The rising cases of cybersecurity attacks are quite problematic. As per a recent report (1), there is a hacker attack occurring every 39 seconds!
It means by the time we can take a selfie and upload it to our Instagram accounts, the next hacker attack is already happening.
Another report from Cybersecurity Ventures suggests that the cybercrime business is even bigger than the international drug trade. For comparison, cybercriminals raked in more than 1 trillion USD last year (2), whereas the profit from the illegal drug market amounts to about 500 billion USD annually. The same firm also suggests cybersecurity will cost the world at least 10 trillion USD by 2025 (3).
As we discussed in our story, Rising Cases of Data Breach as India Grapples to Safeguard Data, over the last several months, it has become difficult to neglect the fact that the digital world we have built for ourselves is utterly exposed to cybercriminals. Forget about small startups and ecommerce companies; even a tech giant like Microsoft is not safe from cybercrime groups (4). Remember the Microsoft Exchange vulnerability incident that happened earlier this year?
“The most likely reason for any entity to experience a targeted attack was to gather intelligence, which is the motive for over 96% of the hacker groups.” – Symantec Internet Security Threat Report, 2019 (5).
Fortunately, as cyberattacks are getting more sophisticated, so are cybersecurity services. Some common cybersecurity services include bug bounty, penetration testing, and MDR, Managed Detection Response. The demand for these services is rising in line with the continued release of digital and cloud-based platforms.
Moreover, during the nationwide lockdowns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, employees were compelled to connect with unsecured networks as they were working remotely. It led hackers to take the opportunity and exploit the loopholes to infiltrate corporate web apps. Consequently, several industries acknowledge the dire need to address the evolving cyber threats and safeguard their systems.
All of it has led to the boom of one industry that practices vulnerability assessments, red team exercises, and IT health checks – more commonly referred to as “Ethical Hacking.”
White Hat Hackers: A Rising Career
As we noted, privacy and security are the two most prominent threats that have surged on top of the booming social media and ecommerce industries worldwide. The internet awareness and digitization into the deepest corners of the earth have highlighted it even further. Businesses worldwide have started to recognize the requirement for security reinforcements to test their systems’ vulnerabilities regularly.
Today, the war is not fought using guns and bullets; the modern era boasts of cyber armies who can collect sensitive data from the servers of multiple rivals, both political and business. Every organization, including emerging startups, needs experts to save themselves from devious tactics – white hat hackers or ethical hackers to ensure that their systems and security reinforcements are updated on the latest standards (6).
Why are Ethical Hackers in Demand?
- They can anticipate the moves of potential bad actors.
- Comprehensive knowledge of hacking tools and techniques
- Ability to predict future vulnerabilities and how to safeguard them
- Avail attack as the best defensive line in the face of malicious hackers
In a nutshell, there is a rising demand for ethical hackers as companies have started to borrow from the playbook of their would-be rivals when it comes to addressing cyber attacks – by hacking their own servers before others get the chance.
It is an approach that is gaining attention worldwide. The reason for the interest in ethical hacking is clear: the rising security concerns in private and public sectors. To reduce the risk, companies are investing heavily in cybersecurity.
Previously companies used to wait until there was a security breach in the system. However, today, they have started to manage a cyber hack proactively. The concept is simple: hack your servers before others. That’s when ethical hackers come in.
They are the undercover agents of the cyber world, also essential investments for organizations, especially financial institutes, government agencies, and others who deal with highly sensitive data.
Moreover, as the rise of cloud-based and other technologies open up more opportunities for cybercriminals to attack, it is more crucial than ever for IT departments to be proactive about plugging any holes before they spring a leak (7).
The Rise of White Hat Hackers in India
While the Digital India campaign was launched in 2015, it only became a reality after the nationwide lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. While we were forced to stay in our homes, digital media became the only way to work, stay connected with one another, order food and essentials, and even get entertainment.
However, the numerous cases of defaced websites, bank frauds, and data breaches indicated that India was not ready for such a massive digital boom (8). As per a report by Cyber Security Coordinator, India was hit by more than 375 attacks daily!
