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Article Contributed by Andrew Heikkila

As 2017 comes to an end and 2018 begins, our world can be sure of one thing: cybersecurity is a serious issue. The last couple of years have proven that our connected world is in peril, and that almost nothing is secure anymore. Attacks on governments, business organizations, and private individuals have reached historic levels and they’re only going to increase in volume and severity.

Businesses in 2018 and beyond are always going to be in the crosshairs of cyber criminals because data nowadays has become just as valuable as money. Entrepreneurs need to be aware of the risks that they are taking simply by operating in the digital age, as well as how to best mitigate said risk.

Ransomware Woes

Ransomware has become a thorn in the side of many businesses around the world. After the WannaCry virus infected over 220,000 computers in May 2017, it became apparent that everybody — business, government, and private citizen alike — is at risk of being held digitally hostage.

One of the big problems is that ransomware has become a hot commodity on the dark web, selling for cheap and designed specifically to be easy for criminals to deploy. Cybersecurity professionals are calling this Malware as a Service (MaaS). The rise of this model means that, while before you had to be computer literate to try your hand at cybercrime, nowadays, any Joe Schmoe with a computer and internet connection can pop on to the dark web, purchase a ransomware program, and run wild.

The Skill Gap Widens

Unfortunately, at the same time that cybercrime becomes easier to commit, finding professionals to protect against that crime becomes much more difficult. Maryville University reports via its online cybersec resources section that businesses are indeed seeing cyber security staff shortages. They write:

“A deficiency in the number of dedicated professionals trained and experienced in preventing some cyberattacks and mitigating the damage from those they can’t prevent stands out as a major factor behind the various cybersecurity problems that companies all over the world currently face.”

Jeff Kauflin, writing for Forbes, points out that there will be a predicted global shortage of two million cyber security professionals by 2019.

“Every year in the U.S., 40,000 jobs for information security analysts go unfilled, and employers are struggling to fill 200,000 other cyber-security related roles, according to cyber security data tool CyberSeek,” he writes. “And for every ten cyber security job ads that appear on careers site Indeed, only seven people even click on one of the ads, let alone apply.”

AI on the Rise

The cybersec skills shortage would seem damning in a world as dependant on connected technology as ours is. Fortunately, it seems that we may be able to use that same connected technology, in conjunction with AI, to protect ourselves adequately. You see, AI is no longer a science fiction term — machine learning is a real technique that’s being developed and sharpened to help humans accomplish extraordinary achievements in Big Data and analytics alike.

“In a cybersecurity context, AI is software that perceives its environment well enough to identify events and take action against a predefined purpose,” writes Marla Korolov for CSO Online. “AI is particularly good at recognizing patterns and anomalies within them, which makes it an excellent tool to detect threats.”

The use of AI represents a shift away from the “fortress mentality” of keeping intruders out and responding to breaches in the past tense, and instead toward the “immune system” mentality whereby intruders are detected in real time. Though still emerging, AI’s success in recognizing attacks represents the future of cybersecurity.

Prevention Planning, Cyber Insurance is a Necessity

At this point in time, the best way to deal with the prolific rise in cybercrime around the world is to prepare as if you and your business would be hit tomorrow. To protect against ransomware, for example, you’ll want to make sure that you’re backing up your essential data regularly so that if you do get hit, you’ll have a recent image to revert to. Protecting against identity theft and other data breaches means following a process that includes creating a document management plan and electronic document management system, as well as a disaster recovery plan. Record Nations has an extensive guide on those processes here.

Additionally, cyber insurance can be a good idea for those who want to protect themselves against the damages that cyberattacks cause. This can be a fantastic idea for small businesses, which oftentimes may not have the funds to adequately bounce back from a major breach.

The biggest thing to remember is that prevention and preparation are the only ways you can protect yourself. Businesses can’t predict if they’ll be hit or not. Knowing this, they should operate not with “if” in mind, but with “when” in mind. By preparing for what seems to be the inevitable, businesses will be protecting both themselves and customer data the best way that they can.

To sum it all up…

Entrepreneurs in 2018 need to understand that cybersecurity is a major issue. Strains of malware such as ransomware are easy to come by and deploy, while qualified professionals to defend against breaches are more difficult to come by. In lieu of these professionals, AI is being relied upon to defend against attacks — but prevention and preparation are still key to cybersecurity.

Entrepreneurs that take cybersecurity seriously in the coming years will likely end up alright. Those who don’t, on the other hand, risk losing everything. Which will you be?


 
 
 

 
 

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