The initial pivot towards remote working, as the world underwent its most recent digital transformation due to the pandemic, took an average of 11 days according to a survey from McKinsey. In pre-pandemic times, executives suggest that a transition on such a scale would have taken up to a year, indicating an acceleration of 40x.
While inevitably slowing down from this initial burst, the speed of transformation has remained high. The same survey from McKinsey suggests that the global speed of digital transformation was accelerated by seven years in just over as many months during 2020 alone.
This has led to several issues, with one of the more pressing being the need to accelerate security measures to deal with the new, expanded attack surfaces and key vulnerabilities of newly distributed workforces. Unfortunately, the growing number of data breaches reported, suggests that this effort hasn’t been successful and there is a distinct need for the greater adoption of innovative technology to enhance security measures.
Security Challenges Post-Pandemic
The pandemic and the changes in the workplace that have been rapidly implemented as a result, has made data increasingly vulnerable. There has been a triple digit increase in cybersecurity intrusions during the first half of 2021, with incidents up by 125% year-on-year driven by a potent mixture of web shell activity, targeted ransomware and extortion operations, and supply chain intrusions.
The irony is that cybersecurity has never been considered more essential by companies and is on course to become a $1 trillion industry. However, as the 125% increase in incidents illustrates, it is also struggling to keep pace with the challenges of rapid digital transformation and the equal acceleration in cybercrime that has occurred since the start of the pandemic.
Innovation is Key
The uncomfortable truth is that for all the rapid progresses and advances on the legal side of the global IT ecosystem, there are also advances on the illegal side from both nation-state and cybercrime actors. This only serves to highlight the key role that innovation must play when it comes to cybersecurity as the threat evolves and becomes more sophisticated, so too must the defences.
If companies are to be truly invested in digital transformation, there is a necessity to ensure that security is equally transformed. UK investment in tech rose by 17% in 2020, but it is important that this innovation and investment should not stop at security. If it does, and security fails to keep pace with innovation on both sides of the cybersecurity equation, companies risk more than just a data breach, they risk falling behind their competitors and lower growth in both the medium and the long-term as a result.
Integrating Security and Innovation
Positively, there are recent innovations that can be implemented within security architectures that can mitigate a good deal of current cybercrime issues.
The first relies on strategies centred around the concept of zero-trust. This states that organisations should verify explicitly, limit user access to least-privileged-possible and operate as if a breach has occurred. Unlike the previously standardised IT castle-and-moat strategy, it prevents a Trojan horse from entering and moving through internal systems without resistance.
With data now spread across multiple networks and platforms in most companies, a zero-trust security system is considered by many to be the only effective way to protect against cybercriminals.
Powerful assistance can also come from Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI and ML). Using these techniques, organisations can analyse copious amounts of data to provide a comprehensive overview of vulnerabilities. Not only does it automate basic security tasks but using ML can analyse patterns and identify potential new threats.
Using these techniques and more, organisations will be at the forefront of cybersecurity and ensure secure digital meshes. This evolves the concept of a single secure digital perimeter around all devices and nodes on a network to one where smaller, individual perimeters are established around each access point. Gartner predicts that by 2025, cybersecurity mesh will support more than 50% of digital access control requests.
This distributed architectural approach reflects the acceleration in the digital transformation of the workplace and enables businesses to innovate securely at speed to gain a competitive advantage with confidence.
Challenges and Opportunities
The pandemic has introduced many new challenges, but also new opportunities. Rapid digitalisation means businesses need to improve cybersecurity not simply to keep up, but to keep ahead of both competitors and cybercriminals.
Advancing cybersecurity measures with innovative technologies reduces risk and optimises overall security measures. With a robust security strategy that reflects the new distributed digital workflows, organisations can rest assured knowing they are protected for the future and can reap the business benefits that a successful digital transformation offers.
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