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Digital Transformation

Cybersecurity: Powering the Digital Transformation

Yonesy Núñez
Jan 18, 2023

Cybersecurity is a growing concern for both business and government, as attacks on systems increase in frequency and severity. The COVID-19 crisis put the shift to digitization in high gear as businesses worked at top speed to allow ‒ and withstand ‒ persistent and increased remote access to their networks and data.

So far, the transformation has been largely successful, with unprecedented levels of business productivity. However, with the pandemic now officially over (kind of), the relentless focus on digital transformation must continue apace if we are to reap the benefits it promises.

Today’s hyper-connected world presents significant cybersecurity challenges. To ensure we are prepared for future threats, we must develop a robust framework that tackles these challenges head-on and provides the flexibility and agility to address the ever-evolving threat landscape. This is especially critical given the extent to which technology has become integrated into our daily lives and the dependence of all industries and sectors on digital infrastructure for their operations.

Over the last two decades or so, we have witnessed a rapid increase in the use of digital technologies in industries like banking and finance, healthcare, telecommunications, and retail. This revolution has profoundly changed the way we live our lives and the way businesses operate ‒ and this has ultimately given rise to the term “digital transformation” (or “digitization”).

At its core, digital transformation refers to the process of converting manual processes into automated ones through the introduction of technology like AI and ML, which enable organizations to become more agile and efficient in their operations. The benefits associated with digital transformation are numerous, including increased operational efficiencies and better customer service.

As businesses look to leverage new technologies to drive future growth and prosperity, cybersecurity has become a key concern ‒ but also a key accelerator ‒ of the ongoing digital evolution. Adopting a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity is critical, as it enables organizations to take a holistic approach to security while ensuring they maximize the value of their digital assets.

This is why Enterprise Risk Management frameworks are increasingly being adopted by companies in their bid to mitigate the risk of a security breach while still achieving their business objectives. A company’s risk management program plays an important role in ensuring that the organization is protected against potential risks such as data breaches, fraud, and reputational damage.

In today’s highly interconnected environment, no single industry or business can operate in isolation or remain secure on its own. Companies across all sectors must therefore take a collaborative approach and work with government and regulatory bodies as well as law enforcement agencies to combat cybercrime and safeguard their valuable information and data.

Despite advances in cyber defense mechanisms over the last 20 years, cybercrime remains an ongoing and growing threat to businesses and society. It continues to pose major challenges for businesses across industries worldwide and has become increasingly sophisticated in its operations. With cybercrime cases on the rise every year, it has become one of the most important issues facing governments across the globe.

Data breaches cost organizations billions of dollars in damages each year and puts their security, as well as that of their consumers’ information, at risk. Cybersecurity should be a top priority for every business and organization; neglecting to do so puts both the company’s and its customers’ information at risk of attack and theft. And the cost of these attacks is often far more than the value of the stolen data itself.

According to IBM Security’s Cost of a Data Breach Study, the average cost of a breach for a business in the United States now stands at $4 million ‒ a figure that has increased six-fold since 2013. As businesses become more aware of the threat posed by hackers and other cybercriminals, they are being forced to invest more in security solutions to protect their networks. However, this investment only puts a bandage on the problem, as cyber threats continue to evolve and become more sophisticated each day. Organizations need to develop more advanced solutions to combat new threats and defend themselves against advanced persistent threats, malware, ransomware, phishing attacks, social engineering scams, and insider data breaches.

During the pandemic, organizations rushed to modernize very quickly because people weren’t together in offices anymore. Many companies had to evolve very quickly to enable remote access connectivity so that remote users could access their networks outside of the office and still be effective. That put cybersecurity at the forefront of the evolution, which gave us a springboard to where we are today.

Most companies are operating in a mindset of digital workloads and environments. This is the basic foundation of how we think about security for organizations today. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cloud application that needs to be secured – either from an infrastructure perspective or a software perspective – or a hybrid environment. We put the same rigor around securing those workloads regardless of where they are implemented within an organization.

The level of protection we apply is the same regardless of how the workload is being run, whether it’s on-premises or in a cloud environment. There’s a paradigm shift now that we have the technology to accelerate our digital transformations because of the exposure to new exploits and new vulnerabilities that we’re finding.

