Vendor consolidation, AI and automation dominate cyber security strategies

Christopher Tredger
By Christopher Tredger, Portals editor
Johannesburg, 21 Jun 2023
Doros Hadjizenonos, regional director for Southern Africa at Fortinet.
Doros Hadjizenonos, regional director for Southern Africa at Fortinet.

Vendor consolidation, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation have emerged as central components of cyber security strategies as businesses deal with an ever-changing and growing threat landscape.

This is according to cyber security company Fortinet, which reminded delegates attending its Security Day event in Johannesburg this week that it detected over eight billion threats in South Africa in the first three months of this year.

Keeping to the theme ‘The challenge of change’, Fortinet executives spoke of forces of change encircling cyber security including exponential growth of data, the need to scale at speed and integrate existing and bespoke technology that run systems.

“Attackers are now using a combination of old and new techniques, including wiper malware in which attackers infiltrate your system and wipe your data. Our research shows that in the last quarter of 2022, we recorded 52% wipe malware incidents. Ransomware also continues at peak levels,” said Ricardo Ferreira, field CISO in EMEA for Fortinet.

The FortiGuard Labs Cyber Threat 2023 predictions report confirms key emerging threats, including explosive growth of CaaS (Crime-as-as-Service), the prevalence of wiper malware, and how “deep web” technologies going mainstream are bringing new risks associated with digital destinations like virtual cities, Web3, quantum computing, etc.

Automated SOCs

This threat landscape has compelled businesses to work towards closer alignment and cohesion between operations and IT, with specific attention to supply chain management and engagement with third parties.

Fortinet said many businesses run systems based on multi-vendor technologies and have chosen to go the multicloud route, which can add to complexity.

In order to address this challenge and disparate siloed systems that cannot communicate, CISOs are looking more closely at consolidation and automation of Security Operations Centre (SOCs) to adapt the overall cyber security strategy.

Part of this process involves the application of a security framework to manage massive volumes of data and achieve visibility.

“This framework is not just an attempt to ‘get the rubber stamp’ of approval for security, it is about implementing a structure that is flexible, provides visibility and ensures compliance from a centralised platform … a unified platform approach,” said Ferreira.

Doros Hadjizenonos, regional director for Southern Africa at Fortinet, also underlined the importance of AI and machine learning within cyber security. “It is being used as part of the fabric of security, to automate processes and for business enablement.”

The Fortinet executives added that AI is definitely part of a resilient cyber security posture, particularly because threat actors are also using this same technology to add sophistication to their attacks.

Challenges to maturity

The cyber security maturity of an organisation is also affected by an acute shortage of IT security skills.

Hadjizenonos said currently there’s a global deficit of 3.4 million required professional skills.

“In South Africa especially there’s high demand for security software developers, SOC teams, cyber threat and malware analysts, and intelligence specialists. There is also growing demand for cloud-focused cyber security engineers, and people specialising in AI and automation for cyber security.”

According to Fortinet there is also a big diversity gap in cyber security.

The company stated that as of last year, women held just 24% of cyber security jobs globally, although that number is steadily increasing year-on-year. There are a number of reasons behind the current low figures, one of which is the misconception among women and girls that cyber security is a male domain.

Hadjizenonos continued: “It's also positive to see that many local organisations are now seeking cyber security candidates from a broader talent set, including not just women but also individuals from historically disadvantaged groups.”

According to the Fortinet 2023 Global Cybersecurity Skills Gap Report, 73% of businesses globally are now implementing recruiting initiatives aimed at women, while 59% have initiated programs to attract candidates from disadvantaged groups.

Fortinet stressed the need for continuous vulnerability assessment, simplification of infrastructure and multicloud management, the use of AI as well as basic cyber security hygiene, including securing email communications across multiple devices.

Hadjizenonos said while the industry continues to deal with skills development and introducing fresh talent, as well as absorbing the impact of the US Dollar-Rand exchange rate on operations, the company has experienced growth of 32% year-on-year.