Developing a robust risk assessment strategy is key to cybersecurity

In Interviews

Hassan El-Banna, Business Development Manager, META, Genetec, speaks to Anita Joseph about AI in cybersecurity, IoT, risk assessment strategies and predictive analysis.

How would you describe the global cybersecurity market today, with particular focus on the MENA region? How have things changed and evolved?
Cyber-attacks around the world are on the rise. Whether they result in a data breach or a disruption in network or service availability, criminal cyber activity can have a huge financial impact on an organization. The costs can include cleaning up and restoring a network as well as reestablishing trust with partners and customers alike. According to a 2017 research study conducted by the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a data breach in the Middle East alone has reached $4.94 million.

Therefore, organizations are prompted to implement cybersecurity strategies. Cyberattacks are now being focused on IOT devices such as video surveillance, access control, alarms, and communications. Organizations must now consider cybersecurity and the security of their security and that’s how things are evolving.

For example, IP security cameras and other security devices are by their very nature connected to the Internet. That’s what lets users access them remotely to check in on their business, and what lets manufacturers update device software without having to make a house call. But this feature can also be their Achilles’ heel. When not secured properly, any camera or access control device in the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) can be accessed remotely by just about anyone, not just those with whom you want to share access. Similarly, unencrypted communications between a server and client application, or out-of-date firmware can all be exploited by cybercriminals, potentially putting an entire organization’s network at risk.

According to industry analyst firm, Gartner, by 2020 more than 25 percent of cyberattacks in enterprises will involve IoT devices. And yes, that includes the very devices that are supposed to help keep us safe. More than 60 percent of cyberattacks are currently on small to medium-sized businesses and small businesses are particularly vulnerable to these threats. Sixty percent of small companies are unable to sustain their business beyond six months following a major cyberattack.

How prepared are organizations, to deal with cyber threats and sophisticated attacks of all kinds?
Today, organizations can never be fully prepared as attacks are constantly evolving and hackers are changing their tactics to penetrate systems. However, at Genetec we ensure that our clients are prepared and have strategies implemented to avoid these attacks.

We take our position in the industry seriously and we develop our products with cybersecurity in mind. By design, our solutions protect everyone’s privacy without compromising security. In addition, we keep an up-to-date list of firmware with known security vulnerabilities and proactively warn customers with issues related to their security system. Our customers also have access to the latest firmware updates, including automated updates that have the latest cybersecurity features. To mitigate the risks associated with an attack and achieve cyber resilience, you need to develop a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy and partner with trusted vendors.

How effectively are risk/vulnerability assessments carried out by organizations?
In the Middle East, organizations are most susceptible to attacks. According to a study by McAfee which reported that the UAE is the second most targeted country in the world for cybercrime, costing the Emirate an estimated $1.4bn per year. Evidently there is a strong need for organizations to implement risk assessment.

Risk assessment tests should be conducted on a recurring basis in order to catch vulnerabilities, inefficiencies and non-compliances with standards for security policies. If an organization does not assess and manage risks, they are vulnerable to attacks. When we carry out assessments, we are equipped to identify the point of entry, assess the potential impact, create awareness among our organizations and then set standards. Cybersecurity risk assessments will help you maintain a strong security position and allow you to assess risks.

Today, technologies are continuously evolving so your organization must assume that cyber-attacks will evolve too. Taking time to implement a cybersecurity risk assessment to educate your workforce and prevent malicious attacks is vital.

Do you think there needs to be more awareness about the need for greater cybersecurity measures, among organizations?
Of course, organizations are starting to realize that the most crucial aspect of business is implementing a cybersecurity strategy. It’s critical to have a clear understanding of the cyber risks for which your organization needs protection.

One of the most important ways to raise awareness and combat cyber threats is with a plan to educate employees. Companies must develop training and educate their workforce as to the importance of best practices and the diligence in adhering to company policy. Choosing a systems integrator that recommends only the most trusted manufacturers and emphasizes the importance of cybersecurity is a good start. Together, you’ll need to develop a solution that implements multiple layers of cybersecurity including encryption, authentication, and authorization to your critical business and security systems.

How do you think attacks can be anticipated and prevented? What would you say is the best method for this?
To mitigate the risks associated with an attack and achieve cyber resilience, you need to develop a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy and partner with trusted vendors. Increasing your organization’s cybersecurity can seem like a daunting task. But the following five steps can help get you started.  They are based on a framework from The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which provides guidelines, standards, and best practices for cybersecurity-related risk management.

  • Identify. You must pro-actively monitor the market and potential threats and provide ongoing guidance and support to all your employees.
  • Protect. Share cybersecurity best practices and ensure that everyone has access to the latest software, firmware, and cyber protection features.
  • Detect. Monitor your systems closely, and, if you detect a potential vulnerability, share this information with all stakeholders, including those outside your organization.
  • Respond. In the event of a cyber breach, contain the impact and provide assistance to affected stakeholders as well as employees in your organization.
  • Recover. Support recovery planning within your organization so you can restore any affected systems and service.

It’s important to remember that in our increasingly connected world, hardening your system against criminal cyber activity is about more than just securing your perimeter. The reason it requires open and transparent communication is because it can impact us all. Cybersecurity must be a true community effort.

How has predictive analysis changed the threat intelligence scenario?
Predictive analysis has had a positive impact on the threat intelligence scenario as predictive analysis can discover a data breach before it even happens. These analytics can then determine the point of entry where attacks might occur. Organizations now have the advantage of being one step ahead and retaliate as they can see their attacker approaching. It’s a major development in an organization’s cyber defense as it helps to foresee when attacks will occur and mitigate cyber risks to your business. It is important to be proactive when it comes to cybercriminals as they only need to get an attack right once to have a negative impact on your business. As more and more data is being produced than ever before, there is a greater need for more efficient processes. This is where predictive analysis comes in and can be used to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks.

What are the major developments in predictive analysis?
Predictive analytics enables us to predict the future behavior of cybercriminals in order to prevent attacks and drive better decisions. Experts can now build a predictive model that will issue an alert as soon as it sees a point of entry for a cybersecurity attack. The advancement in machine learning and AI has played a major role in developing such analytics-based solutions to predict and prevent possible cyberattacks. Let’s look at machine learning, which a specialized component of AI where algorithms can constantly learn and improve themselves by studying high volumes of data which is available.

Machine learning is capable of extracting meaningful insights from raw data to solve problems. This is a huge development in predictive analysis as it will protect us from cyber-attacks.

AI and machine learning is transforming cybersecurity significantly. It allows us to detect and fight the most recent and sophisticated types of attacks. Cyber-attacks are increasing at a rapid rate and becoming more sophisticated and complex. This is proving to be a challenge for companies to detect and manage. However, now we have AI and machine learning which is playing a visionary role in detecting and predicting threats.

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