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Thursday, 28 October 2021 11:09

Can we litigate our way to better cybersecurity?

By Senetas CEO and Votiro Director Andrew Wilson

GUEST OPINION: What does it take to make company executives proactively take charge of their own cybersecurity? Clearly, watching company after company get breached isn’t quite cutting it.

With the average cost of a data breach in 2020 sitting at $3.86 million taking a reactive approach is an expensive lesson, and while a financial hit can be weathered, rebuilding trust with your customers can not be fixed overnight.

Take the recent attacks on American businesses by cyber gang REvil. REvil’s successful supply chain attack was effective because many organisations operate on a trust model and rely upon the security of their suppliers to protect their systems. To put it more simply: the hope everyone does the right thing strategy. It is hard to imagine that cybersecurity was a top priority for any of the executives at these companies.

The Department of Home Affairs has been looking at cybersecurity as an incentive problem; its recent Home Affairs Cybersec Regulations call for papers has brought an age-old question in cybersecurity to the forefront - can litigation lead to better mitigation?

Can't we just regulate?

Current regulation has not produced the cybersecurity kickstart that many had hoped for. Since the introduction of tougher financial penalties with the GDPR in 2018 very little has been done to seriously reform the digital realm. While the GDPR still sets the standard for global cybersecurity regulations, other developed nations are introducing stricter national data protection policies. In the US, the Biden administration has issued an executive order and is moving towards a rare national standard for cybersecurity regulation. However, these developments are merely a blueprint and have yet to majorly affect cybersecurity standards.

The argument for litigation

Many of the most successful malware attacks leverage undisclosed, signatureless or zero-day exploits as the point of ingress. Even in these scenarios, it is still possible to protect your data. As an industry, we have learned from our mistakes and built solutions that will help mitigate the damage done even when breached. Our encryption and proactive anti-malware service such as Votiro are home-grown examples of the security on offer to businesses. Zero Trust is a global movement that assumes breach so that companies can keep customer data secure even if the worst does happen.

The problem - adoption of these technologies is just too slow. Whilst a third of enterprise-scale organisations claim to make widespread use of encryption technology, just 9% believe they have an effective cybersecurity strategy in place that will provide long-term data protection. Encrypted data is a potent last line of defence that renders any truly valuable or sensitive information useless to a ransomware attacker.

For anti-malware to be effective it needs to be proactive, not signature dependent, and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to file sanitization. We already have solutions and we’ve seen the costs of cyber attacks - litigation just might be the missing piece of the puzzle that will spur proactive cybersecurity investment.

For so many industries, it is the threat of litigation that ensures best practice and maintains standards. Perhaps cybersecurity should join them. Cybersecurity is esoteric to executives, but litigation is a well-understood motivator.

If negligence is proven, it could break the cycle of apathy and re-set the rules of engagement. We’ll be watching the result of citizen-led litigation such as the class action suit launched on behalf of motorist Ramon Dickerson against the Colonial pipeline very closely. It may be the stick we need to finally see proactive security technology become a priority and ultimately get implemented.

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