Competition is perhaps the most important component of the business sphere. After all, it's through brand and company competition that the best products end up hitting the marketplace. If Business 1 is in constant competition with Business 2, it will never be able to be complacent about its product line, since it will always be looking for ways to outpace its adversary. It's no surprise that the U.S. – the world's largest economy – is also the most competitive, as Fortune reports.
Few would argue that when it comes to business, competition is absolutely essential. Still, there's one important issue involving the business sphere that may end up helping all enterprises to abandon the competitive impulse. That issue is cyber security. When it comes to companies ensuring the most secure infrastructures possible, the best option may involve working alongside companies traditionally regarded as adversaries to project a united front when it comes to network security. Hackers, after all, are a common enemy of all organizations.
The principle of cooperation in business network security
The British Bankers' Association knows the cyber criminal problem facing the institutions it oversees. In a Business Reporter article, Matt Allen, director of financial crime at BBA, stated that the "global threat" of cyber crime should be triggering warning bells among banks in the country that it's time to carry out some major overhauls when it comes to cyber preparedness. Threats are growing by the day, and hackers are refining their powers in the deep web, largely unimpeded by organized efforts to stop them. The result is a cyber criminal sphere that has many malicious strains on its side, and almost nothing standing in its way.
"We need a robust international law enforcement response" to cyber crime, Allen said. "There has been a lot done over the last few years to strengthen controls in banks and create partnerships with public authorities, but there is more to do."
Allen's sentiment doesn't only hold true for the banking industry. The phrase "there is more to do" applies to every enterprise sector out there when it comes to cyber security. As Allen suggests, the part law enforcement is playing in cyber criminal suppression, while present, is hardly enough to keep the bad guys at bay. As a result, the onus falls on businesses to defend themselves against threats. This is where the principle of cooperation comes into play. Comprehensive cyber security is not something one business can tackle alone. It's a problem that's becoming increasingly pervasive, and the answer to defending against the myriad advanced targeted attacks out there boils down to teamwork.
Within the BBA, officials are spearheading an effort wherein financial institutions in the U.K. are working toward greater inter-business transparency with regard to cybersecurity. This means that otherwise competitive financial organizations would do things like share cyber security strategies and benefit from each others' experiences with cyber threats. This effort by the BBA seeks to ensure that the British banking industry as a whole is as proactively secure as it can possibly be. As Allen, the BBA's director of financial crime, pointed out, this collaborative effort is one the BBA hopes will expand. For his part, Allen envisions a future where many different industrial sectors come together and link up with governments to project a unified front against cyber crime.
What an advanced cyber crime collaboration picture looks like
Let's say a physical business is suspected to have been robbed. Following the incident, the manager of the store retrieves all the surveillance videos depicting the time in which the incident likely took place. He or she then turns those videos over to the police, who, through a thorough investigation, identify a suspect and arrest that person. Through the subsequent trial, that person is brought to justice and restitution is paid. This is an example of collaboration at work between businesses and law enforcement. It's the kind of process that happens every day, all over the country. However, highly damaging cyber crime is a more recent phenomenon among businesses and governments, and therefore a collaborative process hasn't been solidified. But when one fully emerges, it will likely include:
- Collaboration between businesses in similar sectors: The example of the BBA's information-sharing effort will likely set a precedent for other business sectors. After all, it's not just banks that need to help each other out. Every type of business – from IT solutions to health organizations to medical providers – stands to benefit from sector-wide collaboration. But this is easier said than done. First of all, it requires a centralized organizational effort, such as what's happening within the BBA. In the near future, it will likely become the norm to see industry-spanning organizations like the BBA cropping up for all the different enterprise sectors.
- Information-sharing between companies and specially designated government groups: The enterprise and government sectors are separate for a reason, but when it comes to cyber crime, there should be a degree of collaboration. Just as governments can acquire top-of-the-line cyber security knowledge through expert groups, so too can businesses amass vital findings through experience. The merging of these two elements has the potential to produce highly actionable results. That's why information sharing between government and enterprise agencies is likely to have a largely positive impact in the fight against cyber crime. However, the exact nature of how this information sharing will work is likely to stir up significant debate.
- An increasing focus on international collaboration: Hackers do not respect national borders. The remote nature of their work enables cyber criminals to launch attacks thousands of miles away – a reality that will necessitate global collaboration in the fight against cyber crime. In the Business Reporter article about the BBA, Matt Allen pointed to one moment that was especially helpful for the BBA: being able to attend an international cyber security conference hosted by Interpol-Europol. The reason attending this conference was helpful is because the BBA was able to confer with companies in the banking sector that operated in different countries. From there, the BBA was able to get a more cohesive sense of the issues facing the financial sector on an international level.
As the fight against hacking becomes increasingly globalized, expect to see a mounting effort among nations across the world to join forces on cyber security. This is already happening in Europe, where the European Union has issued cyber security directives such as this one that apply to all nations within the EU. The EU's country-spanning cyber security efforts have helped to bolster security initiatives in places as varied as Italy, Bulgaria, Latvia and Finland.
"The borderless and multi-layered Internet has become one of the most powerful instruments for global progress without governmental oversight or regulation," states an introductory paragraph in the EU's Cybersecurity Strategy of the European Union. "While the private sector should continue to play a leading role in the construction and day-to-day management of the Internet, the need for requirements for transparency, accountability and security is becoming more and more prominent."
A large part of the way this transparency and accountability can be ensured is by linking up different countries in the fight against cyber crime. While this is happening in Europe, there remains to be seen a comparable effort in which the United States is participating, though that is likely to change in the future.