Ecosystm Analyses: Journey to Becoming Cyber Ready

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One of the questions that organisations are asked in the global Ecosystm Cybersecurity Study, is how they rate their cybersecurity measures and controls (on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is extremely mature). Organisations that rate themselves at an 8-10, are considered ‘mature’ in their cybersecurity measures while those that rate themselves at 1-7 are evolving their cybersecurity practices. Clear differences in priorities and investments can be seen between the mature and evolving adopters of cybersecurity measures.

Here are the key differences that emerge and should allow organisations to benchmark their cybersecurity practices against those of the mature adopters of cybersecurity solutions.

#1 Do you have the Right Motives?

There is no denying that organisations have to continue to evolve their cybersecurity measures with the evolving threat landscape. There is a need to have a continued focus on cybersecurity. However, are they doing it to address the right issues and threats? Mature organisations have their cybersecurity measures entrenched within the organisation’s risk management programs which help them align their investments to their risk position (Figure 1). Very often these programs have their technology landscape – special projects for digital transformation (DX) – and industry compliance laws built into them. Mature organisations also have a proactive approach to incidents and breaches, continuing to evolve their cybersecurity practices.

While cybersecurity practices can help with an organisation’s go-to-market messaging, the reasons for investing in robust cybersecurity practices should be more aligned to the organisation’s risk strategies. Also, it should not be restricted to compliance alone and should be much more proactive than merely ticking the right boxes.

 #2 Are you focusing on the Right Challenges?

As solution complexity increases, organisations are challenged by their cybersecurity deployments (Figure 2). Cybersecurity measures must be applied across the entire organisation and systems, including applications, database, and storage whether on-prem or on cloud (public, private or hybrid). This adds to the complexity of the solutions and the associated integration challenges.

While it is not possible to have an unlimited budget for cybersecurity measures, once it is treated like a business issue, and the risks associated (including financial and reputational) are conveyed to the key stakeholders cybersecurity budgets become part of the organisational strategy consideration. If your security team is still struggling to procure what they think is the right budget, there is a mismatch in expectations and miscommunication between the security team and executive management. “A risk focussed approach enables organisations to understand the ROI on security measures and therefore invest in the most impactful areas of cyber risk for their business”, says Alex Woerndle, Principal Advisor Ecosystm.

A real challenge that all organisations face is skills shortage. However, it is time to align business and security strategies and look beyond IT for security analysts – professionals who can translate what the Board’s priorities are into defining the security strategy.

#3 Do you have a dedicated Cybersecurity Role?

While the Board will often be involved in evaluating the risk exposure of an organisation, there is need for a dedicated role that can traverse both the business and the technological needs in deciding the right cybersecurity framework.

Organisations should have a dedicated responsibility for their cybersecurity practice – the CISO/CSO is the key data protection lead in mature organisations (Figure 3). CISOs should be reporting into the CFO, Chief Risk Officer or the CEO and not the CIO to avoid a conflict of interest. Alex says, “While the most common reporting line for CISOs is still to the CIO, there is a fundamental conflict of interest with this model – being part of the risk function, or reporting directly to the CEO, provides the level of independence required for good governance of cyber risk.”

The reality is that many organisations – especially small and medium enterprises that have small dedicated security teams – will find it difficult to appoint a dedicated CSO/CISO. The study also finds that 80% of evolving organisations have less than 10 employees in their security teams as compared to only a third of mature organisations. Carl Woerndle, Principal Advisor Ecosystm, suggests these organisations look at the option of hiring a vCISO (virtual CISO). “A vCISO can help your organisation deliver a full security program within a fixed budget. Hiring someone external also has the added benefits of bringing objectivity to your security strategies and providing guidance on newer skills and technologies to your security teams.”

#4 Are you aware of Cloud Risk?

Cloud adoption has become mainstream, especially as organisations ramp up their digitalisation initiatives. It adds scale and agility to the organisation’s transformation investments. While security remains a key concern when it comes to cloud adoption, cloud is often regarded as a more secure option than on-premise. Cloud providers have dedicated security focus, constantly upgrade their security capabilities in response to newer threats and evolve their partner ecosystem. There is also better traceability with cloud as every virtual activity can be tracked, monitored, and is loggable.

However, mature organisations not only use on-prem options more for their sensitive data storage (Figure 4), they are also more skeptical about relying only on public cloud security features. Only 34% of mature organisations feel that public cloud security features do not need to be complemented while 52% of evolving organisations share that perception.

The cloud is as secure as an organisation makes it. The perception that there is no need to supplement public cloud security features can have disastrous outcomes. It is important to supplement the cloud provider’s security with event-driven security measures within an organisation’s applications and cloud interface. Alex says, “Assuming the big cloud providers have security covered for you is a huge mistake. Understanding the shared responsibility model is crucial in your public cloud adoption journey. The tools are available – but typically at an extra cost, and you need to employ, configure and continually manage them for effective security.”

The big differentiator between mature and evolving organisations in securing cloud environments is in the use of multi-factor authentication (Figure 5). With 3/4th of mature organisations employing this as a control, it highlights that passwords – even strong passwords – alone, are not sufficient in 2020.  Mature organisations are increasingly investing in encryption. But the perception of  the complexity in deploying and managing encryption (and the keys) has been a challenge especially for organisations with smaller teams and less in-house technical capabilities.

 

#5 Are you Breach Ready?

