A year is a long time in cybersecurity. So string 15 of them together and you can expect to see some pretty significant changes in industry trends. That’s why new research from managed security services firm Redscan makes for interesting reading. It charts the past decade-and-a-half of Google searches for security-related terms to show changing patterns in what internet users are interested in.
Given that Barracuda Networks itself turned 15 last November, the report effectively charts the changing threat landscape and security industry over the firm’s entire lifespan. It will be pleased to learn that there’s plenty of overlap between current interest and its own capabilities, as users increasingly look to next-generation tools.
Up and down
The report, Cyber security in search, takes inspiration from Google’s popular annual Year in Search reports. The methodology is simple: examine the people, events, and trends that have shaped the industry since 2004 by analysing Google search terms over the period.
It’s perhaps unsurprising to see spikes in interest for various threat terms and specific outbreaks. “Cryptojacking” witnessed a huge spike from almost zero before 2016, before settling back down, while “ransomware” saw a massive uptick in searches at around the time of WannaCry in 2017. Searches for “DDoS” and “phishing” have been more stable, although the former spiked at around the time of the Mirai botnet attacks on Dyn that took some major internet sites offline.
Searches for “keyloggers” have declined significantly since 2004 despite remaining a security threat today, while the popularity of “malware” as a search term dominates those of “adware” and “spyware” — although the reverse was true in 2004.
Breaches mean something
Perhaps more importantly, the research tells us that, contrary to some claims, major data breaches still attract a great deal of public attention. Companies such as Anthem (2015), Yahoo (2016), Equifax (2017) and Marriott (2018) dominated searches for data breaches in the year in which details first emerged of a serious incident.
Searches for “Ashley Madison”, “TalkTalk” and “Sony PlayStation Network” also spiked during their respective troubles. But the most-searched-for data breach in the past decade is the 2017 Equifax incident which compromised highly sensitive data on 148 million customers. In fact, interest is so high that, according to the report, “it skews all historical searches for the term ‘data breach’.”Interest in the 2017 Equifax breach was so high that searches for that term skewed all historical searches for the term 'data breach' ~ @philmuncaster Click To Tweet
So, don’t necessarily believe those who tell you that consumers have become inured to the fallout from breaches. There are still very good reasons for ensuring your cybersecurity posture and incident response plans are as resilient and well-tested as possible.
What’s hot right now?
So what kind of technologies are internet users most interested in to combat such challenges? Interestingly, “antivirus” has been declining for the past 15 years — along with searches for many of the leading vendors on the AV market. Instead, users have been looking to new concepts such as “cloud computing”, “SIEM” and “BYOD”.
This seems to reflect the growing reality that AV tools are no longer sufficient, at least not on their own, to protect organisations from the growing variety of threats out there. They need a range of emerging solutions designed with the cloud and mobile in mind, and they need to be able to spot advanced threats before they’ve had a chance to impact the network.
To this end, the report’s breakdown of popular terms since 2014 is illuminating. Alongside “threat hunting” and “zero trust security” — both popular proactive approaches to cyber risk mitigation — are “IoT security” and “AI and security”.15 years of search: ‘antivirus’ is declining, while terms like ‘threat hunting’ and ‘IoT security’ are on the rise. More details in this post by @philmuncaster Click To Tweet
This really is the cutting edge of cybersecurity today. As huge volumes of connected “things” come online over the next decade, organisations looking to contain potential risk will need to approach vendors like Barracuda Networks who offer specially engineered IoT protection. The impact of attacks on potentially exposed operational technology, in particular, could be catastrophic.
As for AI, it is fast emerging as a tool for both cyber-criminals and white hats. When used for good, it can arm stretched incident response teams with a highly effective new way to detect suspicious behaviour. Or it could be trained to understand normal communications patterns and thus spot email phishing attempts more accurately.
Either way, the next 15 years is more than likely to be as up and down as the last. The important balance IT security leaders need to strike is between staying current to ensure all emerging threats are mitigated effectively, and ensuring they aren’t left with scores of unwieldy, siloed point products that do nothing but add cost and complexity. Here’s hoping…
Phil Muncaster is a technology writer and editor with over 12 years’ experience working on some of the biggest technology titles around, including Computing, The Register, V3 and MIT Technology Review. He spent over two years in Hong Kong immersed in the Asian tech scene and is now back in London where information security has become a major focus for his work.