The rise of ecommerce, particularly mobile ecommerce, has fundamentally altered both consumer and business buying habits. Organizations are embracing digital transformation in an effort to appease modern buyers and enhance the customer experience while cutting costs and improving efficiency. The 2018 State of Digital Business Transformation survey by IDG found that 89% of organizations have either adopted or plan to adopt a digital-first strategy.

While cutting-edge technologies such as the IoT and IIoT, cloud computing and multi-cloud networks, and low-code platforms provide great benefits to organizations and their customers, they also gift cyber criminals a much larger attack surface. Today’s hackers are more skilled, educated, and well-funded than ever, and the attacks they launch are highly organized, complex and, if successful, destructive. In a survey of IT business leaders by Frost & Sullivan, respondents listed cyber security as their top challenge to navigating digital transformation.

Despite these concerns, too many organizations still view cyber security as an afterthought at best, a stumbling block to innovation at worst. Security can get pushed to the wayside in the rush to implement the day’s newest, shiniest technologies. However, digital transformation isn’t supposed to focus on what’s hip and trendy now; the goal is to ensure that your organization is prepared not just for today’s trends but tomorrow’s opportunities through implementing sustainable, future-proof solutions, and cyber security plays a critical role in this process. Here are a few best practices for integrating cyber security into your digital transformation plans.

Integrate Cyber Security from the Beginning

Digital transformation involves implementing new technology and finding new uses for existing technology. However, application security is often addressed very late in the software development lifecycle (SDLC). Three-quarters of security and IT professionals surveyed by Dimensional Research felt that security was addressed “too late in the [development] process, and [applications] must be retrofitted after key decisions have been made.”

Attempting to secure an application late in the SDLC makes the entire process more complex, resulting in delays, budget overruns, or possibly even a failed project. Cyber security should be baked into the SDLC of every digital transformation initiative from the beginning so that potential risks can be identified and addressed early on, and applications can be patched as new cyber threats emerge post-deployment.

Involve Your Security Team in All Important Decisions

Often, cyber security personnel are not included in marketing or business meetings, even though critical decisions are made that impact the technical aspects of the digital transformation initiative. Worse, the security team may not be included in IT meetings or involved in the project at all; only 18% of respondents to the Dimensional Research study reported cyber security personnel being involved in all digital transformation initiatives.

If security personnel are not present to provide input at critical junctures of the project, the end result could be an application that is riddled with security holes. Instead of having security experts swoop in only after an attack has occurred, organizations should take a proactive approach, involve their security teams in all project meetings and decisions, and prevent attacks from happening in the first place.

Don’t Forget the Human Factor

The weakest link in any organization’s cyber security is its own people. Often, organizations lean too heavily on technology to defend against cyber attacks, train only their IT staff on cyber security best practices, or both. Every employee who touches a computer must be trained on cyber security best practices, and the organization must adopt a security-first culture on all levels, from the C-suite down to the reception desk. The human factor is also another reason to involve security at all junctures of a digital transformation initiative; one aspect of secure development is to design applications in such a way as to limit the ability of human error or malicious acts to open up the system to cyber attacks.

Integrating proactive cyber security into digital transformation efforts from the very beginning and creating a security-first culture on all levels of the organization doesn’t just protect against hacks; it also ensures that digital transformation efforts are sustainable and future-proof.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Peters is the CEO of Lazarus Alliance, Inc., the Proactive Cyber Security™ firm, and Continuum GRC. He has served as an independent information security consultant, executive, researcher, and author. He is an internationally recognized and awarded security expert with years of IT and business leadership experience and many previous executive leadership positions.

He has contributed significantly to curriculum development for graduate degree programs in information security, advanced technology, cyberspace law, and privacy, and to industry standard professional certifications. He has been featured in many publications and broadcast media outlets as the “Go-to Guy” for executive leadership, information security, cyberspace law, and governance.