from cyber threats

With both security budgets and talent pools negatively affected by the ongoing pandemic, state and local governments are struggling to cope with the constant wave of cyber threats more than ever before, a Deloitte study reveals.

governments cyber threats

The study is based on responses from 51 U.S. state and territory enterprise-level CISOs.

Key themes

  • COVID-19 has challenged continuity and amplified gaps in budget, talent and threats, and the need for partnerships.
  • Collaboration with local governments and public higher education is critical to managing increasingly complex cyber risk within state borders.
  • CISOs need a centralized structure to position cyber in a way that improves agility, effectiveness and efficiencies.

The report also details focus areas for states during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic has highlighted the resilience of public sector cyber leaders, it has also called attention to long-standing challenges facing state IT and cybersecurity organizations such as securing adequate budgets and talent, and coordinating consistent security implementation across agencies.

Remote work creating new opportunities for cyber threats

These challenges were exacerbated by the abrupt shift to remote work spurred by the pandemic. According to the study:

  • Before the pandemic, 52% of respondents said less than 5% of staff worked remotely.
  • During the pandemic, 35 states have had more than half of employees working remotely; nine states have had more than 90% remote workers.

“The last six months have created new opportunities for cyber threats and amplified existing cybersecurity challenges for state governments,” said Meredith Ward, director of policy and research at NASCIO.

“The budget and talent challenges experienced in recent years have only grown, and CISOs are now also faced with an acceleration of strategic initiatives to address threats associated with the pandemic.”

“The pandemic forced state governments to act quickly, not just in terms of public health and safety, but also with regard to cybersecurity,” said Srini Subramanian, principal, Deloitte & Touche LLP.

“However, continuing challenges with resources beset state CISOs/CIOs. This is evident when comparing the much higher levels of budget that federal agencies and other industries like financial services receive to fight cyber threats.”

governments cyber threats

The need for digital modernization amplified by the pandemic

State governments’ longstanding need for digital modernization has only been amplified by the pandemic, along with the essential role that cybersecurity needs to play in the discussion. Key takeaways from the 2020 study include:

  • Fewer than 40% of states reported having a dedicated budget line item for cybersecurity.
  • Half of states still allocate less than 3% of their total information technology budget on cybersecurity.
  • CISOs identified financial fraud as three times greater of a threat as they did in 2018.
  • Overall, respondents said they believe the probability of a security breach is higher in the next 12 months, compared to responses to the same question in the 2018 study.
  • Only 27% of states provide cybersecurity training to local governments and public education entities.
  • Only 28% of states reported that they had collaborated extensively with local governments as part of their state’s security program during the past year, with 65% reporting limited collaboration.

SaaS adoption prompting concerns over operational complexity and risk

A rise in SaaS adoption is prompting concerns over operational complexity and risk, a BetterCloud report reveals.

SaaS adoption risk

Since 2015, the number of IT-sanctioned SaaS apps has increased tenfold, and it’s expected that by 2025, 85 percent of business apps will be SaaS-based. With SaaS on the rise, 49 percent of respondents are confident in their ability to identify and monitor unsanctioned SaaS usage on company networks—yet 76 percent see unsanctioned apps as a security risk.

And when asked what SaaS applications are likely to hold the most sensitive data across an organization, respondents believe it’s all apps including cloud storage, email, devices, chat apps, password managers, etc.

Concerns when managing SaaS environments

Respondents also highlighted slow, manual management tasks as a prime concern when managing SaaS environments. IT organizations spend over 7 hours offboarding a single employee from a company’s SaaS apps, which takes time and energy from more strategic projects.

“In the earlier part of the year, organizations around the world were faced with powering their entire workforces from home and turned to SaaS to make the shift with as little disruption to productivity as possible,” said David Politis, CEO, BetterCloud.

“Up until this point, most companies were adopting a cloud-first approach for their IT infrastructure — that strategy has now shifted to cloud only. But SaaS growth at this scale has also brought about challenges as our 2020 State of SaaSOps report clearly outlines.

“The findings also show increased confidence and reliance on SaaSOps as the path forward to reigning in SaaS management and security.”

SaaS adoption risk: Key findings

  • On average, organizations use 80 SaaS apps today. This is a 5x increase in just three years and a 10x increase since 2015.
  • The top two motivators for using more SaaS apps are increasing productivity and reducing costs.
  • Only 49 percent of IT professionals inspire confidence in their ability to identify and monitor unsanctioned SaaS usage on company networks—yet more than three-quarters (76 percent) see unsanctioned apps as a security risk.
  • The top five places where sensitive data lives are: 1. files stored in cloud storage, 2. email, 3. devices, 4. chat apps, and 5. password managers. But because SaaS apps have become the system of record, sensitive data inevitably lives everywhere in your SaaS environment.
  • The top two security concerns are sensitive files shared publicly and former employees retaining data access.
  • IT teams spend an average of 7.12 hours offboarding a single employee from a company’s SaaS apps.
  • Thirty percent of respondents already use the term SaaSOps in their job title or plan to include it soon.

For the report surveyed nearly 700 IT leaders and security professionals from the world’s leading enterprise organizations. These individuals ranged in seniority from C-level executives to front-line practitioners and included both IT and security department roles.

Most enterprises struggle with IoT security incidents

The ongoing global pandemic that has led to massive levels of remote work and an increased use of hybrid IT systems is leading to greater insecurity and risk exposure for enterprises.

IoT security incidents

According to new data released by Cybersecurity Insiders, 72% of organizations experienced an increase in endpoint and IoT security incidents in the last year, while 56% anticipate their organization will likely be compromised due to an endpoint or IoT-originated attack with the next 12 months.

The comprehensive survey of 325 IT and cybersecurity decision makers in the US, conducted in September 2020, represented a balanced cross-section of organizations from financial services, healthcare and technology to government and energy.

IoT and enpoint security challenge

Alongside headline data that the majority experienced an endpoint and IoT security incident over the last 12 months, the top 3 issues were related to malware (78%), insecure network and remote access (61%), and compromised credentials (58%).

Perhaps more concerning was that 43% of respondents expressed “moderate to unlikely means to discover, identify, and respond to unknown, unmanaged, or insecure devices accessing network and cloud resources.”

“It is clear from this new research that the challenge of securing IoT and endpoints has escalated considerably as employees have been forced to work remotely while organizations try to rapidly adapt to the situation,” said Scott Gordon, CMO at Pulse Secure.

“The threat is real and growing. Yet, on a positive note, the survey shows that organizations are investing in key initiatives and adopting zero trust elements such as remote access device posture checking and Network Access Control (NAC) to address some of these issues.“

The negative impact of an endpoint or IoT security issue

The research found that 41% will implement or advance on-premise device security enforcement, 35% will advance their remote access devices posture checking, and 22% will advance their IoT device identification and monitoring capabilities.

For those that have been victim of an endpoint or IoT security issue, the most significant negative impact was a reported loss of user (55%) and IT (45%) productivity, followed by system downtime (42%).

Holger Schulze, CEO at Cybersecurity Insiders added, “The diversity of users, devices, networks, and threats continue to grow as enterprises take advantage of greater workforce mobility, workplace flexibility, and cloud computing opportunities.

“Not only do organizations need to ensure endpoints are secure and adhering to usage policy, but they must also manage appropriate IoT device access. New zero trust security controls can fortify dynamic device discovery, verification, tracking, remediation, and access enforcement.”

IoT security incidents

Additional key findings

  • Respondents rated the biggest endpoint and IoT security challenges as #1 insufficient protection against the latest threats (49%), #2 high complexity of deployment and operations (47%), and #3 inability to enforce endpoint and IoT device access/usage policy (40%).
  • Respondents rated the most critical capabilities required to mitigate endpoint and IoT security as #1 monitoring endpoint or IoT devices for malicious or anomalous activity (54%), #2 blocking or isolating unknown or at-risk endpoint and IoT devices’ network access (51%), and #3 blocking at-risk devices’ access to network or cloud resources (46%).
  • When asked about anticipated investments to secure remote worker access and endpoint security technology, most organizations (61%) anticipate an increase, or significant increase, while few expect a decrease (6%).

