The Little-Known Pact at the Heart of Cybersecurity

The Little-Known Pact at the Heart of Cybersecurity

The cybersecurity market is built on two sorts of competition: competition between security suppliers and cybercriminals and competition among vendors themselves. 

These two battlegrounds are linked uncommonly; to prevent threat actors from infecting devices with malware and accessing company networks, cybersecurity companies frequently have to call a short cease-fire. 

Jaya Baloo, CISO at antivirus business Avast, describes this balance of competition and collaboration as a friendly rivalry that allows all major market players to work together when necessary.

Baloo discussed the unusual interaction between vendors in the sector during a session at MWC 2022. She believes that the cybersecurity community's first goal is to protect people from assault and that profit is a secondary priority.

Sharing Is Caring

Several developing technologies will be blended in the future, laying the groundwork for new digital experiences for consumers and enterprises. 

There was a lot of talk about the interplay of 5G, AI, IoT, and edge computing at MWC 2022, for example, a heady mix that would enable use cases ranging from self-driving vehicles to autonomous factories and more. 

However, according to Baloo, this level of technology contact can cause issues for security professionals, especially if new goods and services are not built with security in mind.


Picture: YahooSports

Right now, technologies are coming together in an organic and pleasurable way. However, this will result in an increase in complexity, which is the enemy of security.

In a situation like this, cybersecurity firms have the best chance of protecting clients by sharing information on new attack paths, vulnerabilities, and cybercriminal groups. 

Baloo praised the efforts of Avast's threat intelligence team, which issues regular reports detailing its findings. For example, one recent article looked at the rise in phishing assaults on Ukrainian companies during the Russian invasion, and the prior installment looked at the increase in DDoS hacktivism. 

When the threat intelligence team identifies a new malware strain or attack method, Avast not only incorporates defenses into its services where possible but also provides support to victims and informs the general public about its findings.

Baloo gave a shake of the head when we asked if there were any occasions in which Avast would not share intelligence, such as if withholding information could provide a competitive advantage.

Going In Blind

The SolarWinds assault and the Log4J vulnerability dominated the cybersecurity news cycle last year, highlighting the threats posed by the software supply chain, which enterprises often disregard. 

Supply chain attacks aren't going away any time soon. The primary issue is that we don't fully comprehend our possible weak spots.


Picture: ThePeople

According to Baloo, this problem impacts both open source and proprietary software. As Log4j proved, just because code is available for anyone to look at doesn't imply it's been done with the appropriate level of scrutiny. 

On the other hand, Baloo is optimistic that regulations mandating enterprises to keep a closer eye on their software bill of materials (SBOM) will help reduce the risk for their consumers. 

Following the SolarWinds attack, US Vice President Joe Biden signed an executive order requiring software suppliers to give a full SBOM as part of the federal procurement process.

Although the US did not go so far as to require suppliers to produce SBOMs for all customers, the goal is that the practice will become more widespread and, at the very least, that new regulation will elevate the profile of supply chain risk.

The Next Frontier

Not only must cybersecurity firms anticipate the types of assaults that may pose a short-term threat to customers, but they must also look further forward and further away. 

Quantum computing, which happens to be another area of expertise for Baloo, who advises the World Economic Forum on the subject, is another emerging sector of technology that will have a substantial impact on the cybersecurity scene. 

Quantum computers work in a different way than traditional computers, using a phenomenon known as superposition (in which subatomic particles exist in several states simultaneously) to execute calculations much quicker than currently achievable.


Picture: Inria

Although the world's most potent quantum processors currently have insufficient quantum bits (qubits) to provide a significant advantage over regular supercomputers, quantum computing's development will pose many security challenges. 

Large-scale quantum computers, in particular, will have enough processing power to break contemporary cryptography. As a result, assuming that information secured by encryption today will remain secure for years is a mistake. State-sponsored threat actors may already be accumulating enormous amounts of encrypted data in the hopes of one day gaining access to it. However, once we have a quantum computer capable of breaking existing encryption, we're doomed. 

We'll need a new set of unbreakable cryptographic methods, even with a quantum computer, to reap the benefits of quantum computing. We need a forward-thinking defense as a cybersecurity community to prepare for these threats.

Again, this is a subject on which security firms will need to work closely together in the coming years to develop new quantum-safe algorithms and advocate for policy that ensures the most susceptible sectors of the economy are quantum ready. 

The underpinnings of modern cybersecurity will be jeopardized if quantum-secure technologies do not advance at the same rate as quantum computers.

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Jessica Vieira
Jessica Vieira
Jessica Vieira is ProductReviews's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology.