Overcoming security risks in your digital transformation projects

Thursday, August 05, 2021 - Jack Gill

This article will advise on how best to safeguard digital transformation projects; firstly, identifying current security threats, before suggesting solutions across both technology and culture that can help reduce these issues. 

Digital Transformation leading to security risks 

Technology has the potential to substantially improve a company’s service and operations. However, integration of this technology also poses new challenges regarding security and privacy. With many companies relying on third parties for the safety of their data, breaches and threats to the supply chain are rife. 

Third party data breaches 

According to a recent study, 82% of respondents feel that they have had at least one data breach as a result of their digital transformation. Over half of those surveyed say that breaches have been caused by a third party, which highlights the dangers that come with delegating responsibilities to an external organisation.

In these cases, it’s important that organisations fully assess the privacy and security practices of third-party organisations before granting them access to their data. Defining and assessing any risks will give you an idea of what kind of protection you'll need to protect yourself from a potential breach. 

And with recent findings from the DCMS Cyber Security Breaches Survey revealing that four in ten businesses have reported having a security breach or attack over the past year, pinpointing these threats has never been more important. 

The security challenges of remote working

Phishing and impersonation attacks have seen a particular rise in recorded incidents. At one time, Google reported blocking 100 million phishing emails a day. This finding can be accounted for by the increase in remote working that has come from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Many attackers capitalised on the uncertainty of healthcare guidance by impersonating government bodies, employers or any professional authoritative figures.

With many organisations issuing employees with company laptops, it has been increasingly difficult to monitor security standards and protect employees from these attacks to their full ability.

 This lack of protection has left employees feeling anxious and vulnerable to potential security attacks, with a report from security firm Tessian revealing that nearly 40% of employees believe that security practices have felt less thorough since transitioning to remote working. 

On the other hand, the same report revealed that 1 in 3 employees believe that they can get around security practices more easily at home, away from the observations of their company’s security department.   

What these findings determine is that the employees are overall more susceptible to security attacks when remote working — be this of their own accord or not. 

Tech solutions to security problems 

Fortunately, there are many digital solutions that businesses can implement and integrate into their existing operations to help protect against security threats. 

In all cases, businesses should aim to uphold the security and integrity of their data. While these solutions may achieve this to an extent, it is advised the organisations firstly evaluate their current operations to assess whether these tools are appropriate. 

End-to-End Encryption

End-to-end encryption is one example of how businesses can secure their data. Encrypting data as soon as it is captured prohibits hackers from listening to the contents of your data as it travels between devices or remains in storage.

In the case that an unauthorised person does gain access to your data set, the encrypted information would be useless. Data spying and modification are prevented by encrypting data in flight. 

It is possible for IT teams to encrypt data before storing it on drives, within their database, or a combination of the two. This proves a particularly useful method for organisations who are integrating cloud computing solutions into their operations — where you need to secure big data sets and infrastructure. 

Blockchain

Blockchain is another tool that organisations can utilise to protect data within their network. By storing its data in blocks rather than traditional rows and columns, blockchain technology withholds data more securely; blocks are connected in a cryptographic chain that is extremely difficult to tamper with. 

It is particularly useful for securing IoT devices, which could use blockchain to build a consensus with other devices about what constitutes typical network activity. When suspicious activity arises, devices can shutdown to prevent further damage. 

Blockchain has been something of a buzzword in the industry over the decade and has been used, most famously, to secure cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and its alternatives. However, organisations are increasingly realising the power of this technology, with use cases in medicine, government and banking. 

While these solutions offer potentially transformative results for your company’s security, it’s important to understand that they are only one part of the process to securing your projects. As with any digital transformation project, security solutions require an agile approach with commitment throughout the company.  

Digital strategies means security strategies 

In the same way that digital initiatives are aligned with business goals, security should also hold great importance in line with a company's digital transformation strategy.

This means that organisations should actively seek ways in which to implement security training, practices, and protocol into their operations. When executed consistently, leading with a security-first mindset can be just as effective as the digital tools that organisations may use to protect their data and assets. 

Aligning security with business goals 

For one this means aligning security with business strategy and goals. Research by Gartner shows that there remains discrepancies between security teams and executives, with less than 20% having strong relationships with their business executive colleagues. 

Their forecast that this figure will increase to 60% by 2024 is perhaps telling of the way that company infrastructure will develop over the next few years.

Greater unity between tech teams and executives, CISOs and board members can only benefit this growing landscape of digital-first companies.

Having a seat at the table is an important step for CISOs here. A previous report by PwC has shown that less than half of all CISOs actually report to the CEO, which indicates a breakdown in communication between security and business initiatives. 

Involving CISOs in board meetings will not only allow them to learn more about the company from a non-security perspective, but will also enable executives to more actively consider security concerns when making decisions. 

It's vital that CISOs reciprocate their involvement by taking the time to speak with non-IT stakeholders, as well as board members, to learn about the businesses priorities and goals. 

With a view to learn beyond their IT expertise, CISOs and security staff members will benefit greatly from expanding their knowledge on business subjects. With time, risk mitigation and ROI become the building blocks of a successful digital strategy, as executives and CISOs find common ground on how to securely achieve goals and satisfy initiatives. 

Ownership and accountability 

One resounding tip for all these solutions is to take ownership of your security goals. This means implementing standards that translate to both the office and home working environment - across executives and employees. 

This begins with educating employees about the responsibility that they have, but not punishing any mistakes and accidents that do occur; the aim is to include, not isolate. Whether it’s offering incentivised security training or security newsletters, offering educational resources will create a more secure-focussed workforce. 

By instilling these values at an employee-level, businesses are more likely to succeed with a successful security strategy at a company scale. 

Universal Responsibility 

Ultimately, this article has shown that security is everyone's responsibility, hence why collaborative working and thorough training is required throughout an organisation. 

If the pandemic has taught organisations anything, it’s that implementing technology into your operations can be an effective way to respond to problems and improve productivity.  

As businesses realise the transformative potential of tech, it’s hoped that they too expand communications with the people who are responsible for safeguarding these operations at a company-level. 

To fully safeguard your organisation during digital transformation projects you must create a synergy between your company’s technology, culture and its security. Significantly, all measures taken should be thoroughly assessed for risk and costs. 

While security should be a priority, any strategies or technology that you implement should work in unison with your digital transformation projects so that they can provide a secure foundation from which your digital initiatives can be achieved.  

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