Global organisations generally consider a data breach as inevitable – largely believing that “it is not about if, but when”(Figure 6). All organisations will face some incident, attempted breach or a breach, at some point. It is necessary to have the right cybersecurity measures to avoid breaches – but it is equally important to be prepared for when a breach actually happens. A majority of organisations, regardless of maturity, are worried about (and expect) a breach.  For evolving organisations this is a troubling statistic given their use of public cloud with limited security understanding or controls – better education is needed from the public cloud providers but also the security industry.

Breach notification processes need to keep evolving – and they must also include employees. Organisations should be aware of the need for people management during an incident. Policies might be clear and adhered to, but it is substantially harder to train the stakeholders involved, on how they will handle the breach emotionally. It extends to how an organisation manages their welfare both during an incident, and long after the incident response has been closed off.

“Cyber insurance has rapidly become a must-have as part of an organisation’s layered defence. While it provides a layer of support in the event of a breach, you should not rely on it as your only safety net,” Carl adds. “It is also important to ensure that your cyber cover is appropriate to your risks and organisational needs and policies should be evaluated carefully.”


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The Repercussions of the Singapore Health Data Breach

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As a health analyst, I have always considered myself lucky that Singapore has been home for the last 9 years, and I have been a witness to the national ehealth initiatives from close quarters. So, when I received the SMS informing me that my son’s name, NRIC (identification number), address, gender, race and birth date are floating around in the cyberspace somewhere it was disconcerting to say the least. True that his medical and financial information had not been breached, but that’s small consolation for someone who took for granted the sophistication of the health records system in Singapore.

A Quick Recap

SingHealth, Singapore’s largest group of healthcare institutions, announced in June 2018 that non-clinical personal data of 1.5 million patients had been “accessed and copied”. Outpatient prescriptions information of 160,000 patients were also compromised. There was no evidence of this breach going deeper into actual patients’ clinical records and the other 2 healthcare groups were not affected. The breach was detected a week later, a relatively short period, but it was not immediate. Security – identification and threat management – is one of the mainstays of any Digital Transformation journey, and Singapore healthcare is considered to be well along on that journey.

It is commonly believed that security breaches are waiting to happen, and that organisations are not concerned with ‘if’ but ‘when’. Moreover, the disparity of the devices used in healthcare makes security a difficult proposition. This will only become more complicated once IoT sensors and devices are used from outside the walls of hospitals. AI-driven breach detection is being portrayed as the hope for the near future.

Why does this continue to concern me, even after 5 months?

  • A cautious approach to NEHR. One of the first statements that the government made in the wake of this disaster was that the government is reviewing the ongoing NEHR initiatives. Since then, the Cyber Security Agency (CSA), and PwC have been appointed to identify the weaknesses in the NEHR initiatives, with a view to address them. It is a good time to re-evaluate the possible weak links before going deeper into the program.
    But, almost 10 years after the NEHR was launched the country has still not been able to realise the full potential of the initiative, especially because of limited participation from the private sector. Will this lead to a conservative approach to creating the ‘One Patient, One Record’? Will this put on the brakes to ongoing progress of the ehealth initiatives?
  • Private Participation in NEHR. The private sector accounts for 80% of Singapore’s primary care. It is possible for a citizen who has never stepped into a public polyclinic, choosing the friendly, neighbourhood GP instead, and has had no acute care needs (whether inpatient or outpatient) to not be on the NEHR system. And this would include chronic disease management, which is the primary cause of concern in sustainable healthcare. The Singapore Personal Data Protection Act 2012 (PDPA) law governs the collection, use and disclosure of personal data by all private organisations. The Act, that came into effect in 2014,  states that organisations that fail to comply with PDPA may be fined up to $1 million and public reporting of the breach. However, the public sector is not included under the PDPA! So in effect the public healthcare consumers whose data was breached have no recourse under PDPA. But this might deter private healthcare providers with very rudimentary IT systems in place, who are liable under PDPA. The government has already been fighting a reluctance on the part of these private primary care providers to go digital with the patient records, and sharing them with the public system,  with a view to build a more comprehensive NEHR.
  • ‘Smart nations’ need ‘Smart’ citizens. This has been my mantra regarding Singapore’s Smart Nation initiatives for a while now. And smart citizens are not necessarily only those with access to multiple mobile devices and wireless connectivity. Smart citizens are also people who are aware of the pitfalls in the journey, and of their rights as they travel together with the government on the ride.
    What shocked me was the singular lack of concern among the average Singaporean, when I tried to discuss the gravity of the health data breach – which is considered even more dangerous than financial data breaches in most mature countries. The common response I received was that its only personal data. Well, your national identification number, along with your date of birth, in the hands of nefarious agents can do a lot of mischief, I reminded them. And what about the prescription data, I persisted. That got answered by a view that prescription data is not really health data! A lot can be inferred from your prescription data… I persisted with no avail! Healthcare is moving toward giving autonomy and control of health records to individuals. To be able to leverage this control, individuals have to be a) concerned about their health and wellness parameters b) ready to record and share their health data with the right people at the right time, and c) aware that health data is private and needs to be kept secure.

There is no doubt in my mind that Singapore will do all within its capacity to avoid a breach of this level – and other industries are feeling the repercussions too. But the government definitely has to manage the private participation in NEHR more delicately and diligently, in light of this breach. They also have a long way to go in educating the citizens on the privacy and compliance angles to health data.

 

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