• Cyber Jack

Nicole Bucala, Illusive Networks: Nation-States Target Industries Not Cyber Prepared in 2021

This is part of an ongoing 2021 predictions series. We’ve asked top cyber experts to contribute their insights and expertise to provide a look ahead at what the new year may bring to cybersecurity.


Nicole Bucala, vice president of business development, strategy and operations, Illusive Networks: “With the heightened economic vulnerability, health system vulnerability, political discord worldwide and the accelerated digital transformation of enterprises due to WFH, I believe we are on the brink of a new decade of threats. The past 20 years were about fighting physical terrorists. While acts of suicide bombing and domestic terrorism have declined in the past twelve months, terrorism hasn’t gone away: The new terrorism is in the realm of cyber.

Cyberterrorism is a term some know, but it's not yet been widely adopted. The common definition is "the politically motivated use of computers and information technology to cause severe disruption or widespread fear in society." I believe that definition is reaching new heights now, however, as for the first time in history cyberterrorists are playing with human lives.

For the past few years we as a nation have been worried about attacks on OT networks. What has kept those at bay is that such attacks are largely only able to be carried out by sophisticated, nation-state attackers - and the building of such attacks, due to the complicated nature of their target, must be many years in the making for them to be effective. What has stopped such an attack from happening at a large scale, is the fact that enemy nation-states are very aware of the severe retaliation that could occur as a result of such an aggression, and there has been silent detente happening for some time around this issue.


Now, however, we see that cyberattackers with a range of skillsets are effectively able to target healthcare companies, at a time when the world is suffering from the largest pandemic seen in 100 years. While some nation-state attackers are behind these attacks, they are able to successfully conceal their identities under the guise of another nation-state or commercial actors. When compared to OT targets, there are so many simpler routes and avenues to wreak havoc for these healthcare companies which, not only were not prepared for the physical disaster of the pandemic but were unprepared for the cyber-disaster as well. Because of the lack of preparedness by targets and countries, enemy nation-states aren't well prepared with a stockpile of tricks they can pull out of a hat to threaten retaliation and create similar detente.


What does this mean for future of cybersecurity? Cybersecurity will become even more of a fundamental spend for businesses. We are already seeing a wave of naming CISOs to boards of healthcare companies. Enterprises will seek to procure solutions that detect advanced attackers with deterministic, certain approaches. Spending in protection and detection will be the focus of the next 6 months. Even for companies that have had declining revenues we are seeing they are forcing the purchase of cyber solutions by cutting elsewhere and shifting investment to security. From an innovation standpoint, we are going to see a shift in security vendors where they will need to adopt alerting solutions specifically targeted at APTs and where they will seek to procure technology built by former nation-state attackers, for example, graduates of the IDF or US Cyber Command.”


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