Why the evolution of cyber security calls for a more measured approach to comms

If industry events are anything to go by when defining the future of cyber security, it’s a sobering experience attending them today. The cyber security event scene is as buoyant as ever: the market is expected to grow in value to $345bn by 2026.

As a consequence, it has big implications for comms professionals whose job it is not only to adapt to new trends but to also anticipate and lead new strategies. In an industry that is moving at breakneck speed and where the adversary increasingly has the upper hand, it’s time to reflect about how we bring attention to the issues that matter now, what happens in the near future and the next big thing that we need to start preparing for.

I recently ventured into the world of hybrid events – which is increasingly becoming the norm in a post-COVID world. I attended two of the big cyber security conferences: the virtual L&P’s Powering Cyber Security Innovation event during London Tech Week and the in-person International Cyber Expo at the bastion of all event hubs, London’s Olympia.

The impact of the pandemic

One of the big focuses at Powering Cyber Security Innovation was, unsurprisingly, the impact of the pandemic – with challenges such as security teams losing visibility of office networks and employees moving to unsupervised wi-fi networks. 

IBM’s global survey paints a sobering picture for anyone working in cybercrime prevention: data breaches reached a record high during the pandemic, costing companies $4.24 million per incident on average – the highest in 17 years.  

Critical infrastructure and nation states 

The International Cyber Expo was particularly intriguing from one aspect: the overwhelming number of vendors either specialising in the detection of weapons and explosive liquids, or protecting critical national infrastructure such as transport systems, energy grids and financial systems. 

Sadly, there is a need for systems like these in light of numerous recent events and findings such as the Australian Cyber Security Centre report revealing that a quarter of cyber incidents in Australia over the past year have targeted critical infrastructure and essential services. The fact that US authorities are offering $10 million for information on nation-state cyber-attacks is another sign of the urgency to fix the problem.

This is the world we are living in: a world under threat where we are fighting increasingly skilled adversaries who infiltrate corporate networks and attack the very fabric of industry and society.

How do we defend ourselves and where do we start?

Ciaran Martin, professor of cyber security at Oxford and former head of cyber security at GCHQ gave a glimmer of hope at the International Cyber Expo. He referenced five core areas for government and private organisations to focus on when fighting cyber crime:

  • People – cyber security teams have to make it easy for people to use products and services, password policies being a good example. 
  • Money – the importance of incentives to encourage the flow of capital to help key cyber security industries grow. 
  • Skills – the need for a mixture of talent, combining elite skills such as ethical hacking with general digital skills. The two go hand-in-hand to ensure the best protection.
  • Rules – ensuring effective regulation and policies around key areas such as IoT. 
  • Tech – focusing on solutions that effectively solve the most urgent problems.

What next – and what does this mean for comms professionals?

What’s the learning from this then? In the face of everything moving at breakneck speed – ‘an acceleration of everything’ brought on by COVID – as we are adapting to a new reality, maybe we need to pause so we don’t miss the critical detail right in front of us. We have a tendency to obsess about tomorrow at the expense of the priorities of today. 

This is where the critical role of communications comes in. Without informing, people won’t know. 

An open letter calling for more effective legislation, a report into the current cybersecurity skills crisis, or bringing together the key voices that can impact the cyber security funding market can all make a difference. 

Comms professionals have the ability to get people to focus on the urgent issues. In the cyber security space, that matters more than ever before.

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Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske via Unsplash. 

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