Digital transformation. Everyone’s doing it, and there are many good reasons why. Digital transformation makes businesses more flexible, more able to meet the demands of today’s customers, and ultimately grow business. Digital transformation is also what enabled many organisations to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic. The last two years have seen organisations everywhere embrace the new technologies and ways of working which digital transformation offers.
However, many organisations do not prioritise the security risks of digital transformation in their plans and implementation, and as a result, cyber attacks resulting from security errors in digital transformations are on the rise.
This situation is not going to change any time soon as businesses move to hybrid working patterns where employees expect to be able to move seamlessly between the office and remote working over the course of a week. In order to ensure that this can happen, businesses need to consider the security risks of digital transformation and what can be done to mitigate them.
What are the security risks of digital transformation?
A digital transformation that doesn’t involve security from the earliest planning stages will leave the organisation open to some real cybersecurity risks. Evidence from a Ponemon Institute survey in 2020 found that 82% of organisations responding to the survey responded that they believed they had experienced at least one data breach due to digital transformation.
Furthermore, rushing to achieve digital transformation (for example as shown during the Covid-19 pandemic) has been shown to increase the risk of a data breach. The security risks of digital transformation can be broken down as follows:
Digital transformation increases exposure to attack by expanding the attack surface
Digital transformation involves doing more with technology. As organisations transform, they will use more cloud services, AI products, big data analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and more. This in turn increases their exposure to cyber attackers who use the connectivity of these programs to access networks and exploit any vulnerabilities they can find.
Digital transformation increases reliance on third party suppliers
As part of digital transformation, organisations adopt new technologies and tools to carry out their business. This in turn increases reliance on third party suppliers, for example cloud vendors or other software as a service providers in order for employees to do their jobs. If those suppliers have vulnerabilities in their products or infrastructure, or suffer a breach, this can have consequences for the businesses that use their products and services.
In the Ponemon Institute survey mentioned above, 55% of the respondents who reported they had suffered a data breach due to their digital transformation believed that at least one of their breaches had originated with a third party. For organisations, this introduces new concerns about how to manage the security of their supply chain.
Digital transformation requires a secure cloud environment – and that may not be so easy to provide
The Ponemon Institute survey found that 63% of respondents reported that they had difficulty ensuring they had a secure cloud environment. While cloud security tools are improving, they require constant monitoring and updating, which in turn requires investment in IT.
Furthermore, securing the cloud environment takes skills that may not be available within the organisation as IT teams and other connected employees (for example developers or DevOps teams) lack experience of securing the cloud.
Rushed digital transformation programmes may fail to protect what matters most
Digital transformation introduces many different tools for employees to collaborate with colleagues or share information with customers. However online collaboration tools are notoriously difficult to manage, and they increase the risk of human error causing a breach. This in turn increases the risk of exposure of customer or sensitive data.
While cybersecurity protections are available for organisations to protect their data, rushed digital transformation programmes, or insufficient security budgets may leave customer and sensitive data vulnerable to breach.
What can you do about the security risks of digital transformation?
For businesses who are at the beginning, middle, or the end of their digital transformation, the move to hybrid working styles presents additional challenges, making now a good time to assess what can be done to address the security risks of digital transformation and ensure that the programme is successful and secure.
Involve security teams in the digital transformation process from the earliest possible point
The simplest, most effective (and cost-effective) way to secure the network is to involve security teams in the planning of the new network at the earliest point. Including security teams in the strategic planning process ensures that they are part of the digital transformation and have the ability to support the strategy.
Empowering security teams to take part in the digital transformation strategy from the start will enable them to find innovative solutions that complement the wider transformation objectives.
Make extensive use of security tools – and ensure they are configured correctly
The cloud itself is not inherently secure, but cloud vendors provide a variety of tools to secure every aspect of the cloud. As these tools are created for the specific cloud, they will support security efforts. But also make sure to back these tools up with other security tools and controls. There are a wide range of tools to suit every use case, budget, and risk profile, with each tool playing a different role in securing the whole network.
However it is also important to ensure that all security tools are set up correctly. Incorrectly configured security tools will not prevent a cyber attack.
Educate employees on the importance of security in digital transformation
Employees from directors down, all have an important role to play in the success of the digital transformation, and equally in keeping it safe and secure. Training all employees on how to stay safe in the cloud, for example by using security controls effectively or by recognising the signs of attack, will have a real impact on the success of the digital transformation.
Secure the supply chain
It may feel daunting to require suppliers to adhere to security standards, but vendor security is key to protecting the digital transformation. Supplier risk assurance should become a part of the procurement process for all vendors, from the chosen cloud provider to the simplest SaaS product.
Continue to invest in and improve security
The cybersecurity landscape changes frequently both as new technologies change how organisations work, and as cyber criminals develop new attack techniques. Securing the digital transformation is not a one and done, it requires the resources to constantly update and improve.
Finally, invest in the right skills for securing the digital transformation
One of the most underrated security risks of digital transformation is staff skills. Digital transformation challenges the skills of IT and IT security teams as they demand new ways of working. An organisation may find that they need to invest in their teams, be it by recruiting to more positions in the IT team, or by getting support from specialised managed security teams.
A managed security provider can become an important partner in the digital transformation process by providing expert advice, specialist skills, and complementary services on either a short term, or ongoing basis.
Discover how Transputec can support efforts to reduce the security risks of digital transformation. Contact us now to learn how we will work with you to create a digital transformation security strategy to keep your business growing.