Almost every American adult knows that cyberattacks and breaches are ubiquitous and have primarily targeted companies and government entities. They might even know that the single most common breach these days is ransomware, a malicious process by which hackers dismantle computer systems and don’t fix them until a ransom is paid. Few, however, are aware that ransomware is targeting a new set of highly vulnerable victims en masse. In recent months, the majority of successful ransomware attacks have struck K-12 schools nationwide, casting a whole new light on the number of Americans highly susceptible to a cyberattack.
While a number of useful countermeasures are being taken across corporate boards, progress remains relatively slow in the face of borderline existential threats. Not so long ago, companies thought of cybersecurity as a technology problem to be overseen by the chief security officer or the chief information officer, or as a compliance issue to be managed with audit functions. Today, thankfully, a more holistic, proactive and analytical approach is generally taken. There is more security training and better hygiene and most boards now count a seasoned CISO as one of their directors.
Deepfakes –mostly falsified videos and images combining the terms “deep learning” and “fake” – weren’t limited in 2019 to the Nixon presentation and were not uncommon before that. But today they are more numerous and realistic-looking and, most important, increasingly dangerous. And there is no better example of that than the warning this month (March 2021) by the FBI that nation-states are virtually certain to use deepfakes to help propagate increasingly misleading campaigns in the U.S. in coming weeks.
Ransomware – a cyberattack in which attackers hijack computer systems and demand payment to release them – has skyrocketed from a relative rarity a few years ago to the single biggest type of cybercrime today. And there is no end in sight to its growth trajectory. Last year, 2,354 American government entities, healthcare organizations and schools were the victims of ransomware attacks. The average ransomware payout swelled to $178,000 in the first half of 2020, up from $112,000 a year ago, according to ransomware incident response firm Coveware, and few clandestine culprits were caught.
For years, there has been optimistic talk that drones – the popular name for UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) – would become ubiquitous and used for security purposes. And now, it’s happening. The drone-industry is becoming an increasingly promising technology-intensive industry, one that will employ far more workers than it does today while enhancing the efficiency and security of a variety of businesses.
Is your company’s cybersecurity policy as effective as it should be amid these tumultuous times? And if you’re not an employee but the owner of a small business – typically someone with much less sophisticated cybersecurity protection – how does your online security stack up? The answer: Cybersecurity has improved, but markedly more has to be done to secure networks in 2021, the second year of the pandemic, as the number of cyberattacks has become staggering.
The role of the chief information security officer – or CISO for short – is to understand a corporation’s cyber threat landscape and know where vulnerabilities lie. And given the relentless increase in sophisticated hacking, their clout and importance to the CEO and Board is increasing exponentially.