Blog · 17 Jan 2019

How to address risk and master security in 2019

Explore what’s on the security horizon in 2019 and how you can best prepare for what awaits.

Hila Meller,
Vice-President, Security for the Americas, Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa

As threats to your security change and grow by the day, it’s vital you go into the new year with a clear idea of how you’re going to protect your organisation.

As I explained in my recent webinar, to do that, you first have to understand the security environment you’re operating in.

A fast-moving landscape

There are some exciting technological developments transforming the security landscape right now: Artificial Intelligence has huge potential for both cyber attack and defence; Quantum Key Distribution is poised to secure future Quantum networks; and software defined networks are revolutionising how core operations are delivered. But this is making the security environment much more complex. In just a year, here at BT we’ve seen a 57 per cent increase in the number of cyber attacks and handled 85,000 DDoS attacks. Every month we defend against 125,000 cyber attacks, 50 million malicious emails, and 2,000 unique malicious attachments. And with an estimated 20 billion connected devices joining the world’s networks by 2020, the threat vectors are set to increase exponentially.

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Changing coconuts into avocados

In order to keep pace with — or even outpace — these threats your security approach will need to be agile and proactive, and that requires a shift of mindset. We need to recognise that perimeters are changing. I talk about moving from a coconut concept to an avocado one. Where we used to have a hard perimeter that was easy to identify (the coconut), we now face more hazy borders (the avocado) thanks to more mobility, the Internet of Things and cloud. Our security stance needs to adapt accordingly, shifting away from reactivity towards proactivity. In this context you need to understand three fundamental things: the needs and goals of your organisation; the greatest risks to those needs and goals; and exactly what you are trying to protect. Only then can you put effective security plans in place.

Share intelligence to succeed

Robust security in 2019 will depend on how skilfully you combine the threat intelligence available to you. Until recently, organisations would never talk about security and wouldn’t share insights into attacks, threats or incidents. That’s changing. We believe the sharing of intelligence is vital to improve our collective defence, and are in favour of creating trusted communities with which to share information. By sharing intelligence, organisations can mitigate risks faster, meaning the success rate of criminals drops. In 2019 we need to make an important transition from a ‘need to know’ stance to one of ‘dare to share’ and, hopefully, we can then move on to a ‘need to share’ environment.

Here at BT, to defend ourselves and our customers, we’re committed to forging partnerships to combine intelligence from multiple sources. We believe this is vital as cyber threats now go beyond our borders, and it makes perfect sense to work with organisations that have the same adversaries as us so that, together, we can be more powerful against cyber crime. We’re building a collaborative ecosystem that includes our  partners and other vendors, as well as government and international security organisations. From MIT and the National Cyber Security Centre, to Europol and the National Crime Agency we’re working to anticipate trends and patterns that can filter down into stronger day-to-day security. We’re also proud to be the first telco in the world to collaborate with Interpol.

Predicting the security landscape in 2019

Drawing on all this, what can we expect in 2019? Well security is definitely going to become more challenging over the year as adversaries become smarter and tools become more available, expanding the opportunities for traditional criminals to commit their activity in cyber space. I expect a growth in demand for hacking tools off the back of this, although there will be a shift in activity at the more sophisticated end of the scale. Detecting these people will become more difficult because they’re moving into using legitimate tools and finding loopholes in those to get into networks.

Data will remain a priceless asset and key target for criminals. I anticipate a lot more extortion using ransomware where companies will face the unenviable choice of buying back their data or paying huge fines for breaching GDPR. I also expect an increase in supply chain attacks as criminals are pushed to attacking an organisation’s ecosystem in order to access sensitive information. Overall, however, the battle will continue as it does today — cyber criminals attempt to overcome the security mechanisms we put in place and we fight to defeat them.

Take action now

Why not improve your security right now by signing up to our daily security headlines alerts?

We include the key stories that our security analysts are gathering, our evaluation of what’s going on, as well as updates on the nature of the threats we face, and the range of potential attack strategies. You may also like to watch my colleague’s webinar on how to make security integral to your business, further covering the new security challenges that are emerging.