How to approach your cyber security conundrum

As businesses transition to remote working, and the emphasis is put on digitalization, cyber security and protecting data assets has never been more in the spotlight, or more vital

Digital transformation and connectivity have created un-ended possibilities and opportunities in 2020, with the amount of data we now generate growing 40 times as fast as the world’s population. However, this digital acceleration can come at a price, with businesses and organizations now under near-constant attack.

A rapid shift to remote working has generated a huge investment in technology and data security, with it being estimated that up to 30 percent of the workforce will be working-from-home at least once a week by the end of 20211.

Key findings from a global survey2 of 4,200 IT leaders by Harvey Nash and KPMG found that four in 10 companies reported a rise in cybersecurity attacks in 2020, and 83 percent of businesses reported an increase in phishing attempts. On top of this, 62 percent reported an increase in malware attacks – highlighting how the remote-working landscape has left businesses and their employees far more vulnerable to attack.

The rise in cyber threats has meant that nearly half (47 percent) of IT leaders have stepped-up their digital offering as businesses look for more sophisticated data processing, infrastructure and security services, such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, blockchain and automation. At the same time, “small-scale” implementations of AI and machine learning jumped up to 24 percent in August 2020.

Now more than ever, we are reliant on data centers, so when cyber-attacks happen, the impact can be catastrophic. To operate dependably and efficiently, data centers require their electric infrastructure, as well as building automation and industrial control systems (ICS) that manage this infrastructure to deliver an uninterrupted power supply (UPS). However, while the integration of operational technology (OT) with information technology (IT) leads to greater reliability, control and enhanced performance, in some cases – if not managed properly – it can expose the data center to cyber threats. Latest statistics show that the number of records exposed in Q1 of 2020 due to cybercrime skyrocketed to 8.4 billion – a 273 percent increase compared to Q1 20193, with the average cost of a data breach now set to be $3.9 million4.

Cybercrime: Making sense of it

We take a look at some of the most common threats in cybersecurity in 2020 and what they mean:

– Phishing: Fraudulent cybercrime where personal data such as credit card information, usernames and passwords are stolen by an attacker posing as a trusted source

– Rootkit: A type of malicious malware that gives an unauthorized user control to access a computer and / or its software

– Trojan: Deriving its name from the Ancient Greek story of the deceiving Trojan Horse that led to the downfall of the city of Troy, a Trojan disguises itself as a legitimate software to perform malicious activity

– Botnet software: Often used to attack a large number of internet-connected devices, botnets can be used to perform Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks, steal data, send spam and allow access to a device and its connection

– RATs: Remote Access Trojans are a form of malware that creates back-doors giving unauthorized remote access and administrative control

Preparing for our new world:

Today, the data center cyber security landscape is diverse, whereas a decade ago centers focused exclusively on securing their physical perimeter and the data they stored and managed. What was sensible then is now alarmingly insufficient.

So, what is the best approach to your cyber security conundrum?

The upswing in intense and diverse cyber threats, require networks, servers, data and perimeters to be secure. At ABB, we recognize that “security” means much more than protection against cybercrime: certainly, connections need to be safe, but the value of that data should also be protected. Customers should not be required to forfeit safety, value, or control to realize the benefits of digitization. Solutions like ABB Ability™ close the loop between these needs with an innovative, multi-layered approach to security, that gives customers access to an enterprise-grade cloud infrastructure to securely store their data.

With the IDC report also showing that 49 percent of data will be stored in public cloud environments by 2025, a good starting point needs to be getting the basics right. For example, research conducted in late 2019 by the Ponemon Institute revealed 60 percent of breaches that occurred over the previous two years could have been prevented if a patch had been applied in time.

ABB’s cyber security approach focuses on three key areas: product design, project execution and plant operation. This uses different cyber controls to address security issues at the server, network and data level. As well as patch management, tactics for solid cyber security include anti-virus updates, back-up management, hardening and the monitoring of automation systems with security information and even management platforms.

We are realistic enough to accept that technology alone cannot eliminate cyber risks. But, by defining the means to deploy a data center automation system with the appropriate security controls, we do everything we can to support our customer’s cyber security efforts. And, if an unforeseen disaster strikes, proper backup mechanisms must allow recovery.

As we look ahead to 2021, changes to the way we live, work and socialize are set to continue, with greater connectivity brought about by advances in 5G, AI and machine learning. One thing is for sure, to succeed in a world where data is king, businesses must rethink their strategies to safeguard their data and accommodate our new security landscape.
Find out more about ABB’s data center solutions and ABB Ability™.


[1] 2020 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey

[1] RiskBased Security 2020 Report


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About the author

Brian C. Johnson

I am the Global Data Center Segment Manager for ABB. We provide products, automation and solutions to Data Center customers and integrators. We have extensive domain expertise and experience in the fast-growing Data Center industry, driving our deep commitment and support for our customers. Prior to this role, I ran the packaging and solutions business for ABB Electrification, offering pre-designed and pre-built solutions for the Data Center market. These solutions reduce costs, risks and lead times for our customers, bringing together many ABB products into one simplified package. I have worked in ABB for many years and have had the joy of working with many good people. I am excited to continue to serve our Data Center customers and help them succeed as our abilities continuously become more sophisticated.
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