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By Tom Garrubba, Senior Director, The Santa Fe Group, Shared Assessments Program

I’m often asked during the holiday season to reflect on the year’s setting sun of cyber threats and make predictions on the upcoming year’s threat horizon. Though I’m certainly not Carnac the Magnificent (one of the late Johnny Carson’s most memorable Tonight Show skits) however, kindly allow me to put on my big purple turban, hold an envelope to my head and mutter my three predictions…

“Going Mobile…Big Money…Third and Four.”

(Now let’s open the envelope, blow into it, and extract the answer…)
“Going Mobile” – No, this has nothing to do with the classic up-tempo song from The Who. It is a reference to data breaches through mobile devices. Through encounters with numerous cybersecurity professionals over the past year, I see that there appears to be quite consensus that a breach stemming from mobile devices lies on the horizon. This is understandable, as many organizations (particularly small and mid-sized organizations) continue to grapple with the challenges of securing not only the various mobile operating systems that they’re supporting, but for identifying the applications on these devices that may pose a threat to unauthorized data exposure. As “bring your own device” (BYOD) is increasingly adopted by organizations, it’s prudent to revisit your policies, procedures, practices, and standards to ensure that controls are present that are capable of tackling current, known threats and investigate ways to deal with mobile threats on the horizon.

“Big Money” – I’m predicting big payouts this year, from companies to regulatory agencies, from companies to other companies, and/or from companies to customers (via class-action lawsuits). US regulators, and even the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), have made it clear that organizations must employ – and provide evidence – that a sound security and privacy posture exists ata their organization. Additionally, as the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into full affect this coming May, there’s much chatter in the privacy profession that companies out of compliance with GDPR will be hit hard financially (up to 4% of total turnover) as European data protection authorities (DPA’s) make efforts to show that any organization in possession of European customer data must take this regulation very seriously. The GDPR is no paper tiger – it certainly does have teeth – BIG teeth. Lastly, lawsuits between companies and even class-action lawsuits will result in hefty legal expenses and payouts to affected parties due to poor security or privacy posture. It’s additionally important to note that cybersecurity insurance normally does not cover a legal action brought against your organization.

“Third and Four” – Since we’re heading into NFL post season play, this may sound like “third down with four yards to go;” but since we’re talking cybersecurity, I am referencing third and fourth parties. Hackers are cognizant that most organizations outsource sensitive functions and data. Hackers will identify their targets and begin to scope the companies they’ve most likely contracted to (those that perform or handle certain key functions) and will then position those vendors for attack. Hackers will hunt for “back doors” and exploit any vulnerabilities to access their target’s network, so they can locate, browse, steal, poison (destroy or deploy malware), or highjack (via ransomware) the data on which they’ve set their sights. To prevent this, organizations need to be diligent in performing risk control assessments on their third parties and, where possible, their fourth parties as well. (Note that this effort may require assistance from the third party to examine fourth parties). It’s also extremely wise (and if you’re in a regulated environment, this part is practically mandatory) to participate in cyber and business resilience activities with your “critical” third and fourth parties.
So, now that I’ve made these predictions, I’m curious to see how long I’ll have to wait to see these come true. While I certainly hope none of these predictions come to fruition, given the current state of world we live in, I’m simply being a realist.

Have a safe and secure new year!

Shared Assessments Senior Director, Tom Garrubba, is an experienced professional in IT risk and information controls, most recently in developing, maintaining, and consulting on third party risk (TPR) programs for Fortune 100 companies. A nationally recognized subject matter expert and top-rated speaker on third party risk. Connect with Tom on LinkedIn