COVID-19 crisis has impacted all areas of business. The multiple lockdowns, social distancing, and other safety norms have altered the consumer buying patterns and these will continue to be impacted.
The online channel, which had been a discretionary one for the brick-and-mortar companies so far – will become one of the mandatory channels in the future.
Remote Working has skyrocketed the demand for online collaboration tools. The adoption of cloud computing solutions has ensured that businesses live to fight another day. Concepts such as ‘cloud-first’ and ‘cloud-only approach’ have now become the mainstay.
Global supply chain is under tremendous pressure to meet the demands. Hence, Industry 4.0 transformation will become more relevant post-COVID-19.
Not surprisingly, COVID-19 crisis is accelerating digital transformation for organizations. While this helps in getting businesses back on track, it does not come without risks. The rapid transition to remote working, more use of digital technology has exposed organizations to higher risks of cyberattacks. No wonder, the cybersecurity landscape is the biggest concern for chief executives globally.
Security teams are refocusing upon the value of cloud-delivered security and operational tools that do not require a LAN (Local Area Network) connection to function, reviewing remote access policies and tools, migrating to cloud data centers, and SaaS (Software-As-A-Service) applications, and securing new digitization efforts to minimize person-to-person interactions while ensuring the enterprise safety.Even as industry is benefiting from digital technologies and employees working from home and remote locations, the footprint of attacks has also increased. This makes it easier for hackers to target multiple points. Even as remote working becomes the norm across industries, security experts have their task cut out to ensure corporate assets are safe.
Automation and AI (Artificial Intelligence) have also emerged as the greatest assets for businesses in this situation. There will be a massive need for retraining and learning new skills once the pandemic is over.
Impact on Cybersecurity
- Accelerated Transformation Brings New Risks:
Accelerated digital transformation to enable uninterrupted business operation has given way to new structural challenges and risks, also making it difficult to secure the constantly changing perimeter.
- Shift to Remote and Cloud makes the Perimeter Porous:
DMZs (Demilitarized Zones) and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) were designed for the networks of the 1990s and have become obsolete because they lack the agility needed to protect digital businesses.Organizations rapidly shifting services to the cloud as part of accelerated digitalization witnessed a paradigm shift from ‘fortress’ to distributed, risk-based and data-driven models. Enterprises are continuing to expand their networks the old way and thus, increasing the risks considerably.
- Threat environment has taken catastrophic proportions:
Bad actors rapidly focused all efforts on specific attack types designed to exploit the situation. Cybercrime is now becoming all-pervasive and enterprises are specifically targeted and held ransom. This has led to an exponential growth of social engineering and denial-of-service attacks.
Positive Effects of Cybersecurity
The accelerated shift to digitization and remote working has pushed businesses into a radically different cyber risk profile overnight.
Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) worked towards rapidly instituting measures to maintain business continuity and protect enterprises against new cyber threats. Measures such as patching remote systems over VPNs and monitoring of spiking threat levels have been taken by organizations since the pandemic began. Few of such positive impacts include:
- Perimeter Security: Organizations will continue to prioritize short-term spending on security for remote workers. They can also be expected to spend on e-commerce security that can be scaled to cover increased activity. This could result in higher spending on pay-per-seat and pay-per-megabyte licenses and ultimately cause companies to shift additional funds from in-house systems to outsourced services.
- Next-Generation Identity and Access Controls: With an increase in employees working remotely, teams managing business-critical systems are revisiting the grants for privileged access. CISOs at medium-size companies are likely to prioritize managing privileged-access and identity-governance solutions that integrate with security-information and event-management tools and with advanced security analytics to save time and expenses.
- Remote Access: CISOs will continue to support virtual work-around for help-desk staff. At SMEs, it is expected to have a higher-than-average spending on MFA services that integrate with collaboration tools and system-as-a-service solutions, including file sharing, virtual-desktop infrastructure, and communication platforms.
- Automation: Automating routine tasks can allow time for additional value-added activities. In organizations that use outsourced services, CISOs would expect managed-service providers to make up for increased workloads by adding automated services such as security orchestration and automation response tooling.
- Security Training: This crisis has encouraged companies to drive home the significance of cybersecurity to the workforce, especially frontline employees. Cyber-awareness training— developed in-house and/or delivered by external vendors—offered by CISOs will be adapted both to cover remote-work situations and bring-your-own-device policies.
- Security for Trusted Third Parties – Organizations providing network access to contractors or other trusted partners also need to protect those parties from outside attacks, since such threats could, in turn, impact their own security. Enterprises would increase monitoring for potential threats, which could increase budgets for click-of-a-button security-ratings tools, security-risk assessments, and security-reporting instruments.
Preparing for the ‘Next Normal’ in Cybersecurity
Organizational measures to maintain business continuity and protect remote workers will likely have ramifications for cybersecurity providers over the next 12 to 18 months. Plans for permanent remote work phased reopening, and limited interaction with nonessential visitors will boost interest in some cybersecurity products and services but curb it for others.
CISOs need to reassess existing infrastructure and risk management practices. Adopting new approaches such as zero-trust networks, privacy-enhancing technologies, threat hunting, asset categorization, among others, can support a new distributed working model. Continuous cyber resilience becomes key to prepare for the ‘New Normal’.
The author is Senior Vice President and Global Business Head – ESRM, AI & Data Analytics
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