Securing mobile devices, apps, and users should be every CIO’s top priority

More than 80% of global employees do not want to return to the office full-time, despite 30% employees claiming that being isolated from their team was the biggest hindrance to productivity during lockdown, a MobileIron study reveals.

securing mobile devices apps

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly changed the way people work and accelerated the already growing remote work trend. This has also created new security challenges for IT departments, as employees are increasingly using their own personal devices to access corporate data and services.

Adding to the challenges posed by the new “everywhere enterprise” – in which employees, IT infrastructures, and customers are everywhere – is the fact that employees are not prioritizing security. The study found that 33% of workers consider IT security to be a low priority.

Mobile devices and a new threat landscape

The current distributed remote work environment has also triggered a new threat landscape, with malicious actors increasingly targeting mobile devices with phishing attacks. These attacks range from basic to sophisticated and are likely to succeed, with many employees unaware of how to identify and avoid a phishing attack. The study revealed that 43% of global employees are not sure what a phishing attack is.

“Mobile devices are everywhere and have access to practically everything, yet most employees have inadequate mobile security measures in place, enabling hackers to have a heyday,” said Brian Foster, SVP Product Management, MobileIron.

“Hackers know that people are using their loosely secured mobile devices more than ever before to access corporate data, and increasingly targeting them with phishing attacks. Every company needs to implement a mobile-centric security strategy that prioritizes user experience and enables employees to maintain maximum productivity on any device, anywhere, without compromising personal privacy.”

The study found that four distinct employee personas have emerged in the everywhere enterprise as a result of lockdown, and mobile devices play a more critical role than ever before in ensuring productivity.

Hybrid Henry

  • Typically works in financial services, professional services or the public sector.
  • Ideally splits time equally between working at home and going into the office for face-to-face meetings; although this employee likes working from home, being isolated from teammates is the biggest hindrance to productivity.
  • Depends on a laptop and mobile device, along with secure access to email, CRM applications and video collaboration tools, to stay productive.
  • Believes that IT security ensures productivity and enhances the usability of devices. At the same time, this employee is only somewhat aware of phishing attacks.

Mobile Molly

  • Works constantly on the go using a range of mobile devices, such as tablets and phones, and often relies on public WiFi networks for work.
  • Relies on remote collaboration tools and cloud suites to get work done.
  • Views unreliable technology as the biggest hindrance to productivity as this individual is always on-the-go and heavily relies on mobile devices.
  • Views IT security as a hindrance to productivity as it slows down the ability to get tasks done. This employee also believes IT security compromises personal privacy.
  • This is the most likely persona to click on a malicious link due to a heavy reliance on mobile devices.

Desktop Dora

  • Finds being away from teammates and working from home a hindrance to productivity and can’t wait to get back to the office.
  • Prefers to work on a desktop computer from a fixed location than on mobile devices.
  • Relies heavily on productivity suites to communicate with colleagues in and out of the office.
  • Views IT security as a low priority and leaves it to the IT department to deal with. This employee is also only somewhat aware of phishing attacks.

Frontline Fred

  • Works on the frontlines in industries like healthcare, logistics or retail.
  • Works from fixed and specific locations, such as hospitals or retail shops; This employee can’t work remotely.
  • Relies on purpose-built devices and applications, such as medical or courier devices and applications, to work. This employee is not as dependent on personal mobile devices for productivity as other personas.
  • Realizes that IT security is essential to enabling productivity. This employee can’t afford to have any device or application down time, given the specialist nature of their work.

“With more employees leveraging mobile devices to stay productive and work from anywhere than ever before, organizations need adopt a zero trust security approach to ensure that only trusted devices, apps, and users can access enterprise resources,” continued Foster.

“Organizations also need to bolster their mobile threat defenses, as cybercriminals are increasingly targeting text and SMS messages, social media, productivity, and messaging apps that enable link sharing with phishing attacks.

“To prevent unauthorized access to corporate data, organizations need to provide seamless anti-phishing technical controls that go beyond corporate email, to keep users secure wherever they work, on all of the devices they use to access those resources.”

37% of remote employees have no security restrictions on corporate devices

ManageEngine unveiled findings from a report that analyzes behaviors related to personal and professional online usage patterns.

security restrictions devices

Security restrictions on corporate devices

The report combines a series of surveys conducted among nearly 1,500 employees amid the pandemic as many people were accelerating online usage due to remote work and stay-at-home orders. The findings evaluate users’ web browsing habits, opinions about AI-based recommendations, and experiences with chatbot-based customer service.

“This research illuminates the challenges of unsupervised employee behaviors, and the need for behavioral analytics tools to help ensure business security and productivity,” said Rajesh Ganesan, vice president at ManageEngine.

“While IT teams have played a crucial role in supporting remote work and business continuity during the pandemic, now is an important time to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of current strategies and augment data analytics to IT operations that will help sustain seamless, secure operations.”

Risky online behaviors could compromise corporate data and devices

63% of respondents report that their organization has provided them with a corporate device to utilize while working remotely.

Interestingly, 37% of those respondents also say that there are no security restrictions on these corporate devices. Therefore, risky online activities such as visiting unsecured websites, sharing personal information, and downloading third-party software could pose potential threats.

For example, 54% said they would still visit a website after receiving a warning about potential insecurities. This percentage is also significantly higher among younger generations – including 42% of people 18-24 years and 40% of 25-34 years.

Remote work has its hiccups, but IT teams have been responsive

79% of respondents say they experience at least one technology issue weekly while working from home. The most common issues include slowed functionality and download speeds (40%) and reliable connectivity (25%).

However, IT teams have been committed to solving these challenges. For example, 75% of respondents say it’s been easy to communicate with their IT teams to resolve these issues. Chatbots, AI, and automation are becoming increasingly more effective and trusted.

76% said their experience with chatbot-based support has been “excellent” or “satisfactory,” and 55% said their issue was resolved in a timely manner. As it relates to artificial intelligence, 67% say they trust these solutions to make recommendations for them.

The increasing comfort with automation technologies can help IT teams support both front and back-end business functions, especially during times of increased online activities due to the pandemic.

Cybersecurity practices are becoming more formal, security teams are expanding

Organizations are building confidence that their cybersecurity practices are headed in the right direction, aided by advanced technologies, more detailed processes, comprehensive education and specialized skills, a research from CompTIA finds.

cybersecurity practices

Eight in 10 organizations surveyed said their cybersecurity practices are improving.

At the same time, many companies acknowledge that there is still more to do to make their security posture even more robust. Growing concerns about the number, scale and variety of cyberattacks, privacy considerations, a greater reliance on data and regulatory compliance are among the issues that have the attention of business and IT leaders.

Elevating cybersecurity

Two factors – one anticipated, the other unexpected – have contributed to the heightened awareness about the need for strong cybersecurity measures.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been the primary trigger for revisiting security,” said Seth Robinson, senior director for technology analysis at CompTIA. “The massive shift to remote work exposed vulnerabilities in workforce knowledge and connectivity, while phishing emails preyed on new health concerns.”

Robinson noted that the pandemic accelerated changes that were underway in many organizations that were undergoing the digital transformation of their business operations.

“This transformation elevated cybersecurity from an element within IT operations to an overarching business concern that demands executive-level attention,” he said. “It has become a critical business function, on par with a company’s financial procedures.”

As a result, companies have a better understanding of what do about cybersecurity. Nine in 10 organizations said their cybersecurity processes have become more formal and more critical.

Two examples are risk management, where companies assess their data and their systems to determine the level of security that each requires; and monitoring and measurement, where security efforts are continually tracked and new metrics are established to tie security activity to business objectives.

IT teams foundational skills

The report also highlights how the “cybersecurity chain” has expanded to include upper management, boards of directors, business units and outside firms in addition to IT personnel in conversations and decisions.

Within IT teams, foundational skills such as network and endpoint security have been paired with new skills, including identity management and application security, that have become more important as cloud and mobility have taken hold.

On the horizon, expect to see skills related to security monitoring and other proactive tactics gain a bigger foothold. Examples include data analysis, threat knowledge and understanding the regulatory landscape.

Cybersecurity insurance is another emerging area. The report reveals that 45% of large companies, 41% of mid-sized firms and 37% of small businesses currently have a cyber insurance policy.

