Current security approaches can create ‘an ever-increasing spiral’ of issues

24 Nov 2021

Image: © Askhat/

BT Ireland’s Dónal Munnelly discusses why businesses should consider a new approach to security and what areas leaders need to look at.

Top-level discussions around cybersecurity are going to be an ongoing challenge for leaders as we look towards 2022.

As the pandemic swept through the world in 2020, there were reports of an “alarming” increase in ransomware attacks, security gaps created by the mass move to remote work and severe burnout among infosec professionals.

Future Human

These cyberthreats are a costly challenge for businesses. In fact, new analysis from Grant Thornton Ireland said cybercrime cost the Irish economy €9.6bn in 2020 – and that was before the severe ransomware attack on Ireland’s Health Service Executive in May 2021.

Many security experts have warned that the ongoing pandemic, the long-term workplace changes, the worsening skill shortage and the increasing sophistication of attacks make a perfect cocktail for security to be a key challenge going forward.

But what exactly can leaders do differently? Dónal Munnelly is a security product marketing manager for telecoms company BT Ireland. He said the current approach to risk management often sees businesses buying more point security control solutions.

“But more security controls generate more data and alerts, including false positives. So, companies have to hire more people to deal with the volume, which is difficult to do due to the skills shortages.”

A recent report from non-profit cybersecurity network (ISC)2 estimated that Ireland needs 10,000 more cybersecurity professionals to meet rising demand for professionals with infosec skills.

“This approach works for a while, until the next new cyber risk is identified, at which point the cycle starts again, resulting in an ever-increasing spiral of increasing data, people and costs,” said Munnelly.

This, he said, can be tackled by newer and more innovative products. Last month, BT launched a new security platform that uses AI to predict and prevent cyberattacks. Designed to self-learn after each attack, the platform can constantly improve its effectiveness across a multi-cloud environment.

What leaders can do

Outside of the tools themselves, Munnelly said leaders need to ensure they have visibility on both their physical assets and their corporate data if they are to protect them effectively.

“Having a strict focus on endpoint security and identity management is also a key requirement as your data is no longer within the corporate network and now could be on a remote endpoint or cloud system,” he said.

“It’s important that the endpoint is secured with next-generation remediation and detection software as well as having identity management solutions so that multifactor authentication is enabled to ensure the right people are accessing your data and resources.”

The attack surface has increased with remote working, especially with the use of remote desktop protocol as a means to remotely access the office and the increased difficulty of updating and patching remote devices.

These challenges have proven difficult for companies already. A recent survey conducted on behalf of cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks found that many companies struggled with security challenges presented by remote and hybrid working since the pandemic began.

“Increasing the focus on threat management, which can help you to monitor any unusual incidents or events that occur in this now perimeter-less environment of hybrid working, can help alert you to early signs of compromise,” said Munnelly.

“Maintaining a good level of vulnerability scanning so you can keep an eye on assets that may be at risk and ingesting these logs into a central system so that you have visibility of your assets can go a long way to shoring up your defences.”

Additionally, Munnelly echoed the sentiments of many other security experts when it comes to cybersecurity education.

“Having good cyber hygiene around the patching level of your devices and the complexity of your passwords can go a long way to protecting against some of the easier weaknesses that cyber criminals will target,” he said.

“In addition, ensuring that your staff have a good understanding of how to spot and more importantly, flag any suspicious activity can help protect against phishing scams and malware infections, especially at this time of year.”

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Jenny Darmody is the deputy editor of Silicon Republic