Cybersecurity is an arms race – here’s how to stay ahead

Main visual : Cybersecurity is an arms race – here’s how to stay ahead

The race is on.

Cybercriminals are getting faster. Smarter. More daring. Their arsenal is strengthening by the day. No matter how far ahead your defences are, you can be sure a cyberthreat isn’t far behind.

You don’t need to look far to find proof.

It’s been just three years since the WannaCry virus brought some parts of the NHS in the UK to a standstill. Last month, Microsoft accidently exposed the details of 280 million accounts. And the investigation into whether Jeff Bezos’s WhatsApp was indeed hacked rages on in the media.

The diversity of the organisations affected speaks volumes.

In the future, ‘technology company’ won’t even be a business category. Every company – whether it be retail, travel, healthcare, finance or manufacturing – will be a tech company.

Cybersecurity should therefore be a priority for all businesses, regardless of industry. And the responsibility for averting breaches doesn’t just fall on the CTO – but rather, on every member of the board.

Know thine enemy

But executive buy-in to own the challenge is just half the battle. Following advances in technology and being able to anticipate the movement of malicious players is just as important.

Let’s use encryption as an example.

Appropriately enough in the age of cyberwars, the origins of encryption go back to actual wars – the kind with blood and swords.

Wars in 600BC to be exact, when Spartans wrote encoded messages on leather strips known as scytales. These hidden messages only revealed themselves when the strip was wound around a correctly-sized wooden rod.

It was the perfect mechanism – until enemies learned how to crack the code.

Although modern techniques are much more advanced, the principles of encrypting/decrypting – and the dance between coders/interceptors – remain the same.

Modern technology can crack ancient cyphers incredibly easily. The problem is, with quantum computing just a few years away, the pure processing power of tomorrow’s innovations will make today’s encryptions look, in comparison, just as ancient.

And that would be fine, if quantum stayed in the right hands.

Unfortunately, this technology will inevitably be shared among malicious players. Businesses and criminals will be pitted in an arms race that can only be won by staying one step ahead.

Cultivating a cyber-culture

So, what can be done?

My advice is simple. In order to survive, businesses – whatever their industry – need to become cybersecurity companies.

But that’s easier said than done.

Hiring the right talent is hard enough. But instilling the right systems, processes, project owners and culture – that’s the real challenge. Particularly across large heritage businesses that, historically, have had nothing to do with cybersecurity.

In fact, it’s these businesses that have the most to lose.

Older businesses often have a paper trail of years-old legacy data hiding within their sprawling, outdated systems.

Quantum will give criminals the master key for mining decades worth of information. Therefore, those that are only now embracing cybersecurity have a duty to take a long, hard look at their infrastructure, and ensure they fortify any historical data they store.

Securing the future

It’s very telling that Volkswagen’s Chief Executive has recently said that, in order to survive, businesses must transform into technology companies.

One thing he said rings particularly true – it’s time to ‘slaughter some scared cows.’

Quantum is mere years away. And as the clock ticks, the challenge businesses face is twofold: to prepare not just in terms of technology, but also culture.

This may be a painful pivot for many. But public awareness over cybercrime is higher than ever. Trust is a reoccurring theme in the digital age. And more than ever, cybersecurity is vital not just for building a secure business – but also building true customer advocacy.