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The role of security in digital transformation

Security is one of the most vital components when implementing a digital transformation strategy. How will mission-critical data be protected when stored in a cloud or mobile environment? The benefits of digital transformation become irrelevant if sensitive data is compromised.

In previous decades, advances in computer technology (such as the transition from mainframes to smaller personal computers) completely transformed how businesses operated. In today’s environment, digital transformation is an opportunity to ensure long-term growth by improving time to market and customer experience.

What is digital transformation?

In most cases, digital transformation consists of three key elements: resilience, scalability, and time to market. The medium of change is primarily legacy applications that are re-written, re-platformed, or re-architected to perform better in a cloud-native environment. The newly transformed applications are mobile-ready, effectively moving data and security to edge devices.

Here are important steps to think about when planning a digital transformation:

  • Migrate back-end processes to cloud-hosted solutions.
  • Transition to a cloud-first approach and leverage IoT devices.
  • Consume products and services in a subscription model for software licenses.
  • Utilize agile software development that focuses on the customer.
  • Implement a hybrid workplace environment to enable staff to live anywhere.

Each digital transformation process adds value and allows businesses to become increasingly agile and responsive—however, your information security team must be in the discussion from the beginning.

Classifying data and knowing where it lives in your environment helps protect your organization and meet compliance requirements. 

It is critically important to focus on integrating policy enforcement and automation, threat intelligence, and threat protection across the entire environment. The principles of a Zero Trust Network provide the secure foundation of a digital transformation. 

Also read: Meeting marketplace demand through modernization of legacy technology

The role of security in maintaining competitive advantages

Before digital transformation, companies most often secured data in a centralized data center or on premises—enabling simpler security protocols as there was only one firewall per site to monitor, you knew where users stored data, and how business applications could be accessed. As legacy applications, networks, and other systems are modernized, new cloud-based security tools must be enabled to give security teams the same degree of control and protection as they had when the applications were in the company data center.

Where security tools once prioritized the network layer, they must now focus on the application layer, homing in on data protection to accommodate changing employee expectations in regard to hybrid and remote operations. As a result, organizations must invest in both innovation and security simultaneously to stay competitive.

Many CIOs intuitively understand that modernization also requires a cultural shift. Each updated technology deployment needs new thought processes, workflows, and communication chains. Making your security team a vital element of a business’s cultural evolution creates a firm foundation for a safe, secure, and transformed organization.

As data becomes more complex, most companies will need more than one security tool or protocol to secure their IT environment fully. However, developing a security mindset is even more critical than individual tools. Enabling each employee to be a part of the defense that helps secure business-critical data means there will be many sets of eyes on the lookout for potential attacks or vulnerabilities.

Data must be secured over the network, computer, and device. Technologies and security approaches such as Zero Trust Networking prioritize data protection via the Cloud and promote a culture of security necessary to ensure the success of digital transformation.

Four security elements to include in your digital transformation plan

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA). ZTNA is not a tool or product, rather, it’s a security mindset. The ZTNA approach begins with the assumption that no device or user is automatically trusted. Trust must be established and confirmed before granting access to a service, system, or device.

Third-party risk management. Migrating data to the Cloud means entrusting that data or system to a third-party vendor. Digital transformation might involve more than one third-party vendor, and reviewing the security risks involved with each should be scheduled regularly.

IoT device management. The Internet of Things (IoT) has multiplied the number of devices that potentially communicate with your IT estate. Mobile devices and IoT devices such as Alexa-enabled speakers or Siri-enabled phones all have the potential to interact with cloud-native applications. Therefore, it is essential to assess each device and the risk it presents to critical business data to determine how to secure it the best possible way.

Cloud security controls. When modernizing applications, your developers and security team will need to utilize cloud security controls such as:

  • Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) — Cloud-native security measures that allow users to only access permissions that they are assigned by the cloud admin.
  • Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) — Alerts you when permissions in your cloud environment are incorrectly configured (especially useful for correcting misconfigured AWS S3 buckets).
  • Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP) — Next-level malware and virus protections.

Implementing and maintaining security before, during, and after digital transformation

As we have seen, security must be a part of the digital transformation process from the start. Otherwise, vulnerabilities could be introduced to applications, systems, or networks. Companies can enjoy the full benefits of digital transformation while mitigating security risks by utilizing frameworks such as ZTNA, third-party risk management, IoT device management, and cloud security controls.

OnX has a wealth of experience helping our clients navigate digital transformation, security, and a host of other IT services, including consulting, infrastructure, networking, and many more.

Contact us to start your digital transformation journey today.