While 2024 has many exciting things in store for enterprises, it is also rife with potent cybersecurity threats. Businesses will be in the crosshairs of hackers, which makes cloud security an utmost priority. Hackers aim to exploit any vulnerability in an enterprise’s attack surface and cause data breaches. To avoid catastrophic cyberattacks, businesses must be aware of 2024’s most important cybersecurity trends.
Malware, ransomware, insider threats, supply chain attacks, phishing attacks, and social engineering attacks are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cybersecurity risks in the coming year. Furthermore, cybercriminals are leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to increase the speed and scale of their attacks, which means that businesses need the most robust and dynamic security solutions to protect their most sensitive data.
In recent years, CISOs and security teams have been under tremendous stress to protect businesses from all manner of cybercrime. Now more than ever, it's evident that businesses must bind their cybersecurity tools and practices into a robust strategy.
IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach 2023 report highlights why cybersecurity strategy should be a top priority in the coming year. According to the report, the average cost of a data breach in 2023 was $4.45 million, an amount that is irrecoverable for most organizations. Enterprises need the best security tools, data protection, and access management solutions to combat the ominous and ever-evolving threat landscape and avoid data breaches.
What is a Cybersecurity Strategy?
Before delving into the top 10 cybersecurity strategy tips for the coming year, it’s important to revisit the fundamentals of cybersecurity strategy.
Most modern enterprises have hundreds of attack vectors that cybercriminals can potentially exploit. Furthermore, the dynamic nature of contemporary cloud environments means that traditional security measures won’t be as effective. In the past, businesses used isolated security tools for data protection, access management, and network security. In recent years, it’s become clear that hackers see isolated and siloed security as a weakness. Every business’s security ecosystem must be holistic and interconnected. Most importantly, cybersecurity needs to be strategy-first.
An effective cybersecurity strategy combines security tools, processes, protocols, and professionals to combat cyber threats and address vulnerabilities collaboratively. The cybersecurity strategy and overall business strategy should always work in alliance. It’s the only way to keep threat actors at bay, nurture a robust cloud security posture, and avoid data breaches. Therefore, while it’s vital to stay on top of the top cybersecurity trends in recent years, it’s more important that businesses weave all security tools, solutions, and practices into a unified and bulletproof cybersecurity strategy.
According to Gartner, 70% of boards of directors in the next two years will have at least one member with cybersecurity expertise. This highlights the importance of ensuring that cybersecurity and overarching business strategies work cohesively. Cloud security becomes a top priority as businesses delve deeper into digital realms to edge past competitors. Designing and implementing a powerful cybersecurity strategy can be a game-changer.
Top Cybersecurity Strategy Tips for 2024
1. Tackle Artificial Intelligence (AI) Security Challenges
Artificial intelligence (AI) is an interesting component of modern cybersecurity because both threat actors and enterprises use it. Cybercriminals are leveraging AI to increase the volume of attacks and decrease the timeframe between them. This can be a nightmare for businesses because their cybersecurity defenses are under constant threat. Such volumes of cyberattacks can overwhelm threat detection and incident response teams. The only way to combat these cyberattacks is by unlocking the security automation capabilities of AI and machine learning-powered security tools. AI security tools can help with real-time threat detection and enable swift remediation of any security issues.
The other challenge of AI security comes from generative AI tools. Generative AI tools like ChatGPT provide businesses with numerous benefits but also introduce new cybersecurity risks. Generative AI mechanisms run the risk of leaking sensitive data like PII (Personally Identifiable Information) and business secrets, which can cause financial ruin and reputational harm. The best ways to tackle the cybersecurity threats of generative AI include raising employee awareness and thoroughly exploring the pros and cons before commissioning generative AI tools. While threat actors will continue using AI to engineer attacks, businesses can unlock tremendous operational and security benefits by leveraging AI.
2. Address Cybersecurity Skills Shortage
As the cybersecurity threat landscape becomes increasingly dangerous, businesses have another problem to deal with: the cybersecurity skills shortage. According to Gartner, the lack of cybersecurity skills will account for more than 50% of cyberattacks by 2025. Furthermore, the ISC2 Cybersecurity Workforce Study 2023 revealed that 67% of survey respondents reported a shortage of cybersecurity teams to address and remediate security incidents. Ninety-two percent of respondents claimed that cloud security, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and zero trust security are critical security deficiencies in their organization.
The best way to address this cybersecurity skills shortage in the coming year is to implement training programs and cybersecurity education campaigns to ensure that in-house security teams are capable of dealing with the challenges thrown at them. It's also vital to leverage automation wherever possible. Security automation will ensure that machines will tackle repetitive work, which can be more susceptible to human error. This will free up human workforces to focus on security duties that rely more on creativity, intuition, and leadership. If CISOs and other leaders can deftly tackle the complexities posed by the cybersecurity skills shortage, even the smallest of security teams can steward complex cloud environments and protect them from cyberattacks.
