10 CISO predictions: how to navigate uncertainty in 2021

A fully functioning crystal ball would be particularly handy during these uncertain times, as we all move on from a year in which everything we took for granted changed. 2021 will see new opportunities in our industry, but we should also expect new and damaging threats to emerge. Here are 10 predictions from myself and my colleagues at Netskope, to help arm our fellow CISOs as they step into the unknown in 2021.


1. Insider incidents causing or contributing to successful breaches will accelerate

Malicious insider activity rises during times when people are facing challenges and economic uncertainty. As Dr Jessica Barker, Cyber Security Consultant and specialist in the psychology and sociology of cybersecurity told attendees at an event recently; “We have to recognise the fact that there are circumstances at the moment, and looking into the near future, which may influence a rise in malicious insider activity.”


2. AI / machine learning specific threats will emerge in 2021

As AI and ML play a greater role in developing technology capabilities, AI/ML specific threats will grow, such as the poisoning of training data sets and model corruption. With much ML relying on cloud-based data sets, visibility and security of goings-on outside the traditional perimeter will be critical here.

Working behaviours

3. Remote working will become the ‘new normal’, rather than a temporary state

This will provide the final push for many organisations that have so far ignored the growing irrelevance of perimeter-based security controls. 2021 will see consensus agreement that security needs to follow the data, and the fortunes of security vendors will hinge on their preparedness to provide security and data protection from the edge rather than legacy security housed within an appliance


4. Zero trust and SASE will converge

A Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) architecture will be needed to truly support a holistic zero-trust implementation, and these two requirements will be the cornerstone for any future workforce digital transformation, providing full visibility, control and enablement for a secure cloud transformation.

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Network and security strategy

5. Network and security transformation will start to show economic benefits

As more organisations consolidate and move away from appliance-based security technologies, IT and security teams will realise the cost savings and operational efficiencies the move to cloud brings.

Organisations following a cloud transformation framework model such as SASE, could see cost savings average between 20-40% in 2021

And so….

6. Network and Security teams will converge

As organisations continue the move to cloud, employees are no longer on a corporate network and so the operational investment must move with the data. The traditional legacy network and security stack becomes less relevant whilst network and security teams will become closer aligned.


7. Globally, privacy regulations will grow and challenge organisations’ ability to comply

As a result, we will see a broader adoption of Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PET’s) enabling companies to share data with third parties for the purpose of aggregation and analysis, without needing to share the raw data between the various parties, thus meeting the various privacy requirements.

And so…

8. Data governance controls will move to the cloud

Organisations today are using data protection controls, such as DLP, to manage their cloud applications and infrastructure. In the next 12 months these controls will mature and be used to better align to data governance best practices. These include automation of inventories of cloud managed apps and infrastructure aligned to Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) with automated system of record and record of processing for the organisations extended GRC and regulatory needs. These best practices will automate data protection and privacy requirements that also support the latest data protection regulations and ensure data transfers are always supported by a valid data transfer agreement.

International cooperation

9. Europe’s GAIA-X project will gain traction and support

The GAIA-X project is a great initiative for the EU and will help accelerate new business models and smart services to all organisations operating in the region. In addition, providers of services will also get the opportunity to further integrate together through a federated infrastructure ecosystem. This ecosystem, and further development of the new digital benefits, will further highlight the importance of security services and controls. Organisations will naturally need to ensure their security programme aligns with this data infrastructure initiative. We predict this importance of security services to further stimulate the requirements for cloud security with a move away from legacy on-prem and appliance-based technologies.


10. Collaboration between security vendors will grow

At last, you could say. As security technology has had a huge shake up in recent years, we no longer see vendors pushing identikit appliances, and a new confidence is allowing for unprecedented collaboration.

We will increasingly see vendors working together to share threat insights in the style of the Cloud Threat Exchange. With malicious actors working within huge, highly organised operations, this ‘joining of forces’ and intelligence sharing will be one of the critical factors and successes in our industry in 2021.

Written by Neil Thacker, CISO EMEA and Latam at Netskope

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