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Are we secure?

Are we secure?
There is a lot of talk of cybersecurity – from presidential debates to company boardrooms, it’s everywhere you go. Yet there is one question that few would know how to answer: “Are we secure?” It’s more than a simple “yes” or “no”. It’s an extremely long journey. At times the best you can hope for is to be prepared. And changing long-term habits to be more secure (or more prepared) can be a painful process.
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Are we secure?

Adam Philpott
Cisco
Director of Cyber Security, EMEAR

October 13, 2016
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Are we secure?

October is European Cyber Security Month, an annual campaign with the aim of raising awareness of cyber threats and helping change attitude towards cybersecurity. Learn more at cybersecuritymonth.eu or join the conversation on Twitter:  follow @CyberSecMonth and #CyberSecMonth

There is a lot of talk of cybersecurity – from presidential debates to company boardrooms, it’s everywhere you go. Yet there is one question that few would know how to answer: “Are we secure?” It’s more than a simple “yes” or “no”. It’s an extremely long journey. At times the best you can hope for is to be prepared. And changing long-term habits to be more secure (or more prepared) can be a painful process.

I am part of a generation that had to learn how to use a computer. When I was at school, research papers required visits to the library and reading through encyclopaedias. I have seen mobile devices that resembled bricks. I have seen new technology emerge and disappear (I’m thinking pagers here, admit it, you had one). Saying this makes me sound really old, but if you are over 30, you are part of this generation too. Even though I have been in the technology industry for many years and consider myself to be ‘tech-savvy’ it’s when I look at my kids that I get what it really means to be digital first.

Kids are learning to type before they can write, from age 2 they know how to use a tablet. Their reality is digital. So maybe, when my kids grow up, they will look at cyber safety as I look at safety in the ‘real world’, it’s barely even a consideration, just a way of life. You know, for example, that you need to watch your surroundings, not leave your belongings unattended or within easy reach and make sure that nobody is looking over your shoulder when you type your PIN at the cash point. But are you just as careful online? For our kids, there is no boundary between ‘cyber’ and ‘real’: Cyber is real. Unfortunately, our generation still tends to treat these as two separate worlds. We need to learn to see the world through the eyes of our kids. And the time to do that is now.

Digital services, such as online healthcare, e-Government, and collaboration are already commonplace in our daily lives. Digital devices are found in all areas. Today, connected devices are generating almost 300 times more data than the number of people connected to the Internet. We connect 30 million new devices every single week. That’s more than 4 million new devices per day. This isn’t the future… it’s here and now.

What does that look like from a cyber threat standpoint? How do the services using these sensors ensure their resiliency and data protection requirements? The data, devices, and services must be managed and secured.

At Cisco alone, we have nearly 200,000 networks that we protect every single day. We block more than 20 billion individual malware, spyware and virus attacks per day. To give you an idea, that’s almost three times as many people as there are on the planet. It’s greater than the total number of daily Google searches. And that’s just us and our customers. Think about how big the threat landscape is and how huge it is going to be when we get to the 50 billion connected devices mark (which we predict will be in 2020).

So, back to the billion-dollar question: how can we ever be secure? There are plenty of things we can change today to create a more secure future. Cybersecurity must be at the heart of the network. It should be a simple and effective system, rather than a patchwork of security products. It must be natural, just like it is to lock your doors at home.

Organisations need to be ready to adapt and evolve. After all, digital transformation has only just begun. Cybersecurity must be scalable, to cope with the increasing volume of connections. And one of the ways to make it scalable is by automating processes. Automation improves efficiency as it helps reduce the time it takes to respond to a threat. It frees up people’s time to focus on more critical tasks. Organisations should also look into cybersecurity solutions that can think critically by analysing data and intelligence and that can learn from previous experiences to continuously improve their responses.  

Many organisations still see cybersecurity as a burden, a cost, or something that slows down their networks. But there can’t be a sustainable connected future without cybersecurity. Organisations that realise the fact earlier are the ones that will truly seize the opportunities that lie in a truly connected world. The ones that join this revolution too late may become obsolete, just like pagers.

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