Common coverage areas include the cost of restoring data (56% of policy holders), the cost of finding the root cause of a breach (47%), coverage for third-party incidents (43%) and response to ransomware (42%).

Is IoT vital for the future success of businesses?

Vodafone Business launched a report focused on the impact IoT is having on businesses at a time when their digital capabilities are put to the test by the COVID-19 pandemic.

IoT business success

The report features responses from 1,639 businesses globally, exploring how they are using IoT and how IoT is helping them be ready for the future.

IoT has made the difference for business success

The pandemic has forced almost all businesses to change their working practices and priorities in a matter of weeks, with the findings showing 77% of adopters increased the pace of IoT projects during this time.

Adopters clearly believe IoT was vital to keep them going: 84% said the technology was key to maintaining business continuity during the pandemic. As a result, 84% of adopters now view the integration of IoT devices with workers as a higher priority and 73% of businesses considering IoT agree the pandemic will accelerate their adoption plans.

IoT is key to improving business performance

The research findings are clear: IoT continues to generate value and ROI for adopters and 87% agree their core business strategy has changed for the better as a result of adopting IoT.

95% say they have achieved a return on investment and 55% of adopters have seen operating costs decrease by an average of 21%.

From improving operational efficiency to creating new connected products and services, key benefits of IoT deployments include boosted employee productivity (49%) and improved customer experience (59%).

Data is the key to future readiness

You can’t manage what you can’t measure. IoT data is becoming essential to support businesses’ decision-making (59%) and 84% of adopters think they can do things they couldn’t do before thanks to IoT. And IoT data is also helping 84% of businesses meet their sustainability goals.

IoT benefits clearly outweigh the risks

Businesses see IoT as an essential element of being future ready. So much so that 73% say that organisations who have failed to embrace IoT will have fallen behind within five years.

While cybersecurity was one of the main barriers to business’ willingness to adopt IoT in previous years, the IoT Spotlight 2020 sees the concerns significantly reducing, with only 18% of businesses seeing it as one of the top-three barriers to IoT adoption.

This, coupled with the improvements in brand differentiation and competitiveness (43%) showed by mature adopters of IoT, proves businesses that embrace this technology believe the opportunities IoT offers businesses greatly outweigh the challenges of implementation.

Erik Brenneis, Internet of Things Director at Vodafone Business said: “IoT has grown up. It’s no longer just about increasing return on investment or providing cost savings to businesses: it’s changing the way they think and operate. And it’s giving them an opportunity to re-design their operations and future-proof their business model. This research proves IoT is an essential technology for businesses that want to be resilient, more flexible and quicker to adapt and react to change.”

Is passwordless authentication actually the future?

While passwords may not be going away completely, 92 percent of respondents believe passwordless authentication is the future of their organization, according to a LastPass survey.

passwordless authentication

Passwordless authentication reduces password related risks by enabling users to login to devices and applications without the need to type in a password.

Technologies such as biometric authentication, single-sign-on (SSO) and federated identity streamline the user experience for employees within an organization, while still maintaining a high level of security and complete control for IT and security teams.

Organizations still have a password problem

Problems with passwords are still an ongoing struggle for organizations. The amount of time that IT teams spend managing users’ password and login information has increased year over year.

In fact, those surveyed suggest that weekly time spent managing users’ passwords has increased 25 percent since 2019. Given this, 85 percent of IT and security professionals agree that their organization should look to reduce the number of passwords that individuals use on a daily basis.

Additionally, 95 percent respondents surveyed say there are risks to using passwords which could contribute to threats in their organization, notably human behaviors like password reuse or password weakness.

Security priorities are at odds with user experience

When it comes to managing an organization, security is a core challenge for IT teams. However, it is the lack of convenience and ease of use that employees care about. Security is the main source of frustration for the IT department, particularly when issues are often derived from user behavior when managing passwords.

The top three frustrations for IT teams include users using the same password across applications (54 percent), users forgetting passwords (49 percent) and time spent on password management (45 percent).

For employees, the issues lie in convenience. Their top three frustrations are changing passwords regularly (56 percent), remembering multiple passwords (54 percent) and typing long, complex passwords (49 percent).

Primary benefits of passwordless authentication

Better security (69 percent) and eliminating password related risk (58 percent) are believed by respondents to be the top benefits of deploying a passwordless authentication model for their organization’s IT infrastructure. Time (54 percent) and cost (48 percent) savings are also noted benefits of going passwordless.

Meanwhile, for employees a passwordless authentication model would help to address efficiency concerns. 53 percent of respondents report that passwordless authentication offers the potential to provide convenient access from anywhere, which is key given the shift towards remote work that is likely here to stay.

Top challenges of passwordless deployment

While going passwordless can provide a more secure authentication method, there are challenges in the deployment of a passwordless model.

Respondents report the initial financial investment required to migrate to such solutions (43 percent), the regulations around the storage of the data required (41 percent) and the initial time required to migrate to new types of methods (40 percent) as the biggest challenges for their organization to overcome.

There are also some concerns around resistance to change. Three quarters of IT and security professionals (72 percent) think that end users in their organization would prefer to continue using passwords, as it is what they are used to.

passwordless authentication

Passwords are not going away completely

When it comes to identity and access management, 85 percent do not think passwords are going away completely. Yet, 92 percent of respondents believe that delivering a passwordless experience for end-users is the future for their organization.

There is a clear need to find a solution that combines passwordless authentication and password management in today’s organizations.

“As many organizations transition to a long-term remote work culture, giving your employees the tools and resources to be secure online in their personal lives as well as in the home office is more important now than ever,” said Gerald Beuchelt, CISO at LogMeIn.

“This report shows the continued challenge that organizations face with password security and the need for a passwordless authentication solution to enable both IT teams and employees to operate more efficiently and securely in this changing environment.”

Employees increasingly masking online activities

This year’s shift to a near 100% WFH workforce by the Global 5000 has significantly changed the behaviors of trusted insiders, a DTEX Systems report reveals.

masking online activities

Key findings include a 450% increase in employees circumventing security controls to intentionally mask online activities and 230% increase in behaviors that indicate intent to steal data.

The data was collected during interviews with hundreds of customers and Global 5000 organizations representing a diverse sample set of businesses that varied by size, industry, and geography.

“Our findings indicate that in 2020 the equilibrium of employee security and trust has been broadly disrupted and is currently in chaos,” said Mohan Koo, CTO at DTEX Systems.

“Trusted insiders once thought to be reliable and responsible are changing their behaviors and increasing the risk of data loss, external attack and regulatory compliance violations for their employers.”

Key findings

56% of companies reported remote workers actively bypassed security controls to intentionally obfuscate online activity. This is more than 4.5 times higher than 2019 which represents a 450% increase in the first eight months of 2020.

  • More than 70% of the escalated incidents visible to the security and HR teams included at least one attempt to circumvent a second security control to exfiltrate data without detection.
  • Companies reported remote workers most commonly attempted to intentionally bypass the corporate VPN to mask their online activities.

72% of companies surveyed saw data theft attempts by a departing employee wanting to take protected IP with them or a new employee looking to inject IP from a previous employer. This represents an increase of 2.3 times, or 230%, over similar behaviors seen in 2019.

Over 40% of incidents proactively detected flight risk behavior as well as abnormal reconnaissance or data aggregation activities.

The growth in premeditated data theft attempts and intentional activity masking behaviors by employees strongly suggests that companies are facing a heightened risk of data loss as virtual employment models become the norm, furloughs are extended and reduction-in-force actions continue.

The findings in this report highlight the lack of adoption and ineffectiveness of network and endpoint cybersecurity, employee monitoring and data loss prevention tools and suggest that organizations need to prioritize the human-element and workforce behavior in relation to data, process and machines as a pillar of their next-generation security and IT technology strategies.

70% of consumers would cut ties with doctors over unprotected health data

There are growing privacy concerns among Americans due to COVID-19 with nearly 70 percent citing they would likely sever healthcare provider ties if they found that their personal health data was unprotected, a CynergisTek survey reveals.

unprotected health data

Privacy concerns

And as many employers seek to welcome staff back into physical workplaces, nearly half (45 percent) of Americans expressed concerns about keeping personal health information private from their employer.

