Cyber security can’t be an afterthought

Aad Vredenbregt

Product Innovation in the age of Connected Products and Services

 Worldwide ransomware attack

On Friday May 12th, more than 100 countries across the world were hit by a massive ransomware cyber-attack, caused by a malicious software called WannaCry, that exploited a vulnerability in the Windows operating system. Even though a security patch that removes the underlying vulnerability of the operating system was released by Microsoft in March itself, most systems and networks didn’t install this update, leaving them completely vulnerable for this attack. Many of us hope that this attack will be the much-needed wake-up call for cybersecurity awareness in our digitized world, increasingly vulnerable to cyber risks

Proliferation of connected devices

With the proliferation of smart and connected devices and the impact of emerging technologies such as IoT, we now live in a connected world: our smart phones are versatile devices that enable us to communicate and access any network from anywhere, anytime; we live in houses controlled by home automation systems that can be accessed remotely; we commute in smart cars; we monitor the performance of critical systems remotely.

Platform economy and open access

 With the emergence of the platform economy, there is a paradigm shift in how products are designed and how their access and usage are controlled. In a connected world, businesses are no longer building standalone products, but are developing products that fit into a platform ecosystem, where multiple products and devices coexist and interact with each other. In a platform environment, while it is essential to ensure open access and interoperability, at the same time security also becomes a critical design consideration.

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 Work from anywhere, anytime

 Work from anywhere is an increasingly popular employee-friendly practice, widely adopted by businesses. Employees can plug in, sign on, and connect to their work environment remotely, from anywhere. While this is a progressive and employee-friendly practice, it also exposes the businesses to many unforeseen threats. The employee could be logging in to the work environment from home, or even a public network such as a coffee place with a free Wi-Fi. In the absence of appropriate security mechanisms, such an open access exposes businesses to potential cyber threats from external networks.

In a digitized and borderless economy, and with the increasing popularity of globally distributed development, many innovative companies have distributed IT and development organizations. In such a distributed environment, people could be physically located in any remote corner of the world, yet collaborate and work jointly with team members in other locations, often through cloud. The more we connect to diverse networks, the risk of a cyber breach increases proportionately.

In a connected landscape dotted with smart devices and innumerable public and private networks, and at the cusp of embracing the fourth industrial revolution, the risks of cyber-attacks also increase exponentially, as we have just recently witnessed.

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Digital can also mean vulnerable, remember?

 Ransomware dominated the cyber-threat landscape over the past year, costing businesses more than $1 billion. We are all vulnerable to these cyber-attacks, and in future, if we are not prepared, could pay an even heavier price with the exponential increase in digital connectivity and technology adoption.

Researchers have successfully demonstrated that by using a drone, loaded with a software worm, they could take control of a connected lighting system of a smart city. As the popularity and usage of robotic devices increases, we should also be aware of the potential security threats to people and businesses they operate in and around. In the absence of appropriate security, we can only imagine the potential risks to our cities and transportation networks from connected, autonomous cars, which can become a reality in the very near future.

Risks from social networks

 And then there is the ubiquity of social networks which has made them an unwitting and useful tool for those looking to compromise individuals through redirecting to compromised sites that host malware. The sophistication of cyber-attacks originating from social networks is growing at a breakneck speed, placing unprecedented amounts of individual and business data at risk, endangering privacy and corporate security.

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Concerted action is needed

Our highly digitized society requires a firm resistance from citizens, businesses and government. The ransomware attack by WannaCry once again proves that investment in cyber resilience is lagging far behind, and we are no longer adequately protected from cybercrime.
 Society’s approach to investing in cybersecurity almost feels like our approach to individual healthcare, we think that we don’t need it while we are healthy, and just when we’re no longer healthy, we realize its actual importance and value. Now that WannaCry caused an epidemic in our business environment, I only hope that we’ll get cybersecurity high on the agenda of civil society, business, and government.

Hague security Delta

 coMakeIT is acutely aware of the danger posed by threats to cyber security, and is investing substantial time and resources to help businesses gearup for this threat. As part of this effort, we have become a member of the Hague Security Delta (HSD), the leading security cluster in Europe. HSD is bringing together businesses, governments, and knowledge institutions to work on innovations and knowledge in the field of cyber security, national and urban security, protection of critical infrastructure, and forensics. We, at coMakeIT share with HSD a common goal and vision of a prosperous society, enhanced trade and employment opportunities, in a safe, and secure world.

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