Why is everyone talking about cyber security?

Cyber Security – a rapidly growing sector forecasted to hit $6 billion by 2026 in Australia alone, and over $350 billion worldwide. It’s the latest topic among IT experts and business owners alike, with constant developments and evolving strategies to combat the rising trends of online crime.

But why the sudden surge in cyber security awareness? What’s spurred the recent increase in jobs, courses, and news reports on the field?

Below, we discuss reasons behind the growing concern for cyber security – and why your business should get onboard, too.

Cybercrime is on the rise

As social connections, interactions, and transactions become further digitized, we leave our personal data ever-more vulnerable in the hands of online platforms and communities. Daily tasks and activities we take for granted – whether it’s trawling through social media feeds or scrolling through your Netflix suggestions – all leave a digital trail of information specific to your identity.

When carelessly shared, left exposed or unprotected, such data can be easily used for malintent; an alarmingly upward trend known as cybercrime.

Australia ranks among the top countries to experience high numbers of exposed records per year – garnering fifth place in Risk Based Security Inc.’s list in 2018; with a whopping 20,035,981 to their title (an average of 834,833 exposed records per breach).

According to Accenture’s 2019 “Cost of Cybercrime Study”, Australian businesses have also experienced a sharp increase in people-based attacks (crimes initiated by malicious hackers) in the past year, with a 33% growth in such methods. Ransomware tactics, in particular, have increased by 40% between 2017 and 2018.

With no signs of slowing down, cybercrime is predicted to lead to about $6 trillion in global cyber security spending by 2021. And hackers don’t discriminate, either – while smaller entities have the misled notion of being “too small to be a target”, studies show that they’re a victim of 43% of all attacks. This can be attributed to typically lower cyber security budgets, resulting in weaker countermeasures and thus – higher vulnerability.

As we grow further reliant on technology, with hackers charging at both the prepared and defenceless; one thing’s for certain: no one is safe.

The impacts are debilitating

According to Australia’s Cyber Security Review (led by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet), cybercrimes cost our economy up to $1 billion annually in direct costs alone. The cost of an individual data breach is an average of nearly $2 million.

Globally, experts estimate approximately $5.2 trillion of global value to be at risk from cyberattacks between 2019-2023.

Stunted operations aren’t the only source of a business’ financial loss, but the costs involved in investigation, security consulting, PR and damage control, investing in new cyber security measures, and potential loss of clients.

The reputational damage caused by a breach is another major challenge; as poor security understandably results in a major loss of trust. 74% of consumers have stated that they would switch providers after a data breach, regardless of circumstances. This is especially harmful to small businesses who rely on personal recommendation and maintaining a positive image for their small client base – such abandonment can easily lead to a permanent shut-down.

Of course, productivity also circles the drain in these times of disruption; as employees shift their energy and time from regular business duties to disaster recovery and investigation.

Returning to your optimal state as a company isn’t impossible, however – though it may take weeks or months to heal from an incident, depending on the scale of crime.

Businesses are recommended to guide customers or client through the post-breach process, implement a PR recovery strategy, update equipment and software as needed, and review their disaster response methods to seek areas for improvement. Having a Cyber Security Incident Response Plan is a company’s best bet in carrying out a smooth road to recovery.

Cybercrime threats are ever-evolving

As technologies evolve, so do hackers’ methods of cybercrime.

As of 2019 and early 2020, the most popular digital crimes (globally) include:

  • Identity theft, in which hackers grab ahold of your personal information; from basic data such as name, birthdate, nationality – to more sensitive details such as your credit card numbers, driver’s license, and bank account credentials.
  • Flood attacks, also known as “Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)” or “denial of service (DoS)” attacks; during which botnets are attack specific IP addresses, overwhelming them with malicious requests to render their servers and systems unusable.
  • Phishing attacks that trick users into sharing their sensitive data – often performed through fake or spoofed websites (such as a fake Facebook login page) requesting your private information.
  • PUPS, or “Potentially Unwanted Programs”, often delivered in the form of adware, malware, or even ransomware.

According to Stanfield IT, the top three cybercrimes currently affecting Australian businesses include ransomware, phishing scams, and malware. Such attacks are largely in part due to human error; with employees lacking the skills and knowledge to identify potential risks and mitigate them.

While these threats are the current norm, and are popularly focused on among experts – tactics are advancing and becoming ever-more sophisticated.

2020 is set to see a rising trend in advanced phishing kits and attacks through remote access, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things; as automation, machine learning, and smart devices grow in popularity. Battling cybercrime often causes a “hydra effect”: while security technologies are developed to combat one issue – advanced, criminal countermeasures are made to sprout another.

Defence strategies are expanding

With the alarmingly high rates of cybercrime and developing threats, businesses have fortunately started placing cyber security higher up their agendas. 90% of Australian organisations have stated their plan to increase cyber defence spending throughout 2020; with worldwide cyber security spending expected to reach $133.7 billion by 2022. Data security has also ranked first among business priorities in Netwrix’s IT Trends 2020 report, voted by 74% of IT experts.

Additionally, companies are now constantly encouraged to educate employees on the risks of cybercrime – including threat identification, practicing healthy password hygiene, avoiding public networks when accessing company data online.

Human error accounts for 90% of all cyber attacks and breaches, after all – so the greater your security awareness is in the workplace, the safer your data and the more effective your third-party tools and safeguards will be.

Of course, newer and more advanced cyber security products emerge by the year, helping your business better monitor, assess, and respond to incoming threats. Plenty of these now use AI and machine learning to automate the process and identify patterns, such as the BlackBerry Intelligent Security software.

With the pressing need for its skills, cyber security has additionally turned into a profession of its own – projected to create a global 3.5 million unfilled jobs by 2021.

The Australian government has also stepped in to address our growing demand for such expertise. Implemented in 2016, their Cyber Security Strategy aims to encourage more students to undertake studies in field and related areas. $230 million has been invested across areas of stronger cyber protection, growth and innovation, education, global responsibility, and national cyber partnerships.

Protect yourself from online risks – and develop security skills today!

As long as technologies keep advancing, both the field of cybercrime and cyber security are here to stay. Avoid becoming a negative statistic; ensure both you and your workers have the knowledge required to stave off prevalent threats and maintain a safe, healthy IT environment.

The Australian Institute of ICT offers a comprehensive course in basic cyber security skills – diving into areas of networking, threat mitigation, and security tools to form a solid expertise in the field. Students can gain the knowledge required to help pursue a specialised security career, or simply sharpen their skills for a safer, responsible workplace. Best of all, it’s delivered 100%, helping you tailor your training around personal needs and schedules.

Don’t leave your data at risk; enquire with us on a course today.