Cybersecurity has become a crucial aspect for businesses of all sizes as they strive to protect their sensitive and valuable data from malicious actors. Without a proper cybersecurity strategy, businesses are vulnerable to attacks, making them an easy target for cybercriminals. The evolution of technology has also led to an increase in inherent and residual risks. The rise of cybercrime is evident with a 13% increase in reports to the Australian Cyber Security Center in the 2021-2022 financial year, they received 76,000 cybercrime reports between 2021-2022.
Data breaches can have devastating financial, reputational, and legal consequences, with the average total cost of a data breach rising to a 17-year high of USD 4.24 million in 2021. As technology continues to advance and the threat landscape evolves, it is crucial for businesses to stay informed about the latest developments in cybersecurity in order to protect themselves from potential attacks. In this article, we will explore the future of cybersecurity in 2023 and beyond.
Advancements in Technology
1. AI & Machine Learning
With the staggering amount of cyber threats facing organisations, many have turned to artificial intelligence and machine learning to boost their security infrastructure. AI has been extremely useful in automating several aspects of cybersecurity such as threat detection. For example, large amounts of risk data can now be analysed with the help of AI and machine learning, this is especially useful to smaller businesses that may not have the human resources to handle information security.
This technology can also help predict the behavior of cybercriminals, security teams through the use of algorithms to build models of behaviors can use these models to make predictions about cyber attacks as new data emerges. Although these technologies are helping bolster an organisation's cybersecurity defenses, it is important to note that AI is also being used by criminals to automate their own cyber attacks. The use of AI and machine learning in cybersecurity is expected to grow in the coming years, therefore it is an important cybersecurity trend for businesses to plan for.
2. Cloud computing & edge computing
Like many trends brought about by the shift to remote working, there has been a greater dependence on cloud solutions, with many organisations choosing to establish themselves on the cloud. Although cloud services mean greater scalability, and operational and cost efficiency, it continues to be heavily targeted by cybercriminals. This is mainly due to the existence of security risks and vulnerabilities with cloud services, for example, misconfigured settings, unauthorised remote access, and weak login credentials are among the main causes of cloud-related data breaches within organisations.
Another rapidly emerging technology is Edge computing. Edge computing is a distributed computing paradigm that enables data processing and storage closer to the devices or "edge" devices that generate or collect the data. Instead of sending all data to a central location for processing, edge computing allows data to be processed at or near the source, reducing latency and improving efficiency.
By processing data at the edge, organisations can reduce the amount of sensitive data that is transmitted over networks, which reduces the risk of data breaches and cyber-attacks. Edge computing can enable organisations to implement security measures such as encryption, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems closer to the data source, which can make it more difficult for attackers to gain access to sensitive information. Additionally, it allows for real-time data processing, it can enable organisations to identify and respond to security threats more quickly. Moreover, it allows decentralisation of the data process and storage, which reduces the attack surface and makes it harder for hackers to gain access to valuable information.
3. Quantum computing
Quantum computing is a branch of computing that uses quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform operations on data. It has the potential to perform certain types of computations much faster than classical computers. Technology like this has the potential to both enhance and undermine cybersecurity.
Quantum computing can be used by cybercriminals to break many of the encryption algorithms that are designed to secure data. The encryption methods we use today are designed with the limitations of classical computers in mind. For example, it is outside of a classical computer’s capability to factor in large numbers or solve certain mathematical problems in a reasonable amount of time. However, a quantum computer would be able to perform these operations in a much faster time, allowing them to successfully break encryptions that are designed to protect sensitive data from classical computers.
On the other hand, quantum computing can also be used to boost cybersecurity. For example, QKD or Quantum key distribution is a method used secure communication lines between two parties. Allowing two parties to share a key with each other without the threat of a hacker or attacker breaking the communication line. Additionally, quantum computing can be used to develop new and more secure encryption algorithms and to perform large-scale simulations that can help to identify and mitigate security threats. Furthermore, quantum computing can be used to develop new algorithms for machine learning, which can be used to identify and respond to cyber threats in real time.
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Collaboration between Private and Public sectors
Recent high-profile data breaches at companies like Optus and Medibank have highlighted the growing threat of cyber attacks from sophisticated actors. These attacks put the sensitive information and livelihoods of Australian businesses and citizens at risk. To combat this threat, it is crucial that we come together as a nation to develop effective solutions. Strong partnerships between public and private sector organizations have been shown to be effective in building resilience against cyber threats.
Below are three key examples of partnerships that are proving to be beneficial towards building Australia’s cyber resilience:
ACSC and the Cyber Threat Intelligence Sharing (CTIS) Program - In 2021, the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s (ACSC) launched a threat information sharing platform called CTIS. It consists of a national community of organisations across multiple industry sectors that share threat intelligence bilaterally at machine speed. Since its introduction, the CTIS program has successfully uncovered previously unknown compromises and threats. The shared intelligence is expected to become even richer as new contributing organisations onboard.
Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF) - Developed by the government TDIF is an accreditation framework for Digital Identity services. TDIF a set of standards and rules that serve as the foundation for establishing secure, trusted digital identities. TDIF provides the ability for organisations to have greater confidence that the person they are dealing with is who they claim to be and is increasingly being adopted by the private sector for use outside government.
Security of Critical Infrastructure (SOCI) Act - SOCI is a legislative instrument first passed in 2018 to manage the risks associated with critical infrastructure. An amendment in 2021, provided the Australian government with significant powers to respond to cyber attacks on critical infrastructure, and it imposes an obligation on critical infrastructure operators to report on cyber attacks that affect supply of their services.
1. Information sharing and threat intelligence
Threat intelligence enables organisations to fight back against these looming cyber threats, it is the practice of collecting, processing and analyzing data in the hope of understanding a threat actor's motives, targets and attack behaviors. Threat Intelligence helps inform an organisation’s cybersecurity strategy.
Threat Intelligence is important in today’s cybersecurity landscape as it provides organisations with a more proactive approach to defending against threats, versus a reactive approach. Advanced persistent threats or APTs and cybersecurity professionals are constantly trying to outmanoeuvre each other, data collected during threat intelligence exercises can give defenders an upper hand, enabling them to preempt attacks and tailor an organisation’s defences to combat them.
With how rapidly the cyber landscape is evolving, insight into where the next attack might come from plays a crucial role in improving information security practices. Threat intelligence is actionable — it’s timely, provides context, and is able to be understood by the people in charge of making decisions, making it an important part of an organisation’s cybersecurity strategy.
2. Cybersecurity regulations and standards
With the increase of cybercrime, there has also been an increase in regulations and standards to uphold a business to a high level of cybersecurity. Standards such as ISO 27001, NIST Cybersecurity Framework, and SOC 2 provide a set of best practices and guidelines for implementing and maintaining robust security controls. By following these standards, businesses can ensure that they have adequate protections in place to secure their assets and protect against cyber threats.
An added benefit of following cybersecurity standards is compliance with legal and contractual requirements, and can improve overall security posture and risk management. Additionally, they can provide a framework for incident response and recovery in the event of a security breach.
Evolving Threat Landscape
The Australian Cyber Security Centre within the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), leads the Australian Government’s cyber security activities. As discovered by the ACSC, no sector or industry of the Australian economy was immune from the impacts of cybercrime. Criminals and state actors over the last year targeted government agencies at all levels, large organisations, critical infrastructure providers, small to medium enterprises, and families and individuals.
Over the 2020-21 Financial Year, the ACSC received over 76,000 cybercrime reports. Which is an increase of nearly 13 percent from the previous financial year. This equates to one report every 7 minutes, compared to every 8 minutes last financial year.
Below is a summary of the key threats and trends as identified by the ACSC in their report:
- Cyberspace has become a battleground - Over the past financial year, there has been an increase in state-sponsored cyber threats, where countries have resorted to using cyberattacks for their own strategic gain.
- Australia’s prosperity is attractive to cybercriminals - Australia’s median wealth per adult according to a 2021 Credit Suisse report is the highest in the world. This has made Australians a lucrative target for BEC, online banking and shopping compromise.
- Ransomware remains the most destructive cybercrime - Between 2021 - 2022, the ACSC identified an alarming increase in the amount of personal and sensitive information released by cybercriminals in their extortion of Australian businesses.
- Worldwide, critical infrastructure networks are increasingly targeted - Critical infrastructure continues to be a lucrative target for cybercriminals and state actors. In the past financial year, potential disruptions to Australian essential services were averted by effective cyber defences.
- The rapid exploitation of critical public vulnerabilities became the norm - Over the past financial year, malicious actors persistently scanned for any network with unpatched systems, sometimes seeking to use these as entry points for higher-value targets. Inadequate patching is a major reason for cyber incidents.
As technology continues to evolve, so too does the cyber threat landscape. To protect against potential attacks, businesses must stay informed about the latest developments in cybersecurity. Advancements in technology such as AI and machine learning, cloud computing, edge computing, and quantum computing have the potential to greatly enhance cybersecurity, businesses need to capitalise on this to enhance their cybersecurity capabilities. They also need to recognise that cybercriminals are doing the same thing, advancements in technology have also contributed to more sophisticated attacks capable of getting past outdated defences.
By staying informed and implementing the latest security measures, taking advantage of resources and partnerships available businesses can protect themselves from potential cyber attacks and minimise the impact of data breaches.
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