In a surreal cybersecurity world, it’s time for business owners, DoD contractors and others to be vigilant

The dictionary folks at Merriam-Webster have picked the word of the year for 2016 — “surreal” — based on a number of factors, including that it was looked up more frequently by users this year than in previous ones.

Merriam-Webster also noticed a huge spike in lookups for ‘surreal’, defined as “marked by the intense irrationality of a dream,” in November right after the U.S. presidential election.

Other notable words that sent people to their Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2016 included:

  • “Revenant” (Thank you Hollywood.);
  • “Icon” (A short list of notable icons who died in 2016 includes Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer, Prince and David Bowie; we can see why people were looking up `icon.’);
  • “Bigly” (Yes, it’s in the dictionary.);
  • “Faute de mieux” (Meaning “for lack of something better or more desirable,” as in, “He headed to Canada faute de mieux.” In other words, he headed to Canada to find something better.)

We’re surprised by the absence of a word we think should have made the list: “vigilant”. Maybe because we’re in the cybersecurity business and we’re biased, but we think vigilant is a word that should be on the mind of anyone in business or in government contracting, especially contractors with the Department of Defense (DoD).

We think `vigilant’ is the word for a number of reasons. For one thing, DoD contractors need to be vigilant of a critical looming cybersecurity deadline that could have a dramatic effect on their future contracts. The Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) deadline to become compliant is a year away on Dec. 31, 2017. Not being vigilant of the DFARS compliance deadline is risking big penalties to your business.

There are plenty of other things to be vigilant about, particularly in the acronym universe. We’re thinking about NIST, DDOS, IoT, and others. In a rapidly evolving and ever-changing world of cyber threats, it’s imperative for organizations to be on point and continuously vigilant in their cybersecurity postures.

Earlier this month, a 12-member, non-partisan Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, chaired by Thomas E. Donilon, the former National Security Advisor to President Obama, released a report highlighting the top cybersecurity priorities for President-elect Trump.

The commission advocated the private sector and presidential administration collaborating on a “roadmap for improving the security of digital networks, in particular by achieving robustness against denial-of-service, spoofing, and other attacks on users and the nation’s network infrastructure. The urgency of the situation demands that the next Administration move forward promptly on our recommendations, working closely with Congress and the private sector.”

The commission recommends that the President-elect should direct senior federal executives to launch a private-public initiative, including provisions to undertake, monitor, track, and report on measurable progress in enabling agile, coordinated responses and mitigation of attacks on the users and the nation’s network infrastructure.

Earlier this year, our CEO, Rob Hegedus, was the sole private-industry cybersecurity representative invited to speak at a U.S. Department of Treasury event to discuss cybersecurity best practices and future trends within the financial services sector.

Our message at the event was that as a certified auditor, Sera-Brynn’s focus is preparing our clients for the inevitable data breach — it’s not `if’ you’ll get breached, but `when’ — by helping them meet compliance or cybersecurity “best practices” in order to avoid claims of negligence, civil liabilities and shareholder or customer-driven lawsuits.

One thing that’s clear from both the commission’s report and our Treasury Department experience is that they reinforce our stance: When it comes to cybersecurity, it’s the domain of the experts. Your business is too valuable and there’s too much at risk not to seek the expertise. Anything else is surreal.

That’s why we say it’s time to be vigilant.

To view the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity “Report on Securing and Growing the Digital Economy,” click here.