Protecting data means protecting business

By Manish Bahl, Senior Director, Centre for the Future of Work at ‎Cognizant

As technology continues to advance, so does the threat of cybersecurity attacks. This will require a drastic shift in perception for Australian businesses: to prioritise prevention, rather than reaction, in order to combat the various complexities of cyber-attacks. Data is the biggest digital asset today, and protecting it (customer data, financial data, marketing data, IP data, etc.) means protecting your business.

Brand loyalty is the result of trust cultivated over many years, but it can be destroyed in a day. With business success today centred on the use of consumer data, trust has become the new battleground for digital success. It’s an uphill battle for organisations to keep their brand and consumer trust intact. Rather than being caught unawares, cybersecurity must become the first priority to prevent being hacked by the future of technological advancement.

Data is not just an IT issue

Businesses must no longer think of cybersecurity or systems to protect data as merely IT-related challenges. Close to 50 per cent of businesses fell victim to cyber-based ransom attacks in 2016. A lack of preparedness is clear with approximately 55 per cent of Asia-Pacific leaders admitting their security strategy is more reactive than proactive. In addition to this, nearly 40 per cent of Asia-Pacific organisations typically take a minimum of 24 hours to identify a security breach, while 25% take a week to months.

There are many predictions that such attacks will become more prevalent, with 60 per cent of APAC leaders saying there are more emerging threats than they can currently control. This highlights that there is a significant need to improve and upgrade existing IT infrastructure to protect businesses’ data.

In the face of increasing risk of customer data being compromised, organisations must fight to keep customers loyal through closely working on trust. With so much at stake, a lapse in cybersecurity can be the difference between a business succeeding long-term or failing.

As technology becomes more intrinsically connected with core business offerings, it will become increasingly difficult for leadership teams to protect their companies from attack. Proactivity is the key to success, and there are two main approaches companies can take to ensure they’re safe from attack.

1. Security automation as the lynchpin of enterprise IT defence

To keep safe from cyber-attacks, security automation can be one of the most effective defence mechanisms. This is due to the delicate balance between man and machine: naturally, organisations can’t have security support staff available 24/7. Even if this were possible, there is still no guarantee that these teams will be able to ‘win’ against these threats.

Security automation then becomes mission-critical for businesses, as it allows a much quicker response to cyber-attacks. In a recent Gartner report, security automation was identified as one of the primary areas that would contribute to a $3.8 billion cybersecurity spend in 2018 by Australian businesses.

Investment in security automation will serve to reduce the time taken to resolve security issues. This means that instead of taking days or weeks, security threats can be solved within minutes. In addition, investing in security automation will provide businesses with a singular, united security system, reducing the chance of attack in the first place.

2. Leveraging machines to fight against other machines

Machines are becoming smarter, and from a cybersecurity perspective, this means that an increasing number of cyber threats will come from these smart machines. Organisations are in effect, fighting a battle to build a system of machines that can withstand attacks from other machines.

This somewhat delicate balance requires organisations to invest in their own machines, that will be able to detect threats proactively, identify stealthy malware and mitigate any large-scale cyberattacks. Threats are constant, increasingly serious, and changing every day. Building machines that are nimble and can keep outwitting new advances in intrusion technology is a hugely important step in any risk-focused security strategy. Not only will this serve to protect data, but also build valuable trust with customers.

Australian businesses have never been so connected to the digital world. As we become even more firmly entrenched in technology, and as cyber threats continue to increase in their prevalence, businesses must invest in technology to fight back against attacks. With much larger and sophisticated attacks predicted in the future, it’s up to forward-thinking leaders to prepare now for this incoming age of cyber warfare.