As the world watches the events in Ukraine unfold, we’re bluntly reminded that cyber is a domain of warfare and one that impacts countless aspects of a society, especially in today’s pervasively connected world and digitally driven economies.
The physical attacks on Ukraine have been preceded and accompanied by cyber-attacks. To go along with that, U.S. leaders are warning these attacks can and likely will spill over to NATO allies, including the U.S. itself. While it isn’t immediately attributable to Russia or the situation at hand, U.S. technology giant NVIDIA recently reported a cyber-attack themselves.
Cyber Warfare Impacts All Areas of Life
It is easy to think of warfare, including cyber warfare being limited to military, governments and traditional entities. However, in today’s society nearly everything is connected or digitally enabled and the risk of a potential cascading impact that hinders several aspects of society is inevitable.
One doesn’t have to look back too far to be reminded of cyber-attacks that impacted fuel supplies, water treatment facilities or financial institutions, all of which impact citizens, businesses and more broadly, society. This problem will only continue to grow in scope, as the World Economic Forum (WEF) projects that in the coming few years as much as 60-70% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be tied to digital platforms.
It’s also worth pointing out that this challenge isn’t limited to technology giants or major government institutions. The U.S. National Cybersecurity Director, Chris Inglis, recently called for a “new social contract” to manage cyber risk:
“Those more capable of carrying the load — such as governments and large firms — must take on some of the burden, and collective, collaborative defense needs to replace atomized and divided efforts. Until then, the problem will always look like someone else’s to solve.”
Collaborative Leadership is Needed to Combat Cyber Risk
Leadership is calling for a collaborative approach across government, business and academia. One that brings the resources of government and industry to bear, while also leaning into the ingenuity of small innovative firms across the ecosystem.
Further, we’re seeing increased demand for long-term digital ecosystem investments to address the cyber risk that is prevalent across our entire society. There’s a collective realization that the problems of cyber risk, whether from national state actors, organized criminals or even rogue actors isn’t one that can be solved by one entity nor impacts one entity or sector of our society in isolation.
While there has been plenty of talk of the need for more cybersecurity rigor, investment and attention, it’s no secret that security often remains an afterthought. Efforts are underway to try and address this in some regards, such as those related to DevSecOps or the push for Zero Trust.
However, these efforts won’t be and can’t be successful without a real look in the mirror at the way we as individuals, organizations and as a society view the concept of cybersecurity. Far too long desires to race to the market or speak in platitudes has left us with incalculable security technical debt that is now coming home to roost.
Warfare will always involve humans, violence and kinetic methods. That said, the wars of not just the future, but of the present involve bits, bytes and digital systems that power much of the modern world.
This isn’t a call to halt innovation or stifle growth, but it is a call to realize that an innovative ecosystem and digitally enabled economy that is built in a glass house will inevitably be accompanied by a painful shattering as it is and continues to be exploited by malicious actors.
Technology touches nearly every aspect of our society, both in the public and private sector and it is long due to make real cybersecurity rigor a priority and not a platitude – and it will take all of us to do it
How secure is your infrastructure? Are you prepared for future cyber-attacks? Get the answers you need during the Cybersecurity Battleground digital event.