“With the enactment of key regulations including CCPA and GDPR, we are seeing the convergence of security and privacy come to the forefront at national, state and corporate levels.

“As healthcare systems and corporations continue to grapple with data challenges associated with COVID-19 – whether that’s more sophisticated, targeted cyber-attacks or the new requirements around interoperability and data sharing, concerns around personal data and consumer awareness of privacy rights will only continue to grow,” said Caleb Barlow, president and CEO of CynergisTek.

Patients contemplate cutting ties over unprotected health data

While many still assume personal data is under lock and key, 18 percent of Americans are beginning to question whether personal health data is being adequately protected by healthcare providers. In fact, 47.5 percent stated they were unlikely to use telehealth services again should a breach occur, sounding the alarm for a burgeoning telehealth industry predicted to be worth over $260B by 2026.

While 3 out of 4 Americans still largely trust their data is properly protected by their healthcare provider, tolerance is beginning to wane with 67 percent stating they would change providers if it was found that their data was not properly protected. When drilling deeper into certain age groups and health conditions, the survey also found that:

  • Gen X (73 percent) and Millennials (70 percent) proved even less tolerant compared to other demographics when parting ways with their providers due to unprotected health data.
  • 66 percent of Americans living with chronic health conditions stated they would be willing to change up care providers should their data be compromised.

Data shows that health systems who have not invested the time, money and resources to keep pace with the ever-changing threat landscape are falling behind. Of the nearly 300 healthcare facilities assessed, less than one half met NIST Cybersecurity Framework guidelines.

Concern about sharing COVID-19 health data upon returning to work

As pressures mount for returning employees to disclose COVID-19 health status and personal interactions, an increasing conflict between ensuring public health safety and upholding employee privacy is emerging.

This is increasingly evident with 45 percent stating a preference to keep personal health information private from their employer, shining a light on increased scrutiny among employees with over 1 in 3 expressing concerns about sharing COVID-19 specific health data, e.g. temperature checks. This highlights that office openings may prove more complicated than anticipated.

“The challenges faced by both healthcare providers and employers during this pandemic have seemed insurmountable at times, but the battle surrounding personal health data and privacy is a challenge we must rise to,” said Russell P. Branzell, president and CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives.

“With safety and security top of mind for all, it is imperative that these organizations continue to take the necessary steps to fully protect this sensitive data from end to end, mitigating any looming cyberthreats while creating peace of mind for the individual.”

Beyond unwanted employer access to personal data, the survey found that nearly 60 percent of respondents expressed anxieties around their employer sharing personal health data externally to third parties such as insurance companies and employee benefit providers without consent.

A stark contrast to Accenture’s recent survey which found 62 percent of C-suite executives confirmed they were exploring new tools to collect employee data. A reminder to employers to tread lightly when mandating employee health protocols and questionnaires.

“COVID-19 has thrown many curveballs at both healthcare providers and employers, and the privacy and protection of critical patient and employee data must not be ignored,” said David Finn, executive VP of strategic innovation of CynergisTek.

“By getting ahead of the curve and implementing system-wide risk posture assessments and ensuring employee opt-in/opt-out functions when it comes to sharing personal data, these organizations can help limit these privacy and security risks.”

Cybersecurity is a top priority for digital transformation

Cybersecurity is the number one technology priority for planned digital transformation projects as businesses adapt to a surge in remote working as a result of COVID-19.

cybersecurity top priority digital transformation

Cybersecurity: Main focus for planned projects

IT leaders also revealed that adapting culture quickly to new ways of working is the number one challenge they need to overcome in the next 12 months. The findings are unveiled following a survey of 600+ attendees for the upcoming DTX: NOW event.

26 percent of respondents cited cybersecurity as the main focus for planned projects, followed by cloud (21 percent), data analytics (15 percent) and network infrastructure (14 percent). According to separate research there were more hands-on-keyboard intrusions in the first half of 2020 that in the entirety of 2019.

IT leaders revealed that adapting digital culture for a new world of work was the main challenge they need to overcome in the next year (18 percent), followed by automation of business tasks and processes (14 percent), and choosing the right cloud strategy (12 percent).

Most significant barriers to digital transformation projects

The biggest barriers to delivering digital transformation projects on time and on budget reflect changing organizational dynamics that are being intensified by COVID-19. The most significant barrier to projects was revealed to be changing scope (29 percent of respondents), reduced budgets (24 percent) and changing team structure (17 percent).

The data also indicates that digital transformation has become a priority for businesses of every size. 58 percent of projects are anticipated to come in at less than £250,000, and just 22 percent have a budget of over £500,000 and 10 percent over £1 million.

“COVID-19 is a catalyst for digital transformation, but it’s a leveller too. We’re hearing from IT leaders that there is a shift in which technologies businesses are investing in.

“Ensuring the vast majority of employees could work from home practically overnight has exposed issues with IT strategy, and modernising the core tech stack has become an immediate priority for just about every organization”, said James McGough, managing director of Imago Techmedia.

“Many businesses have found that areas like cybersecurity measures, network infrastructure and cloud strategy need urgent adaptation for a distributed workforce.

“Some companies might be in a position to consider the likes of AI, blockchain and quantum computing, but the reality for most is that the future-looking, big ticket tech projects are on the back burner for now. Companies of every size are finding themselves restarting their digital transformation journeys,” McGough concluded.

Financial risk and regulatory compliance pros struggling with collaboration

After several months of working from home, with no clear end in sight, financial risk and regulatory compliance professionals are struggling when it comes to collaborating with their teams – particularly as they manage increasingly complex global risk and regulatory reporting requirements.

financial risk and regulatory compliance

According to a survey of major financial institutions conducted by AxiomSL, 41% of respondents said collaborating with teams remains a challenge while working remotely.

“During the pandemic, financial firms quickly adapted to major changes, although not without some operational and technology weaknesses emerging,” said Alex Tsigutkin, CEO AxiomSL.

“Indeed, businesses might never return to the ‘old normal’, and that has made building data- and technology-driven resilience much more pressing than before the crisis. Our clients have been experiencing heightened regulatory pressures,” he continued.

“Throughout the crisis, we enabled them to respond rapidly to changes in reporting criteria, the onset of daily liquidity reporting, and the Federal Reserve’s emerging risk data collection (ERDC) initiative – that required FR Y­–14 data on a weekly/monthly basis instead of quarterly.”

These data-intensive, high-frequency regulatory reporting requirements will continue in the ‘new normal.’ “To future-proof, organizations should continue to establish sustainable data architectures and analytics that enable connection and transparency between critical datasets,” Tsigutkin commented.

“And, as a priority, they should transition to our secure RegCloud to handle regulatory intensity efficiently, bolster business continuity, and strengthen their ability to collaborate remotely,” he concluded.

Key research findings

Remote collaboration is a top operational challenge for financial risk and regulatory pros: For all the talk of work-from-anywhere policies becoming the future of financial services, 41% of the risk and compliance professionals surveyed said collaborating with colleagues while working remotely has been their biggest challenge during the COVID-19 crisis.

This was the most frequently cited challenge, followed by accessing data from dispersed systems (18%), reliance on offshore resources (15%), and reliance on locally installed technology (15%).

Liquidity reporting expected to get harder: New capital and liquidity stress testing requirements are expected to present a much heavier burden on financial firms, with 18% of respondents citing increased capital and liquidity risk reporting as a major challenge they will face over the next two years.

Cloud adoption gets its catalyst: After years of resisting cloud adoption, many North American financial institutions are finally gearing up to make the move. When it comes to regulatory technology spending over the next two years, enhanced data analytics is the top area of focus among 29% of survey respondents. But cloud deployment rose to second place (23%) followed by data lakes (22%) and artificial intelligence and machine learning (20%).

Reduction of manual processes is an operational focus for the next two years: The top risk and regulatory compliance challenge firms see on the road ahead is continuing to eliminate manual processes (29%), followed by improving the transparency of data and processes (21%), and fully transitioning to a secure cloud (13%).

