Exploring Cybersecurity Challenges with Cisco Canada’s CTO

Exploring Cybersecurity Challenges with Cisco Canada’s CTO

In our recent interview with Rob Barton, CTO of Cisco Canada, we explored the pressing challenges in cybersecurity readiness and the role of emerging technologies like AI and machine learning. Barton highlighted the importance of regular vulnerability assessments and security audits for businesses, emphasizing the need to stay up-to-date with evolving threats. He also shared valuable insights on preparing an effective incident response plan to tackle security incidents with confidence.

Rob Barton, P. Eng, is the CTO of Cisco Canada and a Distinguished Engineer with Cisco. Rob has worked in the IT industry for over 23 years, the last 21 of which have been with Cisco. Rob Graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Engineering Physics. Rob is a successful author, with books published on the subjects of Network Quality of Service (QoS), Wireless Communications, and IoT. Additionally, he has also co-authored many peer-reviewed research papers and leads Cisco’s university partnership research partnership program. Rob also holds numerous patents in the areas of wireless communications, network security, cloud networking, IoT, and Machine Learning. His current areas of work include wireless communications of all types, IT/OT convergence, network automation, and AI/ML in networking systems.

Based on the Cybersecurity Readiness Index survey findings, what do you think are the biggest challenges businesses face regarding cybersecurity readiness?

With the emergence of a hybrid world, organizations have moved from an operating model that was largely static – where people worked from a single device from one location, connecting to a static network – to a more dynamic environment.

People now work from multiple devices, in multiple locations, across multiple networks.  Employees are accessing applications in the cloud and on the go, generating an enormous amount of data. This presents new and unique cybersecurity challenges for companies and requires a mindset shift to secure organizations effectively.

What role can emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, play in improving cybersecurity readiness?

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can aid cybersecurity efforts. For instance, ML can recognize patterns and predict threats in massive data sets, all at machine speed. And by automating the analysis, cyber teams can quickly detect threats and isolate situations that require deeper human analysis. There are many use cases for AI across cybersecurity needs and solutions.

Exploring Cybersecurity Challenges with Cisco Canada's CTO

First and foremost, organizations need to build an approach to cybersecurity that embraces resilience at its core and gives consideration to the five core pillars of cybersecurity protection: identity, devices, network, application workloads, and data.

How important is it for businesses to conduct regular vulnerability assessments and security audits, and what benefits can they expect to see from these assessments?

An organization’s ability to safeguard itself against new and rapidly evolving threats hinges on its ability to anticipate, identify and address those threats.

The Cisco Cybersecurity Readiness Index revealed that just 15% of organizations globally have a “Mature” level of preparedness to handle the security realities of our hybrid work. But in Canada, this number decreased to only 9% of organizations who fell into the “Mature” stage of readiness.

It’s crucial that businesses conduct regular vulnerability assessments and security audits to identify their weaknesses but more than that, business leaders must establish a baseline of readiness across the five security pillars to build secure and resilient organizations. They can then build on their strengths, prioritize areas where investment is needed, and improve their security resilience holistically.

How can businesses ensure that their security measures are up-to-date and effective in light of the constantly evolving nature of cybersecurity threats?

One of the most important tenants of security is that you need visibility to what’s going on. If you went to a doctor with chest pain, there isn’t much he can do without running a few tests. The doctor needs to see what the problem is so he can diagnose it and give you treatment – he may run an x-ray, do a CT-scan, or even just use his stethoscope – anything to give him visibility to what the problem might be.

The same holds true in the world of cybersecurity defense. You can’t secure what you can’t see.

By equipping networks with the right kind of insights, from the applications to the endpoints and everything in between, we can see what’s going and secure networks against threats and attacks.

Security resilience allows companies to better anticipate threats and resume operations faster when a threat becomes real. Most organizations are incorporating resilience in their financial, operational, organizational, and supply chain functions. Security resilience sits across all of them, allowing businesses to verify threats, understand connections across the organization, and see the full context of any situation. This empowers teams to prioritize and ensure their next action is the best one.

The good news is that security leaders are aware of the risks and are keen to invest in cybersecurity readiness. Data shows 78% of the respondents plan to increase their security budgets by at least 10% over the next 12 months. While a positive trajectory, it is crucial that these budget increases are delivered sooner rather than later. Given the current environment, a 12-month wait is far too long.

What steps can businesses take to ensure that they are prepared to respond effectively during a security incident, and what should their incident response plan include?

Cybersecurity resilience must be a priority for all organizations. The cost of complacency is significant, and businesses need to continually adapt to the threat landscape around them. Our data shows that there are key areas of progress needed against the five pillars of defence:

Identity: Progress is needed here as only 15% of organizations are ranked “Mature”

Devices: This has the highest percentage of companies in the “Mature” stage at just 33%

Network Security: Companies are lagging on this front with 64% of organizations in the “Beginner” or “Formative” stages  

Application Workloads: This is the pillar where companies are the least prepared, with 73% of organizations in the “Beginner” or “Formative” stages  

Data: This has the second-highest number of companies in the “Mature” stage (only 17%)

Organizations need to take significant steps to increase their cybersecurity readiness and improve their resilience against any threats that become real.

How can businesses determine which framework is right for them, and what are some challenges associated with adopting a new framework?

The emergence of a hybrid world has fundamentally changed the cybersecurity landscape, creating greater complexity for businesses. . Canadian organizations are lagging behind their global peers in cybersecurity readiness, leaving them more vulnerable to threats.

In Canada, 57% of companies fall into the “Beginner” or “Formative” stages – meaning they are performing below average on their preparedness for modern cybersecurity threats. This is a wakeup call to organizations of all sizes! The cybersecurity gap is only going to widen if Canadian businesses don’t act.

The most effective framework is one that accounts for the entire organization, from assessing the current posture and deploying solutions, to monitoring and anticipating threats. As such, every business in Canada can benefit from embracing the five dimensions of security resilience:

  • Close the gaps in your system so you have one open platform.
  • See more and always be monitoring.
  • Anticipate what is next using actionable intelligence.
  • Prioritize what matters most.
  • Automate your response so you can bounce back fast.
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