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1/11/2017
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IoT, Foreign Actors, Insider Threats Shape 2017 Risk Management

A new report aims to inform risk management decisions for 2017 by identifying potential security threats and their anticipated effect on businesses.

A new year means new and evolving security threats are shaping businesses' risk management strategies. In 2017, corporate security concerns will come from insider threats, hostile nation-states, and the growth of new technologies connected to the Internet of Things.

These ideas stem from Flashpoint's first "Business Risk Intelligence -- Decision Report," which identifies threats and vulnerabilities shaping risk management in 2017. Experts highlight concerns that could influence security decisions and put problems in the context of the geopolitical and cyber threat climate.

The report lists trends and indicators that shaped management strategies in 2016 and expands on potential risks to watch for this year. Threats from last year poised to increase include foreign actors, disruptive hackers, cybercriminals, hacktivists, and jihadi cyber actors.

Hostile nation-states are an increasing threat to Western countries, explains Jon Condra, Flashpoint's director of east Asian research. We'll see their greater willingness to use cyber means to reach their goals.

"They don't discriminate with regards to the type of organizations they target," he says. "They perceive them as targets of opportunity. Russia, for example, has sophisticated capabilities. There's not a lot [targets] can do to stop that type of activity."

The threat of financially motivated cybercriminals will also escalate. Businesses should be especially wary.

"There was a shift towards targeting organizations, especially within the cybercrime community" says Condra of 2016 threats. "Attackers are targeting large organizations instead of their customers in order to monetize stolen data."

This trend is poised to escalate in 2017. As more people understand how data can be monetized for a variety of reasons, security pros should be on alert for insider threats.

"We've seen a number of people look for insiders at certain institutions," he explains, emphasizing how it's tough for businesses to identify, and react to, malicious insiders. "It's the biggest threat to almost any organization." 

There are several reasons why employees go rogue, Condra continues. They may be disaffected with their work or desire supplementary income. As insider cases become more publicized, and potential gains increase, workers will be tempted to become sources for threat actors.

Not all insider threats are intentional, says Rocco Grillo, global leader of the cyber resilience practice at Stroz Friedberg. Some employees are unaware they're doing anything wrong.

"You'll have employees who may not be aware, doing things by accident," he explains. "Time and time again, we continue to see employee awareness be the downfall."

Employee education should be part of businesses' risk management practices, especially as attacks like spearphishing grow craftier and more targeted.

"Make sure [they] know the sender, make sure they know the types of information they're accessing, especially on the corporate network," he says. Further, employee controls should be in place, and action needs to be taken for workers who aren't compliant with them.

Awareness is important, but businesses can do more. Grillo recommends continuous testing and monitoring, and cites a growing trend of mature companies building their own penetration testing capabilities. Some have also begun conducting "executive security assessments" to ensure safety of authority figures whose credentials are in high demand among cybercriminals.

As for external threats, he thinks data integrity attacks will rise in 2017. As more companies rely on social media and IoT for rapid information, there is a greater risk of false reports influencing key decisions. For example, fake data on a company's financial stability could harm stocks or M&A potential.

Both Condra and Grillo list IoT growth as influential for businesses' risk management practices. The demand for convenience is increasing the speed-to-market for IoT products, which were developed to drive efficiency for organizations but lack embedded security measures.

"With IoT, your average home will have dozens of devices hooked up to the network that you don't know much about," says Condra. "From a privacy and cyberattack perspective, it's a major concern for most organizations. Now you're increasing the attack space, or number of devices, that can be involved in a given attack."

As companies embrace new technologies, they need to also consider the "what if" factor, Grillo explains. This means putting recovery measures in place to respond in the event of an attack.

Related Content:

Kelly is an associate editor for InformationWeek. She most recently reported on financial tech for Insurance & Technology, before which she was a staff writer for InformationWeek and InformationWeek Education. When she's not catching up on the latest in tech, Kelly enjoys ... View Full Bio

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