Protecting data in a post-Snowden world

Cyber security continues to grab the headlines – and rightly so. Recent high profile cases have reminded us why data security is at the top of the business agenda, and must remain there. You just have to look at the hacks of Ashley Madison and Sony to see the potential havoc a security breach can have on a company – both from an operational and a reputational perspective.

The rise of the hacker in this post-Snowden era has also created a degree of mistrust of digitisation. This is particularly true for businesses that are considering a first move from physical to digital transactions or storage. There is the sense that the tried and tested method of working on and with paper has worked fine for centuries, so why change now

Well, in my opinion, businesses taking this viewpoint are actually putting themselves at significant risk. Using paper records is costly, time-consuming, and stifles future innovation. Business leaders should ask themselves which is more secure; a sheet filed in a cabinet or encrypted data stored in the cloud and protected by a sophisticated firewall? Before answering, they should also think about the risks of physical data loss; fire, flooding or physical break-in – and that is before we are asked to retrieve a specific document from this archive.

Furthermore, when information is digital it can also be replicated or backed-up securely. And to bring it back to the Ashley Madison example, that breach is reported to have originated from employees being coerced into revealing confidential data. That can happen in the off-line world, too.

But how do you address this? Hybrid IT is one of the big talking points at the moment – where businesses can pick and choose which elements of on-premise and cloud storage they use, from a mix of private and public cloud. This allows a balance to be struck between moving elements of your organisation into the cloud and maintaining the infrastructure you already have in place for certain business critical processes you don’t want to change now. This approach means going digital doesn’t have to be an ‘all or nothing’ decision, and it lets you move online at your own pace. Given the ongoing momentum of hybrid IT, it seems certain that the future is one of customised flexibility.

Regardless of which stage they are at, the fact that a company is progressing on its digital journey is the crucial part of the criteria.

The bottom line is that in this post-Snowden era data security needs to be priority number one. While the threat of cyber attacks is not going to go away, the organisations that turn their back on digital are at even greater risk from being disrupted. This further heightens the need for businesses to adopt the relevant processes and technology required to become truly digital entities. Failure to evolve into the digital age means that customer retention, competitive edge and public perception are all put at risk.

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