Etienne Greef, CTO & founder, SecureData
Etienne Greef, CTO & founder, SecureData

No one can afford to stand still. To avoid being outpaced by competitors and thrive in tomorrow's hyper-connected world, every business needs to be digital. From enhancing productivity and enabling employees to work in new ways, to delighting customers with new capabilities, digitalisation is not an option, but a must-have. Social, mobile, cloud and big data analytics have become essential to deliver the responsiveness modern business demands.

However, digitalisation also exponentially increases risk and complexity. Inevitably, deploying more business-critical digital systems and storing more confidential data exposes organisations to increased cyber-risk, whether it's from negligent employees, criminal gangs, espionage or hacktivism. As the European Commission puts it, “the more we depend on the internet, the more we depend on its security”.

While we might consider increased cyber-risk to be the “price of admission” for all the benefits of digitalisation, there's a further complication: few businesses are born digital. For most firms, digitalisation is a question of retrofitting existing systems, processes and investments. Badly managed transformation programmes can create new vulnerabilities, if existing security precautions can't keep up with the rapidly changing reality inside organisations.

This is borne out by a recent Cisco report, which found that 71 percent of senior finance and line-of-business executives believe concerns over cyber-security are impeding innovation and growth, with a further 39 percent citing cyber-security issues as their main reason for halting business-critical initiatives.

Take a holistic view 

With digitalisation forcing many organisations to make tough IT choices at breakneck speed, it's essential to build an agile foundation for cyber-security to mitigate risk.

Forget the traditional IT security perimeter: innovations like cloud, micro applications, micro services and the Internet of Things have vastly extended every organisation's attack surface. Firms may have deployed one security device after another in the past, but technology alone can't solve the challenges raised by rapid digitalisation; it must be combined with the right people and processes and aligned as part of a comprehensive, end-to-end strategy. 

Organisations need the ability to understand risk and take informed actions across the entire attack continuum – whether they're assessing risks, detecting threats, protecting assets or responding to attacks. With a holistic approach, organisations can better secure the transformation process, minimise disruption to the day-to-day and protect new deployments more effectively. 

Strategic thinking

Securing businesses to undertake digital transformation starts by identifying their essential assets and key vulnerabilities. Crucially, this process of assessment must be on-going, since new weaknesses are constantly being created by changing systems, applications and threats.

With a clear understanding of what to protect and how attackers might manifest themselves, firms should also begin monitoring their IT environment to identify threats early on, so they can be intercepted before causing any disruption.

Meanwhile, with an understanding of their critical assets, important vulnerabilities and relevant emerging threats, business can apply the right level of protection and appropriate security technologies to stay secure and available.

Yet, despite all these preparations, there is no such thing as unbeatable IT security. It's no longer a question of if an organisation will be breached, but when and how badly. That's why it's crucial to have a comprehensive incident response strategy, putting procedures in place to react to a security breach as it happens, as well as contingencies for critical systems and applications.

If an organisation doesn't have the in-house capabilities to tackle security strategically, working with a managed security services provider (MSSP) can help. Bringing immediate access to scarce cyber talent, MSSPs free organisations to dedicate all their resources to business transformation with no confusion over security and compliance.

With an MSSP's knowledge and experience, firms can benefit from heightened visibility into threats and vulnerabilities, expertly managed security devices and a faster reaction time to any issues – all of which dramatically lowers cyber-risk for those pushing the digital frontier.

Contributed by Etienne Greef, CTO & founder, SecureData

*Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of SC Media or Haymarket Media.