Whether you’re an executive or practitioner, brimming with business acumen or tech savviness, your job is to preserve and grow your company’s brand. Brand equity relies heavily on customer trust, which can take years to build and only moments to demolish. 2018’s cyber threat landscape demonstrates this clearly; the delicate relationship between organizations and their customers is in hackers’ cross hairs and suffers during a successful cyberattack. Make no mistake: Leaders who undervalue customer trust–who do not secure an optimized customer experience or adequately safeguard sensitive data–will feel the sting in their balance sheet, brand reputation and even their job security.
Radware’s 2018-2019 Global Application and Network Security report builds upon a worldwide industry survey encompassing 790 business and security executives and professionals from different countries, industries and company sizes. It also features original Radware threat research, including an analysis of emerging trends in both defensive and offensive technologies. Here, I discuss key takeaways.
Repercussions of Compromising Customer Trust
Without question, cyberattacks are a viable threat to operating expenditures (OPEX). This past year alone, the average estimated cost of an attack grew by 52% and now exceeds $1 million (the number of estimations above $1 million increased 60%). For those organizations that formalized a real calculation process rather than merely estimate the cost, that number is even higher, averaging $1.67 million.
Despite these mounting costs, three in four have no formalized procedure to assess the business impact of a cyberattack against their organization. This becomes particularly troubling when you consider that most organizations have experienced some type of attack within the course of a year (only 7% of respondents claim not to have experienced an attack at all), with 21% reporting daily attacks, a significant rise from 13% last year.
There is quite a range in cost evaluation across different verticals. Those who report the highest damage are retail and high-tech, while education stands out with its extremely low financial impact estimation:
Repercussions can vary: 43% report a negative customer experience, 37% suffered brand reputation loss and one in four lost customers. The most common consequence was loss of productivity, reported by 54% of survey respondents. For small-to-medium sized businesses, the outcome can be particularly severe, as these organizations typically lack sufficient protection measures and know-how.
It would behoove all businesses, regardless of size, to consider the following:
- Direct costs: Extended labor, investigations, audits, software patches development, etc.
- Indirect costs: Crisis management, fines, customer compensation, legal expenses, share value
- Prevention: Emergency response and disaster recovery plans, hardening endpoints, servers and cloud workloads
Risk Exposure Grows with Multi-Dimensional Complexity
As the cost of cyberattacks grow, so does the complexity. Information networks today are amorphic. In public clouds, they undergo a constant metamorphose, where instances of software entities and components are created, run and disappear. We are marching towards the no-visibility era, and as complexity grows it will become harder for business executives to analyze potential risks.
The increase in complexity immediately translates to a larger attack surface, or in other words, a greater risk exposure. DevOps organizations benefit from advanced automation tools that set up environments in seconds, allocate necessary resources, provision and integrate with each other through REST APIs, providing a faster time to market for application services at a minimal human intervention. However, these tools are processing sensitive data and cannot defend themselves from attacks.
Protect your Customer Experience
The report found that the primary goal of cyber-attacks is service disruption, followed by data theft. Cyber criminals understand that service disruptions result in a negative customer experience, and to this end, they utilize a broad set of techniques. Common methods include bursts of high traffic volume, usage of encrypted traffic to overwhelm security solutions’ resource consumption, and crypto-jacking that reduces the productivity of servers and endpoints by enslaving their CPUs for the sake of mining cryptocurrencies. Indeed, 44% of organizations surveyed suffered either ransom attacks or crypto-mining by cyber criminals looking for easy profits.
What’s more, attack tools became more effective in the past year; the number of outages grew by 15% and more than half saw slowdowns in productivity. Application layer attacks—which cause the most harm—continue to be the preferred vector for DDoSers over the network layer. It naturally follows, then, that 34% view application vulnerabilities as the biggest threat in 2019.
Essential Protection Strategies
Businesses understand the seriousness of the changing threat landscape and are taking steps to protect their digital assets. However, some tasks – such as protecting a growing number of cloud workloads, or discerning a malicious bot from a legitimate one – require leveling the defense up. Security solutions must support and enable the business processes, and as such, should be dynamic, elastic and automated.
Analyzing the 2018 threat landscape, Radware recommends the following essential security solution capabilities:
- Machine Learning: As hackers leverage advanced tools, organizations must minimize false positive calls in order to optimize the customer experience. This can be achieved by machine-learning capabilities that analyze big data samples for maximum accuracy (nearly half of survey respondents point at security as the driver to explore machine-learning based technologies).
- Automation: When so many processes are automated, the protected objects constantly change, and attackers quickly change lanes trying different vectors every time. As such, a security solution must be able to immediately detect and mitigate a threat. Solutions based on machine learning should be able to auto tune security policies.
- Real Time Intelligence: Cyber delinquents can disguise themselves in many forms. Compromised devices sometimes make legitimate requests, while other times they are malicious. Machines coming behind CDN or NAT can not be blocked based on IP reputation and generally, static heuristics are becoming useless. Instead, actionable, accurate real time information can reveal malicious activity as it emerges and protect businesses and their customers – especially when relying on analysis and qualifications of events from multiple sources.
- Security Experts: Keep human supervision for the moments when the pain is real. Human intervention is required in advanced attacks or when the learning process requires tuning. Because not every organization can maintain the know-how in-house at all times, having an expert from a trusted partner or a security vendor on-call is a good idea.
It is critical for organizations to incorporate cybersecurity into their long-term growth plans. Securing digital assets can no longer be delegated solely to the IT department. Rather, security planning needs to be infused into new product and service offerings, security, development plans and new business initiatives. CEOs and executive teams must lead the way in setting the tone and invest in securing their customers’ experience and trust.