CrowdStrike CEO details evolving cyber threats for remote workers

CrowdStrike CEO and Co-founder George Kurtz joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss growing cyber threats from remote work, the Russia-Ukraine war, China, and more.

Video Transcript

- The number and cost of data breaches hit a record in 2021, from the country's largest oil companies to the personal information of millions of Americans. But let's break this down with George Kurtz, Crowdstrike's CEO and co-founder. George, good to have you back on. So what was happening over the last year? Obviously, you had a lot of remote work, a lot of hybrid work, people sort of using their own resources at home. How much did that play into some of the spikes that we saw last year?

GEORGE KURTZ: Well, sadly, every year that goes by, the threat environment tends to get worse. Certainly, in the height of the pandemic, we saw lots of activity, remote workers being fished. And it was very difficult for many organizations who really didn't have the infrastructure to go touch those machines to keep them updated with all the latest security patches that they needed.

So we did see a lot of activity there. And we saw a lot of tactics change and evolve. Certainly, ransomware has become one of the favorite tactics. But even some of those particular techniques have changed and morphed over a period of time. But in general, it keeps getting worse. And the dollars made by some of these e-crime actors continues to pile up.

- And George, mobile work is certainly not going away any time soon. In fact, looks like it's here to stay, at least on a hybrid three day a week basis. So what's your advice to businesses both large and small and how to navigate this moving forward?

GEORGE KURTZ: Well, I think what's important is it's something, obviously, that we focus on as Crowdstrike is having visibility and protection on those remote workers' computers and their endpoints and their mobile devices. And that's absolutely critical because if you think about remote work, the firewall has pretty much disappeared in terms of the network protection. The network has disappeared.

So you've got all these remote workers. They're all connected to the internet. They're all connecting back to the cloud. And it becomes very difficult to keep those endpoints protected. So having effective EDR and next-gen antivirus is going to be important. And then also, making sure that from a data perspective you'll understand where your data is, where it's going, and how to control it. And that becomes much harder in a remote work environment.

- And the way that people are targeting users and organizations does seem to be getting more and more sophisticated. Do you find that companies are willing to invest what's needed to really protect their networks versus, say, just pay for the cleanup afterwards?

GEORGE KURTZ: Well, that certainly has changed over a period of time. And what we've seen absolutely over the last two years is more engagement with board of directors than ever before. And many, many times it's open checkbook for many large organizations who understand the risk. There's compliance risk. There's regulatory risk. There is existential risk of having your entire business impacted. And in many, many cases, it's been almost an open checkbook for security.

What's important to realize-- and this is what's changed-- is that it's no longer a nuisance. It's no longer your computer is just encrypted. It's no longer your family photos are gone. It's your business can't ship products. You can't make products. You can't badge in and get into your office because all of the systems are down. And executives and boards are looking at that saying, what do we need to do to make sure that we're secure and we reduce our risk and more importantly we increase our resiliency to these sort of attacks?

- And what's been the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine? And when you look at the United States in terms of a cybersecurity perspective, what do you think is the most vulnerable portion here? Is it hospitals? Is it banks? Is it utilities?

GEORGE KURTZ: Well, we saw activity before the Russian invasion. And then we've seen activity combined with some kinetic efforts, taking down different data centers and different areas where the Russians are operating. But I think in general when you kind of step back and go what does this mean for the US, or folks even outside of the US in certain sectors, what's vulnerable? Certainly, in the US, you've got hospitals. Very concerning. A lot of times, these systems are under protected from a resource perspective.

And also, when patient care is on the line, doctors don't want to have a whole bunch of security controls in place that sort of get in the way of things. And that's not the case for every hospital. But we've seen that in many cases. The second area then would be critical infrastructure which is not owned by the government. And I think it's like 80%-plus of critical infrastructure is not owned by the US government. So we think about local water treatment plants and power utilities. These are all very vulnerable and, again, often are under protected when we think about cybersecurity. So we're keeping an eye on it.

Obviously, from a nation state perspective, Russia obviously has great capabilities in those areas. We still see China being very active. Intellectual property theft. And then you combine that with the e-crime actors who are just going to be opportunistic and try to ransom these organizations. Hospital is one of the top targeted attacks because patient lives are on the line. And if you're knocking out systems that are needed for critical care, that can really put lives in jeopardy.

- George Kurtz, CEO and founder of CrowdStrike. Really appreciate you being on with us today. Thank you.