With digital innovation becoming a regular element of almost every industry, it can feel like new technologies are springing up left and right—because they are. While innovation in business nearly always comes from a place of trying to streamline processes or reduce stress, these new technologies and innovative services can often create massive IT headaches when it comes to network security.
According to GlobeNewswire, companies are spending an average of $30 million on digital innovation initiatives, and that number is projected to rise in coming years so it’s reasonable to expect more leaps in digital innovation moving forward. While this can feel a bit like we’re predicting flying cars and robot butlers, as cool as that would be, it’s not quite what we’re getting at. Digital innovation includes things like cloud technologies, Edge computing, and other network game changers, which are here to make your business more efficient with lower latency.
The problem? Those responsible for digital innovation efforts never sleep and neither do cybercriminals. Whenever there are leaps and bounds in network technology, it’s safe to assume that the cybercriminals aren’t too far behind you, constantly on the lookout for vulnerabilities created by innovation that IT security hasn’t caught up with yet. This is an issue so common that 80% of IT experts say that digital innovation increases cyber-risk.
At this point, we’re aware that any alteration of the IT environment, even as employees complete their daily tasks, can create exploitable situations. Digital innovation blows that out of the water, but that doesn’t mean that innovation is something to shy away from. Instead, today’s blog post will give you an overview of emerging threats and action items to take to your team in order to patch up those vulnerabilities and rethink less-than-ideal processes to keep cybercriminals out, and your network secure.
New Tech, New Network Threats
Emerging technology trends are buzzy and brilliant, and you’ve probably been keeping an eye on them for years. It can feel all too easy to get swept up in the next big thing and sign on the dotted line to propel your network far forward into the 21st century. But many forget that with that innovative power, comes an equal amount of responsibility to make sure that flashy new network infrastructure is protected at all costs.
As we go through this list of innovative trends and their associated cybersecurity risks, I invite you to put on the mask of your favorite villain and see if you can find other exploitable elements to each. We haven’t designed this list to be exhaustive, only as a way to spark a conversation between you and your IT staff, since nobody knows your unique network needs like your own security team. Getting inside the mind of the bad guys can help you immensely when you develop your own tailored cybersecurity plan and policies.
Technology Trends and Their Cybersecurity Risks
IoT – Lack of set governance can lead to compromised network security
IoT, or Internet of Things, has been gaining more and more traction as a tool for companies to organize and secure their data in a streamlined way. Over the last few years IoT has gone from being a relatively new concept to a more household term in the IT space as more organizations continue to utilize it. It’s important that you not confuse IoT with Edge computing, because while their purpose can be similar, the infrastructure can be completely different.
If your organization is utilizing an IoT, you are creating vulnerabilities because with this relatively new approach to computing, you may not have a set ownership or governance to drive security and privacy. You may also not have enough information or resources to adequately educate your IT staff or anyone else who utilizes the environment. One of the biggest issues companies run into when managing their IoT environments is data loss because of the interconnectedness of their critical or classified data.
Some of the most common cybersecurity issues organizations face within their IoT networks include intentional sabotage from inside the organization, and multiple security issues stemming from the fact that many on this internal type of network don’t feel security should be as high on the list of concerns. Many passwords on IoT devices are extremely common and easy to guess once a malicious actor gains access to the system.
Edge Computing – Poor protection can open the door for DDoS attacks
Cloud innovation has been pushing many industries toward the Edge as a way to lower latency, boost security, and enhance overall performance of the company’s network. By bringing data storage closer to where the data is actually used, you not only reap all the benefits in terms of speed, but you also will have to be able to protect that extra infrastructure. Edge environments, given their nature as a halfway stop between an endpoint and the rest of a company’s cloud environment require specific protections in place.
If they are not protected, you run the risk of malicious actors finding vulnerabilities or shutting down arms of your Edge infrastructure through DDoS or ransomware attacks. For industries like healthcare and manufacturing, these outages can quickly escalate from a mere annoyance to a life-or-death issue.
BYOD – The Rise of Mobile Work may upset network security
We know it can feel a bit repetitive to be talking about this nearly a year after the pandemic began, but when it comes to mobile work, work from home and BYOD policies, it’s simply because the current state of remote work is constantly evolving. With more and more companies uncertain as to whether or not they’ll ever return to the office full time, it’s important to plan for far-flung employees, especially in the winter months when working by the pool in a vacation rental is extremely tempting. Employees are often embrace the “work from anywhere” attitude these days, and that can lead us to a whole host of issues, including but not limited to:
- Mobile devices circumnavigating network security checkpoints
- Employees accessing the company network while on public, unprotected WiFi or hopping between public and company networks
- Increased instances of device theft or loss due to the number of employees who choose a more digitally nomadic lifestyle during the pandemic
- Mobile devices tend to be “always on” and leave users more susceptible to crimes of opportunity, like phishing attempts
As a general rule of thumb, any new location has devices that must be secured for your business to continue to function as normal. Failure to do so may give threat actors a way in that was completely preventable.