The biggest challenge for most organizations today is changing how you approach security: how you view security from the IT operations team’s perspective and how you can apply those processes and technologies throughout the entire organization to help fight the threat of cyberattacks today.

Cybersecurity will continue to be a key focus area in the future for every organization, as well as a key business differentiator. The more involved cybersecurity teams are, the faster organizations can transform and meet the needs of today’s customers. That’s a big challenge because everyone sees things differently in cybersecurity and data risk protection.

When I think about the evolution of the profession over the past few years, it’s clear that cybersecurity has evolved from something that organizations used to do at the end to make sure they were secure and in compliance, to becoming part of the DNA of digital transformation and, ultimately, customer satisfaction.

So, who’s down for a slow, featureless, and insecure banking app? Yeah, I didn’t think so .... 

More and more companies are baking security in first as they transition from manual processes to digital workloads, because without a solid cybersecurity foundation, the transformation will leave an organization exposed.

That’s a big shift in thinking. Being able to bake in cybersecurity from the get-go, with the help of machine learning, not only helps an organization optimize its processes, but also remain relevant and secure against modern attacks that are focusing on user identities. What’s more, it’s really hard to bolt on security in a digital environment. It’s harder than in legacy environments because things are happening at machine speeds. If you don’t have the right setup from the beginning, problems that emanate from that hole become known very quickly – at machine speeds.

To avoid unnecessary problems during migration, it’s crucial to have a conversation with decision-makers on the organization’s mission and vision. I think it’s safe to say that in the future, people are going to be using their mobile devices more, not less (@ben metz). The mobile device is quickly becoming the way customers engage with your organization. So, if you think about it, it makes sense that a secure mobile strategy should be a key component of your digital strategy going forward. The goal in that conversation should be to assess where your organization is in terms of being able to deliver fast, efficient, and scalable products and services that please the customer – and then figure out how to securely get the company there.

Your cybersecurity leader needs to be part of that conversation, not only to accelerate that path but to allow it to be sustainable. You also need to demystify the transformation within the organization as a whole. You want people to understand why the organization is migrating so they know what’s within the realm of possibility and what they should expect to get out of the process in terms of delivering better customer experiences and being more efficient. It’s also important to make sure that everyone in the organization understands their roles and responsibilities as they begin the digital transformation journey, and know how their roles and responsibilities align with those of the organization’s overall strategy. This is a key factor that will help to drive the business forward with confidence in the long run, regardless of whatever threats are out there.

Digitization is a really good way of upgrading the cybersecurity stack and cybersecurity spending as well, by homing in on new paradigms and developments. But one of the mistakes companies make as they digitally transform lies in their inability to properly size up what they’re going to need in the environment. 

In the legacy realm, it’s easy to buy servers and hardware and storage and memory and processors and computers. In a digital environment, organizations have to shift their mindsets from CapEx to OpEx ‒ the pay-as-you-go model – because the amount of computing you’re able to scale in a digital world is far larger than any servers your company could probably purchase. A lot of people – and not just technologists ‒ are caught off guard by the shift from spending a big chunk of the budget on capital projects to budgeting on a quarterly or even monthly basis for operational expenses.

In general, there’s an illusion of knowledge of how computing takes place in digital workloads. A lot of people talk about migrating to the cloud, but you can’t just plop your organization there. Before transforming, you have to understand what you’re transforming. What will migrate first? What highways to the cloud will you take? Will it be lift and shift, refactoring, or any of several ways to get there?

There are many ways to get from Point A legacy to Point B digital. You’ve got to prepare for the migration. A lot of companies that are going through this transformation right now are taken aback by how long the journey can be ‒ we’re talking years. There’s not a company that I speak to today that’s not involved in digital transformation. Everyone was forced to digitally transform some type of process during the pandemic. It brought the future five to seven years forward.

And as we continue to move forward, you must keep your cybersecurity team close, because they can help accelerate your security strategies to keep pace with the digital evolution. More importantly, they can help your organization mitigate potential threats ‒ both internal and external ‒ as you move along the path to your digital future, providing your customers with the information they need to bring them happiness, joy, and success.

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