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Overview of Digital Transformation Security: What, How, and Why?

Overview of Digital Transformation Security: What, How, and Why?

Blog Article Published: 02/06/2023

A version of this blog was originally published by ScaleSec.

By Justin Travis, ScaleSec.

Cloud Security Alliance and ScaleSec are pleased to co-publish this security deep dive into Digital Transformation as part of promoting the upcoming Virtual CSA FinCloud Security Summit. Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) is the world’s leading organization dedicated to defining and raising awareness of best practices to help ensure a secure cloud computing environment. ScaleSec is a member of CSA and a named Trusted Cloud Consultant.

The following blog was inspired by the efforts of one regional bank to become a leader and example for others to emulate. Please enjoy this deep dive into Digital Transformation, and how key security is to success.

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation is the process of using modern technology to fundamentally change how a business operates. At its core, digital transformation is about delivering increased value to customers. This transformation involves the integration of digital technology into all areas of the company. This can include changes to business models, processes, and strategies, as well as the use of new technologies, such as cloud computing, mobile apps, and internet of things (IoT) devices.

With Digital Transformation we’ve recently seen new technologies emerge to become mainstream:

  • 5G Wireless Technologies
  • Customer Data Platforms
  • Hybrid & Multi-Cloud
  • Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning

However, as businesses embrace these technologies, it's crucial to prioritize security and privacy to protect sensitive data and ensure the success of the transformation.

Benefits of Digital Transformation

A report by the Boston Consulting Group found that in 2020, companies that were digitally mature realized a valuation increase of 23%, compared to just 7% of those that were not digitally mature. While it is important to note that results will vary depending on the specific circumstances of the organization, all organizations can expect notable benefits when undertaking a digital transformation. To list a few:

1. Increased Efficiency and Productivity

By automating manual processes and using digital tools to streamline workflows, organizations can improve their efficiency and productivity.

2. Improved Customer Experience

Digital technologies can be used to enhance the customer experience by providing more personalized and convenient services.

3. Increased Agility and Flexibility

Digital technologies can help organizations to be more agile and flexible, allowing them to quickly respond to changing market conditions and customer needs.

4. Enhanced Decision-Making

Digital tools can provide organizations with access to vast amounts of data, which can be used to inform better decision-making and improve business outcomes.

5. Greater Collaboration and Communication

Digital technologies can facilitate better collaboration and communication within an organization, as well as with customers and partners.

6. Increased Competitiveness

By adopting digital technologies, organizations can gain a competitive advantage in their industry by being able to innovate faster and more effectively.

7. Cost Savings

Digital transformation can help organizations to reduce costs by automating processes, reducing the need for manual labor, and improving the efficiency of operations.

Digital Transformation Security: Staying Ahead of the Game

When it comes to digital transformation, security needs to be built into the very fabric of an organization. This means having a comprehensive security strategy that is integrated into every aspect of the digital transformation process. This includes things like securing networks and devices, protecting data, and implementing strong authentication and access controls.

The threats are not just external; they are also internal. A recent report by Dell End-User Security revealed that over 70% of employees are willing to share confidential data, whether intentionally or by accident.

Integrating security into digital transformation can be achieved through a focus on four key areas:

1. Leveraging modern technology tools

This includes using cloud-native technologies and best-of-breed security tools.

Examples:

Need

Example Technology[1]

Benefit

Short-lived credentials

Hashicorp Vault

Generate new credentials to technology platforms which expire a short time later (e.g. 60 mins TTL)

RBAC & ABAC access models

Okta

Granular access control based on detailed and dynamic needs

Security information and event management (SIEM) tools

Splunk

Record every request made to the system with sensitive requests triggering an immediate notification Security teams

Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

Terraform

Shift all engineering and operational changes to be codified. Block infrastructure changes that do not go through a code-review process.

2. Discarding Outdated Security Methods

It's important to regularly assess and update security measures to ensure that they are effective and aligned with current threats. This may involve retiring old or unsupported technologies and adopting new, more robust solutions.

Examples:

Need

Example Technology[2]

Benefit

Centralize Identity & Access Management (IAM)

Okta

Leverage a single platform across all technologies for identity authentication and authorization

Biometric-based authentication

Pindrop

Uses voice biometrics to increase authentication quality and decrease time to authenticate

End-user device risk

ThreatMetrix

Score end-user devices against a risk score lowering the changes an authorized device is involved in fraudulent behavior

3. Training Employees on Industry Best Practices

Ensuring that current and future employees are trained on industry best practices around security is crucial to the success of the digital transformation.

Examples:

Need

Example Technology[3]

Benefit

Developer security training – Secure Coding practice

Synk

Automatically find and fix vulnerabilities in developer code

End-user Security Awareness

KnowBe4

Keeps security top of mind for employees through on-going awareness training

4. Changing the Culture of the Organization

For digital transformation to be successful, it's important to create a culture that is open to change and willing to embrace the security needs that come with it.

Benefits of Cloud in Digital Transformation

Cloud security services, such as those offered by AWS, Azure, and GCP, can make digital transformation easier in a number of ways: Cloud platforms offer a range of security services to help organizations protect their data, applications, and infrastructure in the cloud.

