Balancing Cybersecurity Threats and Regulatory Compliance

The continuous near-crippling data breach happening across the globe suggest that the current cybersecurity landscape will expect more rigorous regulations like the recent GDPR and California’s Consumer Privacy Act. This is because cyberattackers seem to be treacherously one step ahead of security experts, continually dealing with bouts of attacks while constantly changing their attack vectors as newer technologies are discovered daily. Technologies like artificial intelligence and automated bots were not existing in the last decade, hence the debate on the lips of many is whether newer laws would protect existing technological systems while hindering our overall progress in technological development in the long run.

Cybersecurity over regulatory compliance
Many European technology companies are currently grappling with the constraint set by the implementation of GDPR, struggling to comply with the minimum industry standards so as not to be fined, rather than focusing on proper security policies which hackers can easily identify weaknesses in, and launch nefarious attacks.

The biggest drawback to regulatory requirements is that they become antiquated quickly in the face of rapidly evolving technologies in the cyber world, while existing regulations serve as a roadmap to hackers since they are always published publicly. The resultant effect this have on the entire ecosystem is exhaustive as governing bodies continually try to fix vulnerabilities after attacks, instead on concentrating on fool-proof defenses that will safeguard all the players, while technology companies are allocating all their manpower, business time and financial resources so as to be regulatory compliant to avoid being slammed with outrageous fine.

Cyber threats in highly-regulated industries
Energy and utility firms face a lot of security and compliance challenges as they are highly regulated. These companies have to deal with safeguarding their consumers’ payment information, while also complying with the requirements of internal audit and disclosure requirements.

The Federal Regulatory Commission (FERC) is responsible for oversight functions over service providers in the power sector, these service providers must also stick to the cybersecurity standards set by its certified Electric Reliability Operator (ERO), and the North American Reliability Corporation (NERC). In order for these standards to be properly implemented, continuous monitoring of all digital access to critical power infrastructure is required at any time of the day, coupled with the availability of detailed reports, this, therefore, needs a lot of hours of manual input from time to time.

Addressing the regulatory compliance challenge at scale
With a lot of regulations required to keep energy and utility companies in check, it is a herculean task for these companies to keep up with the regulation deadlines, while at the same time dealing with automatic attacks on the grind from hackers, which is almost impossible for companies to resolve manually. Hence, utility commissions must be willing to deploy proper cybersecurity standards, while service providers must collectively strive to execute these security measures as well, protecting their systems and assets in the process, by differentiating real users from hackers, using already existing technologies.

Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be taught to fully assimilate and store large information like multiple regulatory mandates, hence service providers and regulators can then deploy this technology to interface with massive volumes of data brought about by real-time system updates, and systemic changes, using grouping, intelligent tagging and deduplication to analyze the results. This creates more productive time for employees as utility staff can focus on the core business operations that require attention. Solutions like WizNucleus already exists that can implement continuous monitoring, configuration management, cybersecurity assessment, policy automation and compliance.

Artificial intelligence when combined with the latest blockchain technology, will allow firms to share their data safely, across decentralized structures. Blockchain allows several actions to be documented and kept in one shared, secured, permanent location while eliminating the pressure associated with segregated record keeping as well as saving money due to the speed and accuracy associated with the regulatory review process. AI and machine learning algorithms can help to detect an intending threat by flagging possible threats due to deviation from its existing behavioral models of employees. AI-powered behavioral analytic makes it possible to develop behavioral models for staffs based on their unique characteristics.