It indicates how much India needs cybersecurity experts who can keep our digital world safe. The demand for skilled ethical hackers was deeply felt.
India had attacks from within from cybercriminal organizations like “Jamtara Gang,” who built hundreds of well-equipped call centers to organize credit card frauds, bank frauds, vishing, phishing, and more. India had attacks from across the border, too, in the form of state-sponsored high-tech terrorism. They attacked our PSUs, such as power grids. Remember the Mumbai power outage? They had also attacked our fellow citizens via spy apps which our government banned later.
Consequently, ethical hackers have become the most sought-after profession in the IT industry to test every software, app, network, and server. Today, no company is daring to launch any platform dealing with monetary transactions without an ethical hacker or an audit company’s penetration testing (9, 10).
Police Cyber Cells, STF, CID, CRPF, Sales tax department, forensic labs, and several other law enforcement agencies have started employing ethical hackers. Since most crimes are digital crimes, advocates now need to take up forensic and ethical hacking lessons as an essential skill.
Several states have started to develop cybersecurity centers of excellence and are conducting mass-level skill development programs for government officials to ensure digital hygiene. Cyber Shikshak, a cyber teacher, is one such program of West Bengal Government IT Ministry COE. It received the DSCI award in 2020. It had equipped 500 junior police officers with first-response skills against cybercrime across 186 police stations in the state (11).
India is Short for Ethical Hackers
According to a Nasscom Survey back in 2015, our country needs at least one million cybersecurity professionals in the upcoming decade. For comparison, the number of skilled cybersecurity experts today is only around 60 to 70k. There is a clear shortage of supply against the demand.
India can take several measures to overcome the deficit, including but not limited to:
- Open up UG and PG courses on Ethical Hacking and Digital Forensics
- Fast-track courses to upskill the existing workforce
- Encourage the young generations to take the field by adding cybersecurity courses at the school level
- Organize online and offline hackathons for different demographic groups
According to Statista (11), the Indian banking, financial services, and insurance sectors increase cybersecurity expenditure. There are estimations that it would reach more than 800 million USD by 2022 from 500 million USD in 2019. The IT and service sector comes second with more than 430 million USD cybersecurity expenses in 2019.
Cybersecurity and Ethical Hacking: A Lucrative Market
According to Grand View Research (12), the international cybersecurity market was valued at 167.13 billion USD in 2020. And there are expectations that it would register a 10.9% CAGR from 2021 to 2028. And it would reach 373.04 billion USD in 2025 from 179.96 billion USD in 2021.
Here are some highlights from the report (13):
- The global healthcare cybersecurity market was valued at 5.5 billion USD in 2014 and would witness a booming growth over the forecast years.
- The Cyber Insurance market was valued at 4.3 billion USD in 2018 and would register a 25.6% CAGR over the forecast years.
- Advancements in AI, ML, and IoTs would disrupt the cybersecurity market and reshape the global cyber threat space, driving the market growth.
- The healthcare industry would exhibit the highest CAGR because of the increased cybercrimes instances in the recent past, which has prompted the developers to address the app vulnerabilities.
- There are expectations that the Asia-Pacific region would emerge as the fastest-growing region. The rising demand for bug bounty services and penetration testing in line with the mandatory compliance, which demands periodic technological evaluations, would drive the growth.
According to a MarketWatch report published in May 2021 (14), the global penetration market would reach 3763.2 million USD by 2027 from 1423.4 million USD in 2020 at a 14.9% CAGR during the forecast period, 2021-2027.
Another report on Global Endpoint Security Market 2021 (15) valued the endpoint security market at 11.8 billion USD in 2018 and predicted that its value would reach 19.69 billion USD by 2024, at a 9.92% CAGR during the forecast period 2019-2024. As per the report, the enterprise use of cloud-delivered or SaaS-based endpoint security solutions would continue to surge because of several benefits like cost savings with cloud storage, low maintenance needs, and computing scalability.
