Keeping the digital frontier secure

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Computers and smart devices are a fundamental part of today’s connected world, and a safe hub of data is critical to the functioning of companies, countries and society in general. As our day-to-day lives have shifted online, so too has the playground of criminals. Businesses and governments alike must invest more and more to keep their digital worlds secure.

When it comes to IT investment, cloud computing is the top priority – ahead of artificial intelligence, data analytics and the internet of things – for many enterprises in 2019. And hard on its heels is the need to invest in cyber security.

Organisations are transferring their infrastructure and systems to the cloud to reduce costs. But concern about the security of customer data and other business-critical information and applications may become one of the main barriers to the on-going migration.

The phenomenal growth in computer systems, and their applications, means that businesses, governments, utility companies, transport networks and regulatory bodies, as well as individuals, are all heavily reliant on their IT systems. They are at risk from cyber threats, all the more so as out-dated regulations and compliance processes are outwitted by agile hackers and cyber-criminals. As more and more devices across the IT infrastructure of businesses and society at large are inter-connected, vulnerabilities to cyber-attack multiply. The consequences, even of non-criminal hacking, could be lethal; for example, if a self-driving car or heart pacemaker were compromised.

Traditional security risk management approaches to protecting IT infrastructure and data have been found wanting in a series of high-profile breaches. As a result, the established strategy of monitoring firewalls and endpoints is being supplemented or replaced by other preventative risk management techniques such as penetrative testing. A controlled form of hacking, this involves probing the vulnerabilities in applications and networks to identify and remedy weaknesses before cyber-criminals can exploit them.

Cloud technology itself continues to evolve to address these threats as well as businesses’ operational problems and system infrastructure issues. So the cloud security field is ripe for further innovation to support and sustain this development.

Leading IT players – such as Cisco, Sophos, AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Microsoft Azure – are shifting the focus from provision of traditional security services to cloud security services. AWS and Azure have released certification programmes to encourage and support clients as they build the expertise to secure enterprise systems hosted on their cloud platforms.

The industry is also looking to leverage the capabilities of the other new and emerging technologies in the cause of more robust cyber security. Again, blockchain is a promising candidate.

As blockchain technology enables data to be stored across a decentralised network, it could prevent hackers from compromising large volumes of data. Blockchain also has the capability to filter system and network security activities in real time and identify data that has been manipulated. As a result many specialists expect blockchain to become the cornerstone of cyber security in highly regulated industries, such as banking, if not across the board.

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