Security. A single word that could send both development and operations teams scrambling for the exit. Every company understands just how crucial security is to remain in business and yet so many of them seem to exist in a never-ending chase to keep up with those who would attack, breach, or infect their systems and networks.
It’s as inevitable as it is frustrating.
Cybersecurity criminals always seem to be one step ahead of businesses, which means those whose job it is to protect against data theft have to work overtime all the time just to try and keep the company they protect safe.
Some days it feels like an impossible task. And the second a company falls behind in its security, the risk grows exponentially.
But why does this happen? What is it about a business that prevents them from getting ahead of those who would do them harm? Let’s examine the issue so that, in the knowing, you can be better prepared to avoid such a situation.
So Many Vulnerabilities
It all begins with the vulnerabilities, of which there seems to be an infinite supply. Every day a new vulnerability is revealed. All one has to do is check out this CVE listing service to see how many flaws have been found and which ones are critical. At the moment, there are 168,487 CVE records on cve.org (the complete listing can be downloaded in easy-to-use formats). All a hacker has to do is check that list, figure out a way to exploit one of the vulnerabilities, and craft an attack.
To make things worse, nothing is immune; no language, no software, no stack, no operating system. And no matter how many best practices you follow, given the number of vulnerabilities, it’s an almost impossible task to get ahead.
So Many Moving Parts
It’s not just about the number of vulnerabilities that are spread throughout the software landscape, it’s also the sheer amount of software being used. This is especially so, given how complicated pipelines and delivery chains have become. Any given enterprise company will have hundreds or thousands of software pieces working together to keep them competitive and agile. On top of that, you also have an ever-growing number of APIs and frameworks to have to work with and secure.
Think about having to secure every one of those moving parts. Does your business have an IT staff capable of taking on that task with any level of success? If your company employs a staggering amount of software, make sure you have a security team that can manage the scope and scale of the job.
It’s Easier to Find a Flaw Than to Fix a Flaw
This one is simple. It is exponentially easier to find a flaw than to fix it. To make this more complicated, a security patch not only has to be created but also has to be tested and vetted before it can be released. In some cases, such as with open-source software, this can happen within hours or days. But with proprietary software, the process is a bit more cumbersome and goes through a slower release cycle.
That is one reason why as soon as your developers (or Q&A experts) discover an issue, they submit a report to the maintainers of the software immediately. A flaw cannot be fixed if it’s not known. And the sooner developers know about a flaw, the sooner they can start working on it.
This is not to put the onus on the shoulders of end-users or make them feel belittled in any way. But the truth of the matter is, one of the primary targets of cybersecurity criminals is end-users. It’s much easier to get a user to click on a malicious link than it is to break into a system by discovering a poorly configured server or network device.
Once a user clicks on a malicious link, their system could be infected with ransomware that can spread throughout a network. And no matter how hard you try to educate those users, criminals get better and better at hiding their malformed links and payloads such that they look completely innocent.
Even so, keep educating those end-users.
Motivation is Key
Both sides have plenty of motivation. On the business side, every company must avoid falling victims to cybersecurity criminals because their finances, data, and reputation are at risk. That’s all the motivation a company needs to work diligently at securing their systems.
But criminals are equally motivated. Money, reputation, political movements, and sometimes just the thrill of bringing down big business make for serious motivational factors.
The key is which side of the coin is better at following through on those motivating forces. If cybersecurity criminals fail at breaking into your systems, they fail to profit, which is motivation enough to keep them ahead of the game. Every business leader should allow the motivation for keeping their company safe from harm to propel them ahead of the competition.
Companies Neglect to Hire Security Pros
Ask yourself this: Do you have a dedicated security team? If not, why? If money is the issue, you should compare the cost of hiring such a team against what you risk losing should you fall victim to a cybersecurity criminal. With that understanding, the benefit of hiring such a team would far outweigh the cost of doing so.
It’s not that attaining a reasonable level of security is an untenable situation. Although it is quite challenging, it’s one area your business must take very seriously. And although you (and your teams) might feel as if they’re constantly playing catch-up to cybersecurity criminals, this is a race definitely worth running.
Spend the budget and the time to get your teams and employees trained on best practices and keep up the fight. Your bottom line and your data will thank you for the effort.