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Why We Need to Think Differently About Cybersecurity by 2020

When most people think about cybersecurity, they think about installing a firewall or an antivirus program and hoping that it’s able to defend them against an attack. And when they think about cyberattacks, they usually imagine a skilled team of hackers brute-forcing their way into a corporate system, not unlike robbers breaking into a bank vault.

But it doesn’t take much research to learn that the current zeitgeist for cyberattacks is more nuanced, and leaves far more people vulnerable. And in the near future, the average cyberattack is going to evolve even more.

If we’re going to prepare our businesses for the threat of cyberattacks, and protect ourselves as individuals as well, we need to change how we think about cyberthreats.

New Types of Attacks

For starters, we need to start preparing ourselves for new types of attacks. With the rising diversity of entry points, thanks to new types of devices and millions of types of software, preparing for conventional attacks isn’t enough. Today’s cybercriminals are remarkably intelligent, and all it takes is a single vulnerability to compromise an entire system.

Because there are so many possible attacks, and new attacks just waiting to be created, we need to spend more time sourcing and training the right tech talent, rather than just building bigger and better defensive systems. Security experts with experience in many different areas, with the ability to think flexibly, will be far more capable of responding to novel threats than their short-term-goal-focused contemporaries.

Rising Stakes

We also need to consider the rising stakes. Cyberthreats are growing to be more threatening, in each of several categories. For starters, they’re growing in terms of potential vulnerabilities. Thanks to the prominence of mobile devices and the burgeoning influence of the internet of things (IoT), there are billions of connected devices around the world—and each one of those devices is potentially hackable.

There are also a growing number of people with internet connections, who with the right motivation and resources could easily attack a device across the globe. Add to that the number of countries with minimal (if any) restrictions meant to prevent a cyberattack, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Finally, consider how much of a threat a cyberattack could really pose. We’re entering an era where nearly everything we do involves an internet connection or a digital device. When those are compromised, it becomes nearly impossible to get the resources you need.

Individual Empowerment

In addition to taking the possibility of a truly large-scale attack seriously, investing in better cybersecurity talent at the top, we also need to educate and empower people at the bottom of the totem pole—the employees and consumers with limited tech knowledge, who still rely on these devices on a daily basis. If they choose weak passwords, fall for schemes, or otherwise allow themselves to be vulnerable, they become easy targets that could lead to the collapse of a much bigger system. Every digital network is only as strong as its weakest link, and we need to acknowledge that.

It’s not easy to change how you think about a given problem, but simply educating yourself is a good first step. The more you learn about the world of cyberattacks and cybersecurity, the more accurately you’ll be able to think about your own protection.

You can also help your own cause by investing in better cyber defenses, like SAP’s own products for cybersecurity and governance, risk, and compliance (GRC). The sooner and more thoroughly you invest in your defenses, the less you’ll have to worry about.

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