Adapt cybersecurity programs to protect remote work environments

Earlier this year, businesses across the globe transitioned to a remote work environment almost overnight at unprecedented scale and speed. Security teams worked around the clock to empower and protect their newly distributed teams.

protect remote work

Protect and support a remote workforce

Cisco’s report found the majority of organizations around the world were at best only somewhat prepared in supporting their remote workforce. But, it has accelerated the adoption of technologies that enable employees to work securely from anywhere and on any device – preparing businesses to be flexible for whatever comes next. The survey found that:

  • 85% of organizations said that cybersecurity is extremely important or more important than before COVID-19
  • Secure access is the top cybersecurity challenge faced by the largest proportion of organizations (62%) when supporting remote workers
  • One in two respondents said endpoints, including corporate laptops and personal devices, are a challenge to protect in a remote environment
  • 66% of respondents indicated that the COVID-19 situation will result in an increase in cybersecurity investments

“Security and privacy are among the most significant social and economic issues of our lifetime,” said Jeetu Patel, SVP and GM of Cisco’s Security & Applications business.

“Cybersecurity historically has been overly complex. With this new way of working here to stay and organizations looking to increase their investment in cybersecurity, there’s a unique opportunity to transform the way we approach security as an industry to better meet the needs of our customers and end-users.”

People worried about the privacy of their tools

People are worried about the privacy of remote work tools and are skeptical whether companies are doing what is needed to keep their data safe. Despite the pandemic, they want little or no change to privacy requirements, and they want to see companies be more transparent regarding how they use their customer’s data.

Organizations have the opportunity to build confidence and trust by embedding privacy into their products and communicating their practices clearly and simply to their customers. The survey found that:

  • 60% of respondents were concerned about the privacy of remote collaboration tools
  • 53% want little or no change to existing privacy laws
  • 48% feel they are unable to effectively protect their data today, and the main reason is that they can’t figure out what companies are doing with their data
  • 56% believe governments should play a primary role in protecting consumer data, and consumers are highly supportive of the privacy laws enacted in their country

“Privacy is much more than just a compliance obligation. It is a fundamental human right and business imperative that is critical to building and maintaining customer trust,” said Harvey Jang, VP, Chief Privacy Officer, Cisco. “The core privacy and ethical principles of transparency, fairness, and accountability will guide us in this new, digital-first world.”

Machine identity related cyberattacks grew by 433% between 2018 and 2019

The machine identity attack surface is exploding, with a rapid increase in all types of machine identity-related security events in 2018 and 2019, according to Venafi. For example, the number of reported machine identity-related cyberattacks grew by over 400% during this two-year period.

machine identity related cyberattacks

“We have seen machine use skyrocket in organizations over the last five years, but many businesses still focus their security controls primarily on human identity management,” said Kevin Bocek, VP of security strategy and threat intelligence at Venafi.

Digital transformation initiatives are in jeopardy because attackers are able to exploit wide gaps in machine identity management strategies. The COVID-19 pandemic is driving faster adoption of cloud, hybrid and microservices architectures, but protecting machine identities for these projects are often an afterthought.

“The only way to mitigate these risks is to build comprehensive machine identity management programs that are as comprehensive as customer, partner and employee identity and access management strategies.”

Key findings

  • Between 2015 and 2019, the number of reported cyberattacks that used machine identities grew by more than 700%, with this amount increasing by 433% between the years 2018 and 2019 alone.
  • From 2015 to 2019, the number of vulnerabilities involving machine identities grew by 260%, increasing by 125% between 2018 and 2019.
  • The use of commodity malware that abuses machine identities doubled between the years 2018 and 2019 and grew 300% over the five years leading up to 2019.
  • Between 2015 and 2019, the number of reported advanced persistent threats (APTs) that used machine identities grew by 400%. Reports of these attacks increased by 150% between 2018 and 2019.

“As our use of cloud, hybrid, open source and microservices use increases, there are many more machine identities on enterprise networks—and this rising number correlates with the accelerated number of threats,” said Yana Blachman, threat intelligence researcher at Venafi.

“As a result, every organization’s machine identity attack surface is getting much bigger. Although many threats or security incidents frequently involve a machine identity component, too often these details do not receive enough attention and aren’t highlighted in public reports.

“This lack of focus on machine identities in cyber security reporting has led to a lack of data and focus on this crucial area of security. As a result, the trends we are seeing in this report are likely just the tip of the iceberg.”

Operator‑billed 5G connections revenue to reach $357 billion by 2025

Operator‑billed revenue from 5G connections will reach $357 billion by 2025, rising from $5 billion in 2020, its first full year of commercial service, according to Juniper Research.

5G connections revenue

By 2025, 5G revenue is anticipated to represent 44% of global operator‑billed revenue owing to rapid migration of 4G mobile subscribers to 5G networks and new business use cases enabled by 5G technology.

However, the study identified 5G networks roll-outs as highly resilient to the COVID-19 pandemic. It found that supply chain disruptions caused by the initial pandemic period have been mitigated through modified physical roll-out procedures, in order to maintain the momentum of hardware deployments.

5G connections to generate 250% more revenue than average cellular connection

The study found that 5G uptake had surpassed initial expectations, predicting total 5G connections will surpass 1.5 billion by 2025. It also forecast that the average 5G connection will generate 250% more revenue than an average cellular connection by 2025.

To secure a return on investment into new services, such as uRLLC (Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication) and network slicing, enabled by 5G, operators will apply this premium pricing for 5G connections.

