South Africa’s cybersecurity landscape is becoming increasingly dangerous. In fact, a recent report by Interpol reveals that the country is the cybercrime hub of the continent. As cyber-threats continue to rise, it’s crucial for local businesses to keep an eye on trends shaping the sector.
“Preparing for cyber-threats is becoming less of a choice and more of a necessity,” says Langa Dube, regional director for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) South Africa and Rest of Africa. “Businesses need to uplift their cyber-resilience, so that they can plan, track, and react to attacks in a responsible way that ensures the continuity of their operations.”
To stay safe in the wake of rising cyber-threats, a new report from TCS shares five essential cybersecurity trends that businesses must consider and monitor for success in 2024:
Generative AI: Cyber threats and security opportunities
Generative AI (GenAI) is increasing the frequency and complexity of cyber-attacks, creating new pressures on companies. This technology allows cybercriminals to launch sophisticated and stealthy attacks, like deepfakes or self-evolving malware, compromising systems on a large scale.
“To counter these advanced threats, businesses must use AI-driven cybersecurity,” says Dube. “This technology has the potential to transform the industry by improving enterprise posture through automated hardening of configurations and compliance, overcoming micro-segmentation challenges, fine-tuning least-privilege access, enhancing reporting and more.”
In the future, user authentication, AI and machine learning will continue to grow in influence. Businesses can use new technology to help balance security with user experience by analysing the risk of login attempts, verifying users through behavioural data, biometric data, or multifactor authentication.
“As businesses adopt these technologies, they should prioritise employee education on the secure use of AI tools, ensure security of data transmitted to and from AI tools, have stringent access control and monitoring, and continuously harden models to mitigate potential security vulnerabilities,” he adds.
CISOs in the spotlight
Due to increased cyber-attacks and opportunities for breaches, organisation C-suites will become increasingly involved in cyber-related decisions. With increased executive accountability and heavy fines for violations, boards will regularly focus on cybersecurity-related matters.
This is expected to elevate the office of the chief information security officer (CISO), who have traditionally operated from a technocrat mindset of managing tactical risks, putting out fires, and enforcing compliance to where they will be included in business strategy decisions.
“Moving ahead, CISOs should increasingly report to the board and have more autonomy to make investment decisions,” says Dube. “Boards will have a dedicated cyber committee, and specific C-suite cyber-performance metrics.”
More regulated ‘sovereign cloud’ becomes a business standard
The adoption rate of sovereign cloud is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, as more countries and regions develop data sovereignty laws and initiatives. When utilising this cloud, companies can safeguard valuable data and systems from unauthorised access.
“Data privacy regulations and the geopolitical landscape are constantly changing, and these affect the control and flow of data,” reveals Langa. “In South Africa, the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) governs the law of data protection and privacy.”
By adopting a sovereign cloud solution, organisations can reduce the risk of data breaches, espionage and sabotage, while enhancing trust with investors, customers, and regulators. Thereby ensuring they remain compliant with POPIA.
Risks of expanded digital ecosystems
As business models involving digital ecosystems (complex networks of businesses, individuals and various systems and stakeholders that use technology to interact) become more sophisticated, cyber-threats are expected to grow.
“Right now, it is no longer feasible to address every threat identified in an organisation’s digital ecosystem,” says Dube. “Because of this, it is recommended that enterprises adopt a continuous approach to threat management which involves expanding threat assessments to include integrated supply chains while consolidating vendors.”
As cybersecurity threats emerge and evolve, organisations often respond by adding more security products and partners, but this can ultimately work against their security goals. To solve this, businesses should consider vendor consolidation, so that security posture can also be improved.
Talent gaps continue to widen
The skills gap in in the cybersecurity industry has more than doubled since 2019.
According to some estimates, there is a need for more than 3,4-million cyber-professionals globally. Meanwhile, 40% of South African companies struggle to hire and retain cyber security talent.
“The talent gap in cybersecurity has created a dire need for skilled and qualified people to prevent, detect, and respond to novel and ever-growing cyber-threats and incidents,” he says.
To combat these rising challenges, companies should consider hiring in-house specialists to bolster internal teams. If hiring is not immediately possible, opt for a managed services provider. Such a partner can implement and operate a security platform to strengthen defences against advanced threats.
”South Africa’s cybersecurity sector offers unique challenges and opportunities. While it will continue to change as technologies, policies and talent evolve, businesses need to take notice of these industry trends to ensure they stay safe into the new year,” concludes Dube.