As we begin a new year, CIOs and CISOs across the region are preparing their strategies and identifying new technology trends, particularly when it comes to securing their networks. Perry Hutton, VP – Africa, Fortinet, talks us through what he believes should be the top IT priorities for the C-suite this year, as well as the key cybersecurity learnings from the last year.
What are the key cybersecurity learnings that we can take from the last year, particularly in your region?
The pandemic caused remote working to shift from being the exception to the norm in many workplaces. We need to understand and accept that working from home comes with massively increased cybersecurity risks, such as malware infection, unauthorised access and insecure devices. Hackers and online scammers are taking advantage of these risks and cybercrimes are accelerating at the same sort of proportions as COVID was at its peak.
Enterprises, governments, and any other organisations for that matter, have had to take steps to address the gaps in digital trust and security. We’ve also seen that inclusion, accessibility and the digital divide are issues which will be heightened in a post-COVID-19 scenario. This is because the negative impact of the pandemic will fall heavily on the vulnerable populations.
In the new COVID normal world, there’s going to be pressing reasons to accelerate connectivity and digital skills for some three-to-four million people who remain totally offline, and many of these are right here in Africa.
So, there is also a more urgent need for universal service strategies and policies to combat new forms of the digital divide.
What are the top priorities you think CIOs or CISOs should be tackling this year?
Almost all IT professionals who we speak to believe that the risk of data breaches is far higher for remote workers and we don’t disagree.
This means that CISOs need to ensure they have automated protection, detection and response capabilities incorporated into their toolkits to address the risks associated with this new operating paradigm.
They’ll need to be more concerned with visibility and control within their infrastructures, including endpoints, mitigating insider threats and ensuring secure access to applications and data, regardless of whether it is on-prem or in the cloud.
We also need to consider that SD-WAN starts to play a big part in this because it goes beyond being a branch-like solution. Organisations need to adopt a Zero Trust approach to network access so they can see and control all devices and users across their entire network.
And with this proactive protection, they can ensure that their networks are secure from the latest threats. Then, to address the influx of network logs and events that go with all of this technology, they need to leverage AI-based security operations to include event correlation with SIEM and automated orchestration and response with SOAR capabilities.
How important is the security of OT networks and how can CISOs factor this into their overall security strategy?
We see OT security as such a serious concern that, from a Fortinet point of view, it is one of our core pillars of business.
The security of OT [CDS1] [CDS2] networks is a growing concern as it involves the world’s largest factories, utilities, healthcare, public transportation and energy facilities, all of which have seen massive transformation over the last couple of years.
Previously, there was a physical barrier or a ‘gap’ between OT systems and IT systems but ever since the notorious Stuxnet attack in 2010, OT networks have increasingly been under attack. We see large-scale malware, phishing, ransomware and Denial of Service attacks, as well as insider breaches.
We’ve seen OT cyberattacks target national electricity grids, darkening the homes of hundreds of thousands. We’ve seen targeted attacks against public waterworks and so on, so it’s not something that can be ignored.
We use many playbook technologies to provide an effective security stack in the OT [p3] [p4] space, but we also use some more specific technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence and deception. These allow us to take care of issues in the OT environments like providing early post breach detection, reducing dwell time of a network breach, reducing false positives. And then of course, one of the most important things is full automation.
How would you suggest that organisations can ensure that security is at the heart of their Digital Transformation strategy?
We’ve definitely seen a major increase in efforts to fast-track Digital Transformation plans as a result of the pandemic. And as fast as companies are trying to build systems to facilitate Digital Transformation, criminals are devising methods to infiltrate organisations. This forces security right to the top of the priority list.
This is important for organisations to create a security-driven networking strategy from the ground up that automatically expands into any new networking environment, application strategy, or device deployment. Saving security matters until after the network has been developed only increases the odds of new security gaps being introduced and a resulting cyberattack. To prevent this from happening and to create a security-driven network, organisations should follow these seven best practices to better secure their Digital Transformation efforts: prioritising cloud security; use Zero Trust access protocols; stay up-to-date on privacy laws; monitoring web presence; securing apps; strengthening wireless connections; extending security to remote locations.
Digital Transformation is a business-critical priority, but if cybersecurity is not rolled in from day one, organisations will leave themselves, their employees and their customers open to serious cyber-risk. Starting with security, rather than leaving it as an afterthought, is how organisations can harness the digital era the smart, safe and secure way.
How can CISOs effectively communicate with the wider C-suite?
My first suggestion is always ‘ignore the data at your own peril’.
Quite simply, no organisational function can reside in its own silo and succeed today. Significant synergies and opportunities need to exist.
CISOs need to be current, proactive and, most importantly, never shy away from sharing bad news.
Are there any technology trends you expect to see this year that regional organisations should be factoring into their cybersecurity strategies?
I think going into 2021 and beyond, we face another significant shift with the rise of new intelligent edges. And this is about more than just end-users and devices remotely connecting to the network.
FortiGuard Labs have put together a set of predictions estimating the strategies that we anticipate cybercriminals will leverage in the coming year and beyond.
It includes, but is not limited to, predictions and insights on intelligent Edge Computing, 5G-enabled devices and advances in computing power, as well as the new wave of advanced threats that will undoubtedly arise as a result.Click below to share this article