However, these services alongside the high-bandwidth capabilities of 5G will create data-intensive use cases that lead to a 270% growth in data traffic generated by all cellular connections over the next five years.

Networks must increase virtualisation to handle 5G data traffic

Operators must use future launches of standalone 5G network as an opportunity to further increase virtualisation in core networks. Failure to develop 5G network architectures that handle increasing traffic will lead to reduced network functionality, inevitably leading to a diminished value proposition of its 5G network amongst end users.

Research author Sam Barker remarked: “Operators will compete on 5G capabilities, in terms of bandwidth and latency. A lesser 5G offering will lead to user churn to competing networks and missed opportunities in operators’ fastest-growing revenue stream.”

Cybercrime capitalizing on the convergence of COVID-19 and 2020 election

The cybersecurity challenges of the global pandemic are now colliding with the 2020 U.S. presidential election resulting in a surge of cybercrime, VMware research reveals.

cybercrime 2020 election

Attacks growing increasingly sophisticated and destructive

As eCrime groups grow more powerful, these attacks have grown increasingly sophisticated and destructive – respondents reported that 82 percent of attacks now involve instances of counter incident response (IR), and 55 percent involve island hopping, where an attacker infiltrates an organization’s network to launch attacks on others within the supply chain.

“The disruption caused by COVID-19 has created a massive opportunity for criminals to restructure their businesses,” said Tom Kellermann, Head of Cybersecurity Strategy, VMware Carbon Black.

“The rapid shift to a remote world combined with the power and scale of the dark web has fueled the expansion of eCrime groups. And now ahead of the election, we are at cybersecurity tipping point, cybercriminals have become dramatically more sophisticated and punitive focused on destructive attacks.”

Data for the report is based on an online survey of eighty-three IR and cybersecurity professionals from around the world in September 2020.

Incidents of counter IR are at an all-time high, occurring in 82% of IR engagements

Suggesting the prevalence of increasingly sophisticated, often nation-state attackers, who have the resources and cyber savvy to colonize victims’ networks. Destructive attacks, which are often the final stage of counter IR have also surged, with respondents estimating victims experience them 54% of the time.

55% of cyberattacks target the victim’s digital infrastructure for the purpose of island hopping

The pandemic has left organizations increasingly vulnerable to such attacks as their employees shift to remote work – and less secure home networks and devices.

Custom malware is now being used in 50% of attacks reported by respondents

This demonstrates the scale of the dark web, where such malware and malware services can be purchased to empower traditional criminals, spies and terrorists, many of whom do not have the sophisticated resources to execute these attacks.

As we approach the 2020 presidential election, cybercrime remains a top concern

Drawing upon their security expertise – and in line with recent advisories from Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) – 73% of respondents believe there will be foreign influence on the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and 60% believe it will be influenced by a cyberattack.

How tech trends and risks shape organizations’ data protection strategy

Trustwave released a report which depicts how technology trends, compromise risks and regulations are shaping how organizations’ data is stored and protected.

data protection strategy

Data protection strategy

The report is based on a recent survey of 966 full-time IT professionals who are cybersecurity decision makers or security influencers within their organizations.

Over 75% of respondents work in organizations with over 500 employees in key geographic regions including the U.S., U.K., Australia and Singapore.

“Data drives the global economy yet protecting databases, where the most critical data resides, remains one of the least focused-on areas in cybersecurity,” said Arthur Wong, CEO at Trustwave.

“Our findings illustrate organizations are under enormous pressure to secure data as workloads migrate off-premises, attacks on cloud services increases and ransomware evolves. Gaining complete visibility of data either at rest or in motion and eliminating threats as they occur are top cybersecurity challenges all industries are facing.”

More sensitive data moving to the cloud

Types of data organizations are moving into the cloud have become increasingly sensitive, therefore a solid data protection strategy is crucial. Ninety-six percent of total respondents stated they plan to move sensitive data to the cloud over the next two years with 52% planning to include highly sensitive data with Australia at 57% leading the regions surveyed.

Not surprisingly, when asked to rate the importance of securing data regarding digital transformation initiatives, an average score of 4.6 out of a possible high of five was tallied.

Hybrid cloud model driving digital transformation and data storage

Of those surveyed, most at 55% use both on-premises and public cloud to store data with 17% using public cloud only. Singapore organizations use the hybrid cloud model most frequently at 73% or 18% higher than the average and U.S. organizations employ it the least at 45%.

Government respondents store data on-premises only the most at 39% or 11% higher than average. Additionally, 48% of respondents stored data using the hybrid cloud model during a recent digital transformation project with only 29% relying solely on their own databases.

Most organizations use multiple cloud services

Seventy percent of organizations surveyed were found to use between two and four public cloud services and 12% use five or more. At 14%, the U.S. had the most instances of using five or more public cloud services followed by the U.K. at 13%, Australia at 9% and Singapore at 9%. Only 18% of organizations queried use zero or just one public cloud service.

Perceived threats do not match actual incidents

Thirty-eight percent of organizations are most concerned with malware and ransomware followed by phishing and social engineering at 18%, application threats 14%, insider threats at 9%, privilege escalation at 7% and misconfiguration attack at 6%.

Interestingly, when asked about actual threats experienced, phishing and social engineering came in first at 27% followed by malware and ransomware at 25%. The U.K. and Singapore experienced the most phishing and social engineering incidents at 32% and 31% and the U.S. and Australia experienced the most malware and ransomware attacks at 30% and 25%.

