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Advancing Cybersecurity Innovation for Digital Transformation

As the world underwent its most recent digital transformation due to the pandemic, the initial pivot towards remote working 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 the speed of transformation is slowing from this initial burst, it still remains high. The same survey from McKinsey suggests that the global speed of digital transformation was accelerated by seven years in just as many months during 2020 alone.

This has led to several issues, the most 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 reported data breaches suggests that this effort hasn’t been successful and there is a distinct need to increase adoption of innovative technology to enhance security measures.

Post-pandemic security challenges: Rapid workforce changes, rampant cybercrime

The changes in the workplace that have been rapidly implemented as a result of the pandemic 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, the cybersecurity industry 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.

Cybersecurity innovation is key to digital transformation

The uncomfortable truth is that for all the rapid progress 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 defenses.

If companies are to be truly invested in digital transformation, they also need 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 with 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 decreasing growth in both the mid- and the long-term as a result.

Integrating security and innovation: Zero trust architecture and AI/ML

To be sure, 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 centered around the model of zero trust. This approach states that organizations should verify explicitly, limit user access to least-privileged-possible and operate as if a breach has occurred. Unlike the previously standardized 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 architecture 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/ML). Using these techniques, organizations can analyze copious amounts of data to provide a comprehensive overview of vulnerabilities. Not only does it automate basic security tasks but using ML can analyze patterns and identify potential new threats.

Using these techniques and more, organizations 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 confidently gain a competitive advantage.

Challenges and opportunities: Advance security to reduce risk

The pandemic has introduced many new challenges, but also new opportunities. Rapid digitalization 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 optimizes overall security measures. With a robust security strategy that reflects the new distributed digital workflows, organizations can rest assured knowing they are protected for the future and can reap the business benefits that a successful digital transformation offers.

Toby Alcock is CTO of Logicalis Group.