The key driver of the endpoint security solutions market is the increasing number of smartphones, enterprise endpoints, and access to sensitive data. Moreover, the growing data breaches worldwide have forced companies to adopt more decentralized security techniques, driving the demand for endpoint securities.
However, the big challenge for the endpoint security market to emerge is the consistent disappointment of controlling cyberattacks. It is one of the key blockages for the growth of space. The report also suggests that companies often look out for security patches and bug fixing, but most of the time, securities officials are not even aware of them. It indicates that the threat of cyberattacks concentrating on endpoint security is yet to come.
The Future Trends for Cybersecurity and Opportunities
The Rise of Automotive Hacking
Today’s vehicles come packed with automated software for seamless connectivity for engine timing, cruise control, airbags, door lock, and other advanced systems for driver assistance. These automobiles use WiFi and Bluetooth to communicate, which makes them vulnerable to several threats from hackers.
Some expectations of gaining control of the vehicle or using microphones to eavesdrop would rise shortly with the surge in the use of automated vehicles. Moreover, self-driving and autonomous cars use even more complex mechanisms, requiring strict cybersecurity measures (16).
AI Integration with Cybersecurity
Almost all market segments are getting integrated with AI, and such technology combined with ML has brought tremendous changes in the market, especially in cybersecurity. AI has been a pioneer in creating automated security systems, face detection, natural language processing, and automatic threat detection.
Even though non-ethical hackers are also using AI to create smart malware and attacks to bypass security protocols, an AI-enabled threat detection system can predict attacks and instantly alert admins in any data breach, making it a lucrative business opportunity for companies in the cybersecurity space (17).
Cybersecurity for Smartphones
With the tremendous increase in smartphone use, hackers have started attacking mobile banking and other such services. Our handheld devices are a potential prospect for them, with our photos, emails, financial transactions, messages, and other personal information making individuals more vulnerable. Businesses focusing on cybersecurity services for smartphones can gain big in the upcoming years (18).
IoT with 5G Network
With 5G networks to roll out globally in the upcoming months, a new era of internet connectivity would become a reality with IoT. However, the communication between multiple devices also makes them vulnerable to outside influence, bugs, and attacks. And since 5G is still new in the industry, it needs a lot of research to find loopholes to secure the system from any external attack (19).
Some more trends:
- The rush for cloud everything will lead to several security challenges, holes, outages, and misconfigurations.
- The rollout of new products, mergers, and acquisitions would cause network complexity issues and integration issues, creating more growth in the security industry.
- Identity and MFA multi-factor authentication would take center stage as passwords would start to disappear in the upcoming year.
- Ransomware will worsen with new twists with malware packaging, other security threats, and highly specific organizations’ targeting.
- ATP, Advanced Persistent Threats attacks would be widely available from cybercriminal networks. The dark web would allow them to purchase access to sensitive corporate networks.
- Cryptocurrencies and blockchain will also play new roles, with hackers often switching to them for their advantage.
- There will also be a considerable focus on supply chain attacks, with bad guys hacking products.
Nonetheless, these cybersecurity trends are bound to scare organizations to increase their cybersecurity measures. There are expectations that businesses and governments worldwide would spend more than 100 billion USD on protecting their assets alone this year.
Gearing up security games and keeping pace with the latest cybersecurity trends and updates is the best call for businesses in the space today.
Ethical hacking is a growing industry. Several black hat hackers have also started converting because of the growing professional service and valuation (20).
Ensuring the protection of businesses, including the government, will always be essential. Hence, the future of ethical hacking would be upward. The industry offers tremendous growth opportunities.
For India, the moment’s need is for everyone to come together and create made-in-India Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning-based cybersecurity tools. If we fail to invest enough capital and time into cybersecurity R&D and fail to create home-grown technology and tools, we will soon lose our supremacy as a nation.
To become tomorrow’s superpower, India needs its army of ethical hackers who use our home-grown tactics and tools to defend our country from digital terrorists and cyber threats coming across the borders. As we have heard the phrase several times, “the next world war will be fought with a mouse,” and white hat hackers would be at the forefront.