As we enter 2024, it is a good time to reflect on the cybersecurity landscape of the past year. The insights gained from the preceeding 12 months can guide us in charting a course to mitigate the risk of falling victim to data breaches in the upcoming year. In 2023, ransomware attacks, exemplified by incidents like LockBit 3.0, ESXiArgs, and industrial organization attacks, maintained their status as the top cyber threats, becoming the leading cause of cyber insurance claims. In addition, zero-day vulnerabilities in supply chains (e.g., MOVEit, Barracuda Email Security Gateway Appliances, Trend Micro Apex One, Cisco IOS XE) along with third-party cloud threats (e.g., Microsoft Cloud email breach), posed new challenges. Given the scale and sophistication of these attacks, organizations must reassess their cybersecurity strategies to curb their exposure to cyber threats in 2024.
According to Gartner, worldwide information security and risk management end user spending is projected to reach $212 billion in 2024, marking a 14% increase from the 2023 expenditure of $186 billion. However, the continuous rise in security incidents raises concerns about the effectiveness of these investments. A post-mortem analysis of data breaches in 2023 reveals that many of these significant breaches can be attributed to a longstanding failure to implement basic cybersecurity measures, such as multi-factor authentication, misuse of existing security tools for addressing known vulnerabilities, and a lack of security measures to protect sensitive data.
Rather than allocating security investments to fortify traditional perimeter defenses, which can be a losing battle, organizations need to refocus on the essentials of cybersecurity. By doing so, they can enhance their security posture and minimize exposure to data breaches. Concentrating on the following three areas will yield great return on security investments in 2024
Data stands as the primary target for attackers, making its protection crucial in preventing network breaches. Unfortunately, data is often left unsecured, as evidenced by numerous instances of “data breach and unencrypted data” in a quick web search. To ensure data integrity, organizations should classify data into categories reflecting the business need to protect them, such as “public”, “internal use”, “confidential”, and “top secret”. While manual efforts often impede data classification, modern cyber risk management systems with dynamic grouping capabilities can automate the realignment of data classifications.
The classification will dictate which data should be encrypted, especially personal identifiable information (PII). Recent innovations in encryption technology have overcome previous performance and deployment obstacles. Organizations should prioritize developing well-documented encryption policies to protect sensitive data wherever it resides and however it is transmitted.
Access control is often the weak link in cybersecurity programs, requiring practitioners to balance data availability with measures preventing unauthorized usage. Hackers frequently target privileged users, as their accounts offer a gateway to the entire network. Therefore, strict enforcement of well-defined access control policies and continuous monitoring of access paths are vital for the success of data integrity initiatives.
Adopting a Zero Trust model, operationalizing the “never trust, always verify” principle, should be part of a modern identity management approach. In this model, there is no default trust for any entity, including users, devices, applications, and packets.
Effective prioritization of vulnerabilities and incidents is crucial for staying ahead of attackers. While security monitoring generates significant data, its raw form remains only a means to an end. Information security decision-making should be based on prioritized, actionable insights derived from correlating internal security data with business criticality and external threat intelligence. Without a risk-based approach, organizations are in danger of allocating valuable IT resources to mitigate vulnerabilities that pose little or no threat to the business.
Achieving 100 percent protection in cybersecurity is unattainable. However, by supplementing traditional perimeter defense mechanisms with principles of data integrity, identity management, and risk-based prioritization, organizations can significantly reduce their exposure to data breaches in 2024.