NordLayer - Network Security

How to achieve security during digital transformation


By NordLayer
28 Apr 2022
9 min read
Security digital transformation

Two years ago, digital transformations kicked into a higher gear, with new processes and product developments going ahead. Under pressure from Covid lockdowns and remote working, IT and business teams fast-tracked digital initiatives, but they often forgot to place security at the heart of their plans. At the time, Gartner predicted that 60% of digital businesses would suffer major service failures by 2020 due to security teams struggling to manage digital risks. But as we’ll explore in this blog, it’s possible to minimize those risks via digital transformation security. Let’s find out how.

What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is a change process within organizations that seeks to harness new technology to find better ways to serve customers, mobilize talent, and organize workflows. They can take many forms but always aim to deliver measurable value – taking operations to new levels of efficacy and efficiency.

Digital transformations aren’t minor changes like sourcing a new CRM system, upgrading data centers, or adding a firewall. They are foundational shifts that change how employees work and how customers interact with companies. The process can take many forms. For instance, since Covid hit, millions of businesses have accelerated Cloud adoption, with Cloud investments soaring by 18.4% in 2021. Companies have migrated resources to Cloud services to facilitate remote working, build resilience, and lower costs. In every case, the transformation from on-premises networking to Cloud deployments comes with significant risks and challenges.

Many companies have made wholesale shifts from offices to remote working – requiring a new approach to connectivity, interaction, time management, and digital security. Others have shrunk brick-and-mortar operations and shifted to digital selling via eCommerce sites and apps.

The pressure to change rises all the time. A recent McKinsey report found that 11% of US executives surveyed thought their current business strategy would remain viable through 2023. In Europe, the 2022 EIB Investment Survey found that 46% of companies had accelerated digital transformations post-pandemic.

Main benefits of digital transformation you can achieve in your business

Wherever you look, businesses are evolving to meet competitive pressures, and there are plenty of reasons to do so.

Customer convenience

Move away from cumbersome physical shopping to frictionless commerce. Consumers now demand what they want, when they want it, with minimal barriers and maximum efficiency, which entails adopting supply chains and shipping powered by machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT). Or it could mean reorganizing payment systems to cater to contactless and crypto.

Remote working

Working from home received a massive boost from the Covid pandemic, resulting in an epochal shift from offices to home workstations. Workers enjoy the freedom and flexibility of home or hybrid working, companies can reduce overheads and use staff resources more dynamically, and businesses can remain resilient against disruptions. 

Upskilling and recruitment

Modernized companies out-pace competitors who fail to adopt the latest digital technologies. Failing to adapt makes companies less appealing to talented tech workers and leaves their everyday operations at a competitive disadvantage. Transformations like Cloud computing, SASE security approaches, or frictionless payment systems can be a way to boost skill levels within organizations while remaining attractive for exceptional hires.

Marketing knowledge

Cutting-edge digital tech provides deep insights into market conditions and customer behavior. For instance, many companies utilize sophisticated data analysis to track customer purchases and online activity, allowing them to segment audiences and make precisely calibrated sales pitches. Investing in data analysis tools and expertise provides a vital edge in markets that are becoming ever-more competitive.

Reduced time to market

Some changes target the route from R&D to the customer, reducing the time taken to bring new products on-stream. Fast fashion is a great example, with brands like Zara implementing responsive supply chains. By analyzing demand and market trends while optimizing supply chains, brands can serve customers in dynamic, constantly changing ways.

Improved security

Secure digital transformations result in leaner, simplified networks that are easier to secure in today’s threat landscape. As IBM reports, data breaches in companies with more complex networks are around 50% higher than organizations investing in simplification. So if companies want enhanced security, digital transformation looks like a smart move.

What are the main challenges in digital transformation?

While the benefits of digital technologies are real and significant, every change process carries risks. Transformation is necessarily disruptive. It seeks to overturn and replace obsolete approaches, altering long-established workflows and infrastructure. Major change processes are never easy. While every process differs, some challenges constantly complicate the task of project managers.

Third-party visibility and storage security

Many digital change processes require collaboration with Cloud storage providers, especially Amazon Web Services. But problems can arise when companies delegate data processing to third parties.

For one thing, processing and storing sensitive data off-premises can compromise data visibility. Any lack of visibility presents a security risk, and IT teams need to be able to map threat surfaces across the network architecture.

Cloud containers also present cybersecurity weaknesses of their own. For example, Amazon S3 storage buckets can be misconfigured or neglected, exposing confidential data to hackers. Major firms like Accenture, Verizon, and Dow Jones have experienced this problem. It’s not just a concern for small businesses.