3. Be Wary of Shadow IT
Shadow IT is a phenomenon that all modern businesses have to deal with. It refers to any unofficially commissioned IT software or hardware that falls outside the visibility or stewardship of a company's IT and security teams. The rise in shadow IT is largely because employees don't want to go through complex bureaucratic processes to commission simple applications. The possibility of commissioning a variety of productivity-boosting online applications with a single click is often too alluring to resist. The problem with shadow IT is that visibility becomes a major challenge, and real-time threat detection becomes almost impossible. As the likelihood of data breaches and leakage increases, so does the possibility of compliance failures, legal penalties, and reputational damage.
Some say that it's essential to completely eliminate shadow IT. Others say that shadow IT is an inevitability that businesses must accept and deal with. Either way, shadow IT poses immense cybersecurity risks to organizations. Enterprises must treat it as a top-tier challenge because an uncontrolled and rapidly proliferating attack surface can be disastrous. Some ways to tackle the challenge of shadow IT include implementing standardized security protocols, using real-time monitoring and visibility security tools to surveil IT environments, and kickstarting awareness campaigns to ensure that employees know the risks of commissioning IT tools without authorization.
4. Secure Remote Workers
The COVID-19 pandemic created and catalyzed some major shifts, including the adoption of BYOD (bring-your-own-device) and work-from-home models. The dramatic rise in remote workers naturally expanded organizations’ attack surfaces. This is because more remote workers means more digital identities and endpoints. Remote workers often use personal mobile devices to log onto enterprise networks, and many of these devices may lack the security controls to protect them sufficiently from threat actors. Furthermore, remote workers may also download sensitive data onto their personal devices, which can be problematic if done without the necessary security protocols.
There are many ways enterprise security teams can secure remote workers. To begin with, businesses need to instruct remote workers to use VPNs and firewalls to negate the threats of accessing sensitive data from public WiFi networks. Remote workers must also know how to update personal devices, patch vulnerabilities, and out-of-data applications, identify phishing attacks, and meticulously follow best practices while accessing enterprise networks from outside the organization's walls.
5. Implement Zero Trust Security
The growth of the zero-trust security market is a testament to the importance of this robust security approach. In the next four years, the zero-trust market will reach a value of almost $68 billion, rising at a compound annual growth rate of 16.9% since last year. Zero-trust is an approach that assumes that no entity within an enterprise’s IT infrastructure is safe. Zero-trust leaves no stone unturned by treating every user as a potential threat actor. In the past, unauthorized access has been the cause of data breaches and other kinds of cyberattacks. Zero-trust ensures that every user has to undergo multiple layers of security checks to access an enterprise’s IT ecosystem.
The primary principles of a zero-trust security model include least privilege, which ensures that no user has any permissions or access privileges beyond what they need for their main job, and constant verification, which means a single authentication protocol will never be enough to gain long-term access to sensitive data. Other key elements of zero-trust security include multi-factor authentication (MFA), the assume breach mentality, complete visibility, 24/7 monitoring, and just-in-time access. All of these elements combined can help businesses stay protected from a range of cybersecurity threats, including ransomware attacks, insider threats, unauthorized access, and data exfiltration.
6. Evolve and Elevate Data Protection
The primary goal of threat actors is to access sensitive data. This is a major problem for businesses because data is their foremost currency. This makes data protection one of the most important aspects of cybersecurity and the main objective of cybersecurity professionals. Businesses must continuously assess and update the strategies, tools, and practices to secure their sensitive data and crown jewels. Legacy data protection strategies will struggle to keep up with the tools and tactics of contemporary cybercriminals. Cloud service providers (CSPs) have policies in place to secure data on their platforms. However, businesses should never rely on external providers to secure their apps and sensitive data.
Some of the best ways to enhance data protection include regularly backing up data, encrypting all static and in-flow data, patching storage buckets, and embedding security mechanisms into every step of a data management lifecycle. Visibility is also vital because businesses need to know what data they possess, where it lies, what security tools protect it, and who has permission to access it. Enterprises must remember that data protection failures can have severe compliance implications and potentially cost them millions of dollars in penalties.
7. Strengthen the Identity Pillar
The average enterprise features significantly more digital identities than actual employees. While these armies of digital identities, human and machine, can power digital initiatives, they are also potent security threats. This is because a digital identity is essentially a gateway into an enterprise's on-premises, cloud, and hybrid environments. By hijacking a digital identity, threat actors can infiltrate an enterprise network, access crown jewels, and exfiltrate sensitive data, often without the knowledge of security teams. Enterprises are soon likely to witness numerous digital identities showcasing anomalous behavior, which is a sign of malicious account takeover.
By commissioning disparate cloud services at alarming rates, employees and teams often introduce different digital identity systems and practices into their environments. The lack of standardized practices and comprehensive visibility of digital identities can result in identity sprawl. Identity sprawl is the rapid and uncontrolled proliferation of digital identities. Threat actors will seek to weaponize hidden, dormant, or poorly decommissioned digital identities, especially those with significant access privileges, to facilitate data breaches and create a sense of disarray within the organization. Enterprises should strengthen the digital identity pillar in their cybersecurity strategy by implementing strong protocols for identity onboarding and offboarding, employing a robust identity platform, deleting dormant and out-of-date identities, and creating awareness of identity-related cyber threats.