Respondents in the government sector had the highest incidents of insider threats at 13% or 5% above the average.

Patching practices show room for improvement

A resounding 96% of respondents have patching policies in place, however, of those, 71% rely on automated patching and 29% employ manual patching. Overall, 61% of organizations patched within 24 hours and 28% patched between 24 and 48 hours.

The highest percentage patching within a 24-hour window came from Australia at 66% and the U.K. at 61%. Unfortunately, 4% of organizations took a week to over a month to patch.

Reliance on automation driving key security processes

In addition to a high percentage of organizations using automated patching processes, findings show 89% of respondents employ automation to check for overprivileged users or lock down access credentials once an individual has left their job or changed roles.

This finding correlates to low concern for insider threats and data compromise due to privilege escalation according to the survey. Organizations must exercise caution when assuming removal of user access to applications to also include databases, which is often not the case.

Data regulations having minor impact on database security strategies

When asked if data regulations such as GDPR and CCPA impacted database security strategies, a surprising 60% of respondents said no.

These findings may suggest a lack of alignment between information technology and other departments, such as legal, responsible for helping ensure stipulations like ‘the right to be forgotten’ are properly enforced to avoid severe penalties.

Small teams with big responsibilities

Of those surveyed, 47% had a security team size of only six to 15 members. Respondents from Singapore had the smallest teams with 47% reporting between one and ten members and the U.S. had the largest teams with 22% reporting team size of 21 or more, 2% higher than the average.

Thirty-two percent of government respondents surprisingly run security operations with teams between just six and ten members.

Biometric device revenues to drop 22%, expected to rebound in 2021

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, global biometric device revenues are expected to drop 22%, ($1.8 billion) to $6.6 billion, according to a report from ABI Research. The entire biometrics market, however, will regain momentum in 2021 and is expected to reach approximately $40 billion in total revenues by 2025.

biometric device revenues 2020

Global biometric device revenues in 2020

“The current decline in the biometrics market landscape stems from multifaceted challenges from a governmental, commercial, and technological nature,” explains Dimitris Pavlakis, Digital Security Industry Analyst.

“First, they have been instigated primarily due to economic reforms during the crisis which forced governments to constrain budgets and focus on damage control, personnel well-being, and operational efficiency.

“Governments had to delay or temporarily cancel many fingerprint-based applications related to user/citizen and patient registration, physical access control, on-premise workforce management, and certain applications in border control or civil, welfare, immigration, law enforcement, and correctional facilities.

“Second, commercial on-premise applications and access control suffered as the rise of the remote workers became the new norm for the first half of 2020. Lastly, hygiene concerns due to contact-based fingerprint technologies pummelled biometrics revenues forcing a sudden drop in fingerprint shipments worldwide.”

Not all is bleak, though

New use-case scenarios have emerged, and certain technological trends have risen to the top of the implementation lists. For example, enterprise mobility and logical access control using biometrics as part of multi-factor authentication (MFA) for remote workers.

“Current MFA applications for remote workers might well translate into permanent information technology security authentication measures in the long term,” says Pavlakis. “This will improve biometrics-as-a-service (BaaS) monetization and authentication models down the line.”

Biometrics applications can now look toward new implementation horizons, with market leaders and pioneering companies like Gemalto (Thales), IDEMIA, NEC, FPC, HID Global, and Cognitec at the forefront of innovation.

“Future smart city infrastructure investments will now factor in additional surveillance, real-time behavioral analytics, and face recognition for epidemiological research, monitoring, and emergency response endeavors,” Pavlakis concludes.

Most cybersecurity pros believe automation will make their jobs easier

Despite 88% of cybersecurity professionals believing automation will make their jobs easier, younger staffers are more concerned that the technology will replace their roles than their veteran counterparts, according to a research by Exabeam.

cybersecurity automation jobs

Overall, satisfaction levels continued a 3-year positive trend, with 96% of respondents indicating they are happy with role and responsibilities and 87% reportedly pleased with salary and earnings. Additionally, there was improvement in gender diversity with female respondents increasing from 9% in 2019 to 21% this year.

“The concern for automation among younger professionals in cybersecurity was surprising to us. In trying to understand this sentiment, we could partially attribute it to lack of on-the-job training using automation technology,” said Samantha Humphries, security strategist at Exabeam.

“As we noted earlier this year in our State of the SOC research, ambiguity around career path or lack of understanding about automation can have an impact on job security. It’s also possible that this is a symptom of the current economic climate or a general lack of experience navigating the workforce during a global recession.”

AI and ML: A threat to job security?

Of respondents under the age of 45, 53% agreed or strongly agreed that AI and ML are a threat to their job security. This is contrasted with just 25% of respondents 45 and over who feel the same, possibly indicating that subsets of security professionals in particular prefer to write rules and manually investigate.

Interestingly, when asked directly about automation software, 89% of respondents under 45 years old believed it would improve their jobs, yet 47% are still threatened by its use. This is again in contrast with the 45 and over demographic, where 80% believed automation would simplify their work, and only 22% felt threatened by its use.

Examining the sentiments around automation by region, 47% of US respondents were concerned about job security when automation software is in use, as well as SG (54%), DE (42%), AUS (40%) and UK (33%).

In the survey, which drew insights from professionals throughout the US, the UK, AUS, Canada, India and the Netherlands, only 10% overall believed that AI and automation were a threat to their jobs.

On the flip side, there were noticeable increases in job approval across the board, with an upward trend in satisfaction around role and responsibilities (96%), salary (87%) and work/life balance (77%).

