Due to technological and geopolitical evolutions, the threat of cybercrime is greater than ever. Crime or warfare used to be a lot more visible. Burglars smashed windows, handbags were stolen, and tanks rolled through the streets. But due to the rise of cybercrime, an invisible component has been added. Criminals and governments hack citizens, companies, and government services to obtain information or money.
"Governments are very specific in their attacks and hack mainly to spy and sabotage. Cybercriminals usually act randomly and do it purely for financial gain. For example, they install rogue software and then demand a ransom," says cybersecurity expert Simen Van der Perre.
As a Strategic Advisor at Orange Cyberdefense, Van der Perre helps to build a safer digital society. "The threat is getting bigger because we are digitizing more. Companies keep their information in the cloud; we use more and more devices connected to the internet; there is essential medical technology in hospitals… These are all potential targets."
In addition, there are also geopolitical developments. So says Hans Stevens, Head of Solution Design at Orange Cyberdefense. "Look at the tense trade relations between the East and the West. In theory, everyone is susceptible to cybercriminals. However, some sectors are more in the spotlight, such as the manufacturing industry, service providers, retail, banking, and insurance. Fortunately, the latter are already very mature in detecting threats and limiting the damage.
One of the biggest problems is the lack of knowledge. There are currently 1,500 cybersecurity vacancies in Belgium, but that will rise to 4,000 in the short term. "Every company should start with a risk assessment. How much control do I have over everything connected? How risky am I? What's happening in my industry? Look at your IT environment to see what the risks are, then make the right investments," says Stevens.
"Most companies need 30 days to fix bugs in the software. It takes cybercriminals an average of 12 days to exploit an error." - Simen Van der Perre, strategic advisor at Orange Cyberdefense
Automation can be a first solution to detect errors. "I like to compare it to fire protection. It's smart to install smoke detectors, but you may not need to connect them fully automatically to sprinklers everywhere. Chances are that you will end up with water damage when there is only some smoke. For example, suppose you have a webshop with a turnover of 100,000 euros per hour, and malware arrives. If you automate everything, your system will shut down your entire webshop. While you might have been able to minimize the risk without impacting your entire organization."
"Yet no one can be prepared for everything," says Van der Perre. Even a company with the best fire protection system can be struck by lightning. "It is therefore important to see whether you recognize certain trends and evolutions. For example, governments are always developing new techniques and methods that cybercriminals invariably adopt afterward. Those who keep a close eye on this can stay ahead of the storm with their organization."
Stevens: "Many companies with a large digital ecosystem do not realize how important it is to keep that system up to date. It doesn't help to quickly put a plaster on the wound when something breaks because you keep getting wounds.
If you don't work proactively, you will play a game you cannot win, says Van der Perre. More than 70 percent of organizations need 30 days to fix software bugs. It takes cybercriminals on average of 12 days to develop a method to exploit a flaw. Therefore, you must work with experts and other companies to prepare.