By Radware vice president and managing director for EMEA and LATAM, Rob Hartley.
For Asia Pacific organisations that began 2020 with only long-term plans for migration to the cloud, the wave of global closures came as an almighty shock. Having time to think and put in place a watertight digitisation strategy became a luxury that businesses could no longer afford as they scrambled to react rapidly to world events.
The sudden and massive shift to remote working accelerated cloud migration for 76% of senior executives worldwide surveyed in a recent C-suite perspectives report. But such rapid digital transformation presents challenges, and the haste with which organisations have migrated has created security gaps in their infrastructure.
Lack of understanding of the threat landscape and the perceived security that public cloud vendors provide has resulted in 40% of senior execs seeing increased cybersecurity attacks during the pandemic.
It's fairly clear that the need to continue with home working or a hybrid model is here to stay unless the world tilts back on its pre-COVID-19 axis. But even then, the vast majority (83%) of C-level executives expect the changes they made in people, processes and applications to become significantly or partially permanent, and 80% of leaders expect a quarter of employees to stay working from home in future.
The transition to remote work and new online contactless business models is not temporary and is affecting the future strategy on how organisations invest in cybersecurity.
Usually, businesses would make this shift over an extended timescale, but this has contracted enormously. Before the pandemic, digital transformation was a long-term strategic goal for most businesses.
On-demand content consumption, contactless payments, home delivery and remote workforces are now business imperatives, and executives must revisit their changes to ensure that a lack of cybersecurity planning does not undermine their goals.
For that reason, reverse engineering the gaps in their network security is now mandatory as they spend 2021 mending holes in their fences ready for what's to come next.
Between March and September 2020, organisations have been largely consumed with keeping afloat and steadying the ship, with senior executives quickly identifying operational efficiencies to control costs and continue to support customers, suppliers and employees.
The most significant focus has been in optimising CapEx/OpEx models, reducing or furloughing the workforce, cutting back on office space or property assets and moving to remote working and the cloud.
However, there is an acknowledgement that investing in IT infrastructure is where redeployment of investment should be, to bring about a growth in market share and create new sources of revenue while reducing operational expenses.
The unexpected business transformation has brought about some long-term benefits aided by digitisation. C-Suite execs report that employee productivity has improved significantly as work-life balance has been redressed, leading to greater retention of workers who are enjoying the flexibility of working from anywhere.
Geography has taken second place to hiring the best candidate for the job, with skills being the most essential criteria going forward, aided by having a much wider geographic pool of potential people to choose from.
With a renewed focus on technology to advance change, organisations must recognise that infrastructure must be secure. The new office environment is anywhere with a connection to Wi-Fi, and that opens many more doors to cyber-attacks.
The rapid shift in business operations significantly impacted the cyber-threat landscape. As companies fast-tracked the migration of digital assets to the cloud, they inadvertently increased the attack surfaces from which hackers seek access to their data and applications.
C-suite executives are moving quickly with network plans to support exploding customer and supplier demand for contactless interactions, and the unplanned need to connect a remote workforce. Yet, they are aware of not being fully prepared to protect their organisations adequately from unknown threats.
The situation is compounded by the cloud shared responsibility model, in which cloud service providers are responsible for the security of the cloud while customers are responsible for securing their data in the cloud.
Many organisations rely on their third-party providers to certify security management services, but the decentralised nature of this model can add complexity to how applications and computing resources are secured. Organisations can't simply move their critical business infrastructure and applications to the public cloud and assume that the hosting partner will take care of security.
Cloud providers typically deliver the same standardised security across their customer base, essentially a ‘tick box level' offering that meets basic requirements but not the individual needs of a specific organisation.
This depends on the nature of the application and an organisation's readiness to move to the cloud as-is or needing to be transformed into a cloud-native architecture. Organisations may assume that cloud providers are securing their digital assets without realising how many gaps exist in the broadened attack surface.
Cybersecurity is a key business driver that senior managers know must be incorporated into strategic planning at the highest levels. As the volume and sophistication of cyber-attacks escalates, they will seek ways to automate detection and mitigation because unresolved security incidents will compound and be disastrous for companies already dealing with issues related to the pandemic.
What has the pandemic taught us about future-proofing businesses? It affected nearly every aspect of an organisation in a concentrated timeframe, and those with robust disaster plans and an agile IT infrastructure in place fared better than those that did not.
To position their companies better against continuing disruptions, C-suite executives have sharpened, and continue to sharpen, their focus on strategies that build resilience.
The next two years will see a continuing shift to the cloud, plus increased investment in IT infrastructure and applications, in addition to machine learning, AI and automation.
This will create more agility and efficiency in business operations and provide a better digital experience for consumers. The changes will require a powerful, complex security posture that is both agile enough to evolve at the speed of business and robust enough to ensure protection against a rapidly expanding threat landscape that specifically targets the cloud.
Adopting and fine-tuning a rapid and secure roadmap for migration to the cloud will future proof organisations and help them to navigate the road ahead — no matter how bumpy that may turn out to be.