RegTech budgets largely intact heading into 2021: A total of 83% indicated their near-term projects as virtually unimpacted or mostly going forward. And similarly, 81% said their budgets for 2021 remain intact (70%) or will increase (11%).

Cyberwarfare predicted to damage the economy in the coming year

71% of CISOs believe cyberwarfare is a threat to their organization, and yet 22% admit to not having a strategy in place to mitigate this risk. This is especially alarming during a period of unprecedented global disruption, as 50% of infosec professionals agree that the increase of cyberwarfare will be detrimental to the economy in the next 12 months.

cyberwarfare

CISOs and infosec professionals however are shoring up their defenses — with 51% and 48% respectively stating that they believe they will need a strategy against cyberwarfare in the next 12-18 months.

These findings, and more, are revealed in Bitdefender’s global 10 in 10 Study, which highlights how, in the next 10 years, cybersecurity success lies in the adaptability of security decision makers, while simultaneously looking back into the last decade to see if valuable lessons have already been learnt about the need to make tangible changes in areas such as diversity.

It explores, in detail, the gap between how security decision makers and infosec professionals view the current security landscape and reveals the changes they know they will need to make in the upcoming months and years of the 2020s.

The study takes into account the views and opinions of more than 6,724 infosec professionals representing a broad cross-section of organizations from small 101+ employee businesses to publicly listed 10,000+ person enterprises in a wide variety of industries, including technology, finance, healthcare and government.

The rise and fall (and rise again) of ransomware

Outside of the rise of cyberwarfare threats, an old threat is rearing its head — ransomware. During the disruption of 2020, ransomware has surged with as much as 43% of infosec professionals reporting that they are seeing a rise in ransomware attacks.

What’s more concerning is that 70% of CISOs/CIOs and 63% of infosec professionals expect to see an increase in ransomware attacks in the next 12-18 months. This is of particular interest as 49% of CISOs/CIOs and 42% of infosec professionals are worried that a ransomware attack could wipe out the business in the next 12-18 months if they don’t increase investment in security.

But what is driving the rise in ransomware attacks? Some suggest it’s because more people are working from home — which makes them an easier target outside of the corporate firewall. The truth might however be tied to money.

59% of CISOs/CIOs and 50% of infosec professionals believe that the business they work for would pay the ransom in order to prevent its data/information from being published — making ransomware a potential cash cow.

A step change in communication is in high demand

Cyberwarfare and ransomware are complex topics to unpack, amongst many others in infosec. The inherent complexity of infosec topics does however make it hard to gain internal investment and support for projects. This is why infosec professionals believe a change is needed.

In fact, 51% of infosec professionals agree that in order to increase investment in cybersecurity, the way that they communicate about security has to change dramatically. This number jumps up to 55% amongst CISOs and CIOs — many of whom have a seat at the most senior decision-making table in their organizations.

The question is, what changes need to be made? 41% of infosec professionals believe that in the future more communication with the wider public and customers is needed so everyone, both in and organization and outside, better understands the risks.

In addition, 38% point out that there is a need for the facilitation of better communication with the C-suite, especially when it comes to understanding the wider business risks.

And last, but not least, as much as 31% of infosec professionals believe using less technical language would help the industry communicate better, so that the whole organization could understand the risks and how to stay protected.

“The reason that 63% of infosec professionals believe that cyberwarfare is a threat to their organization is easy,” said Neeraj Suri, Distinguished Professorship and Chair in Cybersecurity at Lancaster University.

“Dependency on technology is at an all-time high and if someone was to take out the WiFi in a home or office, no one would be able to do anything. This dependency wasn’t there a few years back–it wasn’t even as high a few months back.

“This high dependency on technology doesn’t just open the door for ransomware or IoT threats on an individual level, but also to cyberwarfare which can be so catastrophic it can ruin economies.

“The reason that nearly a quarter of infosec pros don’t currently have a strategy to protect against cyberwarfare is likely because of complacency. Since they haven’t suffered an attack or haven’t seen on a wide scale–the damage that can be done–they haven’t invested the time in protecting against it.”

Diversity, and specifically neurodiversity, is key to future success

Outside of the drastic changes that are needed in the way cybersecurity professionals communicate, there’s also a need to make a change within the very makeup of the workforce. The infosec industry as a whole has long suffered from a skills shortage, and this looks to remain an ongoing and increasingly obvious issue.

15% of infosec professionals believe that the biggest development in cybersecurity over the next 12-18 months will be the skills gap increasing. If the skills deficit continues for another five years, 28% of CISOs and CIOs say they believe that it will destroy businesses.

And another 50% of infosec professionals believe that the skills gap will be seriously disruptive if it continues for the next 5 years.

Today, however, it will take more than just recruiting skilled workers to make a positive change and protect organizations. In 2015, 52% of infosec workers would have agreed that there is a lack of diversity in cybersecurity and that it’s a concern.

Five years later, in 2020, this remains exactly the same — and that is a significant problem as 40% of CISOs/CIOs and infosec professionals say that the cybersecurity industry should reflect the society around it to be effective.

What’s more, 76% of CISOs/CIOs, and 72% of infosec professionals, believe that there is a need for a more diverse skill set among those tackling cybersecurity tasks. This is because 38% of infosec professionals say that neurodiversity will make cybersecurity defenses stronger, and 33% revealed a more neurodiverse workforce will level the playing field against bad actors.

While it’s clear that the cybersecurity skills gap is here to stay, it’s also clear why changes need to be made to the makeup of the industry.

cyberwarfare

Liviu Arsene, Global Cybersecurity Researcher at Bitdefender concludes, “2020 has been a year of change, not only for the world at large, but for the security industry. The security landscape is rapidly evolving as it tries to adapt to the new normal, from distributed workforces to new threats. Amongst the new threats is cyberwarfare.

“It’s of great concern to businesses and the economy — and yet not everyone is prepared for it. At the same time, infosec professionals have had to keep up with new threats from an old source, ransomware, that can affect companies’ bottom lines if not handled carefully.

“The one thing we know is that the security landscape will continue to evolve. Changes will happen, but we can now make sure they happen for better and not for worse. To succeed in the new security landscape, the way we as an industry talk about security has to become more accessible to a wider audience to gain support and investment from within the business.

“In addition, we have to start thinking about plugging the skills gap in a different way — we have to focus on diversity, and specifically neurodiversity, if we are to stand our ground and ultimately defeat bad actors.”

Shift to remote work and heavy reliance on service providers for security leaves blind spots

83% of C-level executives expect the changes they made in the areas of people, processes, and applications as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic to become permanent (whether significant or partial), according to Radware​.

remote work security blind spots

According to the report, ​pandemic-driven changes affected various aspects of business, 44% of executives surveyed reported a negative negative impact on budgets, 43% reported a workforce reduction, while 37% reported reduced real estate footprints.

Pandemic accelerated cloud adoption

The pandemic accelerated the migration of business infrastructure and applications into the cloud. 76% of companies adopted cloud services faster than they had planned, and 56% of respondents said that the contactless economy – e-commerce, on-demand content, video conferencing, etc.- had a positive impact on their business.​ ​

The quick migration helped to maintain business operations but potentially exacerbated cybersecurity gaps, due to an increased attack surface. 40% of survey respondents reported an increase in cyberattacks amid the pandemic. 32% said that they relied on their cloud provider’s security services to provide security management for their public cloud assets.

“The transition to remote work and new online contactless business models is not temporary and is affecting the future strategy on how organizations invest in cybersecurity,” said Anna Convery-Pelletier, CMO at Radware.

“Normally, businesses would make this shift over an extended period of time. However, the pandemic forced a massive shift to remote work which is now creating new security challenges.”

“Before the pandemic, digital transformation was a long-term strategic goal for most businesses,” said Michael O’Malley, VP of Market Strategy for Radware.

“On-demand content consumption, contactless payments, curbside pickups, and remote workforces are now business imperatives. Executives must revisit what they’ve implemented to ensure that a lack of cybersecurity planning does not undermine their goals.”

remote work security blind spots

Other key findings

  • Shift to remote operations​: More than 80% of respondents said they believed more than 25% of their employees would work remotely in the future, a sharp contrast to pre-pandemic work-from-home policies, when only 48% of companies enabled more than 25% of their employees do so, and 6% did not enable remote work at all.
  • Emergence of new revenue models to support contactless economy​: Roughly two in five respondents from the retail sector said they made real estate changes – including store closures. Many retailers faced pressure to adopt practices that ease the customer experience, such as curbside pickup, e-commerce, and increased use of contactless payments. More than any other sector, retailers reported the need to adopt cloud or hybrid cloud environments to make their networks more resilient, 57% said they plan to host their assets in either a public or private cloud environment by 2022.

