Let's not rehash all the miserable DDoSes of the past several months or predict the horrors IoT has in store for us next year. For now, let's snuggle up with some hot chocolate and think comforting thoughts. Let's prepare our champagne toasts for New Year's Eve and celebrate the good times (or what passed for good times in this industry) from 2016:
Feds And Hackers Became Friends: This year, the federal government opened its doors to vulnerability researchers, establishing their very first bug bounty program, "Hack the Pentagon." After paying 117 hackers anywhere from $100 to $15,000, it went on to create Hack The Army too.
Apple Finally Launched a Bug Bounty Program: Perhaps jealous of how cool the federal government is, Apple finally came around to launching a bug bounty program. It wasn't just them. Fiat Chrysler also did, showing the automotive industry's increasing recognition of the importance of cybersecurity.
Google Added Kernel-Level Protections To Android: According to an HP study earlier this year, the Android operating system is the second-most heavily targeted operating system with the second-most vulnerabilities, after Windows. Fortunately, in July, Google announced new measures to increase memory-level protections and reduce the overall attack surface of Android’s Linux kernel.
The Worst Security Laggards Got Slapped For Their Bad Security: It's no secret that breaches cost companies a pretty penny, but so often the costs are residual -- lost business, breach notifications, fines for late breach notifications -- but not punishments for the bad security itself. This year, however, some companies felt an extra sting for failing to protect their customers in the first place. Morgan Stanley was hit with a $1 million fine by the SEC. Catholic Health Care Services got stuck with a $650,000 fine for a HIPAA violation. And Ruby Corp., which runs the website for breached online dating site Ashley Madison, was found guilty of lax security and agreed to pay a multi-state and Federal Trade Commission settlement of $17.5 million
Some Old Business Got Taken Care Of: Josh Samuel Aaron, one of the alleged masterminds behind the monstrous JP Morgan breach/stock manipulation case of 2014, was indicted in November 2015; he was eventually arrested this month. The US auctioned off another $1.6 billion in Bitcoin forfeited from Silk Road and other illegal exchanges.
Someone Stood Up To Ransomware Operators: Congratulate the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency (SFMTA) for sticking up to ransomware operators, despite most likely losing money in the process. Instead of paying their $73,000 ransom demands, SFMTA gave passengers free rides at affected stations for days while they dealt with the situation. Take that, ransomware operators!
Some Privacy Victories Were Made (Among the Defeats): If you ignore some other major threats to privacy, (like the signing of the UK's Snoopers’ Charter) there were some things for privacy advocates to be happy about. The EU's General Data Protection Directive was officially approved. And after a long, long, long haul, Microsoft finally won a landmark case over the US Department of Justice that prevented the DoJ from subpoenaing emails of Irish citizens located on Microsoft servers in Ireland.
The Federal Government Finally Decided It Needed a CISO: Sure, maybe the job description and pay grade aren't super-attractive, but nevertheless there is now someone officially charged with keeping the federal government's IT systems secure. President Obama called for the creation of the new position this year, and for increasing cybersecurity spending to $19 billion (a 35 percent boost) in fiscal year 2017 as part of a new Cybersecurity National Action Plan.
Security Vendors Started Taking Responsibility For Their Products: Security companies are beginning to make stronger committments to customers that yes, in fact, their products will actually provide security. SentinelOne upped the ante this year, by offering a $1 million guarantee it could stop or remediate ransomware.
Still Plenty of Job Security: Half of cybersecurity pros are solicited weekly about a new job, according to an October report by Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) and the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA). (That doesn't happen in many, or any, fields, take it from me.) The average American chief information security officer is making a cool $273,033 per year, according to a new study by Security Current. The need for more security people is so great that the industry is always looking for ways to clear a path for more people to enter the field, improve diversity, and attract more women to the job. It's now even possible to be a full-time "super bug hunter," taking full advantage of bug bounty programs.
So chin up, cybersecurity industry. There might have been a lot of rough moments throughout 2016, but it wasn't all bad.