The cloud platforms offer a suite of products that make digital transformation secure. Here are some examples of some products that meet common digital transformation security needs in GCP:[4]

Digital Transformation Need

How to Meet

GCP Product Name[5]

Protect data

Create and manage encryption keys

GCP KMS

Simplify security management and maintenance

Use serverless technologies

GCP Cloud Functions

Increase flexibility and scalability

Allow the cloud provider to scale resources up and down, based on demand

GCP Autoscaling

Reduce costs

Reduce hardware costs by paying only for the resources needed at that point in time.

GCP Compute Engine

Meet compliance requirements

Get regular and on-demand proof of meeting compliance

GCP Compliance Reports

When it comes to addressing the security concerns of digital transformation, the major cloud providers offer unique products and benefits that cannot easily be replicated in a traditional environment.

Risk Management in Digital Transformation

One of the key challenges of digital transformation is that it often involves the integration of a wide range of technologies. This can create new security vulnerabilities, and complexity, as each of these technologies has its own unique security challenges.

Organizations need to take a holistic approach to security to address these challenges. This means having a clear understanding of the potential security risks associated with digital transformation and implementing measures to mitigate those risks. One great way to meet this challenge is to align to a security framework. NIST CSF is a great framework to start with.

With the increased complexity that Digital Transformation brings, it becomes necessary to regularly review and update security policies, governance, and procedures to ensure that they remain effective. In practical terms, the following timetable should be followed for most organizations:

Review type:

How Often:

Estimated effort:[6]

Surface Level Security[7]

Every 90 days

8 hours

Detailed Security Review[8]

Every 180 days

24 hours

Full Security Review of all assets[9]

Every 360 days

40 hours

Table-top exercises for Disaster Recovery and Incident Response[10]

Every 360 days

40 hours

In addition to implementing strong technical controls, organizations also need to focus on building a culture of security. This means educating employees about the importance of security and empowering them to take ownership of their own security practices. It also means promoting a culture of transparency and accountability, so that employees feel comfortable reporting security issues and taking action to prevent them.

DBS: A Success Story in Digital Transformation

In 2019, DBS Bank was recognized by Harvard Business Review as one of the top 20 business transformations of the past decade. Just a few years earlier, DBS was struggling to maintain its competitive edge. In response, the bank decided to undergo a digital transformation, integrating technology into all areas of the business to deliver increased value to customers.

As a result of this transformation, DBS has seen impressive results. Between 2010 and 2020, annual revenue increased from approximately $7 billion USD to $11 billion USD, representing over a 50% increase. Today, DBS is widely considered to be "the world's best bank" by global finance publications and professionals. This can be largely attributed to their digital transformation efforts.

By carefully considering and implementing the right strategies and technologies, organizations of all sizes can realize the benefits of this transformation.

However, it is important to prioritize security and privacy when undertaking a digital transformation to protect sensitive data and ensure the success of the transformation. This will involve investing in modern security technologies and platforms such as cloud, short-lived access models, and security awareness training efforts. The most important element that separates a successful digital transformation from those that fail is a culture shift. A business must decide, from the top down, that old and traditional practices will give way to modern business technologies.

About the Cloud Security Alliance

The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) is the world’s leading organization dedicated to defining and raising awareness of best practices to help ensure a secure cloud computing environment. CSA harnesses the subject matter expertise of industry practitioners, associations, governments, and its corporate and individual members to offer cloud security-specific research, education, certification, events and products. CSA’s activities, knowledge and extensive network benefit the entire community impacted by cloud — from providers and customers, to governments, entrepreneurs and the assurance industry — and provide a forum through which diverse parties can work together to create and maintain a trusted cloud ecosystem. For further information, visit us at www.cloudsecurityalliance.org, and follow us on Twitter @cloudsa.

About ScaleSec

ScaleSec specializes in cloud security and is well-equipped to help organizations through the digital transformation journey. Here is one example of how ScaleSec employed a digital transformation journey with a customer that resulted in an 80% reduction in development and engineering time.ScaleSec is a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) for cloud security and compliance that helps innovators meet the requirements of their most scrutinizing customers. We specialize in cloud security engineering and cloud compliance. Our team of experts guides customers through complex cloud security challenges, from foundations to implementation, audit preparation and beyond.


[1] These technology examples may meet the need, however other technologies may be a better fit for your organization.

[2] These technology examples may meet the need, however other technologies may be a better fit for your organization.

[3] These technology examples may meet the need, however other technologies may be a better fit for your organization.

[4] Additional cloud technologies, such as IAM, will also be used in conjunction with these for a robust program.

[5] These GCP technologies can be a part of a well-designed architecture. Additional technologies may be required to fully meet the need.

[6] All timeframes are general recommendations and should be tailored to specific business requirements.

[7] Surface-level security: technology owners attesting to their security policies and procedures, and recommending changes as needed.

[8] Detailed Security Review: technology owners & managers reviewing policies and procedures together.

[9] Full-Security Review: review security policies & procedures with internal risk-management.Add a 3rd party for external assistance as desired.

[10] Table-top exercises: conduct walk-throughs of disaster recovery and incident response plans to ensure that the policies are effective.

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