What is the Next Cybersecurity Fable?
Bad actors. Malware. Ransomware. Phishing attacks. Advanced persistent threats. Have you ever tried explaining to your grandparents or that fun aunt and uncle what a job in cyber means exactly? And when you throw out these terms, do they look at you like you’re speaking a foreign language? Well, that’s because to them, the term “phishing” refers to something you do with a rod and reel, while “bad actors” are those who will never be nominated for an Oscar or an Emmy.
I was sitting around with extended family a few weeks ago and they had questions about what my current employer does. I was going through the “pedestrian” version so they could understand, and I still seemed to lose their focus – eyes glazing over, looking around the room uncomfortably. So, I said, “we help the good guys know what the bad guys are up to.” A generic explanation, but those analysts using our software were suddenly heralded heroes.
The thing is, cybersecurity isn’t that simplistic. How does one convey the seriousness and complexity that is cyber, while making it digestible to the lay person? I started thinking, perhaps we need to think of cyber as a fable: a story about supernatural or extraordinary persons or incidents. After all, Aesop gave us “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” and aren’t hackers/bad actors just that? They could be family, friends, co-workers, who portray themselves to be upstanding citizens, but in reality, they are deceptive, and snacking on our vulnerabilities.
The cyber community is a band of highly intelligent and dedicated warriors all working to stay one step ahead of nefarious ghosts. It’s a daily battle and at times can seem insurmountable with the barrage of new dangers, as well as a constantly changing threat landscape. However, they continue to fight and toil behind the scenes. They are the nameless conquerors in an age where combatants are not only nation states, but the genius kid next door who hacks the transportation system to wreak havoc on traffic lights.
But the cyber “force” is making headway. The most notable accomplishment to date (in which the world in taking notice), is that CISA (the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency created by President Donald Trump), reported the 2020 presidential election was the most secure and safest in the history of the United States. This is no small accomplishment. CISA successfully overcame a raging pandemic, a surge in mail-in voting, the promise of nation state interference, and a flood of disinformation.
So, what is the next cybersecurity fable? What lesson did we learn from the wolf? What if the sheep eventually figure out that the wolf is an imposter and plot to use the wolf’s attack pattern against him? Offensive operations and defensive actions are the way to fight back smartly and win. Monitor. Mitigate. Protect.
Cyber is full of greed, power, and destruction. I like to say that cybercriminals are the “Death Star” and cybersecurity is the “New Hope.” And as Yoda would say: “In the end, cowards are those who follow the dark side.”
And ultimately, in the end, good will always overcome evil.