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Why must Cyber Security and Digital Transformation programs go hand in hand?

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended plenty of societal, cultural, and business norms that we’ve previously grown accustomed to. And one of the biggest changes in the post-COVID-19 world is a consensus on digital transformation.

On a superficial level, it is easy to draw a correlation between the increasing reliance on technology in the age of social distancing and the digital transformation of companies. While this is true to an extent, digital transformation was an inevitable (albeit slower) process even before the pandemic.

In a world that has experienced a stunning pace of technological advancement for decades, shifting to a digital-centric business mindset was always going to be necessary; at least, for companies that intend to remain competitive. And in a globalized society, staying competitive is the only way a business can survive in the long term.

Considering this, we can safely conclude the digital transformation of businesses was always coming. But now that it is here, some of its more complex challenges are starting to surface — such as cybersecurity issues that stem from rapid change.

What Is Digital Transformation?

There are many definitions for the process of digital transformation. In the broadest sense, we can view it as the combined use of cutting-edge processes and tools to satisfy customers and solve business problems.

However, looking at digital transformation as a process that has a beginning and end would be a mistake. Rather than a one-off measure or a new company policy, it’s a paradigm shift; a change in the way companies fundamentally think about their work.

All of the job roles and processes within various industries are becoming imbued with technology; not as a tool for completing a specific work task, but as an essential part of the job. And this kind of radical rethinking stands at the forefront of digital transformation.

This change is visible in application development models that are becoming applicable to more than software development. Of course, declaratively applying Agile to a random product cycle is not enough. Intense cross-departmental collaboration, along with tech-savvy senior leaders and decision-makers, is needed to facilitate a true digital transformation.

Why Go Through It?

There are plenty of reasons for embarking on the complex journey of digital transformation; some of which we’ve already outlined above. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to one thing: a competitive advantage.

A company may decide to remain in the analog age and not feel repercussions immediately, but their competitive advantage is severely going to shrink in the next couple of years. The business solutions that digital-centric companies can provide are more efficient, streamlined, innovative, and most importantly: customer-centric.

And with the Internet of Things around the corner, digital transformation is no longer something that companies can ignore. Everyone, from media moguls to toaster manufacturers, needs to consider the implications of the digital future.

Why Is Digital Transformation Difficult?

There are plenty of unsuccessful and middling digital transformations — painting the picture of a process that seems long and arduous. And that’s not hard to grasp, seeing as digital transformations are far from easy.

The process is challenging when viewed from any perspective. In terms of HR, the pitfalls of digital transformation are numerous. Plenty of companies have failed to successfully adapt to the digital age due to poor leadership and a lack of understanding from decision-makers.

A low level of employee engagement can also be detrimental, which is why hiring the right people is an oft-overlooked part of digital transformation. Also, substandard operations that require other improvements before going digital often trip up in the transformation process; after all, a shift in work methodologies is also one of the premier aspects of this process.

Even when business leaders understand the need for digital transformation, there’s a noticeable discrepancy between their perceived goals and the reality of the process. Often enough, company executives will ask for “flashy” changes that are easily promotable or focus on implementing new technologies solely for cost-cutting.

An obsession with lofty, superficial goals and a focus on the bottom line both lead to the biggest long-term challenge of digital transformation — security.

Securing Digital Transformation

Before the pandemic, most businesses approached digital transformation casually; with the belief that they had years to incrementally implement changes. However, the sudden shift to a global remote work environment has left companies scrambling for digital solutions, and digital transformation kicked into high gear.

While many lauded this as the silver lining of the pandemic, there was one problem — the speed of implementation meant that cybersecurity was pretty much left in the dust.

And security was recognized as a potentially challenging aspect of digital transformation even before the pandemic — half a decade ago, many predictions indicated that 60% of digital companies would experience significant service failures by now. Crucially, the cited reason was the inability of internal security teams to adapt to managing digital risk.

While it’s not easy to conclude that digital projects were the specific cause — huge security lapses have occurred since. In developing countries with businesses relying on the Internet infrastructure and digital payments — cybercrime is noticeably more aggressive than before.

In 2020, a majority of global business leaders have cited cyber threats as one of the top risk management priorities for their organizations. A weariness for digital transformation is noticeable, now that the inherent security risks of going digital have become more apparent.

