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How the pandemic has accelerated the transformation of cybersecurity

The importance of cybersecurity for remote work was a major catalyst for the recent advancement of widespread digital transformation efforts.

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By the end of April, it was evident that COVID-19 had permanently altered the future of work.

So much so that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, while delivering the quarterly earnings report to Wall Street, said “we’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” 

As Microsoft Security General Manager Andrew Conway reports, a major catalyst for such a dramatic advancement of DX was the importance of cybersecurity in ensuring productive remote work. 

For context, in late 2019 we reported on the global surge in spending on cybersecurity products and services — then expected to exceed $1 trillion cumulatively over the five-year period from 2017 to 2021.

Related Reading: How enterprises are facing security challenges

COVID’s impact

To better understand the pandemic’s role in shaping cybersecurity for the long-term, Microsoft surveyed nearly 800 business leaders of companies with over 500 employees in India, Germany, the UK, and the US. The results show that organizations are still impacted by phishing scams and security budgets, that hiring increased in response to COVID-19, and that investment is going into cloud-based technologies and architectures.

(Image via Microsoft)

At the top of the list of challenges reported by leaders surveyed is “Providing secure remote access to resources, apps, and data.”  

“For many businesses,” Conway explains, “the limits of the trust model they had been using, which leaned heavily on company-managed devices, physical access to buildings, and limited remote access to select line-of-business apps, got exposed early on in the pandemic.” 

Unsurprisingly, surveyed leaders identified that the top security investment made during the pandemic was multi-factor authentication. 

Additional insights from the survey include:

  • Anti-phishing technology was most identified as the best pre-pandemic security investment, with phishing threats cited as the biggest risk to security.
    • 90% of indicating that phishing attacks have impacted their organization.
  • A majority of leaders surveyed reported budget increases for security (58%) and compliance (65%).
  • 81% also report feeling pressure to lower overall security costs. 
    • “Business leaders from organizations with resources mostly on-premises are especially likely to feel budget pressure, with roughly 1/3rd feeling ‘very pressured.’”
  • 40% say they are prioritizing investments in Cloud Security, followed by Data & Information Security (28%), and anti-phishing tools (26%).

Conway also identified five ways the pandemic is changing the cybersecurity landscape for the long-term:

 

  • “Security has proven to be the foundation for digital empathy in a remote workforce during the pandemic”
    • A top priority of those surveyed is improving end-user experience and productivity while working remotely (41%).
  • The Zero Trust model will become industry standard 
    • 51% of business leaders are expediting the deployment of Zero Trust capabilities — a security model based on strict access controls where the default is to not trust anyone both inside or outside the perimeter. 
    • 94% of companies report that they are in the process of deploying new Zero Trust capabilities to some extent.
  • The importance of diverse data for improved Threat Intelligence
    • “Microsoft tracked more than 8 trillion daily threat signals from a diverse set of products, services, and feeds around the globe.”
  • The absolute necessity of cyber resilience to business operations
    • “Cybersecurity provides the underpinning to operationally resiliency as more organizations enable secure remote work options.”
    • Maintaining this requires regular evaluation of risk threshold and the deployment of cyber resilience processes.
  • “The cloud is a security imperative”
    • Integrated security solutions are crucial for organizations of all sizes.

 

 

 

DX Journal Staff
Author: DX Journal Staff

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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Sustainable datacenter region coming to Sweden in 2021, accelerating the country’s digital transformation

Microsoft is investing in Sweden thanks to the Scandinavian country’s strong commitment to sustainability and innovation.

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In May of last year, Microsoft announced plans to develop new data centers in Sweden. The goal? Making them “among the most sustainably designed and operated in the world.”

The company is now making good on their pledge with a press release from November 24, confirming they’ll launch a “world-class, sustainable datacenter region in Sweden in 2021 with presence in Gävle Sandviken and Staffanstorp.”

Investment details

The news comes on the heels of Microsoft’s announcement of a significant digital transformation investment in Greece, involving the construction of new datacenters. This also includes a plan to skill approximately 100,000 people in Greece in digital technologies by 2025.

“Building on Microsoft’s 35-year history in Sweden and strong partnerships across the energy, manufacturing and retail sectors, we are looking forward to delivering the Microsoft Cloud from this new datacenter region in 2021,” said Jean-Philippe Courtois, Executive VP and President of Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing and Operations.

“We believe that digital transformation should always be both inclusive and sustainable.”

Elaborating further, Hélène Barnekow — General Manager of Microsoft Sweden — explained that Sweden is an ideal environment for such an investment because of its renowned leadership in sustainability, innovation, and gender equality:

“It is one of the places in the world where IT and tech have the greatest potential to create new opportunities for the individual, the organization and society, she said.

“In this time of change, we invest in the digital infrastructure and our Swedish ecosystem to accelerate digital transformation that will empower public and private companies to innovate, providing a strong digital foundation for the country’s future growth,”

As a result of these datacenters, Microsoft explains, Swedish businesses can “empower employees, engage customers, transform products and optimize operations — all through connected experiences and supported by advanced data privacy and security.”

Microsoft will also invest in skills development, providing digital skills training for up to 150,000 Swedes. 

