Everyone “knows” about cybersecurity. But what do most people really know about cybersecurity? Walk into any meeting in any office in the world and you’re bound to hear three little words:
“The fact is…”
Those three words can be followed by anything: an opinion, a theory, a wild guess, or (if we’re lucky) an actual fact. Cybersecurity is a hot button topic in many organizations, but because the industry is still in its infancy, there’s a lot of misinformation being spread. That inevitably leads to people taking some pretty dubious information as fact. It’s already hard enough for organizations to make cybersecurity a piece of their enterprise strategy or leverage it as a competitive advantage – the last thing any business needs is to adopt misinformation or myth as part of its security program.
Not to step on Snopes’ toes here, but we decided to do a little fact-checking on some of the most common “facts” about cybersecurity that people believe. See below for just some of what we found.
1. This can be solved with more technology.
We understand where this line of thinking originates. People associate cybersecurity with computers, so there must be a technical solution available, and therefore the IT team should be handling cybersecurity. While, yes, there are technical fixes to be made, the reality of cybersecurity is that it is not an “IT issue.” It is a business problem. Cybersecurity is not about technology. It’s about people.
Do you know what percentage of cybersecurity attacks have a human element related to them? We won’t make you guess – it’s 100%. All cybersecurity attacks have a “people problem,” whether it’s misconfigured firewalls and endpoint security, someone clicking on a link in a phishing email, an employee letting someone into the building, or someone giving out credentials over the phone. It all boils down to the human element.
When you get locked into a “technology only” mindset, you miss out on opportunities for including cybersecurity in other parts of the business, such as vendor management and policy development. Remember, it’s not just something for IT to worry about. Cybersecurity is a business problem and a business risk with a human element behind it.
2. There’s a magic number for spending.
A lot of organizations ask, “How much should we be spending on cybersecurity?” The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Instead of trying to find the “right” number, think of the problem backward. If you’re not spending anything on cybersecurity today and were to experience a negative outcome (such as a security incident or losing out on a lucrative contract), what would the cost be to your business? Now think about the most likely scenarios your organization could experience. What would be the cost of resilience? From a monetary perspective, what would it be worth to your organization on an annual basis to try to avoid some of these negative costs and impacts?
Businesses are like snowflakes – each one is different. Every organization will have its own risk tolerance, competitive pressure, and board. Instead of worrying about a “magic” number for cybersecurity spending, figure out what you can realistically afford and what would put you in a defensible position. Can you do it on your own? Or, as is the case for many organizations, do you need a strategic partner to help you accomplish these business objectives?
3. All you need is a good password and an antivirus.
You’ve made your staff use a unique 16-character password with numbers, capital letters, and special characters. Secure, right? Well, not quite. Let’s not even mention the fact that at least one person in your office right now definitely has their password written on a Post-It note stuck onto their computer monitor in full view of everyone who walks by. Even if a hacker couldn’t crack such a password, they could still get it another way – social engineering, phishing, malware, etc. Also, it’s a good bet that at least one employee is using the same password across multiple accounts, websites, and software. A third-party breach could expose that password and put your systems at risk.
“A-ha,” you might say, “but we’ve invested a lot of money in antivirus.” While a good antivirus is a foundational step, it’s not the be-all and end-all solution. Antivirus software is not infallible. Malicious actors are creating new malware and viruses every day, ones that your current antivirus software doesn’t know anything about and can’t protect you from. Cybersecurity needs to be multi-layered.
4. Cybersecurity is always expensive.
Cybersecurity can indeed be costly (and thanks to the cybersecurity skills shortage it can be nearly impossible for many businesses to build and maintain a team on their own), but not every effort to protect your data requires a large financial investment. For example, creating a culture of security within your organization will take hard work, but it is a relatively low-cost way to build a solid foundation for your cybersecurity program.
5. Hackers are your biggest threat.
You’ve seen the stock photos. You know what your biggest cybersecurity threat looks like. It’s a man in a hoodie hunched over a computer, pressing a button that says “steal all data” or “upload virus,” right? No, not quite. And it’s also not a teenager in his mom’s basement and it’s not a Russian man that looks like Ivan Drago from the “Rocky” movies but with a laptop. Yes, these threats exist, but cybersecurity threats are not just external. To paraphrase a line from a horror movie: it’s coming from inside the office.
It’s time to take a long, hard look at your internal policies and your own staff. Do your policies and procedures need to be updated? Does your staff need to be educated on cybersecurity best practices? How many of your employees can recognize a phishing attempt or other cyberthreats? Insider threats, whether malicious insiders or simple ignorance, are just as much of a risk to your business as external ones, if not more so.
6. Compliance with regulations means an organization is secure.
We hear two questions a lot: “Won’t this compliance regulation make me more secure?” and “Compliance and security are the same thing, aren’t they?”
This line of thinking is often driven by areas of the business that see certifications as hurdles to progress. They view security as a hindrance to business growth and thus would prefer to apply a “Band-Aid” of compliance to ensure their security moving forward. But the real core of security is managing risk. The differences between compliance and security can be complex, but security is 100% focused on the risk that the information you hold poses to your business. Your organization has information that people want, whether that’s customer data, financial records, health information, or intellectual property. (Or, in the case of ransomware, you have any data that people want to block your access to.)
Think about information security in this way: what do you need to cover, and where you should focus your efforts. The best strategy is for security and compliance to work together. When you earn a certification, make sure that your business can adapt to it and that it works functionally in all areas of the business. This is another reason to build security into the overall culture of your organization.
7. Only large companies like Sony, Target, Google, and Facebook are at risk.
Many small-to-medium businesses like to believe that they are “too small” to be targeted by cybercriminals, or that they don’t have any data that would be of interest to hackers. This just simply isn’t true. It’s economics – cyberattackers look for low-hanging fruit. They seek out targets that will require the least amount of money, time, and effort to exploit… and they know that a large number of SMBs don’t invest in cybersecurity. You measure your ROI, don’t you? Hackers do the same.
And sometimes it isn’t just SMBs that fall prey to this line of thinking. Even enterprise-level organizations believe that hackers are going to go after the “bigger guy.” After all, why spend time hacking Company A when there’s a Google or Facebook? Because they want your money. Malicious attackers will always exist, and they’ll target businesses of all sizes because they can turn a profit doing it.
And what happens when your business is targeted? A corporation like Target, for example, can survive a security incident thanks in part to its sheer size and national or global presence. Does your business have the same cachet? Customers today are willing to walk away from businesses that they don’t trust with their data. Could your business survive that?
Now you know the facts – the real facts. Hopefully this will change the way your organization thinks about some areas of cybersecurity.