I'm a blockchain security specialist and writer living in NY.
Make no mistake about it: Cybercrime is a growing concern for businesses of all sizes. In 2016 alone, global losses due to cybercrime amounted to $1.3 trillion, according to the FBI. Growth estimates vary from a more conservative $2 trillion by 2019 to a less optimistic $6 trillion by 2021.
One thing is for sure: Malicious players will always be on their toes, trying to find the next big exploit, and trying their best to profit from malware or social-based attacks.
It is no surprise that the cybersecurity industry is also a growing one. According to CSO Online, security spending will amount to a cumulative $1 trillion from 2017 to 2021. This will include acquisition of products and services that fight or mitigate the effects of cyberattacks.
However, as the cybercrime threat landscape is evolving, we all need to realize how quickly we are evolving along with these threats. In a recent blog post by Imperva, we are told that cybercriminals will naturally gravitate toward the most efficient and risk-averse mode of operation. In these modern times, the most financially-rewarding and scalable attacks involve extortion and data theft.
In this regard, extortion usually involves ransomware, wherein a malicious agent locks down or encrypts the user’s own data within the user’s own machine or server until a payment is made. This can also include distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, in which a user’s infrastructure is bombarded with traffic rendering it useless unless a payment is made.
Digital assets are also a prime target — these could easily be stolen by malicious insiders or even through unwitting and careless users who are compromised.
It almost seems like an unwinnable battle. Attackers are coming from everywhere, and no matter how careful we are with our data and with our digital assets, there will always be a potential attack vector.
Today, the trend is moving toward a decentralized and distributed approach to computing. We now store our digital assets on the cloud, and our applications are likewise running off the cloud or even on some distributed infrastructure like blockchains. Our employees and colleagues use mobile devices — laptops, tablets, smartphones, and even internet-of-things (IoT) devices, in managing this data.
The threat landscape suddenly became more spread-out. It will no longer be simple for a Chief Security Officer or IT manager to secure the office data and infrastructure if there is no local infrastructure to speak of, in the first place.
When everything is running on the cloud, how well can all this data be secured?
Traditionally, businesses relied on virtual private networks, in order to wall-in users within a tunneled connection. The problem here is that a VPN can perform very poorly in terms of speed and accessibility, compared to a direct internet connection. These can also come with expensive licensing and deployment costs.
The trend today is moving toward having everything as-a-service. Cloud models involve either software-, platform-, and infrastructure-as-a-service, for example. When it comes to ensuring the security of digital assets, an emerging trend would involve a firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS), which eliminates the concept of a firewall appliance that has been a limiting aspect of enterprise and business security for decades.
Cato Networks, a provider of FWaaS solutions, addresses this emerging need by actually building its cloud-based firewall atop its existing global cloud infrastructure. This is established as a global SD-WAN or software-defined wide area network, which can secure all WAN and internet-based traffic, regardless of where a user’s device is, or how he accesses data.
Deploying the firewall as a service that runs on the cloud itself has several advantages. First, it negates the need for appliance-based firewalls, which do not work well in distributed environments. Secondly, it lets IT managers control the deployment from a single point, even if there are hundreds or thousands of multiple devices and connections all connecting and accessing data from different points in the world.
A related service is Incapsula’s web application firewall or WAF, which protects both cloud and on-premises infrastructure from application-layer attacks. The two services actually rely on the same distributed infrastructure in delivering both mainstream and last-mile protection service for its subscribers. A WAF, however, focuses on filtering incoming traffic in order to protect infrastructure against threats such as cross-site scripting, SQL injections, and other major threats that could compromise data.
Subscription-based approach to security and other trends
With security solutions shifting away from the appliance an on-premises approach, we have likewise moved toward a subscription-based approach for ensuring the integrity of our data and infrastructure. Gone are the days of paying a premium for the latest security software. Even when that approach entailed regular updates, today the standard approach mostly involves a drop-in solution wherein you subscribe, then you integrate the solution into your infrastructure (usually by routing all traffic through the provider), and waiting for it to do its magic.
In fact, going beyond the traditional cloud-based services cited above, another emerging trend today is the tokenization of digital services. With a blockchain-based approach, for example, one common approach to acquiring services is through an ad hoc or per-unit approach, which can be easily accomplished through tokenization. Customers pay using crypto assets, cryptocurrency or crypto tokens whenever they utilize a servce.
A few examples of security-oriented services that run off the blockchain are GuardTime and Nebulis, for instance. Guardtime aims to replace existing key-based authentication with verification based on cryptographic hashing algorithms. Nebulis, meanwhile, aims to replace the current DNS infrastructure with a distributed platform to mitigate the risk of DNS nodes going down due to DDoS attacks.
Changing business models will benefit businesses
Capable cybersecurity solutions used to be the domain of enterprises and larger businesses that have the capital to spend on expensive products and services. With the current trend shifting toward subscriptions, cyber security can likewise be treated more as an operational expense rather than a capital-intensive one. This means businesses of all sizes can benefit from increased security without a very big budget.
And as for the emerging blockchain-based approaches to security, time will tell if the up-and-coming companies can deliver as promised and whether a purely decentralized approach will be the best means to address growing digital threats. For now, with businesses all going to the cloud, it only makes sense for us to deploy our security solutions mainly through the cloud, as well.
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