Written in partnership with The George Washington University.
In May 2019, a hacker broke into the profile database of Canva and gained access to the personal information of up to 139 million users. It ended up being one of the largest data breaches in recent history.
Luckily, Canva detected the attack in progress and was immediately able to stop it. Still, the incident served as a stark reminder of the everyday dangers that confront organizations and consumers.
In fact, 2019 saw many other high-profile attacks from individuals and groups employing an evolving array of tactics to compromise systems. For example:
- In May, hackers installed surveillance tools on the phones of WhatsApp users.
- A June breach of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection database compromised images of up to 100,000 travelers’ faces and license plates.
- In the same month, a third-party data breach of a billing collections agency working with Quest Diagnostics exposed credit card information and social security numbers for almost 12 million patients.
- More than 40 cities across the country suffered ransomware attacks, costing millions in payments and recovery efforts.
In this environment, it’s no surprise that U.S. CEOs rated cybersecurity as their top external concern in a survey conducted by the Conference Board. Those worries are unlikely to fade anytime soon, but 2020 also brings fresh opportunities for proactive measures to secure sensitive information. Here’s what you need to know about the trends that are currently emerging in cybersecurity and how you can make a difference in the future of the field:
1. Striving to Minimize the Cost of Data Breaches
One reason why fending off data breaches is a top priority for leaders across industries is that these incidents are becoming more expensive. A 2019 study from IBM Security found that the cost of resolving a hack rose by 12% over the previous five years. On average, an organization spends nearly $4 million addressing the impact of compromised systems—which may take years—and complying with all relevant regulations.
However, extensive preparation can greatly reduce those losses. According to the IBM report, businesses that created incident response teams and thoroughly tested their procedures saved more than $1 million in the event of a breach.
In 2020, many decision-makers will be interested in developing and updating strategies that make it possible to identify attacks early and take decisive action. Cybersecurity leaders who have a thorough understanding of relevant laws, situational awareness procedures and enterprise-wide data protection are vital to these initiatives.
2. Deploying Predictive Analytics to Spot Dangers Faster
Increasingly robust analytics tools allow organizations to harness big data for an ever-growing variety of purposes. With each passing year, companies use statistical models and machine learning algorithms in a broader range of strategic decisions, including in cybersecurity. Analytics offers the means to bolster a system’s defenses by identifying suspicious patterns of user behavior and anticipating changing tactics.
By keeping up with the latest data-driven approaches, cybersecurity professionals gain a leg up in fending off intrusions and isolating infected systems. For example, machine learning can make threat detection more efficient with automated processes to evaluate anomalies. This decision-making capability reduces the statistical noise that otherwise results in an endless stream of alerts for technicians. When cybersecurity experts are distracted by fewer false positives, they have the time to focus on significant issues like analyzing cyber incident forensics.
There’s enormous potential for developing security measures capable of defeating the next wave of breaches and hacks through predictive analytics. Through data-collection and sophisticated machine learning algorithms, security professionals can model likely attacks and take appropriate precautions. As threat intelligence increases in depth and accuracy, teams will be better prepared to anticipate breaches, fortify defenses and isolate anomalies before they can do any harm.
3. Locking Down Vulnerabilities in the Internet of Things
While the internet of things (IoT) has been the subject of hype for a decade, these systems are truly poised to take off with the implementation of 5G networks in 2020. The new generation of cellular technology will allow devices to achieve data speeds up to 100 times faster than possible with 4G while also offering more responsive, low-latency connections. Those capabilities could revolutionize IoT applications like monitoring productivity in manufacturing facilities, monitoring building-wide energy use and tracking healthcare information with wearable devices.
Even as organizations embrace the possibilities offered by a more connected world, leaders must also consider how to keep this wealth of data safe. Managing and monitoring connected devices will present new problems for organizations that have been structured around the requirements of traditional IT. That means forward-looking policies and practices are crucial to take full advantage of a rapidly expanding IoT.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, issued a June 2019 report discussing the potential for exploitation presented by the IoT and recommending steps to mitigate those risks. Meeting these challenges by establishing an effective framework for 5G IoT adoption will be a major goal for cybersecurity professionals in 2020. According to the NIST, organizations should plan to:
- Maintain the security of IoT devices so they can’t be used for attacks
- Guard the data that’s gathered, stored, processed, transmitted or received on devices
- Protect individuals’ privacy when devices are used to handle personally identifiable information
4. Seeking More Cybersecurity Expertise
In this constantly changing technological landscape, demand continues to mount for experts who can anticipate the next wave of threats and develop a unified approach to protect organizations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 32% increase in positions for information security analysts between 2018 and 2028, more than six times the average growth rate for all occupations.
Unfortunately, the exploding demand means that many businesses struggle to find enough personnel with the knowledge to prevent hacks or data breaches. Professionals must prepare to manage threats in a landscape where 53% or IT professionals report a shortage of cybersecurity skills. While the need for experts continues to outpace their availability, cybersecurity experts can safeguard their organizations by efficiently employing advanced software tools and identifying vulnerabilities before they become crises.
Leaders need to combine technical understanding with agile strategy to take on the endless waves of threats that are sure to continue in 2020. An online master’s in cybersecurity can prepare you to set policy and enforce best practices that build up organizations’ resiliency for the next year and beyond.