Diversity showing positive signs of improvement

When asked what else they enjoyed about their jobs, respondents listed working in an environment with professional growth (15%) as well as opportunities to challenge oneself (21%) as top motivators.

53% reported jobs that are either stressful or very stressful, which is down from last year (62%). Interestingly, despite being among those that are generally threatened by automation software, 100% of respondents aged 18-24 reported feeling secure in their roles and were happiest with their salaries (93%).

Though the number of female respondents increased this year, it remains to be seen whether this will emerge as a trend. This year’s male respondents (78%) are down 13% from last year (91%).

In 2019, nearly 41% were in the profession for at least 10 years or more. This year, a larger percentage (83%) have 10 years or less, and 34% have been in the cybersecurity industry for five years or less. Additionally, one-third do not have formal cybersecurity degrees.

“There is evidence that automation and AI/ML are being embraced, but this year’s survey exposed fascinating generational differences when it comes to professional openness and using all available tools to do their jobs,” said Phil Routley, senior product marketing manager, APJ, Exabeam.

“And while gender diversity is showing positive signs of improvement, it’s clear we still have a very long way to go in breaking down barriers for female professionals in the security industry.”

Is the skills gap preventing you from executing your enterprise strategy?

As many business leaders look to close the skills gap and cultivate a sustainable workforce amid COVID-19, an IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) study reveals less than 4 in 10 human resources (HR) executives surveyed report they have the skills needed to achieve their enterprise strategy.

skills gap enterprise

COVID-19 exacerbated the skills gap in the enterprise

Pre-pandemic research in 2018 found as many as 120 million workers surveyed in the world’s 12 largest economies may need to be retrained or reskilled because of AI and automation in the next three years.

That challenge has only been exacerbated in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – as many C-suite leaders accelerate digital transformation, they report inadequate skills is one of their biggest hurdles to progress.

Employers should shift to meet new employee expectations

Ongoing consumer research also shows surveyed employees’ expectations for their employers have significantly changed during the COVID-19 pandemic but there’s a disconnect in how effective leaders and employees believe companies have been in addressing these gaps.

74% of executives surveyed believe their employers have been helping them learn the skills needed to work in a new way, compared to just 38% of employees surveyed, and 80% of executives surveyed said their company is supporting employees’ physical and emotional health, but only 46% of employees surveyed agreed.

“Today perhaps more than ever, organizations can either fail or thrive based on their ability to enable the agility and resiliency of their greatest competitive advantage – their people,” said Amy Wright, managing partner, IBM Talent & Transformation.

“Business leaders should shift to meet new employee expectations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as holistic support for their well-being, development of new skills and a truly personalized employee experiences even while working remotely.

“It’s imperative to bring forward a new era of HR – and those companies that were already on the path are better positioned to succeed amid disruption today and in the future.”

The study includes insights from more than 1,500 global HR executives surveyed in 20 countries and 15 industries. Based on those insights, the study provides a roadmap for the journey to the next era of HR, with practical examples of how HR leaders at surveyed “high-performing companies” – meaning those that outpace all others in profitability, revenue growth and innovation – can reinvent their function to build a more sustainable workforce.

Additional highlights

  • Nearly six in 10 high performing companies surveyed report using AI and analytics to make better decisions about their talent, such as skilling programs and compensation decisions. 41% are leveraging AI to identify skills they’ll need for the future, versus 8% of responding peers.
  • 65% of surveyed high performing companies are looking to AI to identify behavioral skills like growth mindset and creativity for building diverse adaptable teams, compared to 16% of peers.
  • More than two thirds of all respondents said agile practices are essential to the future of HR. However, less than half of HR units in participating organizations have capabilities in design thinking and agile practices.
  • 71% of high performing companies surveyed report they are widely deploying a consistent HR technology architecture, compared to only 11% of others.

“In order to gain long-term business alignment between leaders and employees, this moment requires HR to operate as a strategic advisor – a new role for many HR organizations,” said Josh Bersin, global independent analyst and dean of the Josh Bersin Academy.

“Many HR departments are looking to technology, such as the cloud and analytics, to support a more cohesive and self-service approach to traditional HR responsibilities. Offering employee empowerment through holistic support can drive larger strategic change to the greater business.”

skills gap enterprise

Three core elements to promote lasting change

According to the report, surveyed HR executives from high-performing companies were eight times as likely as their surveyed peers to be driving disruption in their organizations. Among those companies, the following actions are a clear priority:

  • Accelerating the pace of continuous learning and feedback
  • Cultivating empathetic leadership to support employees’ holistic well-being
  • Reinventing their HR function and technology architecture to make more real-time data-driven decisions

Threat intelligence platform market to reach $234.9 million by 2022

The growing volume and complexities of cyber threats present a compelling case for adopting threat intelligence platforms (TIPs), a Frost & Sullivan analysis finds.

Threat intelligence platform market 2022

These solutions help organizations navigate the ever-increasing threat landscape and allow for further analysis and threat intelligence operationalization.

The TIP market least affected by the pandemic

The yhreat intelligence platform market is one of the cybersecurity markets that will be least affected by COVID-19. It is estimated to reach $234.9 million by 2022 from $132.7 million in 2019, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21%.

“The proliferation of TIP use cases indicates the convergence of the TIP space with adjacent markets,” said Mikita Hanets, Information & Communication Technologies Research Analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

“Vendors increasingly aim to offer some elements of TIP functionality in SOAR and SIEM platforms and vice versa. Going forward, solutions that enable businesses to operationalize threat-related data and set up workflows for cyber incidents will converge in the next three years.”

