Cybersecurity: winning the battle on two fronts

Samer Salty

Samer Salty is the CEO of Zouk Capital, a private equity and infrastructure fund manager, investing in the clean and efficient economy. Zouk’s portfolio includes companies like Off-Grid Electric, Space-Time Insight and iZettle.

Cybersecurity is a sector at the centre of a sustainability revolution. It is one which brings the huge risks created by cybercrime together with a solution that puts two levels of efficiency at its core – improving energy efficiency in the first order as well as saving business resources in the second.

Cybersecurity critical to fulfilling the potential of digitisation

Cybersecurity, in general, is a must-have for delivering on the sustainability and resource efficiency promise of digital technology. This is because cybersecurity protects critical assets from harm and those assets are becoming more and more digitised and interconnected. According to some estimates, over 40 billion devices are expected to be connected to the Internet by 2020 (ABI research). This includes resource-intensive assets in energy, utilities, agriculture, manufacturing etc. This trend is driven by the promise of huge efficiencies delivered by the bridging of the physical and digital worlds. However the flip side is that these connected assets are also becoming increasingly vulnerable and exposed to cyberattacks, which sabotage the frictionless operation of the assets and hence undermine the efficiency of these technologies. It is for this reason that cybersecurity is a must-have to tap the full efficiency potential brought by digitisation and connectivity.

Massive cost of cybercrime

This vulnerability is highlighted by the high profile security breaches that are rarely out of the news these days. Not only are they highly damaging and disruptive to international businesses, they are unimaginably costly. Research by accountants Grant Thornton in 2015 revealed that the total cost of attacks globally was estimated to be at least US$315bn over the past 12 months, a figure they based on estimates of total business lost. McAfee, one of the leaders in cyber security, quotes at the very least a similar figure in a 2014 report on the global impact of cybercrime. These are huge numbers, meaningful for any economy, and there appears to be no slowing in the exponential growth of these crimes.

Whilst the cost of implementing a comprehensive cyberdefence strategy can be significant, this pales into insignificance when you compare it to the cost of loss of business including lost reputation, a loss of trust and permanently damaged relationships with your customers. There is no doubt that US retailer Target’s catastrophic 2013 cyberattack, which led to customers’ credit card details being made public, had a far more lasting effect than simply the immediate cost of corrective and restorative action. The benefits behind effective cyberdefence become glaringly obvious when you compare the cost to Target of installing FireEye malware detection appliances at US$1.6m with the cost of the subsequent breach, highlighted in a 2014 Bloomberg article. In 2015, Target revealed the data breach cost it US$262m.

Successful cyberdefence requires a resource efficient philosophy

However, simply implementing a cyberdefence plan is not enough on its own. FireEye had detected the 2013 attack, however, Target’s internal reporting systems failed to pick up the alert. The bottom line is that for cybersecurity to be successful it needs to be implemented with resource efficiency at the heart of a business philosophy. Otherwise even if the attacks are detected, they will not always be properly identified. Effective cyberdefence requires a blanket attitude to efficiency in the organisation as a whole, one that encompasses internal reporting procedures, governance and processes ensuring that the way the business is run is efficient to its core.

At Zouk, we see the cybersecurity sector as one that clearly benefits from a resource efficient approach. New companies in cybercrime-detection have been designed in an era where efficiency considerations were front of mind and where the fundamental design of the business architecture has leapfrogged similar businesses where efficiency was of secondary importance. This is where first order, physical efficiencies i.e. those that save energy, also start making a difference.

Cyphort offers energy and business efficiency

Cyphort is one such company. Cyphort’s cloud-based, software-only architecture is de facto less carbon intensive than physical appliance-based solutions and therefore enables the company to offer energy efficiency as an additional benefit. This goes beyond simply a desire to be ‘green’ because being more energy efficient basically also means cheaper and more scalable to run. Cyphort’s approach means sizeable energy savings of up to 70-80% compared to existing solutions – also saving similar amounts of energy required for air conditioning of the data centres. From a second order perspective, Cyphort’s software-based approach represents a step change in efficiency, moving to an even more efficient level within the cybersecurity space. Cyphort has a fully virtualised solution that unlike many more traditional cybersecurity firms does not rely on installing dedicated physical appliances. Cyphort’s software based model offers much better scalability and flexibility of deployment, resulting in significantly higher resource efficiency. The bottom line is that this next generation approach to efficiency helps Cyphort’s clients to mitigate massive cyber threats in a truly efficient manner, which saves time, cost and ultimately risk to reputation and future growth.

Second order savings go beyond clean and green

So in conclusion, resource efficiency has become more than simply saving ‘old’ first order resources such as energy or water. Today it looks at what ‘second order’ savings can be made within business models, or digital resources, reputation or even time – all of which lead to successful, effective businesses. For us at Zouk, there is no doubt therefore, that cybersecurity is already an area where massive business savings are being made when an efficient cybersecurity solution is employed. When you consider the scale and impact of cybercrime today, an approach that helps companies defend themselves from attack, whilst delivering efficiency savings across the board, has never been so essential.