80% of businesses expect IT budgets to grow or remain steady in 2021

The global COVID-19 crisis is a catalyst for change, spurring businesses to continue to invest in technology to support and secure a remote workforce, despite slowing corporate revenue growth resulting from the pandemic, a Spiceworks Ziff Davis study reveals.

IT budgets 2021

Of the more than 1,000 businesses surveyed, 76% plan on long-term IT changes as a result of COVID-19, and 44% plan to accelerate digital transformation plans.

However, with organizations looking to cut back on expenses, tech budget growth has slowed compared to last year. Among businesses taking part in the study, 33% plan to increase their IT budgets in 2021, compared to 44% in the prior year, while 17% of companies expect IT budgets to decline in 2021.

IT budgets in 2021: Remote work revolution to drive new spending

Similar to findings from previous waves, replacing aging IT infrastructure and growing security concerns will be among the biggest drivers of budget growth next year. But with more than half of businesses planning to retain flexible work policies permanently, the “remote work revolution” will continue to drive new spending.

Among the businesses increasing IT spend in 2021, the following factors will influence budget growth next year: Increased priority on IT projects (45%), changes to business operations during COVID-19 (38%), and the need to support a remote workforce (36%).

“During the rush to remote work caused by the pandemic, it quickly became clear that technology is the glue that keeps businesses and employees connected,” said Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at Spiceworks Ziff Davis.

“With more people working remotely than ever before and face-to-face meetings out of the question, organizations wouldn’t have been able to maintain business continuity or keep productivity levels high without the many technologies companies rely on… including laptops, video conferencing, VPN, chat apps, internet connectivity, and more.”

Spending shifts and slowing future tech adoption

As working remotely becomes the new normal, IT needs will shift. As in previous years, hardware will still account for the biggest portion of IT budgets in 2021. But as a percentage of total IT budgets, anticipated spending in this category has dropped significantly in the last two years — from 35% in 2019 to 31% in 2021 — as businesses increase cloud and managed services spending.

Additionally, while businesses will continue to invest in emerging tech, adoption plans are expected to drop significantly year over year, especially among smaller businesses, which will deprioritize cutting-edge features in favor of more pressing needs such as updating outdated infrastructure and securing a remote workforce.

At the same time, enterprises (1,000+ employees) will adopt select emerging technologies at up to 5x the rate of small businesses (1-99 employees) over the next two years, as is the case with Blockchain (9% current and planned adoption among small businesses vs. 53% among enterprises).

Additionally, enterprises will adopt IT automation technology, virtual reality, edge computing, containers, 5G, and VDI at significantly higher rates than SMBs.

eCrime campaigns outpace state-sponsored activity in first half of 2020

CrowdStrike has released an annual report that reviews intrusion trends during the first half of 2020 and provides insights into the current landscape of adversary tactics, which has been heavily impacted this year by the remote workforce environment of COVID-19.

eCrime activity

The report also includes recommendations for defending against the prevalent tools, techniques and procedures (TTPs) utilized by threat actors.

“Just like everything this year, the threat landscape has proven unpredictable and precarious as eCrime and state-sponsored actors have opportunistically taken aim at industries unable to escape the chaos of COVID-19, demonstrating clearly how cyber threat activity is intrinsically linked to global economic and geo-political forces,” said Jennifer Ayers, VP of OverWatch and Security Response at CrowdStrike.

“OverWatch threat hunting data demonstrates how adversaries are keenly attuned to their victim’s environment and ready to pivot to meet changing objectives or emerging opportunities. For this reason, organizations must implement a layered defense system that incorporates basic security hygiene, endpoint detection and response (EDR), expert threat hunting, strong passwords and employee education to properly defend their environments.”

First half of 2020 hands-on-keyboard intrusion activity surpasses all of 2019

An explosion in hands-on-keyboard intrusions was observed in the first half of 2020 that has already surpassed the total seen throughout all of 2019.

This significant increase is driven primarily by the continued acceleration of eCrime activity but has also been impacted by the effects of the pandemic, which presented an expanded attack surface as organizations rapidly adopted remote workforces and created opportunities for adversaries to exploit public fear through COVID-19 themed social engineering strategies.

eCrime continues to increase in volume and reach

Sophisticated eCrime activity continues to outpace state-sponsored activity, an upward trend witnessed over the past three years, accounting for over 80% of interactive intrusions.

This does not indicate a reduction in nation-state activity, but rather reflects the extraordinary success threat actors have seen with targeted intrusions using ransomware and Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) models, which have contributed to a proliferation of activity from a wider array of eCrime actors.

eCrime activity

Targeting of the manufacturing sector increases dramatically

There was a sharp escalation of activity in the manufacturing sector in the first half of 2020 in terms of both the quantity and sophistication of intrusions from both eCriminals and nation states, making it the second most targeted vertical observed by OverWatch.

Healthcare and food and beverage also saw increased targeting, suggesting that adversaries have adjusted their targets to the shifting economic conditions resulting from the pandemic, focusing on industries made vulnerable by complex operating environments that experienced sudden changes in demand.

China continues its aim at telecommunications companies

The telecommunications industry continues to be a popular target for the nation-states, specifically China. There were six different China-based actors, whose motivations are likely associated with espionage and data theft objectives, conducting campaigns against telecommunications companies in the first half of the year.

CISOs struggling to prep for security audits

Calendars for security and compliance audits are largely unchanged despite COVID-19, yet the pandemic is straining teams as they work remotely, according to Shujinko.

CISOs security audits

Moreover, CISOs are tasked with preparing for more than three audits on average in the next 6-12 months, but struggle with inadequate tools, limited budgets and personnel, and inefficient manual processes.

Furthermore, the results show that migration to the cloud is dramatically increasing the scope and complexity of audit preparation, obsoleting old methods and approaches.

“This survey clearly shows that CISOs at major companies are caught between a rock and hard place when it comes to security and compliance audits over the second half of 2020 and want automated tools to help dig them out. Unfortunately, they’re simply not able to find them,” said Scott Schwan, Shujinko CEO.

“Teams are cobbling together scripts, shared spreadsheets, ticketing systems and a hodgepodge of other applications to try to manage, resulting in inefficiency, lengthy preparation and limited visibility. More than two-thirds of CISOs are looking for something better.”

CISOs preparing for more than three audits

Despite changes in the economic climate due to COVID-19, CISOs are still tasked with preparing for more than three upcoming compliance audits across multiple security frameworks (e.g., PCI, SOC 2, NIST-CSF, ISO 27001, etc.).

Most common audits are for HITRUST, HIPAA and PCI DSS

51% of CISOs surveyed indicated they are preparing for a HITRUST audit in the next six to twelve months, 45% are preparing for HIPAA, 43% for PCI DSS, 41% for CCPA and 36% for an internal audit. In addition, 77% of companies preparing for SOC-2 audits were software companies.

CISOs are worried about doing more with less

COVID-19 has amplified CISOs’ concerns about doing more with less (both people and budget) with both teams and auditors working remotely. Worries over conflicting priorities, draining available resources and ensuring that evidence is complete round out their top five CISO concerns.

CISOs desperately want more automation

72% of security executives say they want to improve the automation of their audit preparation process, and automation was cited as the number one element most CISOs would change if they could. Team communication and collaboration rounded out the top three most desired improvements.

CISOs security audits

Two-thirds of CISOs dislike their current tool set

The survey found that CISOs are currently using a mix of home-grown scripts, spreadsheets, ticketing systems, shared documents, Sharepoint and e-mail to prepare for audits. No CISOs reported having a security audit preparation tool that they are completely satisfied with.

CISOs have poor visibility into the audit process

No CISOs rated visibility into key audit preparation steps a complete success and only one rated it a 4 out of 5 – suggesting poor executive line-of-sight into hitting audit deadlines.

