An Ounce of Prevention

An Ounce of Prevention

Being prepared is worth more than a pound of cure

Common sense dictates that it is easier to stop something from happening in the first place than to repair the damage after it has been done. This is true if we cared about prevention, but more than a billion passwords have been hacked. The question is: Do you care? Because cyber criminals, the underground marketplace and nation-state cyber attackers are making a bet you won’t.

Cybersecurity is a national security issue. It is an economic stability issue with more than $6 trillion worth of loss anticipated in 2021. Even the largest bank on the planet, JPMorgan Chase, spent $250 million on cybersecurity and still got hacked—therefore the bank knows that it cannot spend its way out of it. So before we figure out what to do, we need to dissect how our current solution is not working.

Just like a healthcare epidemic, when it comes to hacking—the ecosystem prioritizes a cure after the fact significantly more than preventing before the fact. But, why? In healthcare, addressing a cure afterwards creates a lucrative business for the pharmaceutical industry—it was $574 billion last year in North America. Compare this to the estimated $78 billion spent last year in North America for preventive healthcare technologies. A mere 12 percent is spent on prevention and the remaining 88 percent on cure, which in turn makes insurance expensive and unsustainable.

Believe it or not, it is worse in cybersecurity. Only 4 percent of the budget is spent on prevention with the remaining 96 percent cure focused. This is making the entire digital marketplace terribly unhealthy, which will ultimately have a negative impact on global productivity.

Ideally, we could balance both prevention and cure for a viable digital marketplace. While logical, why are we so reliant on cure? Perhaps because you and I think if our passwords are stolen it is someone else’s problem to cure it. We only care about convenience, and we cannot be bothered about preventing loss of identity.

Why are we outraged when a burglar walks in our homes but not when digital burglars get into the mobile phone or computer you are reading this in? Perhaps we cannot see that our computers and mobile phones are unhealthy.

Have we given up that this cannot be solved? I contend that it can be solved, but it is going to require a drastic change in how we operate and how we create policies. Just like everything else, prevention is better than cure. But, cure after the fact through analytics in hacking, just like in healthcare, makes the industry much more money because it does not stop the root cause of the problem. Why would the industry focus on prevention when cure is more lucrative?

According to re:ID magazine, approximately $3 billion was spent on prevention of identity loss and $73 billion was spent on cure after loss of identity occurs. Call me outraged, but unless we focus on more prevention we are going to reach an inflection point when this apathy will result in irreversible damage. That is why digital crime is expected to grow from a $3 trillion in 2015 to a $6 trillion industry by 2021. It is not only bigger than the GDP of most countries, but it is growing faster than any economy. Clearly at this scale we cannot spend our way out.

Ultimately, we need to work smarter and prevent loss before it happens. This is already starting to happen in some areas of our lives. It is very likely that the credit card or debit card in your wallet has a chip in it. These chip cards cannot be cloned and therefore effectively prevent remote compromises which otherwise creates havoc. Unlike clonable identities like magstripes and passwords, chip card technology prevents loss as opposed to trying to cure the loss after the loss occurs.

Enabling chip cards to protect identities and crypto keys both in the physical world and the cyber world is the next frontier. Once we have the combination of protection enabled by unclonable chip card technology and the cure enabled through analytics and machine learning, it will form the basis for a healthy and viable digital marketplace.

Help in the creation of a secure digital marketplace.

This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of Security Today.

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