In advance of techUK's Cyber Innovation Den on 9 July, Gerry Cantwell, Chief Technology Officer of UKCloudX shares his views on the cyber security landscape post COVID-19. UKCloudX are a panel sponsor of the Cyber Innovation Den, the panel will explore these themes in more detail.
COVID-19 has brought about dramatic change across the globe. Extremely disruptive in both personal and economic terms, the effects of the pandemic will be both short and long term. Many organisations, either because of the nature of their business or their ways of working (or both) have struggled to adapt to ‘the new norm’. Others have transitioned seamlessly to home-working almost overnight. Some have put in place temporary measures, which they will reverse out of, or which they need to make more sustainable for the long term.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic give us a chance to rethink ways of working from the ground up. Perhaps COVID-19, on its own, represents one of the potentially biggest step change accelerators in technology transformation for some years? The ‘digitalisation’ of the NHS is certainly a case in point, where what would normally have taken years to achieve was rolled out within a few days or weeks. As always, technology change is coupled with people, process, and culture change. That combination of change represents a significant shift in the cyber security landscape. Existing processes will be open to new vulnerabilities, people are exposed to new potential cyber threats, information is being held outside of the physical citadels that most organisations put around their data, and so on. So, both the threats and vulnerabilities are changing, and organisations must think differently about how to combat both in a cost effective, dynamic, and sustainable way.
There are, of course, some things that haven’t fundamentally changed – your people are still your people, your information is still your information, your processes (even if they have or need to be adapted) are still your processes and most fundamentally YOUR RISKS are still YOUR RISKS.
Some organisations have, either consciously or un-consciously, changed their risk appetite, there are some new or changed threats and vulnerabilities, and the environment that your staff are working in has potentially changed.
From an environmental perspective, the main change has been the wholesale movement of staff from on-premise to working from home during COVID-19. Even if significant numbers of staff return to offices over the coming months, there will still be a much larger proportion of the workforce who will remain federated / home-working / remote working / mobile-working. That represents a significant shift in the threat landscape – greater numbers of BYOD, unsecured home Wi-Fi, unsecured devices, children playing with parent’s work devices, etc. In addition, because staff are working on their own, there isn’t the same opportunity for physical oversight or for staff to check things in the way they would do if they were in the office (e.g. verifying bogus / scam / phishing emails). If people are an organisation’s greatest assets, they now also represent potentially new threats and vulnerabilities.
Do your staff understand why COVID-19 has changed the cyber security landscape, how they and their assets might pose new or change vulnerabilities and what to do to protect themselves and their organisation from harm?
Threat actors, whether nation states, their proxies, organised criminals or hackers doing it for kudos amongst their on-line peer group are finding new and ingenious ways of exploiting those vulnerabilities (e.g. COVID-19 related instant messages, emails, phone calls), often relying on the implicit trust people have in colleagues and seniors to exploit individuals and organisations.
Even basic activities such as access to data centres to upgrade systems, replace broken equipment, etc are impacted by COVID-19 social distancing rules.
Although use of modern technology such as cloud computing, DDOS protection, malware and anti-virus detection, VPNs, encryption of data at rest and in transit, VDI, etc offer many advances in enhancing cyber security, technology alone can’t be relied upon to protect your people and your information. A holistic approach to cyber security, in a ‘new normal’ environment is now needed.
This Cyber Innovation Den is an opportunity to explore these issues and more, and gain insights from experts in industry, government, and academia.
The Cyber Innovation Den will take place on Thurday 9 July. If you would like to register to attend the event please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.