Why Cybersecurity Should Always Be Part of Digital Transformation

The ending scene in the 2005 box office hit War of the Worlds is an apt analogy to the reasons why cybersecurity and digital transformation should go together. The aliens that invaded Earth were technologically superior, but they lacked one vital ability: immunity from microorganisms.

The extraterrestrial invaders could have consummated their dominion if they studied all the threats in the new world they sought to conquer first, then devised means to deal with them. This is how cybersecurity works with digital transformation. When organizations shift to digital technology, they are essentially entering a new world where almost everything is different. There are many advantages, but there are also tons of dangers and uncertainties.

While it is true that being late is better than never doing anything, coping with the damage of cyber attacks before proper security measures are put in place can be exhausting. Organizations that belatedly realize the importance of cybersecurity may still be doing outdated penetration testing when others are already using automated penetration testing or breach and attack simulation (BAS) for more effective cybersecurity assessment and fortification.

Digital transformation and cybersecurity implementation need to go hand in hand to ensure adequate protection and avoid the possibility of serious interruptions in business activity because of successful cyber attacks. Playing catch up with the latest in cybersecurity is not a good idea, especially for organizations with inexperienced IT teams.

The role of cybersecurity in digital transformation

Gartner predicted back in 2016 that 60 percent of digital businesses will suffer serious service failures due to digital risk management failure. This forecast may have not been that quantitatively accurate because of the pandemic and the economic downturn it had in tow. However, the point remains. Many companies have experienced serious disruptions in their operations because of cyberattacks.

Pete Lindstrom, Vice-President of Security Research at IDC, acknowledges that it would be inaccurate to attribute the increase in security incidents to digital transformation. However, the possible correlation exists and should not be ignored. “Regardless of whether highly publicized breaches were directly linked to digital transformation, they got business leaders thinking again about risk and solutions that minimize risk,” Lindstrom says.

Cybersecurity is a vital component in achieving successful digital transformation. It is like lubricating oil applied on a rust-prone machine. It reduces friction to achieve smooth and efficient movement while protecting the machine from corrosion as it is exposed to the elements.

Having the right cybersecurity system in place prevents the possibility of organizations becoming demotivated with their digital transformation initiatives after they encounter cyber attacks. Security incidents can result in huge losses and critical derailments. Ponemon’s Cost of Data Breach Report 2020 estimates the global average total cost of a data breach at $3.86 million for every company.

Moreover, cybersecurity helps ensure that digital transformation plans proceed without incurring additional expenses. It also prevents the need for more time and human resources to address the outcomes of attacks.

Breaking the digital transformation deadlock

A white paper presented at the GBM 8th Annual Security Survey 2019 discusses the interesting dynamics between cybersecurity and digital transformation. The paper’s core discussion is about addressing the digital deadlock that emerges because of organizations, departments, or teams that are not at the same level of digital maturity.

“Many are able to execute relatively small digital projects within departmental or functional silos; a large proportion of organizations are unable to move beyond these ad hoc digital projects

and achieve scale.” the paper points out. This is where a “digital deadlock” occurs, which reportedly happens to 60 percent of organizations.

There are three key technology barriers identified to be responsible for this deadlock: the lack of agile and secure technology infrastructure information silos, and misaligned and outdated business processes. Security is regarded as a critical component in all of these barriers.

To support successful digital transformation, the paper argues that organizations should have security strategies that are in line with digital transformation plans. The teams responsible for an organization’s security and digital shift should be working collaboratively. A security strategy blueprint should also be created alongside a security transformation governance plan.

Leveraging risk management to advance digital transformation

“Brakes make a car go fast; great brakes even faster.” This meaningful line written by Owe Lie-Bjelland, Director of the Program Management GPRC at Corporater, offers a fresh take on the role of cybersecurity in digital transformation.

As Lie-Bjeland explained, risk management serves as an enabler for better business performance. When there is a guarantee that risks are under control, businesses become bolder in their offensive strategies. In the context of digital transformation, risk management, which is represented by cybersecurity, allows organizations to come up with more ambitious plans, hence expediting the digital transformation process.

Acknowledging the importance of cybersecurity

Altimeter’s “The State of Digital Transformation” report shows that many are already aware of the importance of cybersecurity as they embrace digitalization. Around 35 percent of the IT decision-makers interviewed for the report said that cybersecurity is their top consideration when undertaking digital transformation.

Additionally, based on the same Altimeter report, security is the second most important priority in both short-term and long-term digital transformation efforts. Nearly 50 percent of the respondents said that they intend to “modernize their IT infrastructure and technologies with increased agility, flexibility, manageability, and security.”

A more recent survey conducted for DTX:NOW, a digital transformation expo, reveals similar findings. Around 26 percent of the survey participants said that cybersecurity is the main focus of their planned projects. It is safe to say that cybersecurity’s role in digital transformation has improved in terms of awareness and involvement.

Inseparable goals

Digital transformation and cybersecurity have a strong natural affinity. If an organization seeks to achieve successful digital transformation, security should never be out of the question. With the exponentially increasing volume and the rapidly growing sophistication of cyberattacks, which can target anything digital, it is only logical to protect all digitalized data, records, processes, systems, services, infrastructure, and assets. Downplaying cyber attacks is akin to willingly compromising the success of digital transformation initiatives.

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