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INTERVIEW: Kaspersky Chief Business Officer on transforming the cybersecurity industry

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Jenna Delport
Jenna Delport
I’m a tech writer, world traveller, avocado-eater and dog lover, not always in that order.
INTERVIEW: Kaspersky Chief Business Officer on transforming the cybersecurity industry
Alexander Moiseev, Chief Business Officer at Kaspersky Lab

Chief Business Officer of Kaspersky Lab, Alexander Moiseev has been a part of the Kaspersky family since 2006. According to the company, he is also one of the driving forces behind Kaspersky’s technology and innovation investments in transportation systems cybersecurity.

IT News Africa’s Jenna Cook had the opportunity to chat with him about where the cybersecurity industry has come from and where it’s going. Here’s what transpired:

‘Cybersecurity’ has become a bit of a buzzword in 2019 but it hasn’t always been so popular – How was cybersecurity defined previously, and what has changed now?

To put this into context appropriately, I’d like to tell you a short story.

Earlier on in my career, I worked with a client on their security provision where we discovered that the client had only devoted 4 per cent of its total IT budget to cybersecurity. “Let’s develop a solution with this 4 per cent”, said the client.

It was only at that moment that I realised that cybersecurity is often considered as something that does not yet exist. This is a common misconception, and in some ways, this is the fault of the cybersecurity industry.

 For a long time, the cybersecurity industry has been doing what customers needed: offering products to protect them from existing threats targeting their networks. As a result, at the time the industry made no effort to provide customers with a clear understanding of what cybersecurity actually is and what it involves.

Protection of information systems was perceived as adding layers into the system architecture: build an IT infrastructure, put some security on top and you’ll be fine. IT was something that would speed up and simplify a few business processes, but not yet the backbone of business infrastructure. Competitiveness, as well as effectiveness and profitability, did not depend on IT.

So back then, the answer to the question “what is cybersecurity” was simple: cybersecurity is the software you buy to protect your IT infrastructure from malware. It was also considered as an optional, not obligatory, part of the business network.

In the digital age today, however, cybersecurity is no longer just about providing software protection from all possible cyber-threats, be it malware, spam or advanced persistent threats (APTs). It is not what the business buys, but what it gets for its investment.

The reality is that we live in an ultra-connected world and an era of digital economies, where technology has become deeply entrenched in our lives – and where modern and efficient IT infrastructure is an integral part of any profitable business.

So, when a business thinks about what kind of IT infrastructure it needs, it doesn’t consider how to apply it efficiently, but rather what business goals can be achieved with the technology.

In other words, businesses know exactly what objectives they are aiming at. They want to use the right tools. But, more than that, they are looking for experts to demonstrate and explain what should be done in order to achieve their needs; not just someone who will propose a unified solution that (supposedly) fits everyone.

Yes, modern cybersecurity solutions protect from all the major sophisticated cyberthreats. But that’s not a killer-feature anymore. Security software is rapidly becoming a commodity.

According to The Global Cyber Exposure Index, South Africa is ranked seventh on the list of most targeted countries for cyber-attacks. What is it about South Africa that causes it to rank so highly on the list of most targeted countries?

South Africa is still a growing digital economy. As Internet usage grows – and given the fact that cybercriminal activity is advancing globally – more businesses in South Africa are relying on technology to connect more devices for work and social purposes, this opens up any business and person to the world of security threats. And where there is an opportunity, there are cybercriminals.

Additionally, South Africa like many other countries in Africa have a lack of awareness when it comes to cybercrime and how it can affect and compromise critical infrastructure and data. This also stems from a lack of proper maintenance and updating of systems and software.

Organisations are not asking the right questions about who their potential attackers can be, what they want and how can they get to them – and as a result, they are not adequately protecting themselves. There is also this misconception that cybercriminals only go after the big businesses where they can gain more, however, this is not accurate. Every business and every person is vulnerable to cybercrime.

As technology advances, so do cybercriminals. So why is it that people still overlook the importance of cybersecurity?

From a business and even a consumer standpoint, it is surprising that many view security measures as an afterthought especially considering how dangerous it is to operate without some form of protection as both businesses and consumers embrace digital advancements.

