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Mike Convertino
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4 Trends Giving CISOs Sleepless Nights

IoT attacks, budget shortfalls, and the skills gap are among the problems keeping security pros up at night.

The world of cybersecurity gets more intriguing every year. In 2017, security professionals saw their share of attacks, but the increasing sophistication of the skirmishes is notable — with almost machine-like weaponization of code on the attackers' side and an increasing alliance with the forces of machine learning and artificial intelligence on the defenders' side.

As we continue through 2018, figures remain similar to last year's. While the security industry struggles to fill more than a million jobs, attackers — including sophisticated criminal organizations and nation-states — have more than enough talent to continue their efforts.

We're seeing changes in the nature of cyberattacks arising from the continuing "digital transformation" going on in all markets. As companies make their devices intelligent, and as more consumers welcome intelligent devices and digital assistants into their homes, attack vectors are multiplying and bad actors are finding new ways to exploit those platforms.

Here are some of the trends affecting security pros in 2018:

1. Attacks involving IoT are increasing, resulting in a call for increased IT security budgets.  
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the next great frontier in the business world, and it's making its way into people's homes as well, in the form of smart thermostats, refrigerators, and even complete home control systems. IoT is a high-growth industry that is looking to cross the $1 trillion mark sooner than later.

For hackers, all those connected "things" represent a vast source of new code to exploit. IoT devices are a tantalizing backdoor to gain entry and reach more powerful systems with critical information. For example, earlier this year Kaspersky Lab released results from a study exposing the risk when Bluetooth devices don't require basic security protocols such as authentication and authorization of encrypted tokens and coordinates. Hackers could exploit these vulnerabilities to take the devices over, spread malware, and gain access to critical data or physical entry to homes and buildings — and could even do so wirelessly.

At a fundamental level, consumers and companies are at risk of having financial information stolen. Attacks on critical infrastructure such as transit centers or dams can be even more costly or even life-threatening.

This makes securing an IT environment more complicated as companies must consider not just the connected devices and products themselves, but sensors, firmware, applications, application programming interfaces (APIs), networks, and databases. With that in mind, device-makers need to ensure their engineers and developers understand the various security vulnerabilities in the IoT devices they’re putting on the market. This challenge is a central focus for security orgs in the coming months — and until the industry really gets a handle on this, there will be breaches.

2. The security skill-set gap continues to widen due to talent scarcity, leading more companies to adopt AI and machine learning technology to detect and manage attacks.
Like everyone else in IT, security organizations have to search for efficiencies. Throughout 2018, we're continuing to expect much of those efforts to come from either outsourced services or machines.

As the industry scrambles to solve the talent shortage, one strategy is to automate as much as possible. In doing so, companies would be wise to pay attention to the respective strengths of humans (creativity) and machines (consistency), and build both into their strategies.

Through 2018 and beyond, good security practices will seek to automate functions that are based purely on large sets of data, and bring in more people with diverse opinions, perspectives, and backgrounds to perform the lateral, out-of-the-box thinking that's necessary to combat today's sophisticated adversaries.  

3. Security orgs are prioritizing risk-reducing solutions and consumption-based services in an attempt to relieve sagging budgets.
It's not just talent that the security industry is struggling to find enough of, it's also dollars. In response, CISOs are having to get inventive. One of the top emerging trends we're seeing in 2018 is the continued maturation of security-as-a-service models. It's not just web application firewall and DDoS mitigation, but also ID- and access-as-a-service, compliance-as-a-service, encryption, and more.

These tactics provide some cost predictability and make it easy to determine total cost of ownership. But there's a limit to how much can be done in this manner, and companies will always need to consider the risks unique to their industry and way of operating.

In addition, we're seeing the security industry taking on other efficiency-improving efforts, such as the adoption of modern infrastructure as code or "NoOps" capabilities normally found in advanced cloud-based development environments. This has become possible because of the availability of APIs in standard security software and gear, and the rise of security automation tools, including Phantom and Demisto. When four lines of code can replace 40 manual entries in a management user interface, the opportunity and the appeal are hard to ignore.

4. More enterprises are relying on CISOs to devise strategies and set provisions for security requirements that abide by GDPR standards.
The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) recently kicked into gear, and noncompliance carries the potential for significant penalties. Globally, organizations have been actively assessing the impact of GDPR on their business and data privacy and management operations. Any organization doing business in the EU or processing personally identifiable information from EU residents has needed to deploy additional processes, policies, and technologies to avoid significant fines.

CISOs are accountable for data security and must provide confidence to executives, auditors, and regulators that personal information is secure. This means maintaining (or achieving) full visibility into where data resides and determining if proper controls are in place.

Longer term, expect similar regulations to arise in other regions as GDPR becomes a prototype for a new class of privacy regulations worldwide.

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Mike Convertino has nearly 30 years of experience in providing enterprise-level information security, cloud-grade information systems solutions, and advanced cyber capability development. His professional experience spans security leadership and product development at a wide ... View Full Bio
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