In 2020, Cybersecurity Ventures published a significant statistic: cybercrime was forecasted to cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. This figure represented the predicted market value of cybercrime and served as an alarming indication of the escalating growth and scale of attacks to come. It sent a wave of panic through the business world and set security leaders hunting for proactive measures.
This prediction coincided with a period marked by significant global events. The world was firmly in the grasp of the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations of all sizes frantically sprinted towards complete digitization as they were forced to comply with government-ordered work-from-home mandates but needed to maintain productivity. Supply chains crumpled, goods flew off shelves, and manufacturing slowed to a snail’s pace.
The beauty of predictions is that they might not come to fruition. So, where does the cybercrime market stand with less than a year to go? The chilling truth is undeniable: despite remarkable advancements in cybersecurity, global and regional regulations, and a partially united world attempting to collaborate, cybercrime continues to proliferate at a swift pace.
In 2023, cybercrime cost the world $8.15 trillion. For context, let’s consider these other economic indicators from last year. The US, the world’s largest economy, had a GDP of roughly $27.36 trillion in 2023. The global automotive industry was valued at $2.52 trillion, with the electric vehicle market, a new-age darling, reaching just $500.48 billion. Cybercrime, in its grim ascendancy, dwarfs them all.
By examining the threats the industry has faced over the last decade, the causes that have led us to this moment, and the technological advancements made, can we gain insights that will stop us from careening down this dangerous path?
Difficulty Defending Against Cyber Threats
Defending against cyber threats is fraught with challenges due to a potent cocktail of factors that refuse to be diluted.
Nation-State Actors: Advanced, state-sponsored hacking groups have access to cutting-edge tools and resources, making them formidable adversaries. They are driven by geopolitical motivations, making their actions unpredictable and difficult to counter. Remember 2017’s WannaCry attack launched by North Korea’s Lazarus?
Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS): The business-oriented approach of RaaS has democratized cybercrime, with platforms and groups such as GhostLocker selling ready-to-use hacking kits, complete with tutorials and support teams that will happily handle ransom negotiations for affiliates. Regardless of skill level, anyone wanting to boost their cash flow can unleash sophisticated attacks as long as they have an internet connection.
New Tech: The continuous introduction of new, widely adopted technologies is a double-edged sword. Although each piece of tech can boost business operations, it also exposes organizations to new, exploitable vulnerabilities. Innovations that can be used for good, like Nvidia’s ultra-fast processor, can also be used by threat actors to wreak havoc.
Zero-day Exploits: There is no foreseeable limit to threat actors’ creativity. Their ability to exploit previously unknown vulnerabilities, known as zero-day attacks, means even the best security teams are in the dark. Without patches or defenses, the gap between discovery and response can be catastrophic.
The Widening Attack Surface: A Vulnerable Landscape
Attack surfaces aren’t just expanding; they are exploding for several reasons. One is the data-abundant world. Global data creation totaled 33 zettabytes in 2018, swelling to 97 zettabytes in 2022. By 2025, it’s expected to hit a mind-boggling 181 zettabytes. This rapid increase in data generation creates a treasure trove for threat actors, offering them countless potential entry points and unending opportunities to exploit sensitive information.
The near-instantaneous shift to remote work created a dispersed workforce, and this decentralization expanded the attack surface, making it harder to secure critical systems and data. Employees using personal devices and networks are responsible for patching and updating systems instead of security teams who follow processes and schedules. Collaboration tools can expose sensitive data to interception, as can sharing unsecured documents and files.
Our reliance on extreme interconnectedness is also a contributing factor. Every person, device, network, and system represents a separate attack point that needs to be secured. If one part of the network is compromised, it could lead to a broader breach affecting the entire network. The SolarWinds supply chain attack is another example of how interconnectedness can lead to an extensive breach; hundreds of government, public, and private companies that use a SolarWinds product were affected when they installed an update that contained malicious code injected by Russian state-sponsored hackers.
Key Cybersecurity Strategies and Their Weaknesses
Organizations need to arm themselves with a variety of security strategies and tools to harden their defenses. While great strides have been made, every solution has an Achilles heel that cybercriminals know of and are happy to exploit; nevertheless, they must be adopted and implemented.
Multifactor Authentication: MFA requires users to provide two or more verification factors to gain access to a resource. While it’s a valuable layer of security, it can be compromised through “fatigue” attacks, in which users become desensitized to constant prompts, and sophisticated social engineering techniques can render it ineffective.
Zero Trust: This security strategy, based on the principle of least privilege, assumes that no user or device is trustworthy, so it offers robust protection. However, the approach is resource-intensive and complex to implement and manage, creating difficulties, especially for SMBs.
Next-Gen Malware Protection: Next-generation malware prevention tools play a crucial role in identifying, preventing, and removing malware, but the sheer speed and sophistication of evolving threats can easily outmaneuver even the most advanced software.
Monitoring and Detection: While these are essential for identifying potential threats, constant monitoring and alert fatigue go hand-in-hand; security teams quickly become buried under an avalanche of alerts, causing them to miss or overlook critical threats. However, organizations can significantly reduce alert fatigue by implementing an MDR solution like the one offered by CYREBRO.
Cybersecurity Awareness: Educating employees is vital, but humans are always the weakest link. Malicious actors will seek opportunities to exploit human vulnerabilities through social engineering or a momentary lapse in judgment.
The SMB Defensive Playbook: Vigilance and Adaptability
The $10.5 trillion statistic may have originated in 2020, but its relevance only grows as cybercrime evolves. This stark reality is particularly harrowing for SMBs. Targeted by over half of all cyberattacks and lacking the resources and resilience of larger corporations, an attack can be crippling; it’s even fatal for 60% of SMBs.
For SMBs, the cybersecurity battle is not just about protecting data; it’s about survival. The fight against cybercrime requires a comprehensive, well-planned, and continuously evolving approach that aligns with each organization’s unique needs and circumstances.
By acknowledging the challenge, investing in intelligent defense, prioritizing the human element, seeking expert support, and embracing continuous adaptation, SMBs can fortify their digital perimeters and navigate this treacherous landscape with a fighting chance. The battle will be fierce, but by staying informed, proactive, and agile, SMBs can emerge victorious in the face of this increasingly digitalized threat.