8. Adopt Proactive Cybersecurity Measures
The old adage "prevention is better than cure" applies perfectly in a cybersecurity context. In previous years, businesses relied on security tools to identify security breaches, remediate incidents, and conduct forensics. While these methods may have proved successful in the past, the sheer volume and velocity of cyberattacks means that businesses must shift to proactive and preventative cybersecurity. However, businesses shouldn't neglect or offset remediation capabilities to elevate proactive mechanisms. Instead, they must strategically and specifically strengthen the quality of their proactive cybersecurity measures to reduce the likelihood of data breaches and minimize the potential trauma caused by cyberattacks. If businesses can invest their cybersecurity resources in a perfectly balanced medley of prevention and cure, threat actors will struggle to breach their environments.
Some of the best measures to shift from a reactive cybersecurity approach to a proactive one include 24/7 visibility across infrastructures, vulnerability management based on organization-specific risks and external threats, continuous attack surface assessments and reduction, potential attack path and blast radii analyses, configuration evaluations, and a mix of red teaming exercises by both internal security teams and external agencies to test the quality and effectiveness of fortifications. The idea behind emphasizing proactive cybersecurity measures is simple: businesses must always be one step ahead of threat actors.
9. Nurture Cybersecurity Threat Intelligence Programs
The best way to optimize cybersecurity risk management is to nurture threat intelligence programs. Cybersecurity is most powerful when it's a unified and collaborative effort. Various security and IT teams within an enterprise toil to blunt the attacks of threat actors. Every threat incident and remediation effort that a security team has to solve makes them more informed and capable of warding off future cybersecurity threats. However, this knowledge may easily go to waste if no threat intelligence programs exist. The advantages of thriving threat intelligence programs include the reduced likelihood of data breaches, optimized IT and cybersecurity expenditure, streamlined digital transformation, and, eventually, higher profit margins and overall success.
A typical threat intelligence lifecycle has a few critical steps. First, businesses need to lay out the objectives and KPIs of the program. These objectives need to align with the enterprise's cybersecurity strategy. Businesses then need to gather threat intelligence data from diverse internal and external sources. They must sieve through this data to remove irrelevant information, standardize it so it's accessible and readable across the organization, and categorize it based on commonalities. Businesses should analyze this categorized data and share collected insights with various branches of the organization. Most importantly, businesses must regularly assess, evaluate, and optimize their threat intelligence programs.
10. Unify the C-Suite
In the past, cybersecurity was solely in the domain of dedicated security and IT teams, and there was a disproportionate sharing of security responsibilities. Furthermore, members of the C-suite and boards of directors were sometimes only privy to bite-sized pieces of security information to understand cyber threats and mitigation efforts of other branches of the organization. Current-day cybersecurity requires a new model, one that prioritizes deep collaboration between CEOs, CIOs, CSOs, COOs, and other senior executives. Unifying the C-suite can strengthen a business's cybersecurity ecosystem. By doing so, all cybersecurity projects and strategies will feature diverse perspectives, priorities, resources, objectives, and capabilities.
It's important to remember that no pillar in an organization is free from cybersecurity threats today. Therefore, senior leadership must lead the way in cybersecurity democratization by sharing security responsibilities and contributing to the larger cause. A few direct benefits of this deep collaboration approach include cross-department threat visibility, optimized cybersecurity spending, context-based risk prioritization, rapid remediation of threats, quicker forensics after security incidents, and better communication protocols to share cybersecurity information. None of the aforementioned strategy tips, including zero-trust implementation, enhanced data protection, and threat intelligence programs, can succeed without the combined efforts of the C-suite.
Businesses are likely to face a horde of new cybersecurity threats in 2024. However, all is not bleak because a powerful cybersecurity strategy can defend companies from even the most dangerous cyber criminals. Some critical elements of a robust cybersecurity strategy include tackling AI security concerns, navigating the cybersecurity skills shortage, reducing shadow IT, securing remote workforces, implementing a zero-trust security architecture, enhancing data protection measures, strengthening the digital identity pillar, adopting proactive measures, developing threat intelligence programs, and uniting the C-suite.
The key to a strong cybersecurity posture is to ensure that none of those security measures mentioned above operate in isolation. They need to work in alliance with each other and abide by an enterprise's overarching and intricate business logic. Failure to weave these security measures together can result in data breaches and other catastrophes. Conversely, successfully implementing a cybersecurity strategy can mitigate all major security threats and pave the path for continued and accelerated digital success.
Categories: Security, cyber security, Network Security, proactive network security, Security Breach, Cloud Computing Security, managed security services, it security, Email Security, Digital Transformation, IT, Zero Trust