This Fourth Industrial Revolution is dramatically changing the way we share, analyse and process information and is having far-reaching political, societal and economic consequences on global economies.
As it continues defining its legacy, how will businesses and all areas of industry be able to keep up with the pace of change? At the recent World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, leaders and politicians from across the globe gathered together to discuss this precise topic, amongst many others.
So, what can we learn from the mountains of Switzerland?
A living library of data
Amidst the influx of technological advancements, there remains one constant and critical element to it all - information. With each passing day we have more data at our fingertips, more online connections and more employees interacting with a variety of software and services in the workplace.
Data is fast becoming the centre of everything we do, and high-profile hacks such as the one Sony experienced last year reveal that – no matter how seemingly insignificant – all data has value to someone.
Data is the fuel for our new digital economies. It paints a picture of who we are, what we like to purchase and where we like to visit - valuable fodder indeed for e-commerce and marketing organisations that want to sell us targeted goods and services.
Whether it is for customer information, financial data or even something as seemingly harmless as email addresses, data is indeed a valuable asset to be protected and fought over.
Time for robust data protection
High-profile data breaches like Ashley Madison and TalkTalk serve as a stark reminder that hackers are growing ever more sophisticated in their methods, and arguably even one step ahead of the game.
Significant data loss doesn't just damage corporate reputation, but can result in notable financial losses. In fact, businesses in the UK lose £34 billion annually as a result of cyber-breaches. Businesses need to mitigate such widespread financial and reputational damages if they are to excel in the digital era.
Building a robust cyber-security infrastructure, a culture of cyber-security awareness and complying with new data privacy regulations must be embedded into operations and into the very fabric of how an organisation operates if it is to survive and thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Regulation and compliance in the wake of Safe Harbour 2.0
The scrapping of the age-old Safe Harbour agreement in October 2015, moved data exchange and privacy regulation firmly into the spotlight. Global businesses across the US and EU soon found themselves in a position where they could not exchange data between continents, in the way they once did.
While the initial outcomes of the recently agreed ‘Safe Harbour 2.0' ruling are hard to predict, I anticipate a new stricter framework to eventually be agreed upon, where greater accountability will be at the heart of a global agreement. Put simply, businesses will have to adapt and comply with local laws and regulations to keep conducting business in international markets. The risks will be too high if compliance and regulation is ignored.
Whatever final framework agreed upon, the outcomes of ‘Safe Harbour 2.0' will certainly affect and shape the way businesses handle, exchange and safeguard customer data for years to come. Organisations of all sizes will have to adapt and rethink their approach to data handling and security.
Closing the SecOps Gap
One challenge companies of all sizes are facing is the closing the SecOps gap, the disconnect between the security and IT operations teams. A recent research study by BMC and Forbes Insights found that 60 percent of respondents from businesses across North America and EMEA say operations and security teams have only a general or little understanding of each other's requirements. The direct effect of this gap is revealed by 44 percent of security breaches occurring even when vulnerabilities and their remediation have previously been identified.
This has to change and be addressed seriously as the scale of data breaches and hacks accelerate, and requirements for securing data (and penalties for failing to do so) may become ever more stringent. Educating the operations team about cyber-security best practices can significantly help CIOs and CISOs ensure that ‘data security awareness' is embedded into company culture.
Practical steps to closing the SecOps gap include revising internal reporting structures, cultivating a culture of security awareness, mandating that the compliance staff regularly meets with counterparts in other departments and, where feasible, replacing error-prone manual processes with intelligent compliance and security platforms that automate testing and rollout of security patches.
Make no mistake- data lies at the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Businesses that harness the power of data to provide outstanding services for customers and at the same time take measures to thoroughly protect data will enjoy continued growth. The key is to keep up with the pace of change, comply with new data exchange laws in international markets and ensure that data protection is woven into the very fabric of the company.
Contributed by Paul Appleby, executive vice president of transformation, BMC Software, Inc.