Is your workplace ‘cyber savvy’?

7 Jun 2024

Image: Mike Britton

Cybersecurity veteran Mike Britton explains why a savvy cyber culture is essential to keep workplaces secure.

With more than a quarter-century of experience in IT, privacy and cybersecurity, Mike Britton has had a front row seat to witness the complex challenges of the security industry and how to solve those challenges for customers. For Britton, it’s all about creating a “security-aware and cyber-savvy culture” in your organisation.

Britton is chief information security officer at Abnormal Security, a San Francisco-headquartered email security platform. He is also a member of Forbes Technology Council, a professional networking community for tech executives. He has previously worked at Alliance Data, IBM and VF Corporation.

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In his current role, Britton leads Abnormal Security’s information security and privacy programmes. He describes himself as “an advocate for customers”, communicating their feature needs to developers and providing resources and guidance about security and compliance standards.

Clear communication is central to his role. He takes pride in “translating complex IT issues for executives and board members” to ensure that they can make decisions based on “clear and actionable insights”.

Here, Britton provides some of his key insights for the future challenges and trends of the cybersecurity sector.

What are the biggest challenges in the IT sector?

I think one of the biggest challenges today is the persistent threat of phishing and other social engineering attacks. Attacks like business email compromise (BEC), invoice fraud and credential phishing are evolving rapidly, making them increasingly difficult to detect and prevent.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Report from last year showed that BEC attacks alone cost businesses nearly $3bn in losses. This marks a 7pc increase from 2022, highlighting the growing sophistication of these attacks.

Cybercriminals are constantly shifting their tactics to evade detection, and today’s threat actors have become highly adept at using social engineering techniques to disguise their attacks. Unlike traditional phishing emails that rely on malicious links and attachments, social engineering attacks are designed to exploit trust and urgency, convincing victims to transfer funds or disclose sensitive information.

The interconnected nature of cloud email is exacerbating these threats – it means that if an attacker successfully compromises one email account, they could then get unconstrained access to all other connected cloud accounts and the data within them.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation?

In the past few years, we’ve seen a massive acceleration in digital transformation across the board, whether it’s the adoption of cloud services, remote working, automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), and so on. This transformation has forced the cybersecurity industry to up its game and introduce next-gen approaches to threat detection and response.

As such, the industry is moving away from traditional, reactive and static security measures to proactive, predictive and adaptive strategies. This shift is crucial for addressing the complexities and speed of modern cyberthreats.

At Abnormal Security, we’ve embraced this digital transformation by integrating AI and ML into our core security solutions from day one. Our platform was designed at its inception to use these technologies to analyse vast amounts of data, establish behavioural baselines and detect anomalies in real time.

This AI-driven approach is a direct response to the evolving tactics of cybercriminals and allows organisations to identify and mitigate threats more effectively than ever before.

Internally, we foster a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. Our teams are encouraged to experiment with new technologies and methodologies, ensuring we stay at the forefront of cybersecurity advancements.

What big tech trends are you most excited about?

AI is a game-changer that’s fundamentally transforming many aspects of personal and business life. Cybersecurity is no exception, with AI presenting both new challenges and opportunities.

On the threat side, AI is fuelling the threat landscape by enabling cybercriminals to launch more advanced and convincing attacks. With access to numerous new generative AI tools, even unsophisticated criminals can now easily craft highly realistic phishing emails that are difficult to distinguish from legitimate communications.

Although AI is dangerous in the hands of threat actors, it also has the potential to significantly boost our defence mechanisms, giving security teams a tool that is adaptive enough to keep up with evolving threats. In addition to enabling stronger security, it can also help to automate various security operations workflows, reducing the workload on human security teams. This efficiency is crucial as the volume of attacks continues to rise.

What are your thoughts on how we can address the security challenges currently facing your industry?

The main challenges that I see facing our industry include:

  • Navigating the risks that come with cloud email. As more organisations shift to cloud email, this has created new attack vectors that threat actors can target.
  • Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly advanced in their tactics. Already, we have seen a rise in social engineering attacks like BEC, but the proliferation of generative AI has made these attacks even worse, because threat attackers now have an accessible tool that they can use to scale their attacks.
  • Economic uncertainty has forced cybersecurity teams to tighten their budgets and reduce their tech stacks, forcing them to do more with less. At the same time, the industry has been dealing with a talent shortage that is adding even more pressure to security teams.

These pressures can be alleviated with tools that enhance visibility and threat detection across the broadest attack surface, including tools that leverage the power of AI. By analysing vast amounts of data in real time, AI-powered tools can more accurately identify patterns and anomalies that might go unnoticed by human analysts.

Additionally, AI goes hand in hand with automation, helping to streamline repetitive tasks and reducing the burden on lean security teams. Using AI to detect and auto-remediate social engineering attacks, flag risky misconfigurations and automate the workflow around user-reported phishing emails, for example, can free up valuable time, enabling security analysts to focus on the more complex aspects of threat detection and response.

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