22 Jun 2021
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Interview: Assessing the challenges in securing emerging technologies

By Nick Forrester

The rise in emerging technologies like IoT, blockchain, machine learning, robotic process automation and dozens more have all become business-critical as cloud adoption cements itself firmly into the mainstream. 

This proliferation of new technologies has been well documented in the last 18 months as the world grappled with a pandemic. Well documented, too, has been the rise of a host of organisational challenges centred around securing applications and systems in response to these emerging technologies.

These challenges represent some of the most urgent matters IT teams must deal with in 2021 and beyond. Assessing the issues is the first step — understanding the playing field can set teams up to take full advantage of emerging technologies while engaging in cybersecurity best practices.

Infosys CISO Vishal Salvi is well aware of how pressing this challenge is. Having been in the cybersecurity industry for nearly two decades, he’s seen how threats have changed over the years — and how they have ramped up significantly in the last 18 months.

Techday spoke to Vishal about the intricate relationship between emerging technologies and cybersecurity practices.
 

What are the biggest risks when it comes to emerging technologies?

Innovation has always created opportunities for attack — this is not a new phenomenon.

Specifically with today’s emerging technologies, like network adoption of 5G, for example, has opened the door to more audacious and high density distributed denial of service attacks.

Similarly, the adoption of wearable devices, and biological data, and availability of that data on the cloud, will pose a different risk in terms of that data getting monetised. This, in particular, will create serious challenges for the privacy of personal data.

The massive adoption of IoT, with everything having an IP address so that companies can collect data to use to plan future strategies — this will create a different set of problems in terms of embedded security for this data. How can we ensure these devices don’t malfunction and aren’t corrupted? 

All of these innovations and changes are creating a significant amount of risk and vulnerabilities to the system. And I think we need to take notice of all of that and have a clear strategy for dealing with it.
 

The cybersecurity world has changed dramatically in the last 18 months in response to new threats. What exactly changed?

It’s been a fascinating ride. When there was a significant adoption of new technologies and digital tools about 18 months ago, the whole topic of cybersecurity became mainstream — because it’s all about business survival, and avoiding reputational and financial loss.

This stemmed from the need for organisations to change their technology architecture overnight to facilitate remote working, of course. This led to a dispersion of access points, and consequently, data centre architectures saw a significant challenge too. 

But the main issue was the massive adoption of cloud-enabled services. Because of this shift, we had to re-architect the security architecture to support it — and we really didn’t have that much time to change it.

Long story short, the cybersecurity industry itself went through a massive change in terms of how we look at security. But the industry needed to respond to two different issues: securing the remote workplace and combating the rise in threats. And these threats have been relentless.

We’ve seen a significant rise in advanced malware, with ransomware arguably being the most severe. This is to say nothing of prominent supply chain attacks and attacks on utility services.
 

Is this the worst it’s ever been? Is this ‘era’ of cybersecurity the most serious in terms of the severity and frequency of attacks?

We just hope that the future will be better. And there are multiple things we can do to ensure the future is better.

We know the constant innovation and change is creating more vulnerabilities and attack surfaces, the adversaries are getting bolder, and there are more and more audacious attacks, which are increasing.

It’s difficult to say whether this is the worst it’s ever been, or it can’t get worse than this. Having said that, there is a lot to be done at a fundamental level.

Even now, there’s a lot more awareness required among stakeholders — you know, not every stakeholder believes that cybersecurity is their problem; they normally try to ‘externalise’ it.

So I believe there will be a change where everyone will start playing their role in building a more robust and secure system. We shouldn’t subscribe to this cat and mouse game where there is a vulnerability, and then you go and fix it. We need to try and create an ecosystem where our are systems are less vulnerable.

That’s one of the most important messages myself and Infosys are trying to spread across the industry: to ensure that security is embedded by design in everything that we do.

A lot of effort is required to build deterrence, craft regulations and so on to ensure we can apprehend threat actors. I’m confident we can achieve it; whenever things get worse, as humans, we have always applied our force to make sure we can control it. So we will be able to manage it.
 

So obviously the cybersecurity industry is extremely important in maintaining critical infrastructure across the world. How much demand is there for a larger workforce in the industry? Is there a shortage of talent?

The short answer is yes, and I think it’s a pressing issue, and it needs to be tackled at both corporate and government levels.

Fundamentally, there is a huge demand/supply issue — there is a lot of demand for highly trained cybersecurity professionals, and there’s a short supply of talent across the globe. But there are ways of addressing this.

For example, at Infosys we have extensive training programmes. Every person who is a part of my team needs to go through 16 weeks of foundational cybersecurity training before being put into the workforce. I see this as a critical investment because it’s a highly complex topic, and teams need to have both a sound understanding of policy as well as an arsenal of technical skills and knowledge.

We also offer a programme where we give our employees a ‘sabbatical’ to get themselves trained in cybersecurity, and then come back and join at higher roles. I see this as a way of solving the capacity problem.

These are the strategies that organisations need to adopt to build and attract talent into the industry and close the gap between demand and supply.

To learn more about how to secure your enterprise, click here.

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