Additional Emerging Cyberthreat Trends that may threaten the security of your network
These are the trends, while not tied necessarily to emerging technologies, that also deserve a high spot on your IT priority list. Some of these threats may feel like old news on the surface, but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that they’ve grown more complex over time and should not be ignored, as they have just as much power to cripple your business functionality as the innovation-spawned threats:
- Ransomware: Ransomware is a huge player in the cybersecurity risk space this year. At this point, we see ransomware sneaking into the networks via phishing or spear phishing attempts, encrypted traffic or even employee actions, and the consequences can devastate your organization for years to come. Ransomware is one of the attack types that adapts quickly, keeping pace with innovation. As an added horror, more and more ransomware attacks are also doxing victims.
- Malware: While it encompasses ransomware, malware is an umbrella term for many other types of cyberattacks, and this year an increase in mobile attacks is predicted, given the increase in mobile device usage, as we continue into another year of mobile work.
- Encrypted Traffic: Much like predators in nature, encrypted traffic wears its own camouflage so it can slip into networks undetected. We’re seeing more and more encrypted traffic from malicious actors which can make it nearly impossible to resolve an attack in a timely fashion. As the name implies, encrypted traffic requires a decryption key for which ransomware attackers will extort your organization. This encrypted traffic is hard to spot due to its camouflaged nature.
Innovative and Effective Mitigation Efforts: Zero Trust Network Access
Diversified environments aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, they’re expected to become even more complex as time goes on. While there is no magic bullet when it comes to cybersecurity, there’s a new kid on the block that can definitely make a massive difference: zero trust access. There is nothing earth-shattering about this, but when looking for ways to up your cybersecurity, this should be at the very top of your list.
What is Zero Trust Network Access?
Trusting no one sounds like a one-way ticket to disengaged employees and slow, slow processes, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a concept that has stirred up significant buzz over the last few years. Many organizations have shifted priorities to adopt a zero trust policy, zero trust network access is the technology behind achieving a truly effective model of zero trust.
You may have heard of zero trust network access under its other name, software-defined perimeter. Either one means the same thing. It’s a set of technologies that operates on an adjustable trust model, where trust is never assumed, and access is granted on a needs-basis. Zero trust network access gives a network’s users seamless and secure connectivity to applications without ever routing those users through the network or exposing private apps to the internet.
We’re seeing some companies utilize zero trust network access as a replacement for VPNs since they do have much of the same functionality, but as opposed to creating a private network for employees and external visitors, zero trust network access gives you the power to create individual connections from Point A to Point B without creating any exploitable vulnerabilities. Here’s a quick breakdown of how it works:
- When zero trust network access provides access to an application, it does so separately from network access, effectively preventing unauthorized users from accessing other parts of the organization’s network and also effectively quarantines compromised devices.
- It makes outbound-only connections, which ensures your organization’s application and network infrastructure are still invisible to all unauthorized users. By relying on outbound connections, zero trust network access makes the network impossible to find, almost like a darknet.
- Native app segmentation guarantees authorized users are granted application access on an as-needed basis and can be revoked at any time their needs change. This keeps authorized users contained only to relevant applications rather than the entire network.
Managed Security Services
If you’re looking to improve your network security and implement innovative security measures like zero trust network access to keep pace with your network’s adjustments and improvements, but you don’t have the time, resources or manpower to pull off a new network security strategy, it’s time to start looking for ways to outsource that burden. Managed security services, often offered by a network provider, are a great option for companies who find themselves overextended or need someone to fill the gaps in their staff as they look for the right people moving forward.
How To Start the Conversation
We’re well aware that zero trust access can feel like a big ask for folks who don’t necessarily understand the world of cybersecurity, but network security needs to become a boardroom issue. Many times, team members will feel like zero trust access makes some processes clunkier and less effective than before. As an IT professional or concerned team member, it’s your job to come to the table ready to start the discussion with information about the bottom line, security and the potential effects of leaving your network environment without the highest possible levels of protection. Here are a few points to keep in mind:
- Extension of staff through managed security services can save your company money in the long run because the managed security teams can quickly address and fill gaps your team makes as they grow the network.
- SHRM and Deloitte place the cost of hiring new team members upwards of $4,000 per employee (and that’s if you find the right fit on the first try), so you may find that managed security services is more efficient than hiring an internal team.
- A network that is easily exploitable can quickly result in a massive data breach, the average of which can cost companies nearly $4 million, according to IBM.
LightEdge’s Innovative Network Security Keeps Pace with Your Digital Innovation Initiatives
Our fast, consistent, secure, redundant network is one of our biggest points of pride at LightEdge and is at the core of everything we do. LightEdge boasts not only unparalleled network infrastructure that can be scaled to meet your organization’s needs, but also a team of expert staff who are constantly looking for ways to stay one step ahead of threat actors, keeping your data safe, especially as your team develops innovative new tech strategies and environments.
If you’re assessing a move to the Edge, a migration to the cloud, or even just looking for ways to make sure your information is locked down, you can put your faith in LightEdge’s purpose-built facilities and diligent team members who are committed to keeping you secure, compliant and evolving to keep the day’s cybercriminals stymied.
If you’re looking to find ways to keep your security staff from being overextended, find a more reliable network or just see how your security stacks up against the competition, schedule a call to chat with our experts who are ready to talk about all the ways you can keep pace with innovation in your networks.