Companies experiencing digital breaches can easily experience employee pushback for the rest of their digital transformation process. After all, the process is not simple, to begin with; demanding a small “revolution” in each job role and a reexamination of all employees — along with the learning of new job skills and the adaptation to new technologies.

And once it is perceived that all of this potentially leads to more security issues than before, team enthusiasm for the adoption of new methods and systems may falter.

However, this is not a reason to halt or delay digital transformation. Rather, it shows that cybersecurity must be implemented and improved on the same level as all other aspects of the organization.

New Approach To Security

Instead of being a layer of protection, cybersecurity must become the center of a company’s digital transformation strategy. The shift to a global digital marketplace means huge visibility issues; with many businesses having difficulties juggling the complex combinations of their various activities.

From services to the supply chain to R&D departments — new operational technologies and further integration bring more connectivity and useful data sources, but they also bring plenty of potential vulnerabilities and challenges for third-party risk management. And a traditional security team that acts as a shield for the organization will simply not suffice.

This is why changes in the company culture must be carefully followed with changes in the security department. The security teams must undergo their transformation; equally challenging, due to workers having to learn new job skills and maintain a closer interaction with the rest of the business organization.

In a DevOps world, companies thrive on flexibility, agility, and a generally nimble approach to product and service development. And that means a necessary reorganization for security teams as well; many security departments will find themselves needing different kinds of talent than before, and significant changes in manpower.

Traditionally, security teams have perceived their roles as being those who say “No”, providing the approval in various organizational processes. Unfortunately, this kind of approach conflicts with a digitally transformed company — one that is focused on doing business efficiently and fluently, with full use of automation and other contemporary technologies.

Instead of blocking the process and becoming bottlenecks, security teams need to be just as flexible and agile as the rest of the company whose safety they’re facilitating. They will have to enable development teams to work as fast as possible without compromising security.

A DevSecOps World

In a world where all kinds of companies are taking lessons from agile workflows and DevOps systems, cybersecurity can be maintained by adopting a DevSecOps worldview. While the operations and development teams make use of the digital transformation, the security team must be firmly embedded into the product cycle.

Security can’t be an afterthought anymore; something a separate team takes care of in the final development stages. With the star of SaaS companies shining brighter than ever, the development of digital products and services is becoming more open-ended and indefinite.

A successful DevOps approach looks at security as a joint responsibility; a mindset, rather than a checkbox to fill. In essence, this means considering infrastructure, application, and asset security right from the beginning of the product life cycle.

From the perspective of the security team, this also means automating some of their “gates” — all to provide end-to-end security without blocking the other company teams and slowing down their work.

It’s all about security being a built-in feature of the company’s organizational structure, rather than a perimeter around data, personnel, and products. Keeping cybersecurity at the end of the pipeline is the best way to mishandle a digital transformation; leading companies to the same sluggishness they had before the process.

Security Automation

An agile and efficient approach to cybersecurity cannot be implemented without embracing the essence of digital transformation — in other words, new technologies. In a way, cybersecurity is an arms race with malicious actors, such as hackers, ransomware creators, and hacktivists.

And all of these (extremely tech-savvy) cyber attackers make use of all cutting-edge technologies at their disposal. Machine-learning and AI are the next big thing in cyberattacks — which means that cybersecurity teams in digital companies must respond in kind.

On the one hand, security automation enables digital transformation by removing some of the hoops that product and service developers would otherwise have to jump through. On the other hand — quality security automation is a necessity for modern threat detection and incident responses.

In a global and interconnected business environment, TPRM (third-party risk management) without complex data analytics is practically impossible. Companies simply have too many potential threat vectors to think about.

This is why smart solutions like Rescana are implementing wide automation through machine learning algorithms, enabling companies to effortlessly deal with risk reduction in real-time. And these kinds of platforms are a necessity in an age where cyber attackers will be using the most advanced data analytics to select the most vulnerable pain points as well.

Cybersecurity and Digital Transformation

In the end, it’s clear that cybersecurity and digital transformation are firmly intertwined; with digital-facing companies requiring modern cybersecurity solutions and all security teams having to use digital solutions to stay relevant and up to date.

All companies are in the process of becoming digital companies — and such businesses do not mesh well with static security checklists and policies. Instead, security must be tightly integrated and continuously present at every stage of company processes to facilitate a proper digital transformation.

A well-executed digital transformation means end-to-end change, sweeping up tech, policies, people, and processes. And above all else — it’s secure.

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