Audit processes don’t fit a cloud development model

Only 1 percent of CISOs said that their audit preparation process completely aligns with the speed and agility that is needed for rapid cloud application development and frequent iteration.

Aiming for a career in cybersecurity? Now is the time to pick up new skills

The COVID-19 pandemic took most of us by surprise. Widespread shelter-in-place mandates changed how we work (and whether we can work), play, rest, shop, communicate and learn.

career cybersecurity

It changed things for businesses as well. Some were not ready to meet the challenge and closed up shop, many others were forced to hastily start or speed up their company’s existing digital transformation efforts and prepare for the majority of their workforce to be working from home – something that seemed impossible (or simply very, very unlikely) just months before.

Time for change

In times of upheaval, it becomes easier to imagine and enact change. Unfortunately, the speed at which all these changes happened has meant that cybersecurity has become less important than productivity (meaning: even less important than it was before).

But this downgrade won’t and can’t last long. With cyber attackers increasingly taking advantage of the many new attack surfaces – unsecured devices, databases, cloud assets, remote access and other accounts – organizations are now furiously trying to close as many security holes as soon as possible.

Employed cybersecurity professionals have been having a tough time during the last few months, trying to keep company assets and networks out of the hands of attackers while having to suddenly support more remote workers that ever before.

The required security measures are known and advice for achieving remote work security is easy to get, but implementing it all takes time and effort. Even before the advent of COVID-19, organizations had trouble filling all the cybersecurity positions they opened – and their needs have surely intensified in the last few months.

Gunning for a career in cybersecurity

Cybersecurity professionals and other technology professionals are using eLearning and online trainings to pick up new skills, but as the demand for cybersecurity personnel increases and the availability of paid positions widens (when in many other economic sectors is dwindling), many tech-savvy individuals are wondering: “Do I have what it takes to enter and thrive in the cybersecurity arena?”

A recent Skillsoft report says that networking and operating systems, security and programming training are in the highest demand among technology and developer professionals, and that security certification prep courses are up by 58 percent YoY.

While people already working in IT definitely have a leg up on other aspiring candidates since every role within IT has a cybersecurity aspect, certifications such as the (ISC)² Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) can help with cybersecurity knowledge acquisition and demonstrate the person’s suitability for entering the cybersecurity field.

But even recent college graduates without a deep technical background and military veterans can have a bright future in cybersecurity – if they know how to go about breaking into the field. The tools are there for those who want to use them.

Developing a plan for remote work security? Here are 6 key considerations

With so many organizations switching to a work-from-home model, many are finding security to be increasingly more difficult to administer and maintain. There is an influx of vulnerable points distributed across more locations than ever before, as remote workers strive to maintain their productivity. The result? Security teams everywhere are being stretched.

plan remote work security

The Third Global Threat Report from VMware Carbon Black also found little confidence among respondents that the rollout to remote working had been done securely. The study took a deep dive into the effects COVID-19 had on the security of remote working, with 91% of executives stating that working from home has led to a rise in attacks.

Are you making sure your security professionals are up to the task of remote working while security threats are on the rise?

1. Maintain consistency

One way to help mitigate risk is to have your developers and security professionals train at a consistent level so they are all on the same page. Knowing that there is some sort of security architecture at play in your organization and understanding the logistics of how to stress test aspects of that structure will make it easier to prepare for and block attacks.

2. Don’t overlook the details

Training needs to address all aspects of your structure, specifically: information security, data security, cybersecurity, computer security, physical security, IoT security, cloud security, and individual security. Each area of an architecture needs to be tested and hardened regularly for your organization to truly be shielded from security breaches. Be specific about your program: train your staff on how to defend your information around your HR records (SSNs, PII, etc.) and data that could be exposed (shopping cart, customer card numbers), as well as in cyber defense to provide tools against nefarious actors, breaches and threats.

3. Think about the individual

Staff must be trained to know how to lock down computers, so individual machines and network servers are safe. This training should also encompass how to ensure physical security, to protect your storage or physical assets. This comes into play more as the IoT plays a larger role in connecting our devices and BYOD policies allow for more connections to be made between personal and corporate assets. Individual security: each employee is entitled to be secure in their work for a company, and that includes privacy concerns and compliance issues.

4. Keep your head in the cloud

Today, most companies have some sort of cloud presence and security professionals will need to be trained to constantly check the interfaces to cloud and any hybrid on-prem and off-prem instances you have.

5. Invest in learning

With constantly changing layers of architecture and amplified room for breaches as a result of remote working, it’s hard to imagine how security professionals stay ahead of all the changes. One thing that keeps teams on top of their game is professional online learning.

During the COVID-19 shelter-in-place mandate, leading eLearning companies have witnessed a massive increase in hours of security content consumed. For some, security is one of the fastest-growing topic areas which suggests that this year, security is more important. This is likely because of the number of workers who have gone remote and challenges that brings to an organization, particularly in the security department.

6. Consider role-based training

While it’s important to equip teams with skills that apply across function, there is a case to be made for investing in experts. Cybersecurity is not a field where there is a linear path of growth. There are different journeys individuals can take to venture into paths to transition from a vulnerability analyst to a security architect. By looking at individuals within the organization to seek ways to upskill and take on new roles and responsibilities, you have the unique benefit of being able to help them curate roles that fit the needs of the organizations.

It’s not often that a business has a dedicated Remote Team Security Lead, because there was rarely a need for one. Considering the quick transition to remote work and possibility that this is the new normal, organizations can benefit by investing in specific training curated to meet the security needs of remote teams. If this role is cultivated within the organization, there is the added benefit of knowing that the lessons being taught provide direct relevancy to specific needs and increase the attractiveness of investing time and effort into skills training.

Training can be the key to preparing security professionals for the unexpected. But there is no one-size-fits-all lesson that can be delivered or an evergreen degree that can keep up with an industry that changes every day. Training needs to be always on the agenda and it needs to be developed in a way that offers different modalities of learning.

Regardless of how the individual best learns, criterion-based assessments can measure knowledge/skills and act as a guide to true, lasting learning. Developing a culture committed to agility and learning is the key to embracing change.

How do I select a remote workforce protection solution for my business?

Recent research shows almost three quarters of large businesses believe remote working policies introduced to help stop the spread of COVID-19 are making their companies more vulnerable to cyberattacks. New attack vectors for opportunistic cyber attackers – and new challenges for network administrators have been introduced.

To select a suitable remote workforce protection solution for your business, you need to think about a variety of factors. We’ve talked to several cybersecurity professionals to get their insight on the topic.

Vince Berk, VP, Chief Architect Security, Riverbed

select remote workforce protectionA business needs to meet three main realizations or criteria for a remote workforce protection solution to be effective:

Use of SaaS, where access to the traffic in traditional ways becomes challenging: understanding where data lives, and who accesses it, and controlling this access, is the minimum bar to pass in an environment where packets are not available or the connection cannot be intercepted.

Recognition that users use a multitude of devices, from laptops, iPads, phones—many of which are not owned or controlled by the enterprise: can identity be established definitively, can data access be controlled effecitvely, and forensically accurately monitored for compromise at the cloud/datacenter end?

When security becomes ‘too invasive’, workers create out-of-band business processes and “shadow IT,” which are a major blind spot as well as a potential risk surface as company private information ends up outside of the control of the organization: does the solution provide a way to discover and potentially control use of this modern shadow IT.

A comprehensive security solution for remote work must acknowledge the novel problems these new trends bring and succeed on resolving these issues for all three criteria.

Kate Bolseth, CEO, HelpSystems

select remote workforce protectionOne thing must be clear: your entire management team needs to assist in establishing the right infrastructure in order to facilitate a successful remote workforce environment.

Before looking at any solutions, answer the following questions:

  • How are my employees accessing data?
  • How are they working?
  • How can we minimize the risk of data breaches or inadvertent exposure of sensitive data?
  • How do we discern what data is sensitive and needs to be protected?

The answers will inform organizational planning and facilitate employee engagement while removing potential security roadblocks that might thwart workforce productivity. These guidelines must be as fluid as the extraordinary circumstances we are facing without creating unforeseen exposure to risk.

