As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Cybersecurity Awareness Month (CAM), it’s clear that the threat landscape we face today is unlike anything we’ve seen in years past. With the prominence of artificial intelligence and the reliance on cloud networks in our world today, the cybersecurity tools of the past, are no longer enough. We need new solutions and technologies, and to invest in a highly skilled workforce to take on the looming challenges ahead and secure our world.
As our workspaces continue to move online, Unit 42 data shows that 80% of exposures are now cloud-based rather than on-premises. The fluidity of cloud-based IT infrastructure is part of this challenge. The same data shows that in a given month, an average of 20% of an organization's cloud attack surface will be taken offline and replaced with new or updated services.
For global governments, the Unit 42 data indicates the vulnerabilities in file sharing and databases pose a significant risk, accounting for over 46% of all exposures. Moreover, it highlights that over 85% of organizations analyzed had Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) internet-accessible for extended periods, leaving them open to ransomware attacks and unauthorized login attempts.
The pace of ransomware threats is another factor that cannot be ignored. Among the 15 remote code execution (RCE) vulnerabilities analyzed by Unit 42, 20% were targeted by ransomware gangs within hours of disclosure, and 40% were exploited within 8 weeks of publication.
There’s a critical need to invest in the next generation of cybersecurity experts. Artificial intelligence is emerging as a key tool to automate routine tasks, allowing human experts to focus on the most complex challenges, underscoring the importance of nurturing new talent and a robust recruitment pipeline.
Addressing equity disparities in cybersecurity is core to this and requires collaboration between industry, government and academia. Palo Alto Networks is committed to this cause and recently expanded its Cyber Scholars program, which is aimed at increasing exposure, access and support for students from underrepresented communities. The program partners with organizations, such as the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), Raíces Cyber, and the José M. Hernández Reaching for the Stars Foundation to provide scholarships, training and mentorship to students pursuing tech-related STEM and business disciplines.
Palo Alto Networks understands that introducing cybersecurity fundamentals at a young age is essential to instilling the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the digital world safely. Over the years, it has pioneered innovative programs promoting cybersecurity awareness among youth. These initiatives focus on improving access and providing support for underrepresented populations and teachers, such as the Girl Scout partnership. They led to the organization’s first cybersecurity badge, and Cyber Madness, the first statewide high school competition, which was recently expanded to middle schoolers.
The 20th anniversary of CAM marks a pivotal moment in cybersecurity. With the maturation of AI and the cloud, as both cyberthreat targets and tools, the modern landscape demands a holistic response. Attack surface management, relentless automation, actionable intelligence and autonomous security are now cornerstones of modern security operations centers (SOCs).
As we look back on two decades of CAM, we also look ahead to a future where innovation, education, and collaboration continue to shape the cybersecurity landscape for the better. Together, we will secure our world, today and for generations to come.