The growing cybersecurity concern among Americans
by: TEKsystems on Feb. 25, 2013
The digital landscape is opening up new doors and opportunities to government agencies and private businesses by providing decision-makers with the unique ability to leverage next-generation tools to improve performance, efficiency and overall operations. Yet the online world can be two-faced, as the emergence of new technologies also makes it easier for cybercriminals and other malicious individuals to breach traditional network barriers and gain access to mission-critical information and IT resources.
The advent of advanced IT services has also spun the conspiracy wheel and people are more afraid of an imminent cyber attack now than ever before.
A recent study of more than 1,000 Americans by Tenable Network Security, a prominent cybersecurity firm, revealed that the majority of U.S. citizens believe the country will attack another nation or be assaulted in the digital world within the next 10 years. This concern has been brought about by ongoing public notifications of hacking incidents and the recent Executive Order by President Obama requiring government agencies and businesses take a new approach to strengthening their cybersecurity efforts.
Unfortunately, this awareness does not mean decision-makers are able to do anything. In fact, most Americans believe the public and private sector are not prepared for a digital onslaught.
The perception of cyberwarfare
There is no doubt that the digital landscape is becoming more menacing, as major data breaches are now a daily headline - a complete transformation from several years ago when organizations tried to sweep incidents under the rug. Furthermore, most Americans believe public and private agencies are vulnerable no matter what.
The study revealed that 93 percent of respondents think businesses are susceptible to a cyberattack, while 95 percent believe U.S. government facilities are "somewhat" to "very" vulnerable to these situations.
Approximately 92 percent of Americans are worried public utilities, such as water, electric and gas, are open to attack. In fact, 37 percent of citizens said an attack on utilities is their biggest concern, while 30 percent ranked disrupted financial services as their biggest worry. Another 21 percent cited communications, including phone and internet, while 7 percent said public transportation as the No. 1 fear.
To combat these threats, most Americans think President Obama should take matters into his own hands and strengthen the overall protection of the nation. For this reason, 60 percent of respondents said they would support increased investments to create "cyberwarriors" - tactics and professionals used to defend against digital attacks spawning from outside the country, Tenable Network Security reported. Only 10 percent of Americans said they were opposed to these investments.
"Americans also want to see more done in both the public and private sector, with the government leading the way in setting standards and ensuring that important networks are protected," said Ron Gula, a former cybersecurity expert with the NSA and now CEO and CTO of Tenable Network Security. "Given this strong level of support across age groups and demographics, we may see cybersecurity move up the list of critical policy and legislative proposals."
Fighting digital fire with fire
The study clearly reveals that Americans are concerned about the overall safety of mission-critical assets under the responsibility of public and private organizations. However, many Americans are unsure of the necessary steps they should take to mitigate risk in the short and long term.
"I think these rather conflicting results on who should be held accountable reveal that Americans want both the public and private sector working closely together on cyber security," Gula said. "I think they clearly want the government to be a better first line of defense but they also want to make sure U.S. Corporations are equally diligent in guarding against cyberattacks."
While there are a number of precautions decision-makers need to take when defending their networks from outsiders, the most important is to be proactive. If executives simply wait to be attacked before deploying any counter measures, the battle will already be lost. By planning ahead, public and private firms will be able to keep digital assets better protected.
A separate report by the U.S. Small Business Administration said decision-makers need to implement robust IT training programs to educate workers how to go about their daily activities without inadvertently jeopardizing the safety of sensitive information. When the entire team is on board, organizations will be less likely to fall victim to an attack.
The SBA also said executives need to assess their risk. One of the best ways to do this is to work with a trusted third party. By consulting with highly trained IT staffing firms, agencies across both public and private sectors can be better equipped with the tools and employees needed to ensure the security of confidential resources.
In the end, taking a proactive approach to cybersecurity will be the only way to fight the flames, as waiting too long will only give the enemy more time to develop a sophisticated plan of attack.