When technology analysts look back on the Equifax hack, they may well see a turning point in cybersecurity.
It’s one thing when a major retailer like Target gets hacked. Certainly breaches in government agencies raise concern. But Equifax is a credit reporting agency. It’s exact function is to safeguard the kind of sensitive personal data hackers are looking to steal.
The attack on Equifax therefore, by its very nature, altered the cyber landscape.
To recap the facts surrounding the Equifax breach…
- Hackers were able to access personal data of an estimated 145.5 million Equifax customers. Cybercriminals got names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers. The credit card numbers of at least 209,000 consumers were also lost in the hack.
- Equifax is a major player, a private company that generated over $3 billion in revenues in 2016.
- The company knew about the data breach as early as mid-May, but didn’t announce the hack until July 29.
The Equifax breach represents just the tip of the iceberg. In recent months, we have seen “a marked increase in the number of cyberattacks that happen every day, and they’re more complex than ever before,” according to a report by analysts at Panda Security. They note that we have seen “[m]ore sophisticated threats, new attack vectors, and a higher number of attacks.”
Defense becomes more complex as traditional antiviruses fail to meet the challenge and hackers continue upping the ante. Today, “attacks are becoming increasingly customized, or ‘made to order’, targeting their chosen victim,” the analysts note.
In this environment, business leaders need to apply a new and higher level of diligence in defense of their data.
Seen in this light, the rise in cloud computing comes at just the right moment. Businesses have shown themselves eager to embrace the cloud for the cost savings, efficiencies, and scalability it offers. But the cloud can deliver on another front as well, offering added levels of IT security to the enterprise compute environment.
Public cloud service providers have been turning up the heat in response to the cyber threat, with new monitoring tools and other critical safeguards. “From authentication to more complex secured APIs, public cloud platform providers are hardening every aspect of their systems to ensure greater security and scalability,” as noted in this Forbes article.
Enterprise users are recognizing this effort, with trust in cloud security up 76 percent in the past year, while the number of organizations that distrust cloud has fallen by half.
IT systems-failure is one of the most common reasons for data loss: Hackers are able to infiltrate and tinker with systems because internal safeguards go awry or are not supported appropriately by the enterprise IT team. Cloud helps an organization overcome this inherent challenge by delivering assured service levels, thus helping to take the fallibility of systems off the table as a threat.
Cloud providers likewise have been applying artificial intelligence (AI) tools and other mechanisms in an effort to deliver constant and consistent monitoring. This is a critical component of cyber defense. Cloud operators can use network analytics to scan for anomalous behavior, including suspicious peer-to-peer activity. They can watch for suspect network activity and apply behavioral analytics as a means of monitoring for suspicious actions on the network.
Cloud is perhaps not a silver bullet. Enterprise IT leaders still have much to do to ensure that their own networks are secured and that any attempted attack can be readily seen and deflected. But cloud can take a lot of the pressure off, giving IT leaders a much-needed layer of defense.
By bringing a larger set of resources and deeper capabilities, cloud providers can leverage their scale to offer stronger and more capable safeguards than many individual enterprise users could muster on their own. That makes cloud a strong potential partner in the ongoing effort to secure critical business and personal information across the enterprise.