DX Journal Staff
Author: DX Journal Staff

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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Investing in digital resiliency

A new index from IDC shows growth in cloud, collaboration, and security investment.

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Is your business digitally resilient? 

IDC’s new Digital Resiliency Investment Index is a look at the progress of organizations in their investment towards digital resilience. This is especially important now with this year’s digital transformation acceleration.

Results from the initial index show an overall steady increase in investment toward resiliency. 

Organizations have placed priority in cloud, collaborative, and digital transformation projects. Thanks to the pandemic-related shift to work-from-home and the aforementioned increase in cloud adoption, significant investments have been made in security.

According to IDC prediction, investment toward digital resiliency will increase in 2021, in tandem with economic recovery.

In terms of geography, digital resiliency investment had the fastest growth in the Asia/Pacific region. While US investment increased in October, Europe’s had a slight decline in the same period — as the continent was experiencing a significant surge in COVID cases and restrictions. 

Background

Two factors make up the index:

  • Digital Core Investments, described by IDC as “spending on the core components of digital resiliency: cloud, security, collaborative support for remote workers, and digital transformation projects.”
  • Digital Innovation Investments, which are “measured using a monthly survey of enterprises on their current and anticipated IT investment focus, including how much new or reallocated spending is targeted at digital resiliency and business acceleration versus crisis response measures.”  

“Digital resiliency refers to an organization’s ability to rapidly adapt to business disruptions by leveraging digital capabilities to not only restore business operations, but also capitalize on the changed conditions,” explains Stephen Minton, VP in IDC’s Customer Insights & Analysis group. 

Organizational success in the midst of a global pandemic has largely hinged on the ability to react quickly to change, he says. The difference between rapid adaptation and simply responding to disruption? A plan.

“Investments in digital capabilities not only enable an organization to adapt to the current crisis but also to capitalize on the changed conditions.”

Looking ahead

“The next several months may put increased pressure on some organizations to respond to second waves of COVID infections and economic lockdowns, which will be reflected in our monthly surveys throughout the winter,” adds Minton. 

“What we have learned already this year is that the organizations which were among the early adopters of cloud, digital, and collaborative technologies were best-positioned for a crisis no one could have predicted.”

DX Journal Staff
Author: DX Journal Staff

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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Digital transformation for economic recovery

“With the right steps and actions, businesses and governments can take the crisis as an opportunity to build for the future,” explain two World Bank economists.

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Digital transformation is having a moment. 

Over and over, widespread reports and surveys show that — in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic — DX efforts have accelerated. “Business-savvy CIOs who deploy highly adaptive strategies and technology to rapidly respond to the impact on their firm’s operations and customers will lead from the front,” explains Forrester’s recent Predictions 2021 report.

Can the momentum keep going? How can DX be leveraged so everyone can be better off, post-COVID? 

As two World Bank economists argue in Harvard Business Review, “technological advancements were already changing the world over the past two decades,” and that in the midst of threats from automation and offshoring, it’s important to realize that tech can act as a job creator for economic recovery. 

According to Federica Saliola (Lead Economist in the Jobs Group of the World Bank and co-Director of the World Development Report 2019) Asif Islam (Senior Economist for the Middle East and North Africa Region of the World Bank Group), “to reshape technology as a job creator, it’s important to understand what, exactly, the current wave of technology is changing, and how policymakers and businesses can adapt to it.”

Where we were

The economists laid out three foundational truths about the pre-COVID state of technology:

  1. It has always been a disruptor. Tech has been “challenging the traditional boundaries of firms, changing global value chains and the geography of jobs.”
  2. As tech evolved, there have been massive changes in what skills are needed by a successful workforce. “The premium for skills that cannot be replaced by robots has been increasing,” they explain. What are these in-demand skills? Critical thinking and socio-behavioral skills, for starters, as well as adaptable skills. This leads to point three.
  3. Thanks to tech, the very nature of work has been changing over the last few years. The standard of permanent and full-time work has given way to a gig economy.

What’s next?

Simply put, “it is likely that the pandemic will reinforce these pre-existing trends and increase the urgency of corresponding policy responses,” explain Saliola and Islam.

Digital-first companies are thriving, the gig economy certainly isn’t going anywhere, and “firms may also have more incentive to invest in automation and reshore production to shield against value chain disruption.”

The aforementioned barrage of surveys and reports showing the acceleration of DX efforts reported on the mostly-successful shift to work-from-home. Saliola and Islam reference World Bank and World Economic Forum reports that show (unsurprisingly) positions and organizations that have put WFH measures in place are more prevalent in wealthier countries and regions, and that women and young people are more likely to hold positions where WFH isn’t feasible. 

Ultimately, Saliola and Islam explain, organizations and governments have to turn to policy to ensure that digital transformation can lead to a more successful economic recovery.

What does this look like? Reskilling and upskilling on the part of businesses, and “incentives and regulations to infrastructure projects and taxation” for governments. 

It’s similar to the approach of the recent OECD report showing that DX is critical for recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean — but on a global scale. 

“Technology can be a boon to society if businesses and governments prepare and adapt,” they write. “With the right steps and actions, businesses and governments can take the crisis as an opportunity to build for the future.”

DX Journal Staff
Author: DX Journal Staff

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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