Hanets added: “North America will dominate the market and contribute the maximum revenue, followed by Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Asia-Pacific and Latin America. Technology and telecommunications will be the fastest-growing vertical market for TIP vendors in the next two years, while banking and finance is expected to contribute the most by 2022.”

Growth prospects for market participants

The growing sophistication of attacks and the necessity of using threat intelligence for proactive cyber defense present immense growth prospects for market participants who:

  • Increase their presence in geographical areas like EMEA, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, where the penetration rate is currently low.
  • Expand the network of third-party SOAR integrations or develop native SOAR capabilities. Enterprises with mature cybersecurity practices need intelligence-powered SOAR.
  • Develop SIEM capabilities to offer seamless, intelligence-driven solutions. TIP vendors can build on their data management experience and offer a fully consolidated solution.
  • Develop threat detection and threat hunting capabilities to enable investigations of security incidents. Threat intelligence is instrumental in securing enterprises because it enables security teams to prevent cyberattacks in real time and identify a breach that might have occurred in the past.
  • Develop or acquire intelligence-driven vulnerability and risk management technology. The ability to assess an organization’s exposure and the risk to its global threat data is a key feature of the next generation of solutions.

How will blockchain impact the global economy?

An analysis by PwC shows blockchain technology has the potential to boost global gross domestic product (GDP) by $1.76 trillion over the next decade. That is the key finding of a report assessing how the technology is being currently used and exploring the impact blockchain could have on the global economy.

blockchain impact

Through analysis of the top five uses of blockchain, ranked by their potential to generate economic value, the report gauges the technology’s potential to create value across industry, from healthcare, government and public services, to manufacturing, finance, logistics and retail.

“Blockchain technology has long been associated with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, but there is so much more that it has to offer, particularly in how public and private organizations secure, share and use data,” comments Steve Davies, Global Leader, Blockchain and Partner, PwC UK.

“As organizations grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, many disruptive trends have been accelerated. The analysis shows the potential for blockchain to support organizations in how they rebuild and reconfigure their operations underpinned by improvements in trust, transparency and efficiency across organizations and society.”

Key takeaways

  • The report identifies five key application areas of blockchain and assesses their potential to generate economic value using economic analysis and industry research. The analysis suggests a tipping point in 2025 as blockchain technologies are expected to be adopted at scale across the global economy.
  • Tracking and tracing of products and services – or provenance – which emerged as a new priority for many companies’ supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic, has the largest economic potential ($962bn). Blockchain’s application can be wide ranging and support companies ranging from heavy industries, including mining through to fashion labels, responding to the rise in public and investor scrutiny around sustainable and ethical sourcing.
  • Payments and financial services, including use of digital currencies, or supporting financial inclusion through cross border and remittance payments ($433bn).
  • Identity management ($224bn) including personal IDs, professional credentials and certificates to help curb fraud and identity theft.
  • Application of blockchain in contracts and dispute resolution ($73bn), and customer engagement ($54bn) including blockchain’s use in loyalty programmes further extends blockchain’s potential into a much wider range of public and private industry sectors.

Blockchain’s success will depend on a supportive policy environment, a business ecosystem that is ready to exploit the new opportunities that technology opens, and a suitable industry mix.

Economic benefits across continents

Across all continents, Asia will likely see the most economic benefits from blockchain technology. In terms of individual countries, blockchain could have the highest potential net benefit in China ($440bn) and the USA ($407bn). Five other countries – Germany, Japan, the UK, India, and France – are also estimated to have net benefits over $50bn.

The benefits for each country differ however, with manufacturing focused economies such as China and Germany benefiting more from provenance and traceability, while the US would benefit most from its application in securitisation and payments as well as identity and credentials.

At a sector level, the biggest beneficiaries look set to be the public administration, education and healthcare sectors. These sectors are expected to benefit approximately $574bn by 2030, by capitalising on the efficiencies blockchain will bring to the world of identity and credentials.

Meanwhile, there will be broader benefits for business services, communications and media, while wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers and construction services, will benefit from using blockchain to engage consumers and meet demand for provenance and traceability.

Digital transformation as top priority

The potential for blockchain to be considered as part of organizations’ future strategy is linked to a research with business leaders that showed 61% of CEOs said they were placing digital transformation of core business operations and processes among their top three priorities, as they rebuild from COVID-19.

“One of the biggest mistakes organizations can make with implementing emerging technologies is to leave it in the realm of the enthusiast in the team. It needs C-Suite support to work, identify the strategic opportunity and value, and to facilitate the right level of collaboration within an industry,” comments Davies.

“Given the scale of economic disruption organizations are dealing with currently, establishing proof of concept uses which can be extended and scaled if successful, will enable businesses to identify the value, while building trust and transparency in the solution to deliver on blockchain’s potential.”

The report warns that if blockchain’s economic impact potential is to be realized, its energy overhead must be managed. Growing business and government action on climate change, including commitments to Net Zero transformation, will mean that organizations need to consider new models for consolidating and sharing infrastructure resources to reduce reliance on traditional data centres and their overall technology related energy consumption.