Security is often overlooked because its importance is not understood, the cost perceived is too high or the education around potential threats is lacking. Some of the common mistakes committed by businesses when it comes to IT security include:

  • Lack of monitoring access and user activity – It is important for businesses to always have sight of who has access to their network. In a world where Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) is now fully being embraced by many organisations, it is critical to pay extra attention to activities as you don’t want your network to be left vulnerable to attacks. However, this takes manpower, proper policies and management and as such, it can be overlooked.
  • Failure to educate employees – Employees must be trained to never click on suspicious links and always guard their log-in credentials, at the office or at home. Remember that all the technological gadgets and defence mechanisms mean next to nothing if you don’t know how to use them. Many companies focus on technology and software but fail to integrate it with employee education.
  • Not testing the security – It is crucial for companies to run random security tests to check if there are any loopholes in their company security systems and measures.
  • Not having a security reaction strategy – In our experience, businesses tend to spend 80% of their security budgets on trying to prevent security breaches, which means that only 20% is then spent on predicting, detecting and responding to attacks. So, it is critical to create a full strategy with your IT specialist so that you remain prepared at all times.

And from a consumer’s perspective, users need to understand that hackers are always on the lookout for new targets. They have all the time in the world to come up with tricky ways to get information. Some common mistakes that can leave consumers vulnerable include:

  • Not keeping your privacy settings – private – the things you post and the things you browse are of great interest to marketers and hackers. They can steal your profile picture, personal information and create a fake account – make sure you are visible to friends only to prevent data leak.
  • Walking through a ‘dangerous neighbourhood’ online – don’t be tempted by striking content as this may be a trap which can lead to information theft or malware infection.
  • Forgetting to check the security of the Wi-Fi network – Your vulnerable endpoint is your local Internet connection. If you are in doubt and think that this network is not secure, wait for a better chance.
  • Downloading insecure files – malware can be disguised as an app or a site: anything from a popular game to something that checks traffic or the weather. Beware of strange links and do not tap on them.
  • Not changing passwords frequently enough or setting common combinations – you can limit the impact of unlikely events by setting a good complicated password. Also, do not store your data in a website you use to shop for things online – in case of a security breach you will not be in trouble.

What are some of the steps that businesses can take to become more knowledgeable about cybersecurity?

I would suggest that organisations host regular cybersecurity training sessions that assess and educate the whole organisation on cybersecurity – from vulnerabilities through to best practices and steps that each individual needs to follow.

This knowledge then will not only filter through the entire organisation, but the more individuals become aware of the threats, the more they are also likely to apply such precautionary security measures in their personal capacity as well.

The following can be done: check your employees’ knowledge of cybersecurity and educate them; host a training programme and describe what the main threats look like; teach them to recognise potential threats and make right security decisions. It is necessary that they remember to check the link address and the sender’s email for their authenticity, never click the link and enter their credentials if the website or sender is unsafe. What is more, they need to change their passwords if they think that they have faced a fake page, use a secure connection (no public Wi-Fi without password).

Is the cybersecurity industry transforming and if so, how can companies get involved in the transformation?

Cyberimmunity is a great term that we use to explain our vision of a safer future and transformation processes. In real life, an organisation’s immune system is never perfect, and viruses or other malignant microbiological objects still find ways to fool it, or even to attack the immune system itself. However, immune systems share a very important trait: They learn and adapt. They can be “educated” through vaccination about possible dangers. In times of peril, we can assist them with ready-made antibodies.

Understanding of this vision didn’t come at once. And just like with vaccination, it’s not a one-shot approach, but, rather, a series of vaccination attempts, all aimed at the same goal: stronger cyberimmunity for a safer future.

First, and foremost, a safer future can be built only on a safe foundation. We believe this is possible when all systems are designed from the start with security in mind. Another important component is the ability of the immune system to withstand attacks against it.

No company can mitigate the risk of cybercrime in the digital world merely by having an IT department – and if the right solutions, policies and education programmes are not in place, the business may find the digital world a very difficult place to navigate. Companies need to understand this transformation and the security industry needs to be their navigation as the industry shifts and changes.

By Jenna Cook

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