When examining solutions, any option worth considering must be able to identify and classify sensitive personal data and critical corporate information assets. The deployment of enterprise-grade security is essential to protecting the virtual workforce from security breaches via personal computers as well as at-home Wi-Fi networks and routers.

Ultimately, it’s the flow of email that remains the biggest vulnerability for most organizations, so make sure your solution examines emails and files at the point of creation to identify personal data and apply proper protection while providing the link to broader data classification.

Carolyn Crandall, Chief Deception Officer, Attivo Networks

select remote workforce protectionWhen selecting a remote workforce protection solution, CISOs need to consider three key areas: exposed endpoints, security for Active Directory (AD) and preventing malware from spreading.

Exposed endpoints: standard anti-virus software and VPNs are no match for advanced signature-less or file-less attack techniques. EDR tools enhance detection but still leave gaps. Therefore pick an endpoint solution capable of quickly detecting endpoint lateral movement, discovery and privilege escalation.

Security for Active Directory (AD): cloud services and identity access management need protection against credential theft, privilege escalation and AD takeover. In a remote workforce context AD is often over provisioned or misconfigured. A good answer is denial technology which detects discovery behaviors and attempts at privilege escalation.

Preventing spread of malware: it is almost impossible to prevent malware passing from workforce machines reconnecting to the network. It is vital therefore to choose a resolution that uncovers lateral movement, APTs, ransomware and insider threats. Popular options include EPP/EDR, Intrusion Detection/Prevention Systems (IDS/IPS) and deception technology. When selecting, take account of native integrations and automation as well as how well the tools combine to share data and automate incident response.

In short, the answer to remote workforce protection lies in a robust, layered defence. If attackers get through one, there must be additional controls to stop them from progressing.

Daniel Döring, Technical Director Security and Strategic Alliances, Matrix42

select remote workforce protectionEndpoint security requires a bundle of measures, and only companies that take all aspects into account can ensure a high level of security.

Automated malware protection: automated detection in case of anomalies and deviations is a fundamental driver for IT to be able to react quickly in case of an incident. In this way, it is often possible to fend off attacks before they even cause damage.

Device control: all devices that have access to corporate IT must be registered and secured in advance. This includes both corporate devices and private employee devices such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops. If, for example, a smartphone is lost, access to the system can be withdrawn at the click of a mouse.

App control: if, in addition to devices, all applications are centrally controlled by IT, IT risks can be further minimized. The IT department can thus control access at any time.

Encryption: the encryption of all existing data protects against the consequences of data loss.

Data protection at the technological and manual levels: automated and manual measures are combined for greater data protection. Employees must continue to be trained so that they are aware of risks. However, the secure management of data stocks can be simplified with the help of technology in such a way that error tolerance is significantly increased.

Greg Foss, Senior Cybersecurity Strategist, VMware Carbon Black

select remote workforce protectionThe most important aspect for any security solution is how this product is going to complement your current environment and compensate for gaps within your existing controls.

Whether you’re looking to upgrade your endpoint protections or add always-on VPN capability for the now predominately remote workforce, there are a few key considerations when it comes to deploying security software for protecting distributed assets:

  • Will the solution require infrastructure to deploy, or will this be a remote cloud hosted solution? Both options come with their unique benefits and drawbacks, with cloud being optimal for disparate systems and offloading the burden of securing internet-facing services to the vendor.
  • What is the footprint of the agent and are multiple agents required for the solution to be effective? Compute is expensive, agents should be as non-impactful to the system as possible.
  • How will this solution improve your security team’s visibility and ability to either prevent or respond to a breach? What key gaps in coverage will this tool help rectify as cost effectively as possible.
  • Will this meet the organization’s future needs, as things begin to shift back to the office?
  • Lastly, ensure that you allow for the team to operationalize and integrate the platform. This takes time. Don’t bring on too many tools at once.

Matt Lock, Technical Director, Varonis

select remote workforce protectionWith more remote working, comes more cyberattacks. When selecting a remote workforce solution, CISO’s must ask the following questions:

Am I able to provide comprehensive visibility of cloud apps? Microsoft Teams usage exploded by 500% during the pandemic, however given its immediate enforcement, deployments were rushed with misconfigured permissions. It’s paramount to pick a solution that allows security teams to see where sensitive data is overexposed and provide visibility into how each user can access Office 365 data.

Can I confidently monitor insider threat activity? The shift to remote working has seen a spike in insider threat activity and highlighted the importance of understanding where sensitive data is, who has access to it, whose leveraging that access, and any unusual access patterns. Best practices such as implementing the principle of least privilege to confine user access to the data should also be considered.

Do I have real-time insight into anomalous behavior? Having real-time awareness of unusual VPN, DNS and web activity mustn’t be overlooked. Gaining visibility of this web activity assists security teams track and trend progress as they mitigate critical security gaps.

Selecting the right workforce protection solution will vary for different organizations depending on their priorities but the top priority of any solution must be to provide clear visibility of data across all cloud and remote environments.

Druce MacFarlane, Head of Products – Security, Threat Intelligence and Analytics, Infoblox

select remote workforce protectionEnterprises investing in remote workforce security tools should consider shoring up their foundational security in a way that:

Secures corporate assets wherever they are located: backhauling traffic to a data center—for example with a VPN—can introduce latency and connectivity issues, especially when accessing cloud-based applications and services that are now essential for business operations. Look for solutions that extend the reach of your existing security stack, and leverage infrastructure you already rely on for connectivity to extend security, visibility, and control to the edge.

Optimizes your existing security stack: find a solution that works with your entire security ecosystem to cross-share threat intelligence, spot and flag suspicious activities, and automate threat response.

Offers flexible deployment: to get the most value for your spend, make sure the solution you choose can be deployed on-premises and in the cloud to offer security that cuts across your hybrid infrastructure, protecting your on-premises assets as well as your remote workforce, while allowing IT to manage the solution from anywhere.

The right solution to secure remote work should ideally enable you to scale quickly to optimize remote connections and secure corporate assets wherever they are located.

Faiz Shuja, CEO, SIRP Labs

select remote workforce protectionIn all the discussion around making remote working safer for employees, relatively little has been said about mechanisms governing distributed security monitoring and incident response teams working from home.

Normally, security analysts work within a SOC complete with advanced defences and tools. New special measures are needed to protect them while monitoring threats and responding to attacks from home.

Such measures include hardened machines with secure connectivity through VPNs, 2FA and jump machines. SOC teams also need to update security monitoring plans remotely.

Our advice to CISOs is to optimize security operations and monitoring platforms so that all essential cybersecurity information needed for accurate decision-making is contextualized and visible at-a-glance to a remote security analyst.

Practical measures include:

  • Unify the view for distributed security analysts to monitor and respond to threats
  • Ensure proper communication and escalation between security teams and across the organization through defined workflows
  • Use security orchestration and automation playbooks for repetitive investigation and incident response tasks for consistency across all distributed security analysts
  • Align risk matrix with evolving threat landscape
  • Enhance security monitoring use cases for remote access services and remotely connected devices

One notable essential is the capacity to constantly tweak risk-levels to quickly realign priorities to optimise the detection and response effectiveness of individual security team members.

Todd Weber, CTO, Americas, Optiv Security

select remote workforce protectionSelecting a remote workforce protection solution is more about scale these days than technology. Companies have been providing work-from-home solutions for several years, but not necessarily for all applications.

How granular can you get on access to applications based on certain conditions?

Simply the credentials themselves (even with multi-factor authentication) aren’t enough any longer to judge on trusted access to critical applications. Things like what device am I on, how trusted is this device, where in the world is this device, and other factors play a role, and remote access solutions need to accommodate granular access to applications based on this criteria.

Can I provide enhanced transport and access to applications with the solution?

The concept of SD-WAN is not new, but it has become more important as SaaS applications and distributed workforce have become more prevalent. Providing optimal network transport as well as a visibility point for user and data controls has become vitally important.

Does the solution provide protections for cloud SaaS applications?

Many applications are no longer hosted by companies and aren’t in the direct path of many controls. Can you deploy very granular controls within the solution that provides both visibility and access restrictions to IaaS and SaaS applications?