In the Yahoo e-mail hacking case unsealed this week, the U.S. Department of Justice alleges that two Russian intelligence agents hired a pair of hackers to break into at least 500 million Yahoo accounts in search of personal information and financial data such as gift card and credit card numbers. The men targeted the email accounts of Russian and U.S. government officials, Russian journalists and employees of numerous financial services and other private businesses, U.S. officials said.

 

It isn’t just e-mail or social media accounts at risk, however. As the number of “things” in the Internet of Things continues to grow rapidly, the need for cyber vigilance becomes increasingly apparent. Research firm Gartner expects there to be 8.4 billion connected “things” in use in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016. By 2020, this number could reach 20.4 billion, with smart TVs and digital set-top boxes being the most-used consumer devices while smart electric meters and commercial security cameras will be the most-used IoT devices for businesses.

 

Unfortunately, while such devices—as well as smartphones and other mobile devices—are convenient, they also are easy targets for hackers. For example, last fall, hackers seized control of webcams and digital video recorders and used them as an army of Internet “botnets” to launch denial-of-service attacks against popular websites such as Netflix and Twitter, forcing them offline for some users. What’s more, the Department of Homeland Security released a report last year describing cybersecurity risks with devices such as medical implants, surveillance cameras, home appliances and baby monitors.

 

Such cyber attacks may cause long-lasting damage to a company’s reputation or brand. Potential fallout includes restitution to customers and suppliers, and depending on the circumstances, increased regulatory scrutiny and financial penalties, not to mention declining sales and shareholder apprehension. Furthermore, there is the potential that the appearance of negligence, repeat attacks or unpredictable consequences from a cyber breach may erode customer loyalty.

 

To protect against cyber threats, some IT experts now encourage cybersecurity teams to take an active approach to cybersecurity, specifically by working to boost the company’s cyber resilience by improving its ability to deflect, minimize or successfully endure attacks. At a recent cybersecurity summit for business and government leaders held by CenturyLink, some speakers said that instead of passively sitting behind firewalls or depending on anti-virus suites for defense, a more active approach that emphasizes bouncing back from attacks, identifying points of weakness and making contingency plans is now expected.

 

“You need to think about things you can do proactively, not just to ensure good hygiene around cybersecurity, but also to predict and anticipate attacker activities,” Bill Bradley, CenturyLink senior vice president of cyber engineering and technical services, said at the summit.

 

A Security article this month notes that some companies have gone a step further and are creating a crisis management plan that includes forming a Cyber Resilience Team, led by a coordinator—such as a Director of Cybersecurity or a Chief Digital Officer—to oversee security operations and apprise the board of its related responsibilities. This team, made up of experienced security professionals, should be charged with thoroughly investigating each incident and ensuring that all relevant players communicate effectively. This, the article contends, is the only way a comprehensive and collaborative recovery plan can be implemented quickly.

 

To become cyber resilient and maintain competitive advantage and growth, Steve Durbin, Managing Director of the Information Security Forum and author of the article, recommends that businesses should:

  • Re-assess cyber risks to the organization and its information, operating on the assumption that the organization is a target and will be breached
  • Revise cybersecurity arrangements to implement a cyber resilience team and rehearse recovery plans
  • Focus on the people and technology
  • Become proactive about cyber security in every business initiative to minimize risk and brand damage

 

What are your thoughts on improving the organization’s cyber resilience? Has your company formed a Cyber Resilience Team?