Security a key issue as most organisations start digital transformation

September 23, 2018 • Digital Transformation, Security, Top Stories

Security a key issue as most organisations start digital transformation

Doros Hadjizenonos Regional Sales Director – Southern Africa

67% of organisations have embarked on digital transformation journeys, and South African companies are not lagging behind. But going digital can increase security risks, warns Fortinet.

Fortinet, a global leader in broad, integrated and automated cybersecurity, recently released its 2018 Security Implications of Digital Transformation Survey, which provides insights into the state of cybersecurity in organisations around the world. The findings came from an independent survey of over 300 Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and Chief Security Officers (CSOs) at 2,500+ employee organisations around the world.

According to the survey, a majority of organisations have already begun their digital transformation process, with 67% of respondents stating that their organisations started implementing DX more than a year ago, and 95% saying that they are at least trialling a solution today.

There is a good reason for this rapid growth of DX: 85 percent of the CISOs and CSOs surveyed say DX is having a large impact on their businesses. When it comes to DX, some of the areas of fastest adoption include IoT and artificial intelligence/machine learning.

Security Challenges to Digital Transformation
While it’s generally acknowledged that DX can fundamentally change how an organisation operates and delivers value to its customers, DX can also increase the risk of cyber-attacks. The proliferation of endpoints, increasingly distributed networks, and the exponentially increasing volumes of data and network traffic are all sources of concern for IT security teams and IT departments. CISOs and CSOs certainly agree: 85 percent cite security as the largest hurdle for implementing DX. Key findings from the survey include:

The median respondent estimates that 25 percent of their network infrastructure is not protected against security threats. This is due to a number of factors – an expanding attack surface that DX can bring, the growth in the volume and level of sophistication of the threats themselves and a lack of staff with the necessary security skills.

The median organisation participating in the survey experienced 20 cyber-attack related intrusions in the past 24 months, with four of these resulting in outages, data loss, or compliance events.

Two sources of risk are of special concern to CISOs and CSOs: the rise of polymorphic attacks (85%) — threats that constantly morph or change — and vulnerabilities in DevOps (81%).

“The digital transformation or DX wave appears to be sweeping away everything that stands before it, and cybersecurity worries have emerged as a significant obstacle to the transformation process,” says Hadjizenonos.

“Currently, four areas stand out as particularly acute cybersecurity pain points for organisations adopting a DX approach: cloud computing, with a particular focus on multi-cloud environments; IoT; a burgeoning threat landscape; and rising regulatory pressure. It is crucial to understand that while organisations are turning to DX to achieve growth as well as other key business objectives, DX processes also require an equivalent security transformation with the integration of security into all areas of digital technology. This results in fundamental changes to how security is architected, deployed, and operated, highlighting why organisations need a programmatic approach to DX and security transformation, one where they are tied in lockstep with each other.

“African countries are typically high on the attack radar, so security is just as crucial for local organisations,” says Hadjizenonos. “The risk profile is growing with the addition of more and more mobile devices, IoT devices, IP cameras and other connected devices”

Securing Digital Transformation with a Holistic and Strategic Approach
Looking more deeply into the data, the survey shows remarkable differences between the top-tier organisations – those that have not suffered a damaging attack during the past two years — and bottom-tier organisations – those that suffered 16 attacks which have caused damage during the same time frame. Each group comprised approximately one-third of respondents.

The survey shows that top-tier organisations tended to take a more holistic and strategic approach to security. Among the findings, these top-tiers organisations are:

● 76% more likely to integrate security systems to form a unified security architecture
● 38% more likely to share threat intelligence across their organisation
● 34% more likely to make sure safeguards work everywhere (on-premises cloud, IoT, mobile, etc.)
● 24% more likely to build in compliance controls for centralised tracking and reporting, for both industry and security standards
● 24% more likely to have automated more than half of their security practices
● 20% more likely to have end-to-end visibility across all environments

Hadjizenonos says: “The implications are clear. Holistic and integrated security strategies are more effective than siloed, reactive ones. A strategic approach becomes increasingly important as an organisation’s attack surface increases with the proliferation of devices, whether for a mobile workforce or as part of an IoT initiative and the adoption of cloud, particularly multi-cloud, environments. Further, a comprehensive strategy that unifies IT tools and processes across all parts of the network is necessary for addressing advanced threats such as polymorphic attacks, as well as new vulnerabilities that sneak in because of DevOps. At the same time, integration of security elements is a fundamental requisite for an organisation seeking to automate workflows and threat intelligence sharing.”

Methodology for the Study
For the ‘2018 Security implications of Digital Transformation Survey’, 300 security leaders were surveyed across Australia, Asia, Europe and North America. As CISOs/CSOs, all participants are responsible for security at an organisation with more than 2,500 employees. The organisations where they work are active in a variety of industries, such as education, government, financial services, healthcare, technology, and energy.

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
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