Ransomware, Phishing, Zero Trust, and the New Normal of Cyber Security - Photo by Mario Gogh on UnsplashWhen the COVID-19 pandemic struck, cybercriminals saw their opportunity, and they took it. Everything from corporate offices, government agencies, educational institutions and even healthcare services transitioned to remote work models and online services. That rushed shift left inevitable cybersecurity gaps.

Consumer broadband and personal devices undermined the corporate security stack. Unsafe user practices and overlooked security patches opened ample vulnerabilities throughout the environment.

Meanwhile, an anxious and often confused public proved easy prey for phishing attacks. The impact was all too predictable: phishing attacks, DDoS attacks, and ransomware attacks all spiked. 80% of firms saw increased incidents in 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic was blamed for a 238% rise in cyberattacks on banks. Phishing scams alone have seen a 22% rise in the first half of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020.

Why Ransomware Attacks and Costs are Soaring

The pandemic-driven surge in ransomware was immediate and dramatic: attacks rose 148% in March 2020. Before long, the US was reeling from a May 2021 ransomware strike that shut down a critical fuel pipeline. While the rise in ransomware strikes was likely the result of greater opportunities for hackers combined with the increased effectiveness of phishing attacks on news-obsessed users, a change in tactics may also have played a role.

Earlier attacks generally focused on the traditional encryption-payment-decryption ransomware model. Now, hackers seek to increase their returns by stealing data and offering it for sale on the black market, known as data exfiltration.

Often, ransomware victims, particularly  healthcare systems and universities, find that this data exfiltration tactic compounds the already considerable damage of the attack. The implications of violating customer or patient privacy, losing corporate data and facing massive regulatory fines can cost more in legal damages than the ransom itself.

There are also considerable hidden costs. This includes system downtime, reduced efficiency, incidence response costs, and brand and reputation damage. The total global costs amount to more than $1 trillion each year.

Taking Data Protection Inside the Perimeter with Zero Trust

In the era of public cloud, mobility, and work-from-home, the notion of perimeter security has quickly become outdated. The attack surface has changed, and organisations have gained a new understanding of who can constitute a cyber threat. For example, trusted insiders who don’t even realise they are abetting a crime.

The common perception of an internal threat actor is a disgruntled employee or spy undermining cyber security with ill intent. However, it’s even more common for a well-meaning employee to open the door to hackers inadvertently. This can be caused by poor password hygiene, nonsecure practices, or the ever-popular phishing lure.

Awareness and education can reduce the risk of successful phishing and ransomware attacks. Yet, a single moment of negligence can be enough to devastate the business. It is safer to assume that even your most trusted user can pose a security risk – and design your cyber defence strategy accordingly. Hence the rise of Zero Trust: the notion that we shouldn’t trust anything or anyone, inside or outside the network, with access to our computer systems. In practice, this means measures such as:

  • Moving beyond the idea of inside versus outside. Redesign cyber defence in terms of secure micro-parameters, with multiple points of network defence
  • Implementing the ability to control, inspect, and restrict network traffic travelling in any direction—north-south or east-west—within your organisation
  • Subjecting users to checks and balances, each time they cross into a different area of the network or try to access a new set of resources, to verify their needs and privileges
  • Preventing excess privileges from accumulating by periodically revoking and refreshing access and credentials
  • Continuously monitoring who’s accessing what and the level of risk these activities might present

Why SSl Inspection is Critical for Zero Trust

Organisations implementing Zero Trust quickly run into the issue of visibility in a world of pervasive TLS/SSL encryption. Fast threat detection and response times require the ability to decrypt, inspect, and re-encrypt network traffic quickly and efficiently at scale without impairing cost or adding complexity.

A centralised, dedicated SSL decryption capability provides visibility into network traffic for each element of the cybersecurity stack. It avoids the inefficiencies and performance penalties of device-by-device decryption and re-encryption. Similarly, a centralised approach to management can help organisations ensure consistent and efficient policy enforcement across the security infrastructure.

As a strategy rather than a product category, Zero Trust implementation requires more than simply plugging in a new box. Rather, it represents a new way of thinking about cybersecurity. It embodies evolving approaches to management, automation, auditability, resiliency, and integration. By approaching Zero Trust in this way, organisations can mitigate the security risks endemic in our new normal and better protect their business from threats of all kinds.

A10 LogoA10 Networks (NYSE: ATEN) provides Reliable Security Always™, with a range of high-performance application networking solutions that help organisations ensure that their data center applications and networks remain highly available, accelerated and secure. Founded in 2004, A10 Networks is based in San Jose, Calif., and serves customers globally with offices worldwide.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here