Then there are cybersecurity risks associated with the migration process itself. According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2021, companies migrating to Cloud resources experience an average data breach cost of around $1.6 million higher than companies with low levels of Cloud migration. Neglecting Cloud security is not an option.

Implementing automation securely

Automation presents opportunities to enhance customer service, conduct market research, manage supply chains, and execute other fundamental corporate activities. However, poorly planned automation projects can result in serious cybersecurity breaches.

Forms can be left exposed to attacks like SQL injection when companies rely too heavily on machine learning to manage security. Automation systems based around mixed proprietary and non-proprietary software can lead to chaotic threat surfaces, while customer service chatbots can be hijacked and used by cyberattackers.

During a secure digital change process, project teams need to balance the benefits of AI and automation against potential risks, blending human and machine capabilities to secure digital assets.

Boosting staff cybersecurity skills

The risk of cyber attacks can vastly increase when companies move from on-premises workspaces to remote working, requiring a drastic change in how employees work.

Staff can fail to implement strong passwords, use multiple unsecured devices, connect to unsecured public WiFi, fail to implement VPN protection, or lose work devices and fail to report thefts. They could use private Cloud storage solutions for ongoing projects, show confidential documents to contacts, or use a compromised webcam for Zoom meetings.

There is a reliable solution to these multiple security risks: staff training and cybersecurity investment.

Companies need to provide staff training in password security and phishing awareness during secure digital change transformations. Meanwhile, security tools like Access Management and Secure Sign In can combine with SDP and data protection at the network edge, with real-time monitoring tracking user behavior to detect any breaches.

Poor project design and management

Digital change projects can fail before they begin. Project managers must ensure that transformations match core business goals with clear objectives and time frames.

There’s no sense in reconfiguring a payment portal and eCommerce store if it results in slower purchasing and security risks. Proper strategic planning, security, and risk management can determine exactly which transformations are needed and how to achieve them.

Security measures to consider before starting a transformation

Given those challenges, it’s imperative to take a security-focused approach when commencing any transformation process. There are several measures to think about in the preparations stage, including:

  • Bring together IT and business leaders under a transparent chain of command. Both sides of the project need equal weight, with regular collaboration to foreground cybersecurity.

  • Audit existing cybersecurity tools for remote working, on-premises data storage, communication systems, external devices, and Cloud software services. Knowledge of current assets is a strong foundation for security reforms during the project implementation phase.

  • Factor in staff training before commencing the project. Staff needs to be aware of how the transformation will change their behavior, with security at the forefront.

  • Investigate security solutions that apply to your change process. You may require digital infrastructure like enhanced authentication and access management services, perimeter analysis, network segmentation, or a wholesale SASE structure to manage risks.

  • Choose corporate partners like Cloud providers with a strong security record and a commitment to transparency. Cost matters, but investing extra in secure collaborators is essential.

  • Plan recruitment before making technical changes. Change projects demand high skill levels and may require bespoke recruitment. Find the data analysis, cybersecurity technicians, coders, user experience engineers, and anyone else the project demands.

Core steps for a secure digital transformation

Digital change processes vary from case to case. The actions required to virtualize a customer service system are different from migrating financial records to secure Cloud containers. However, these steps are generally applicable and should make the process safer:

  • Establish leadership to pilot the project from conception to completion. Generally speaking, the company’s Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) should run the project responsible for IT and strategic business elements.

  • The CISO and project team should also ensure that they integrate cyber risks into all stages of the implementation process. They will need to make the IT case for enhanced security to corporate leadership and strategic teams and should have the authority to act decisively if security breaches occur.

  • Integrate the security teams of key collaborators into the transformation project. According to Ponemon, 58% of digital transformation companies fail to factor in third parties as a critical risk. Flaws that lead to gaps between internal risk management and Vendor Risk Management strategies can result in the kind of security failures discovered by Accenture and other Amazon Cloud users.

How NordLayer can help you achieve a secure digital transformation

From food retail to real estate, the adoption of new technologies is changing businesses worldwide. As we’ve seen, digital transformations can streamline operations, offer customers better service, empower workers, and allow companies to deal with challenging trading conditions.

However, digital changes can lead to security breaches, high costs, and misalignment between IT and business goals. It’s a complex process that can run smoothly or result in chaos. And the way companies implement transformation projects is crucial.

NordLayer can help your company meet a wide range of digital transformation goals. Get in touch with our team and explore ways to secure remote workforces, plan safe Cloud migrations, and ensure total compliance with relevant regulations. We can help you benefit from a change while keeping risks as low as possible.

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