Saturday, October 16 2021

Large enterprises continue to be beleaguered by the outsized consequences of human errors, many of which are entirely avoidable. Jeremy Seth Davis spoke with RedSeal CEO Ray Rothrock about developing digital resilience against threats that rely on employee negligence.

Rothrock has since published an executive handbook on the topic, Digital Resilience: Is Your Company Ready for the Next Cyber Threat?, and he was recently named executive chairman of the cyber risk modeling platform.

This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on cybersecurity trends. You have discussed phishing attacks. That’s an important area of concern.

Phishing has become a really big deal. No longer is the perimeter of a corporation or an organization now the main barrier—because phishing just walks through the front door, usually attached to email. In fact, I’ve seen reports that about 95% of all the attacks, begin with a phishing event or someone either intentionally or accidentally clicks on a link in an email, they think it’s official or whatever. So that means the threat is now in, it’s not just being stopped at the firewall and detecting that malware in the email, for example, is very difficult. I mean, fire eye has some technology there, but nothing’s perfect. So assume it’s in assume you’re going to click on assume it’s going to disperse itself. But phishing is a big deal. There are companies I’m aware of startups that are working on technologies that will try to detect the phishing packets before they get to the firewall that would be great. But that’s probably a ways off and they’ll never be 100%.

It’s just a way that the bad guys have inflected the market one more time to get inside your perimeter defense and so therefore, interior defenses and capability respond is really important. Actually, the big aha moment, this third phase, if you will, that I see happening is McKinsey & Company published a book called Beyond Cybersecurity in April of this year and it’s about resilience. In particular, they call it digital resilience, and resilience, basically, as the ability to recover from impairment. Automobiles have resilience, they build steel bodies, you know, airplanes have the ability to fly on three engines instead of four those. These are thoughtful things about how if you have a complicated machine, how it can survive a problem. Networks were not built that way. The concept of resilience or impairment and surviving is just not there.

An example of that was last July, the New York Stock Exchange, United Airlines and the Wall Street Journal, all three of those networks were down for two hours at the same time. Was it cyber? Was it an attack? Was it a Twitter feeds all thought we were having a Pearl Harbor moment? It was not. These were simple mistakes that people made by uploading some images on Cisco firewall on Cisco routers that were not quite right, and they brought those networks down. These were cyber events by normal people doing their job that brought down these companies. Can you imagine if you brought down the banking system by uploading the wrong router image, that’s a big deal and this whole resilience in particular digital resilience, measuring it, taking actions, when you find problems in that assessment, is what we’re all about and other companies, I think there’s going to be a real emergence of that concept. It’s already in the C-suite. How do you know this stuff? How do you measure this stuff? That’s what we do and I’ve put all my attention and I’ve hired a team that thinks this way.

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