By Russ Levanway, CEO
Each December, announcing trends for the coming year is standard operating procedure for the IT media. Journalists and insiders always predict a sea change in how people work and what they do; if you go back a few years, the prevailing trends include the move to mobile and how everything is going to the cloud.
What’s interesting is that these trends manifest in metro areas with fast, cheap and reliable bandwidth. Unsurprisingly, we see these areas adopting trends and being first on the front lines. Here at TekTegrity, we have a lot of people ask us “Why haven’t those trends landed here yet?” Our answer is that trending tends to happen in microclimates and percolates unevenly through the industry, a geographic area, and the government. (This, of course, is nothing like trends on social media, which get adopted like wildfire and don’t share geographical limitations.)
The media have missed one of our industry’s biggest, most rapidly-accelerating and unfortunate trends: security breaches and compromises.
When the Bad Guys are Winning
The problem of security breach has become so serious that apparently, hackers can influence elections. It’s so routine that people are numb to it: we take for granted that millions of credit card numbers and medical records are stolen, and that such insecurity has a real economic and social impact.
We see that the work of hackers and virus-writers has become extremely lucrative. Cyber criminals are making money hand over fist, either from stealing and selling things like trade secrets to other people, or stealing and holding data ransom for Bitcoin. (According to the U.S. Justice Department, ransomware attacks quadrupled in 2016 with an average of 4,000 per day.)
Cybercrime is a disturbing trend in our industry with grave impacts on society, the economy, and personal productivity. Unfortunately, we see this trend worsening in 2017. Sophisticated security tools stop many known threats, and for every threat that gets through typical security defenses, scores more are stopped, but those defenses are not bulletproof, and too many threats still get through. In defense of cybersecurity companies, it is fundamentally difficult to create tools that protect against a threat that is constantly morphing. Thus, the security industry will continue to be one step behind viruses, malware, and Trojan horses.
I wish I could start this year citing a positive trend! But I don’t want to fall prey to fads or the obvious. Instead, I encourage everyone to use this information as motivation to be very diligent and suspicious of embedded links in emails and email attachments, specifically. Be very cautious, and never hesitate to ask your IT company about an email or attachment before opening it. The vast majority of the time, security breaches depend on someone clicking a link, opening an attachment or giving a password away over the phone – it’s not usually a passive attack against a system, but rather a targeted attack on someone who unintentionally opened Pandora’s box.
How can you stop this trend from accelerating in 2017? Educate and train your staff. Write or review your business’ technology policies and procedures. Consider sending your team to technology and/or security awareness classes. An educated workforce is your best defense, not necessarily better antivirus or spam software. If we want to turn this negative trend into a positive one, the best way to do it is through education.