Every day, organisations around the globe grapple with a relentless barrage of cyber threats. While we invest in cutting-edge technology, we sometimes overlook a fundamental truth: the best cybersecurity solutions fail without a foundation of good cyber hygiene. Therefore, while not being the be-all and end-all, cybersecurity awareness is fundamental to improving organisational, personal, and national cybersecurity.
Our recent State of Cybersecurity survey found that while Indian organisations are quite confident in the three pillars of people, process, and technology, they are least sure about the people. But why? Is it that difficult to ensure today's employees are up-to-date with all things cybersecurity? Are there any other gaps in the information chain that flows from top to bottom?
Employees hired to execute certain tasks within a chain of command can often be indifferent towards ancillary concerns like the organisation's overall cybersecurity posture. After all, what's in it for them?
But increasingly, cyberattackers have been deploying harassment tactics coupled with traditional ransomware attacks to maximise yields. Compared to 2021, in 2022, there was a 20x surge in harassment in ransomware cases studied by Unit 42. Threat actors achieve this by sending threats and unwanted communication to specific individuals within the company. An organisation's approach to cybersecurity training must account for this and ensure employees know that these attacks are not only limited to organisational damage but can also cause personal harm. Getting your employees on board with the idea of cybersecurity hygiene is step one in creating a truly cyber-aware organisation. This attitude must extend into every rank and designation within the organisation; every employee plays a pivotal role, and their ignorance could be a significant liability.
The cost of a data breach today is estimated at $4.45 million (Rs37 Crore), a 15 percent increase over three years, and that's beside the large-scale reputational damages that come along with it. This is especially relevant for a country like India, where most businesses fall under the MSME category, turning over between Rs5-50 crore. Couple this with the fact that it costs only $25 (Rs. ~2,000) to train an employee, and pro-active training is a no-brainer. Moreover, these businesses support 30 percent of the GDP, so a systemic oversight can lead to ramifications at a national level.
While a high degree of cybersecurity awareness is imperative, the harsh truth is that the modern threat landscape is evolving much quicker than most can keep up with. Be it AI-generated phishing emails that are 'weirdly human' or automated DDoS attacks, even the smartest cookie within your organisation may, at some point, fall victim to this relentless onslaught. Cyberattackers are well aware that human error is the Achilles' heel in cybersecurity armour. While awareness is the first line of defense, it must be reinforced with accessible and advanced technologies.
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There is already a massive skill gap in cybersecurity; reports suggest it is as wide as 37 percent. It is common for VPs of Engineering/IT to head the cybersecurity wing. The onus of organisational security ultimately lays at the feet of business owners. But with the dearth of talent, cybersecurity vendors can support this effort by making the tools more accessible. They could, for example, make the UI more intuitive, lowering the barrier to entry considerably. Organisations are also increasingly moving towards consolidated cybersecurity, allowing for 100 percent visibility and greater accessibility. Siloed solutions can often slow the response time, a deal-breaker when each minute costs thousands of dollars.
With advancements in generative AI, organisations will, for starters, be able to deploy simple chatbot-style interfaces that can collate information and suggest remediation steps, thus blending accessibility with the power of AI and automation.
In a typical day, our analysts see 36 billion security alerts, of which most are actioned automatically. Without such a high degree of automation, SOC analysts would be inundated with security alerts, leading to fatigue and increasing the chances of a cyberattack. Automating routine and repetitive tasks frees resources to focus on more critical, strategic aspects, increasing analyst welfare.
While India's meteoric economic rise has put it in the global spotlight, it has also attracted cyberattackers. It's not a matter of if anymore, but when cyberattacks strike. Therefore, organisations must have a robust action plan for the worst-case scenarios, allowing a swift pivot. As threat actors employ increasingly sophisticated and evasive tactics, the one thing that we must ensure is that cyber attackers don't get away with using antiquated TTPs (those that we already have solutions for). This requires continuous learning, threat intelligence, and proactive threat-hunting initiatives.
As we continue to digitise and expand, the emphasis on cybersecurity awareness, accessibility, and, most importantly, automation is paramount. Together, these pillars can build a formidable defense against the ever-evolving threat landscape. In this collective endeavour, we can protect our businesses and critical infrastructure and safeguard the future of the Indian economy. As we mark another Cybersecurity Awareness Month, let us reinforce our commitment to creating a digitally resilient India.
The writer is the managing director and vice president, India & SAARC at Palo Alto Networks.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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