SMBs’ size doesn’t make them immune to cyberattacks

78% of SMBs indicated that having a privileged access management (PAM) solution in place is important to a cybersecurity program – yet 76% of respondents said that they do not have one that is fully deployed, a Devolutions survey reveals.

size cyberattacks

While it’s a positive trend that the majority of SMBs recognize the importance of having a PAM solution, the fact that most of the respondents don’t have a PAM solution in place reflects that there is inertia when it comes to deployment.

SMBs are not immune, company size doesn’t protect from cyberattacks

Global cybercrime revenues have reached $1.5 trillion per year. And according to IBM, the average price tag of a data breach is now $3.86 million per incident. Despite these staggering figures, there remains a common (and inaccurate) belief among many SMBs that the greatest security vulnerabilities exist in large companies.

However, there is mounting evidence that SMBs are more vulnerable than enterprises to cyberthreats – and the complacency regarding this reality can have disastrous consequences.

“SMBs must not assume that their relative smaller size will protect them from cyberattacks. On the contrary, hackers, rogue employees and others are increasingly targeting SMBs because they typically have weaker – and, in some cases, virtually non-existent – defense systems.

“SMBs cannot afford to take a reactive wait-and-see approach to cybersecurity because they may not survive a cyberattack. And even if they do, it could take several years to recover costs, reclaim customers and repair reputation damage,” said Devolutions CEO David Hervieux.

Key findings from the survey

To dig deeper into the mindset of SMBs about cybersecurity, Devolutions conducted a survey of 182 SMBs from a variety of industries – including IT, healthcare, education, and finance. Some notable findings include:

  • 62% of SMBs do not conduct a security audit at least once a year – and 14% never conduct an audit at all.
  • 57% of SMBs indicated they have experienced a phishing attack in the last three years.
  • 47% of SMBs allow end users to reuse passwords across personal and professional accounts.

These findings reinforce the need for better cybersecurity education for smaller companies.

“Conducting this survey reaffirmed to us that while progress is being made, there is a still a lot of work to do for many SMBs to protect themselves from cybercrime. We plan to conduct a survey like this each year so that we can identify the most current trends and in turn help our customers address their most pressing needs,” added Hervieux.

size cyberattacks

Protect from cyberattacks: The role of MSPs

One way for SMBs to close the cybersecurity gap is to seek out a trusted managed service provider (MSP) for guidance and implementation of cybersecurity solutions, monitoring and training programs. Because SMBs do not typically have huge IT departments like their enterprise counterparts, they often look to outside resources.

MSPs have an opportunity to strengthen their relationship with existing customers and expand their client base by becoming cyber experts who can advise SMBs on various cybersecurity issues, trends and solutions – as well as offer the ability to promptly respond to any security incidents that may arise and take swift action.

“We expect more and more MSPs will be adding cybersecurity solutions and expertise to their portfolio of offerings to meet this demand,” Hervieux concluded.

Prevent privileged account abuse

Organizations must keep critical assets secure, control and monitor sensitive information and privileged access, and vault and manage business-user passwords – all while ensuring that employees are productive and efficient. This is not an easy task for SMBs without the right solution in place.

Many PAM and password management solutions on the market are prohibitively expensive or too complex for what SMBs need.

Compliance activities cost organizations $3.5 million annually

Organizations are struggling to keep up with IT security and privacy compliance regulations, according to a Telos survey.

compliance cost

Annual compliance cost

The survey, which polled 300 IT security professionals in July and August 2020, revealed that, on average, organizations must comply with 13 different IT security and/or privacy regulations and spend $3.5 million annually on compliance activities, with compliance audits consuming 58 working days each quarter.

As more regulations come into existence and more organizations migrate their critical systems, applications and infrastructure to the cloud, the risk of non-compliance and associated impact increases.

Key research findings

  • IT security professionals report receiving an average of over 17 audit evidence requests each quarter and spend an average of three working days responding to a single request
  • Over the last 24 months, organizations have been found non-compliant an average of six times by both internal and third party auditors resulting in an average of eight fines, costing an average of $460,000
  • 86 percent of organizations believe compliance would be an issue when moving systems, applications and infrastructure to the cloud
  • 94 percent of organizations report they would face challenges when it comes to IT security compliance and/or privacy regulations in the cloud

Compliance teams are overwhelmed

“Compliance teams spend 232 working days each year responding to audit evidence requests, in addition to the millions of dollars spent on compliance activities and fines,” said Dr. Ed Amoroso, CEO of TAG Cyber. “The bottom line is this level of financial and time commitment is unsustainable in the long run.”

“As hammer, chisel and stone gave way to clipboard, paper and pencil, it’s time for organizations to realize the days of spreadsheets for ‘checkbox compliance’ are woefully outdated,” said Steve Horvath, VP of strategy and cloud at Telos.

Automation can solve numerous compliance challenges, as the data shows. It’s the only real way to get in front of curve, rather than continuing to try and keep up.”

99 percent of survey respondents indicated their organization would benefit from automating IT security and/or privacy compliance activities, citing expected benefits such as increased accuracy of evidence (54 percent), reduced time spent being audited (51 percent) and the ability to respond to audit evidence requests more quickly (50 percent).

Cyber teams are getting more involved in M&A

Despite ongoing economic uncertainty amidst a global pandemic, many dealmakers remain optimistic about the outlook for the year ahead as they increasingly pursue alternative merger and acquisition (M&A) methods to navigate the crisis and pursue new disruptive business growth strategies.

virtual dealmaking

According to a Deloitte survey of 1,000 U.S. corporate M&A executives and private equity firm professionals, 61% of survey respondents expect U.S. M&A activity to return to pre-COVID-19 levels within the next 12 months.

