The year 2020 has been transformative. The COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath have changed the way people work, live, and interact with each other. The year 2020 has also seen a massive shift in the way businesses interact with technology.
Over 80 percent of enterprises have transformed their approach to cybersecurity. This change has been led by large-scale enterprises. Small and medium-sized enterprises have followed suit by improving the way they approach cybersecurity.
Many small businesses are digitally driven. Companies with as few as 10 employees are adjusting their cloud security as more of their employees are working from home.
Over 40 percent of organizations sped up their cloud migration because of COVID-19. Some already used several cloud services, such as services to track employee productivity, cloud invoicing and accounting solutions, and videoconferencing programs.
Here again, large enterprises led the charge. Small and medium-sized businesses followed closely at their heels.
Reasons Businesses Transformed Cybersecurity in 2020
COVID-19 has drastically increased the number of employees working from home. This is the primary reason businesses that have over 500 employees have sped up their cloud migration plans. Many of these organizations were already making plans to adapt to cloud computing over the next few years. However, the pandemic made the need to make immediate adjustments very clear.
IT modernization has become the focal point of large-scale enterprises. This meant digitizing processes via cloud services. The goal is to maintain security and flexibility while supporting a partially remote workforce. They have seen the need to adjust their cybersecurity stacks.
For many large organizations, remote secure access is a chief priority. They have seen the need to create an environment where secure granular access to IT teams exists. This same access must exist for third-party IT vendors. The more employees an organization has, the more important the ability to grant remote access becomes.
Having a remote workforce has created unique cybersecurity challenges that require businesses to use specific cybersecurity tools to meet compliance requirements. This is especially true for organizations that are handling sensitive information, such as credit card payment information, health information, and personally identifiable information.
Lessons Learned from the Pandemic
Before the pandemic, rigid structure, stability, and compartmentalization of information were seen as good. However, the sudden shift in the way businesses operate, employees, work, and customers purchase products has forced IT leaders to quickly adapt to cloud computing, IT modernization strategies, and a flexible yet effective form of cybersecurity.
IT professionals have seen their budget within their organizations increase since the pandemic. Most organizations are holding on to their IT teams while making other cuts. This shows that IT and cybersecurity are a priority. In fact, many organizations are looking to grow their cybersecurity programs.
Organizations that had already adapted to cloud computing before the pandemic found it easier to adjust to change. It was easier to have employees work from home and adjust to a new way of doing things such as using webinars and videoconferencing software to communicate with each other and their clients.
It was easier to offer products and services to customers. It was easier to maintain cybersecurity, even if more of the workforce was working remotely. It is hoped that the lessons learned during the opening months of the pandemic will prepare organizations to better weather a future disaster, be it a pandemic, natural disaster, or social unrest.
How Cyber Criminals Have Reacted to the Pandemic
You can draw a straight line between how cybercriminals have acted during the pandemic and the need for businesses to increase their cybersecurity. Since March 2020, there has been dramatic growth in the intensity and frequency of data breaches. Cybercriminals were quick to take advantage of the confusion caused by the coronavirus.
During the first quarter of 2020, data breaches jumped by 273 percent when compared to the first quarter of 2019. The most common attacks included destructive attacks, ransomware, and island hopping.
Since business is being conducted online, cybercriminals have had more opportunities. Businesses needed to abruptly shift from employees working in an office to having them work at home. Their goal was to keep the business running as usual. They needed to take security shortcuts. Cybercriminals hopped on these vulnerabilities and exploited them.
By capitalizing on confusion, cybercriminals have been able to target large and small companies, government institutions, and individuals. Ransomware, a scheme where criminals encrypt files on an organization’s computers and then demand money to restore access, increased by 90 percent. Island hopping, where cybercriminals hijack an organization’s digital transformation efforts to attack its customers and partners, saw a 33 percent increase.
The losses caused by cyber-attacks are costly. Ransomware hit large name companies, such as Honda. With Honda, it needed to suspend its automotive and motorcycle production in some places. Other companies have been forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get access to their information. Many of these attacks took place between March and April when employees first worked from home.
Cyber-attacks hit government agencies, such as the City of Torrance, California. They have been forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get access to their systems. Large private businesses and government agencies can weather the damage caused by these cyber-attacks. However, for small to medium-sized businesses, data breaches, losing money, losing trust, and regulatory fines could mean that a small or medium-sized business would need to shut its doors.
Many people see the increase in cyber-attacks as a good thing and a bad thing simultaneously. The unpleasant side is the financial toll these attacks are taking on businesses, especially now when they are at their most vulnerable. The good side is that these cyber-attacks are shining a light on the need for businesses to reevaluate and revamp their cybersecurity.
Microsoft’s 2020 security revenue has been estimated at $5 billion. This highlights how much more businesses are aware of the importance of dedicating funds to security software programs.
Cybersecurity will continue to be important in the modern world. Organizations that cannot remodel their cybersecurity to meet current threats will put themselves at risk of being hacked. This will lead to serious consequences for them and for the customers who entrust them with their data.