How to make sure your digital transformation is secure

Last updated: 04 March 2021

In our increasingly digital world, a greater proportion of businesses across different sectors are trying to integrate new technologies into their processes. In a recent study, 43% of companies surveyed said they were embracing digital transformation by either embedding digital capabilities that enable greater enterprise agility or aggressively disrupting markets they participate in.

Technologies such as IoT, cloud computing, edge computing, and AI have the ability to drastically improve the service and operations of any business. However, their integration raises new challenges around security, privacy and the reliability of underlying systems that a business utilises, which, in turn, requires the support of strong cybersecurity architecture.

A sound cybersecurity architecture requires a strong foundation in order to anchor the keys and passwords embedded in our digital networks in place – this approach is called security-by-design. Without this foundation, the architecture can collapse, allowing attackers to steal digital keys to break into other parts of a business’ network.

While this idea of collapsing architecture may seem like an exaggerated worst-case scenario to some, cyberattacks have only increased in the past year. In November, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) reported that it handled a record number of cyber security incidents over the past year, with attackers notably targeting COVID-19 vaccine research groups as well as other businesses across different sectors.

Therefore, if companies are to expand their digital capabilities through the adoption of new technologies in an increasingly challenging cyber environment, they need a sound cybersecurity architecture with an impenetrable foundation to ensure that these new technologies are securely integrated.

Untapped potential

With new cutting-edge technologies appearing in our lives every day, the potential they have to improve business operations across all industries is almost limitless.

In healthcare for example, an industry which has been under immense strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing the incorporation of IoT to enable remote treatment solutions, chronic care management and many more capabilities, potentially saving millions of lives in the process. Moreover, blockchain will be used to securely track shipments and inventories of COVID-19 vaccines across a complex, fast moving, global supply chain process. Similarly, in financial services and banking, businesses have been able to create new payment, customer interaction and trading services built upon technologies such as biometric verification, cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

However, while digital transformation through these types of technologies has become more accessible than ever, there’s an associated challenge of safely integrating these technologies into your business’ digital network to ensure that your sensitive data is protected. Simply put: the more digitally transformed an organisation becomes, the more likely it is to experience a data breach.

The risk of suffering a data breach is especially pertinent with more firms using third-party platforms to store data. With organisations increasing their usage of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications in particular to store their sensitive data, they have become ever more exposed to a potential attack.

Cybersecurity Bedrock

So how can organisations carry out a digital transformation while ensuring sensitive data is protected? In many cases, firms are turning to devices which have been around for decades to act as the foundation to their cybersecurity architecture.

HSMs (hardware security modules) are dedicated crypto processors which are designed specifically for the protection of cryptographic keys used in a firm’s digital network. These devices are ideal for securing cryptographic keys, the encryption and decryption of data, authentication, and digital signing services for a wide range of applications. They are the bedrock of the cybersecurity architectures of some of the world’s most security-conscious firms, used commonly to improve authentication around Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), database encryption, and act as the root of trust for blockchain infrastructure.

However, what makes HSMs great foundational building blocks for cybersecurity architecture in the modern world is that they are compatible with various emerging technologies that a business may use. In fact, many businesses have opted to use HSMs, with 47% of firms currently implementing HSMs with an additional 38% seeking to integrate them with their systems within the next 12 months.

With a HSM acting as the anchor, another technology which can be added to further strengthen a cybersecurity architecture is blockchain. Notably used to protect cryptocurrencies, organisations have increasingly turned to blockchain as a method of protecting sensitive data within their network.

Blockchain can be particularly useful when securing IoT devices. In many cases, hackers can gain access to an organisation’s data by exploiting edge devices which aren’t ‘smart’ enough to make security decisions without the guidance of a central authority. However, blockchain can give IoT devices the ability to form a group consensus with other devices about what is normal activity within a given network. If a device starts acting unusually, the other devices can shut off that device to prevent an attack.

Furthermore, while many firms employ low-level network encryption in order to protect their data that is transferred within their network, this could be enhanced by using end-to-end encryption. With end-to-end encryption, data is encrypted at the moment it is captured, such as at a card machine in a retail store, remaining encrypted while it moves between systems and security domains. This prevents hackers from eavesdropping on the contents of your message while it is transit between devices or comes to rest in storage, such as in a database.

Digital transformation will continue to revolutionise the way businesses connect with their customers and simplify their work processes, all the while creating business value in the process. However, with these technologies come new security challenges, requiring trusted cybersecurity systems to keep sensitive data safe. With investment into tools such as HSMs, blockchain and end-to-end encryption, firms can undergo digital transformation while protecting their sensitive data in the process.

Interested and want to learn more? You can read more about building a foundation for digital trust here.

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