Understand Commerce and Cyber with a Cybersecurity Ambassador
According to Juliette Wilcox, cybersecurity ambassador at the UK Department for International Trade, cybersecurity issues know no borders. Image: Department for International Trade, UK
The normalization of remote and hybrid working and the proliferation of digital tools have introduced a “different view of attack strategies and cyber vulnerabilities in our devices and systems,” says Juliette Wilcox, Cybersecurity Ambassador for Exports. UK Defense and Security, Department for International Trade. , UK. The rapid pace at which countries are adopting technologies means that new threats are always present.
“It’s a Whack-a-Mole game,” she said. For example, cybersecurity agencies that have successfully secured their data through encryption may soon be threatened by the rise of quantum computing, which gives threat actors the unprecedented ability to crack encrypted data.
“Criminals who want to find data will continue to push for a way, no matter what new technology or new techniques emerge,” Wilcox warns. “Things we thought were secure in the past will change as technology improves.”
This situation is exacerbated by the continued lack of awareness and skilled talent. “Every country talks about not having enough qualified people to build and run these systems,” says Wilcox. A study by the nonprofit International Information System Security Certification Consortium found that 60% of organizations said a shortage of cybersecurity staff put them at risk.
Additionally, Wilcox points out that there is still a general lack of awareness about how to implement secure IT systems within organizations. She highlights the need to improve cybersecurity awareness as it is automatic.
One of the biggest sources of vulnerability right now is ransomware, which is an exponentially growing threat, according to Wilcox. A study by research firm Cybersecurity Ventures found that in 2021 the number of ransomware attacks worldwide nearly doubled, with an overall cost estimated at over $20 billion.
Combating the threat of ransomware is a complex problem requiring both behavioral and technological approaches, says Wilcox. The UK, for example, does not support paying the ransom because it believes paying these threat actors only encourages more attacks. But not everyone takes the same approach.
“We need to collectively discuss how to impose a cost on people trying to extract ransomware and make it harder for them,” she says.
This is where technology can step in to support cybersecurity efforts. Tools such as multi-factor authentication can make it more difficult for attackers to infiltrate; and if they do, zero-trust principles can create an environment that makes it difficult for attackers to navigate the computing environment and obtain data. Zero trust means the software assumes that every user is a threat. As a result, Zero Trust programs will authenticate users’ identities at every step to ensure that they are who they say they are and are not acting maliciously.
Trade and cybersecurity
“My key role is to promote the UK cyber industry as it exports its capabilities, products and services around the world,” says Wilcox. “We’ve done well in making sure our industry is number two in the world, and that’s creating capabilities that are really worth sharing around the world and will help make the global environment safer.”
This involves understanding from foreign governments what they might need in terms of technology components or services, and presenting them to UK suppliers who offer these services.
“I provide opportunities for [cybersecurity providers] to have a platform to explain what they’re selling and why it matters to the market,” she says. She also advises these organizations on how to export their products and the considerations they should have when selling to other countries.
Wilcox also makes a point of supporting small and medium sized cybersecurity providers in the UK. “Some of our innovative companies are tiny. To grow, we need to make sure they have a market where they can sell their products,” she says.
By helping them, the cyber industry also benefits from a proliferation of innovations, she adds.
While Wilcox’s title includes the term “cybersecurity,” she believes the importance of her role extends beyond the cyber industry alone. As the world becomes digital, every industry is going to have an element of cybersecurity. “My role is to make sure that as the person creating the next generation of hospital ventilators, for example, cybersecurity is built into it,” she explains.
A need for unified standards
It is recognized that second or third best solutions are not enough, says Wilcox. “You wouldn’t let airplanes fly if they had second-choice wings attached to them.”
As an ambassador of cybersecurity, Wilcox relies on the agreement of international standards which ensures that cyber products will be secure, of high quality and in accordance with the standards produced by British industry. “There’s an overarching set of expectations that we all have to accept and live up to, and then we can create capabilities around that,” she says. “I am the standard bearer in this area, to support the highest standards that will keep us safe.”
It’s easy to make cheap but vulnerable tech products, says Wilcox, but it’s far from ideal. This is where Wilcox’s role as an Ambassador within the Department of Commerce is vital, promoting the export of reliable and credible cybersecurity products from the UK to the rest of the world.
“We think our products are good, so we’d like the world to adopt the standards we think are appropriate,” she says.
Ultimately, cyber issues have no international borders. “If there is a vulnerability in one country, it infects others very quickly, including those not connected in any way except a software link.”
Cybersecurity is not an industry that can operate in isolation, which makes Wilcox’s role as a cybersecurity ambassador all the more vital. “We actively seek to ensure that we have protected the things that matter most to us, and we know that our partners and allies care too.”
Just as countries have managed to standardize aviation flight standards to achieve a baseline level of security, the cybersecurity industry must do the same. And trade will play a crucial role in ensuring that, says Wilcox
Learn more about Wilcox at GovWare 2022! She will deliver a keynote address on Cyber Security, Cyber Prosperity, Cyber Power: What Does Commerce Have to Do With It?, from 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on October 18 at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre. Register for the event here!