Are cyber criminals really outpacing cyber defenders?

Cybercrime is on the rise. Over the past year there have been a number of high-profile cyberattacks – most recently, the 600Gbps attack on KrebsOnSecurity. One analyst claims that right now, every Fortune 500 company is being hacked in some way.

Moreover, the cost of cybercrime is rising. According to a new Cybersecurity Ventures report, global annual cybercrime will cost the world USD6 trillion by 2021, up from USD3 trillion in 2015.

By 2020, there will be an estimated 4 billion people and 50 billion devices connected to the Internet. This hyper-connected Internet of Things (IoT) era could multiply the number of vulnerabilities, warn experts, who point out that consumer IoT devices are already being used to perpetrate DDoS attacks.

Governments recruiting hackers

Governments have made significant attempts to recruit the best talent to fight cybercrime, from Denmark’s training academy to the US’ open call to ‘Hack the Pentagon’ and Britain’s Christmas-time online puzzle. Moreover, world leaders are working together to combat cyber crime. India and the US, and Russia and Indonesia recently agreed to enhance cooperation efforts, for example.

RELATED: Is your country prepared for a cyberattack? Learn more about ITU’s cyberdrills

Still, the pervasive perception that cybercriminals are ‘one step ahead’ and cyber defenders are constantly playing catch up to cybercriminals, remains.

At WebSummit 2015, for instance, F-Secure’s Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen quipped that we are now well prepared to deal with the hackers of 10 years ago. He added that Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help close the gap.

But are cyber defences more robust than meets the eye – even now?

Building more secure networks

Frode Hommedal, Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) Subject Matter Lead at Telenor Norway, thinks so.

ITU News was intrigued by this tweet, so we caught up with Frode to ask him for more information.

Here’s what he told us: “A lot of people seem to believe that attackers always have the upper hand and hence will always ‘win’, but I don’t think that is the case. Or at least it doesn’t have to be. It is near impossible to move around in IT systems without leaving traces, so as defenders we have a potentially big home field advantage if we do proper security monitoring. Also, there has been a surge of cybersecurity innovations the last couple of years that really has given defenders great new capabilities. Attackers aren’t made of magic, they can be defeated if you decide to engage them.”

So, with the rising cost of cybercrime, how can businesses better defend their networks? By taking cyber defence seriously.

“A lot of companies are doing a great job defending their infrastructure, utilizing new technology, methodology and their home field advantage to the full extent […] from my experience, the more diverse and robust a company’s security organization is, the less that company is lagging behind. This makes sense of course. If security has been made a priority, you will typically pick up more advanced and up to date security practices.”

Lucy Spencer (@L_M_Spencer)

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