When the founder of a cybersecurity business says the above about the growth of the ransomware industry, you know there’s a problem. If data is the lifeblood of modern business, then ransomware could be considered akin to a heart attack. Consider the impact of recent high-profile strikes such as those that affected the Colonial Pipeline and the Irish healthcare system. Ransomware is big business (over 300m attacks occurred globally in 2020, per Statista) and it’s here to stay.
To understand just how significant the ransomware threat is as well as to get a broader impression of the current state of the cybersecurity market, your author met with James Chappell, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Digital Shadows, earlier this week. Digital Shadows (a private business) was founded a decade ago and numbers organisations such as Pret a Manger, Regeneron and Freshfields among its clients. James began our discussion by noting that “there’s an argument to suggest that the cybersecurity market is broken.” Sure, the whole premise for cyberattacks is based on an asymmetry between the attacker and the defender – defenders (i.e. consumers and/or businesses) need to be vigilant 100% of the time, whereas cyber criminals need only to be successful just once to achieve their ends.
Solving this inherent challenge won’t be easy, particularly since “everyone is looking for a silver bullet”, per James. Purchasers of cybersecurity products often know neither what to ask for nor how to value it, especially since the industry is “playing catch up just to stand still.” The threat landscape continues to evolve, and ransomware has become an increasingly proven model for criminals, especially since insurers have begun to pay-out to businesses exposed to such attacks. Ransomware gangs (of which there are estimated to be over a thousand) might hence be the new ‘mob.’
The good news is that there are solutions at hand. While technology solutions continue to play an important role, much of it begins with better education at multiple levels. Think of this in respect of educating how IT systems are built and maintained for maximum resilience to the threats, but also in ensuring that individuals who remain highly susceptible to phishing and other attacks are aware of their susceptibility. At the same time, the industry lacks trained IT professionals (there are currently at least 3.5m unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the world, per Cybersecurity Ventures) and there is a logical case for more globalised standards. James made the valid analogy with the auto industry. Purchasers of cars know that the vehicle they are purchasing meets minimum safety standards that have been independently verified. The same could be possible in the future with cyber products. We concur with the view that the world “decided to become a digital economy without thinking about the implications.” Have no doubt, cybersecurity will (need to) improve.
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