Digital Transformation and Cybersecurity: Friends or Foes?

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During the last few years (and especially the last year), most enterprises have been accelerating the pace of their digital transformation. In essence, digital transformation is all about turning data into actionable insights.

However, trying to undergo a digital transformation before putting effective data security in place is like trying to run before you can walk. It puts both the business as well as its customers at risk.

Organisations are suffering from the rising threat of cyberattacks, which are among the most important barriers in the implementation of their digital transformation agendas.

“The rush to achieve digital transformation increases risks of a data breach (by 72%), as well as risks of a cyberattack or threats to high-value assets (by 65%)”- IBM Study

5 Reasons why cybersecurity is lagging in the digital transformation journey
Digital transformation is about change, agility, speed, connectivity, customer expectations etc. and security in the eyes of many stands in the way of all this. Why? There are several reasons…

  1. Let’s face it: Cybersecurity is not a simple process
    Security isn’t always easy and does not start by (or end with) adding security controls. It should begin with identifying and prioritizing the most critical processes, systems and potential sources of attacks or vulnerabilities. Simply put, security needs a strategy and it is not as simple as adding a few firewalls, running periodic security patches or putting in place a strong password policy.
  2. Many seem to believe that cybersecurity slows down digital transformation
    Digital transformation is about speed and agility, whereas cybersecurity is a relatively gradual process as it involves multiple areas and layers. However, this can be tackled if organisations involve their security team at the very beginning of the digital transformation journey instead of calling them in too late.
  3. The sense of urgency is triggered only when one is under an attack
    Some organisations believe they are too small in size to be a victim of a cyberattack. Most organisations get a sense of urgency and priority only when an attack takes place. Their business gets interrupted, data stolen and compliance requirements breached or reputation is down the drain. If organisations are truly considering a digital transformation journey their attitude needs to be changed.
  4. Organisations overlook the broader consequences of an attack
    Making a business case for cybersecurity is difficult because organisations overlook the broader consequences of an attack. The first thing that gets highlighted is the cost associated with cybersecurity and the lack of visibility on the ROI of the same. However, rather than looking at the gaining back of costs, the organisations should factor in the losses if they fail to properly secure the critical data. Also, the monetary loss can be recovered to a great extent, but it’s difficult to recover brand reputation.
  5. Data is undervalued
    In today’s digital era, data is rapidly becoming one of the most valuable assets. It is the new currency. If you are in oil and gas then consider data as the new oil, if you are in manufacturing then consider data as the new raw material. Thus, cybercriminals are trying to cash in on the data. However, most organisations fail to realize the value of this data reflected in their dismal cybersecurity initiatives (or the lack of it).

What should the organisations do?

1st and foremost- realise that cybersecurity is not a choice
Organisations need to realise that cybersecurity is not a choice, but it is an integral part of the digital transformation journey. It is highly important for organisations to make security the starting point, and not an afterthought.

In fact, enterprises that are prioritizing cybersecurity are creating a formidable competitive advantage over peers while others will find themselves increasingly at a disadvantage.

Opt for managed security and/or Security-as-a-Service
Many organisations do believe that cybersecurity slows down the digital transformation journey. This could also be due to the lack of in-house tools and expertise. Outsourcing is a good option to consider in this case as it enables access to next-generation security capabilities.

There is a surge of security solutions that are offered based on the Security-as-a-Service paradigm or as a ‘pay-as-you-go’ option. There are solutions that come with easy web-based interfaces for their configuration, which makes them appealing to small and medium enterprises with low-security expertise.

Build a secure culture
Cybersecurity is not just something that the IT department applies to your organisation. It’s far more complex. The recent pandemic has taught us that it only takes a person (or a few people) to infect the masses, then everyone suffers.

The same is the case with cyber bugs. If a cybersecurity program isn’t supported by all the teams- operations, production, finance, sales and marketing, your organisation will be left vulnerable to bugs. Cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility, and the culture needs to start building at the top.

Speed is one of the fundamental objectives of digital transformation but the stakes are too high to ignore security risks while undertaking digital transformation activities. The haste to transform can very easily lead organisations to compromise on security controls and overlook the underlying risks.

The importance of data in the digital transformation journey mandates the need for effective security. However, organisations will continue to be vulnerable until they make security a key stakeholder in this journey.

(This article is written by Nilesh Kriplani, VP and Head – Center of Excellence – Clover Infotech. The views expressed in this article are of the author.)

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