Soon after the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, deal activity in the U.S. plunged — most notably during April and May.

Responding M&A executives say they tentatively paused (92%) or abandoned (78%) at least one transaction as a result of the pandemic outbreak. However, since March 2020, possibly aiming to take advantage of pandemic-driven business disruptions, 60% say their organizations have been more focused on pursuing new deals.

“M&A executives have moved quickly to adapt and uncover value in new and innovative ways as systemic change driven by the pandemic has resulted in alternative approaches to transactions,” said Russell Thomson, partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP, and Deloitte’s U.S. merger and acquisition services practice leader.

“We expect both traditional and alternative M&A to be an important lever for dealmakers as businesses recover and thrive in a post-COVID economy.”

Alternative dealmaking on the rise

For many, alternative deals are quickly outpacing traditional M&A activity as the search for value intensifies in a low-growth environment.

When asked which type of deals their organizations are most interested in pursuing, responding corporate M&A executives’ top choice was alternatives to traditional M&A, including alliances, joint ventures, and Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (45%) — ranking higher than acquisitions (35%).

Private equity investors plan to remain more focused on traditional acquisitions (53%), while simultaneously pushing pursuit of M&A alternatives — including private investment in public equity deals, minority stakes, club deals and alliances (32%).

“As businesses prepare for a post-COVID world, including fundamentally reshaped economies and societies, the dealmaking environment will also materially change,” said Mark Purowitz, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, with Deloitte’s mergers and acquisitions consulting practice, and leader of the firm’s Future of M&A initiative.

“Companies were starting to expand their definition of M&A to include partnerships, alliances, joint ventures and other alternative investments that create intrinsic and long-lasting value, but COVID-19 has accelerated dealmakers’ needs to create more optionality for their organizations’ internal and external ecosystems.”

Virtual dealmaking to continue playing large role post-pandemic

87% of M&A professionals surveyed report that their organizations were able to effectively manage a deal in a purely virtual environment, so much so that 55% anticipate that virtual dealmaking will be the preferred platform even after the pandemic is over.

However, virtual dealmaking does not remain without its own challenges. Fifty-one percent noted that cybersecurity threats are their organizations’ biggest concern around executing deals virtually.

“When it comes to cyber in an M&A world — it’s important to develop cyber threat profiles of prospective targets and portfolio companies to determine the risks each present,” said Deborah Golden, Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory, cyber and strategic risk leader, Deloitte & Touche LLP.

“CISOs understand how a data breach can negatively impact the valuation and the underlying deal structure itself. Leaving cyber out of that risk picture may lead to not only brand and reputational risk, but also significant and unaccounted remediation costs.”

Other virtual dealmaking concerns included the ability to forge relationships with management teams (40%) and extended regulatory approvals (39%). When it comes to effectively managing the integration phase in a virtual environment, technology integration (16%) and legal entity alignment or simplification (16%) are surveyed M&A executives’ largest and most prevalent hurdles.

“It may be too early to assess the long-term implications of virtual dealmaking as many of the deals currently in progress now are resulting from management relationships that were formed pre-COVID. We also expect integration in a virtual setting will become much more complex a few months from now,” said Thomson.

virtual dealmaking

“Culture and compatibility issues should be given greater attention on the diligence side, as they pose major downstream integration implications.”

International dealmaking declines, focus on domestic-only deals

Interest in foreign M&A targets declined in 2020 as corporate executives reported a significant shift in their approach to international dealmaking, with 17% reporting no plans to execute cross-border deals in the current economic environment, an 8 percentage point increase from 2019.

In addition, 57% of M&A executives say less than half of their current transactions involve acquiring targets operating primarily in foreign markets.

Notably, the number of survey respondents interested in pursuing deals with U.K. targets dropped by 8 percentage points, while Chinese targets declined by 7 percentage points. Interest in Canadian (32%) and Central American (19%) targets remained highest.

Securing mobile devices, apps, and users should be every CIO’s top priority

More than 80% of global employees do not want to return to the office full-time, despite 30% employees claiming that being isolated from their team was the biggest hindrance to productivity during lockdown, a MobileIron study reveals.

securing mobile devices apps

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly changed the way people work and accelerated the already growing remote work trend. This has also created new security challenges for IT departments, as employees are increasingly using their own personal devices to access corporate data and services.

Adding to the challenges posed by the new “everywhere enterprise” – in which employees, IT infrastructures, and customers are everywhere – is the fact that employees are not prioritizing security. The study found that 33% of workers consider IT security to be a low priority.

Mobile devices and a new threat landscape

The current distributed remote work environment has also triggered a new threat landscape, with malicious actors increasingly targeting mobile devices with phishing attacks. These attacks range from basic to sophisticated and are likely to succeed, with many employees unaware of how to identify and avoid a phishing attack. The study revealed that 43% of global employees are not sure what a phishing attack is.

“Mobile devices are everywhere and have access to practically everything, yet most employees have inadequate mobile security measures in place, enabling hackers to have a heyday,” said Brian Foster, SVP Product Management, MobileIron.

“Hackers know that people are using their loosely secured mobile devices more than ever before to access corporate data, and increasingly targeting them with phishing attacks. Every company needs to implement a mobile-centric security strategy that prioritizes user experience and enables employees to maintain maximum productivity on any device, anywhere, without compromising personal privacy.”

The study found that four distinct employee personas have emerged in the everywhere enterprise as a result of lockdown, and mobile devices play a more critical role than ever before in ensuring productivity.

