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Why your digital transformation strategy requires a risk management plan

Published: Mar 13, 2019

Business survival, let alone success, depends on digital transformation. By digitizing products, services, and processes, enterprises can gain the agility and operational efficiency needed to keep up with competitors. From R&D to final delivery, there’s no aspect of the enterprise that can’t (or won’t) be transformed. With this in mind, a recent IDC survey in which over 200 senior executives of global firms were interviewed about their company’s digital strategies and initiatives revealed that the top challenge facing their digital strategies is securityi.

With every aspect of the business now digital, you open up your company to reward and risk in equal measures. Every IoT device is a vector for accessing your network. Every data point is something to steal. Every employee is someone to spoof, hack, spam, and exploit. That’s why digital transformation depends on a robust risk management plan.

With data stored on-premise, in the cloud, and across potentially millions of other endpoints, securing the enterprise has never been more complex. Therefore, risk management is a must. With a risk management plan, you’ll be able to strategically evaluate all aspects of your digital transformation plan to confirm you’re achieving transformation in a secure environment.

Strategy, skills, employees, customers, and operations have to all play a role in the actual technology solution to achieve true transformation. A lack of security across any one of these aspects can leave your company exposed to far more downside than any upside you hope to achieve. 

Here are five things to consider when creating a digital transformation risk management plan:

Securing data everywhere:  Data has significant monetary value to companies. It’s also worth a lot of money to hackers, criminal organizations, and even foreign governments. Trade secrets, customer credit card numbers, personal health information, social security numbers and more are all worth vast sums on the black market. That means you need to secure data at every access point. Data on a hard drive requires different security measures than data working its way through your network. In addition, data needs to be easily accessible to users: The more complicated your security measures, the more likely your employees will look for shortcuts, defeating the purpose entirely. 

Predicting cyber attacker behaviors:  Successful risk management begins with an understanding of the cybersecurity landscape. Only then can you take the steps you need to put up the proper defenses. Threat modeling enables you to find, evaluate, and create a plan for reducing the risk of threats. Outlining all the possible scenarios also lets you get the right response in place beforehand, setting you up for success if you’re attacked. As outlined in the 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, different industries are more susceptible to different types of attacks. The more you can understand and plan for the specific threats facing your industry, the better prepared you’ll be.

Providing security at the edge:  Regardless if it’s big data, IoT, analytics, artificial intelligence, mobility or another initiative, digital transformation means more moving parts for your organization. While it’s important to secure the core of the enterprise, don’t forget to also secure the edge by addressing the needs of every asset, platform, and website connected to your network. As more and more non-IT departments deploy and manage Internet-connected devices and platforms, it's for IT to have visibility into the enterprise’s security exposure and have a plan in place should something go wrong. 

Making security virtual:   Virtualized security tools allow a security team and its partners in IT infrastructure to be more agile by enabling them to spend more time on compromise protection and detection and less time on hardware management.  And as part of a good layered defense, a Software Defined Perimeter can provide a scalable, managed security-as-a-service solution that delivers an encrypted connection between devices and apps, only allowing access to approved users.

Monitoring compliance:  Digital transformation fuels innovation and efficiency, but it also brings complexity to the transformed organization's risk and compliance landscape. The Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and others, must be taken into account when implementing new computing models and new means of processing data, as the penalty for noncompliance with GDPR (and so many other ever-emerging regulations) is significant. Consider building continuous compliance monitoring into your digital transformation efforts at the start, -- rather than trying to retrofit assurance-processes in later. Internal audit functions and enterprise risk management teams must learn how to conduct ongoing audits and risk assessments to keep pace with the fast-paced changes that come with digital transformation. Quarterly or semi-annual internal audits and business unit risk assessments just won't cut it any more. 

In the rush to transform your business, don’t forget to transform the way you approach security, risk and compliance. A robust, multi-dimensional risk management plan can contribute to the chances of long-term success for your digital transformation efforts. The Verizon Risk Report can help you understand your organization's specific cybersecurity risks, as well as third-party risks, and allows you to present security data in the language of many compliance frameworks, such as PCI, HIPAA, and others. Learn more about the Verizon Risk Report.