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Cybersecurity roadblocks: 5 things leaders need to act on now

While 2021 has been a year of accelerated digital transformation for some organisations worldwide, it has been a year of recovery for others. In the wake of the global pandemic, and as businesses and their teams adapt to a changed way of working, several growing cybersecurity threats need to be brought to light.

From the risks associated with accelerated digital transformation and the growing amount of people working from home, to the emergence of ‘smart' cyber-attacks and what that means for data privacy: here are the top cybersecurity roadblocks all technology leaders should be aware of.

1. Digital transformation projects implode into data security liabilities

As organisations accelerated their digital transformation initiatives amid a global pandemic, IT teams rushed to migrate troves of information into data lakes with little-to-no visibility into what was actually being stored.

If left unchecked, these mistakes will likely materialise into more serious issues — risking not only the security of the organisation's data but also its reputation.

Making security the responsibility of everybody in the organisation can be parlayed into mitigating and stopping data breaches in the future. One way organisations are taking this on is through Cloud/API Centres of Excellence. These ‘think tanks' within an organisation are a cross-functional group of people who develop patterns and trends for weaving security into the software development lifecycle.

This is expected to continue over time: Gartner has predicted that by 2025, 40% of boards of directors will have a dedicated cybersecurity committee overseen by a qualified board member — up from less than 10% today.

2. Serverless computing becomes a playground for cyber-criminals

While organisations embrace serverless innovation for their convenience, IT teams have blindly embraced this cloud innovation without involving their cybersecurity counterparts. This can lead to increased levels of cyber-attacks in this space (such as DDoS attacks) targeting serverless computing environments.

Serverless architecture is very difficult for organisations to protect. Its distributed nature — essentially, the reason for its flexibility and scalability — means traditional protective products simply won't work. Applications have moved from being functions sharing the same memory space to being loosely coupled and event-driven. Securing these functions should now be prioritised over securing applications.

With developers under increasing pressure to deploy more applications at an ever-faster rate, it's little wonder that serverless computing is quickly becoming the leading infrastructure in the software architecture space. But organisations should approach it with eyes open.

Code and functions can be vulnerable and open to exploitation, putting the integrity of an organisation's applications — not to mention its reputation — at risk of harm. Security teams need visibility over every function and with every provider. Without this, serverless computing will quickly become a playground for cyber-criminals.

3. The ‘digital normal' puts greater reliance on microservices

As the world continues working, shopping, and interacting online, the traditional IT stack will decompose, and the development and deployment of APIs and microservices will expand to deliver better services. Unfortunately, with this shift will come more data leakage and exfiltration via unsecured APIs.

What do organisations need to think about as they adopt some of these frameworks in the year to come? They need to consider more rapid release cycles and scaling just part of an application, for example.

Additionally, serverless technology for microservices can break down an application into small functions, and those functions can live anywhere. To secure these environments, security teams need to think of how microservices interact.

Historically, teams would put security at the ingress of a network. Today they need to think about inter-network communication between these different microservices. There's no longer a single point of ingress to the network, and a common problem is controlling the interactions between users and networks.

As the shift to cloud continues, it's important to recognise more control points and determine what security architecture needs to come first. This was a significant challenge when there was just a data center; now, it's crucial to understand cloud-native microservices environments — and to secure them before they're deployed.

4. The emergence of ‘smart' cyber-attacks

The democratisation of machine learning will equate to smarter attacks that are harder to defend against and stop. Sophisticated attackers will engineer attacks with automation that learn from the victim's defences and optimise for more effective, relentless attacks. This will usher in a new era of cyber-crime that will require more advanced threat intelligence and security coverage.

Imperva Research Labs recently released a new threat intelligence report on the State of Security Within eCommerce. The report illustrates the varying cybersecurity attack risks facing the retail industry and the impact the global pandemic had on the volume of attacks and web traffic.

In the report, Australia is identified as the third-most targeted country for attacks by bad bots, signalling a rise in attacks on local businesses.

How can security teams get in front of business needs to reduce the threat landscape when the business is going faster? Threat modelling is one of the most important things security staff can do with a business as it looks to roll out new services.

Looking at the model from a fraud perspective, in addition to security, is something a lot of organisations can benefit from in 2021. In today's environment, all security teams should be performing threat modelling exercises with development teams, whereby developers can explore the unintended ways that software can be abused.

5. A sea of 2020 breaches will come home to roost in 2021

The significant rise in cyber-attack activity amid the global pandemic has resulted in millions of exposed files and data — some already known, while countless others have yet to be reported.

This new year will give way to a record-pace of exploitations using stolen credentials. The activity will be a catalyst for more discussions about overall cybersecurity investment and measures to regulate data privacy.

The cybersecurity threat to businesses spans many avenues, from bots to fraud and an increasingly intelligent ability to threaten data privacy. While 2020 was a pivotal year for many companies moving quickly to adapt to a new way of working, it is vital that in 2021, organisations focus on security as the foundation for safely creating, storing and managing data.

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