Happy Birthday Cybersecurity Awareness Month! – Celebrating 20 Years of Security Evolution

In 2004, the digital landscape would be almost unrecognisable compared to the technologies we enjoy now. With this month marking the 20th anniversary of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, our attention is drawn to how both technology and cybersecurity measures have evolved over the past two decades.

As Hugh Scantlebury, CEO and Founder of Aqilla, points out, “the introduction of cloud computing and its huge growth over the past decade has changed how many organisations operate, store their data and, therefore, their cybersecurity needs.”

This change, coupled with the adoption of AI, has made the threat landscape almost completely unrecognisable compared to 20 years ago, as Scantlebury continues: “The boom of AI, specifically generative AI, over the past few months has added a whole new level of complexity to cybersecurity by giving cybercriminals a new tool to execute attacks. AI provides the potential for bad actors to launch sophisticated attacks at previously unprecedented speed and volumes – those that once would have required hundreds of people to launch can be done by one man.”

So, with this in mind, where are we in the fight against bad actors? We’ve spoken to industry experts to find out more.

Gone phishing…for a long time now

Though technology may have changed dramatically in the past few years, as Gal Helemski, Co-founder and CTO of PlainID notes, “phishing remains the most common form of cybercrime, with an estimated 3.4 billion spam emails sent every day. All it takes is one click on a malicious URL by an unsuspecting employee and an organisation may find its security infrastructure is compromised.”

She explains why this can be so damaging and how organisations can counteract this risk, stating: “At this point, identity becomes everything. This is especially important if the employee in question has administrative credentials, as the cybercriminal now has the keys to your kingdom. What’s needed is for organisations to adopt a “Zero Trust” approach. This means trusting no one, not even pre-authenticated users, to begin with – and revalidating the identity for access at every stage, based on context.”

Protecting portals and VPNs effectively

Though zero-trust approaches are an essential element of cyber security measures, organisations also need to look beyond protecting credentials and consider the vulnerabilities of the login portals themselves, as Andy Swift, Cyber Security Assurance Technical Director at Six Degrees warns. “The evidence we see in the field is that, while most organisations are getting better at securing access to the likes of Microsoft 365 with multi-factor authentication and other best practice methods becoming better understood, VPNs and their HTTP/s web portals are often not granted the same care and attention,” he explains.

As such, he recommends paying the same attention to VPNs and HTTP web portals as you do to other internal access methods, as “securing Microsoft 365 but leaving your VPNs without adequate protections in place is like locking your front door while leaving your windows wide open.”

You’re only as strong as your weakest link

Whilst cyber threats can come from a number of different vulnerabilities, one of the best ways to prevent them from wreaking havoc on an organisation is by bolstering the security provided through its people.

Chris Denbigh-White, Chief Security Officer for Next DLP, argues: “Educating employees at the point of risk is a powerful strategy to help build knowledge and awareness to identify and act on cyber threats effectively. From simulated phishing exercises and role-based training, creating a human firewall can fortify an organisation’s defence without falling into the trap of scapegoating users.”

However, as Andy Bates, Practice Director – Security at Node4, highlights, “When it comes to security awareness, organisations are faced with an impossible task – engaging employees and gaining their cooperation through training on a topic that is often dry and technical.”

He suggests that organisations should focus on fostering a culture of security awareness in order to properly engage employees: “Rather than relying on hypothetical and unrelatable examples, red team testing brings the threat to life. Not only can it answer the key question, “how will your organisation be hacked?” but it also provides relatable examples for user awareness training sessions that highlight how cyber-attacks are likely to impact them individually.”

Additionally, he implores organisations to “take advantage of initiatives like Cyber Security Awareness Month and create an event within your organisation to foster long-term security engagement. Coffee mornings or lunch ‘n’ learns are a great opportunity for the security function to showcase the support available to employees and offer up practical tips that are real and relevant to the individual both at work and in their personal lives.”

Leveraging people and technology, the best of both worlds

Though employees are often the first line of defence when it comes to cybersecurity, it can never hurt to have the latest technology on your side.

Next DLP’s Denbigh-White emphasises, “CISOs need the right advanced security technologies – including threat detection, behaviour analytics and data loss prevention – to enhance their organisation’s security posture. This combination or organisational buy-in and employee empowerment, coupled with the investment in technology, has to be a backbone of any successful cybersecurity programme.”

Moreover, organisations should ensure that they are ready for whatever cybersecurity challenges may come their way. Ian Wood, Senior Director – Sales Engineering UK&I at Commvault, agrees: “Having a more holistic and proactive approach to cybersecurity is the only way to ensure safety online. It is time to take the blinkers off and see more than just the reactive measures – we need to start thinking in a preventative way. Why take an aspirin for a painful headache when hydration and a good night’s sleep could have saved you the pain in the first place?”

He explains that one of the best ways to look after your systems is to “modernise your data protection solutions for a more cohesive approach, that combines data protection and security into one entity.”

As Brett Candon, VP EMEA at Cyware, puts it, “the combination of a skills gap, a tsunami of security alerts from an overwhelming number of disconnected tools, and the never-ending assaults from cybercriminals are creating a perfect cybersecurity storm for businesses the world over.”

Candon expresses a need for a unified approach to cybersecurity in order to tackle such a challenge, explaining that there must be “a pooling of resources – or an organisation or industry-wide, connected team of people. It cannot be done by individuals or isolated teams”

Ultimately, teamwork really is needed in order to make the dream work. Candon concludes, “adopting a proactive and unified approach that bridges the gap between multiple teams through combined intelligence and team collaboration is the only way forward.”

Image by pikisuperstar on Freepik


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