Bringing government and private sector resources together to share knowledge creates a high-definition picture of cyber threats
Over the past three years, we’ve all grown to rely on critical infrastructure for basics like power, water and connectivity that allow us to work remotely or logistics networks that keep shelves full. and economies on track. This reliance has made the infrastructure a target for cyberattacks, and we have seen an increase in attacks on power grids and electricity providers, as well as attempts to take down banking systems.
Some attacks, such as those against the banking sector, target the private sector, but we often hear of breaches in the public sector and government as well. Both parties invest in the protection of these critical assets. Yet there are areas where governments can learn from the private sector and vice versa, which will help both sides adapt more quickly and effectively to an ever-changing threat environment.
Protect what needs to be protected
The old approach to securing information was to apply a blanket level of protection to everything, which is still followed by many government organizations today. The private sector has recognized that this is impractical; too much protection slows the response to a breach. This makes it more difficult, and therefore slower, to identify the point of incursion.
The best way to protect information is to consider only the concept of “key data”. Different types of data require different levels of protection at different times in the lifecycle. It sounds complicated, but it’s not.
Consider a product launch; under development, this process is secret. Documents are highly protected because leaking them into the public domain would compromise any competitive advantage, and the highest levels of protection are essential. Then, on launch day, as that information moves from secret to public, the protection can be removed because everyone now knows about the product.
Governments could learn from private sector protection levels that can be scaled throughout the information lifecycle, making it easier to manage, faster to detect, and in the event of a breach, high-risk items are more identifiable by the security team.
Sharing knowledge is a good thing
Governments use intelligence to better understand threats at the national or international level. An example of this is working with agencies to maintain a broad view of threat actors who can plan targeted attacks at the national or regional level. The private sector leverages intelligence to spot industry or vertical threats, monitoring the latest potential DDoS, ransomware or software vulnerabilities that could impact business.
Bringing these resources together to share knowledge would create a near high definition picture of cyber threats in real time. We have seen this happen in some countries, for example, the UK National Cyber Security CiSP, But this is only the beginning. More initiatives are needed around the world to help both sides build trust and be more happy to cooperate in the future.
Security by design is imperative
“It started with a click” sounds like the opening of a song, but refers to how over 90% of successful malware and ransomware campaigns launch their attacks. We live in a world of clicks, likes, swipes and moves to access information online. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for people to respond to emails, online campaigns or messages without putting online safety first.
This challenge would be impossible to eliminate, but the risks are reduced as more vendors integrate security into their solutions and devices. However, some sellers of cheaper products still overlook safety in the excitement of getting to market early. These products are then purchased at low prices by users who believe that voice-activated egg-timing is an indispensable tool in the kitchen, without realizing that this device broadcasts their Wi-Fi password to anyone who wants it!
Governments can help address this issue, with some changes in US legislation in recent years for IoT device security standards, and other regions adopting principles to raise public awareness of online security, including the UK. United and Australia (PDF). This is just the beginning, but governments have an opportunity to apply direction that will make safety by design a must rather than an option.
Working together is the best future
These are just a few areas where the private and public sectors working together effectively can make a difference. In most cases, it’s not about something new, but about better and more regular collaboration. Technology is crucial today to meet business, personal, financial and even environmental demands, and that will not change. In fact, as the global reliance on technology increases, cybersecurity will become an even greater challenge – government and the private sector bear a shared responsibility to meet the challenge and the threat together.
Related: The growing importance of research communities for industrial cybersecurity