Balancing Digital Transformation With Cybersecurity
As public sector organisations continue on their digital transformation journeys, the potential for increased technology complexity adds new security risks. This process has been significantly accelerated by the shift to remote work, and today, IT teams are faced with a range of new attack vectors as they work to stay ahead of cybercriminals.
As a result, security must become part of the core competencies of every tech professional. Whether this is achieved via a self-managed skillset or outsourced to an MSP or MSSP, it’s vital to develop a complete understanding of the IT environment they support to uncover areas of risk.
The challenges are significant and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Recent research from the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2021: Building a Secure Future revealed the current issues surrounding risk preparedness, as organisations emerge from an intense period of pandemic-driven activity.
While security breaches are seen as the main external factor influencing an organisation’s risk exposure, COVID-19 has been a major influence on what’s keeping IT professionals awake at night. In particular, distributed workforce/employee relocation (18%), remote work policies (18%), and exponential growth of data as a result of new WFH needs (15%) are leading concerns according to respondents.
To address these risks, 40% of public sector tech pro respondents put security and compliance in their top three technologies most critical to managing/mitigating risk within their organisations. Other priorities include artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (35%) and network infrastructure, automation, DBaaS solutions, and ITSM and/or ITAM solutions (25%, respectively).
There are, however, some important challenges to address when adopting technology to mitigate and/or manage risk within organisations, according to the research respondents. First, current IT management solutions lack the features and/or functionality to meet their needs (48%). This is ahead of the lack of IT management solutions/tools available within organisations (40%), alongside poor management/lack of direction (also 40%).
Implementation is further hampered according to 40% of tech pro respondents who say while some of their monitoring/management tools are integrated to enhance visibility across their IT environment(s), other tools are still siloed.
Delivering Secure Digital Transformation
With these emerging priorities, there are a range of proven changes organisations need to make to balance the objectives driving digital transformation with the risk of cybersecurity breach.
Focusing on three core areas of improvement can help build a solid foundation. Firstly, integrating security systems can help increase overall network visibility and help organisations efficiently manage a wider attack surface. For example, organisations can help keep their users safe from malicious threats by using applications and devices with built-in security or making robust security settings the default option across their application suite.
Next, teams should also conduct regular penetration testing as a way to isolate potential vulnerabilities and identify opportunities to improve security. While many organisations use log management and signature-based deep packet inspection, attacks can still go undetected. When using this approach, ensure they come with an intelligence feed covering “zero-day” threats exploiting an unknown security vulnerability.
And finally, incorporating automation into security processes can help organisations continuously monitor for threats and expand cyber protections. This can be particularly valuable to teams with limited personnel and resources, with tools to scan web applications from the outside to look for security vulnerabilities being a good example.
In considering automation, however, don’t forget it’s not just the tools that are crucial, but the quality of communication across the workforce. If information about a possible threat is detected, for example, it should be shared as quickly and clearly as possible, so everyone can take steps to minimise risk.
In-House or Outsource?
When focusing on improving cybersecurity, many public sector organisations also have the option to outsource. Partnering with a proven and reliable third party can make it more practical and affordable to access the latest technologies and software to address existing and emerging threats.
Alternatively, for those who need to retain in-house control over their cybersecurity, managed software solutions offer another good option. While these vary between vendors, the best examples deliver intelligence to actively identify threats, take automated action to mitigate damage, and analyse data to help prevent future attacks from occurring.
Whichever strategy is adopted, security should be a core competency for every IT team, even if they rely on partners to deliver it. Public sector organisations wanting to prepare for worst-case scenarios should focus on implementing proven, affordable, and scalable security solutions across the diverse infrastructure options playing a role in digital transformation.
This article was contributed by Sascha Giese, Head Geek at SolarWinds.