Hybrid Henry

  • Typically works in financial services, professional services or the public sector.
  • Ideally splits time equally between working at home and going into the office for face-to-face meetings; although this employee likes working from home, being isolated from teammates is the biggest hindrance to productivity.
  • Depends on a laptop and mobile device, along with secure access to email, CRM applications and video collaboration tools, to stay productive.
  • Believes that IT security ensures productivity and enhances the usability of devices. At the same time, this employee is only somewhat aware of phishing attacks.

Mobile Molly

  • Works constantly on the go using a range of mobile devices, such as tablets and phones, and often relies on public WiFi networks for work.
  • Relies on remote collaboration tools and cloud suites to get work done.
  • Views unreliable technology as the biggest hindrance to productivity as this individual is always on-the-go and heavily relies on mobile devices.
  • Views IT security as a hindrance to productivity as it slows down the ability to get tasks done. This employee also believes IT security compromises personal privacy.
  • This is the most likely persona to click on a malicious link due to a heavy reliance on mobile devices.

Desktop Dora

  • Finds being away from teammates and working from home a hindrance to productivity and can’t wait to get back to the office.
  • Prefers to work on a desktop computer from a fixed location than on mobile devices.
  • Relies heavily on productivity suites to communicate with colleagues in and out of the office.
  • Views IT security as a low priority and leaves it to the IT department to deal with. This employee is also only somewhat aware of phishing attacks.

Frontline Fred

  • Works on the frontlines in industries like healthcare, logistics or retail.
  • Works from fixed and specific locations, such as hospitals or retail shops; This employee can’t work remotely.
  • Relies on purpose-built devices and applications, such as medical or courier devices and applications, to work. This employee is not as dependent on personal mobile devices for productivity as other personas.
  • Realizes that IT security is essential to enabling productivity. This employee can’t afford to have any device or application down time, given the specialist nature of their work.

“With more employees leveraging mobile devices to stay productive and work from anywhere than ever before, organizations need adopt a zero trust security approach to ensure that only trusted devices, apps, and users can access enterprise resources,” continued Foster.

“Organizations also need to bolster their mobile threat defenses, as cybercriminals are increasingly targeting text and SMS messages, social media, productivity, and messaging apps that enable link sharing with phishing attacks.

“To prevent unauthorized access to corporate data, organizations need to provide seamless anti-phishing technical controls that go beyond corporate email, to keep users secure wherever they work, on all of the devices they use to access those resources.”

Europol analyzes latest trends, cybercrime impact within the EU and beyond

The global COVID-19 pandemic that hit every corner of the world forced us to reimagine our societies and reinvent the way we work and live. The Europol IOCTA 2020 cybercrime report takes a look at this evolving threat landscape.

europol IOCTA 2020

Although this crisis showed us how criminals actively take advantage of society at its most vulnerable, this opportunistic behavior should not overshadow the overall threat landscape. In many cases, COVID-19 has enhanced existing problems.

Europol IOCTA 2020

Social engineering and phishing remain an effective threat to enable other types of cybercrime. Criminals use innovative methods to increase the volume and sophistication of their attacks, and inexperienced cybercriminals can carry out phishing campaigns more easily through crime as-a-service.

Criminals quickly exploited the pandemic to attack vulnerable people; phishing, online scams and the spread of fake news became an ideal strategy for cybercriminals seeking to sell items they claim will prevent or cure COVID-19.

Encryption continues to be a clear feature of an increasing number of services and tools. One of the principal challenges for law enforcement is how to access and gather relevant data for criminal investigations.

The value of being able to access data of criminal communication on an encrypted network is perhaps the most effective illustration of how encrypted data can provide law enforcement with crucial leads beyond the area of cybercrime.

Malware reigns supreme

Ransomware attacks have become more sophisticated, targeting specific organizations in the public and private sector through victim reconnaissance. While the pandemic has triggered an increase in cybercrime, ransomware attacks were targeting the healthcare industry long before the crisis.

Moreover, criminals have included another layer to their ransomware attacks by threatening to auction off the comprised data, increasing the pressure on the victims to pay the ransom.

Advanced forms of malware are a top threat in the EU: criminals have transformed some traditional banking Trojans into modular malware to cover more PC digital fingerprints, which are later sold for different needs.

Child sexual abuse material continues to increase

The main threats related to online child abuse exploitation have remained stable in recent years, however detection of online child sexual abuse material saw a sharp spike at the peak of the COVID-19 crisis.

Offenders keep using a number of ways to hide this horrifying crime, such as P2P networks, social networking platforms and using encrypted communications applications.

Dark web communities and forums are meeting places where participation is structured with affiliation rules to promote individuals based on their contribution to the community, which they do by recording and posting their abuse of children, encouraging others to do the same.

Livestream of child abuse continues to increase, becoming even more popular than usual during the COVID-19 crisis when travel restrictions prevented offenders from physically abusing children. In some cases, video chat applications in payment systems are used which becomes one of the key challenges for law enforcement as this material is not recorded.

Payment fraud: SIM swapping a new trend

SIM swapping, which allows perpetrators to take over accounts, is one of the new trends. As a type of account takeover, SIM swapping provides criminals access to sensitive user accounts.

Criminals fraudulently swap or port victims’ SIMs to one in the criminals’ possession in order to intercept the one-time password step of the authentication process.

Criminal abuse of the dark web

In 2019 and early 2020 there was a high level of volatility on the dark web. The lifecycle of dark web market places has shortened and there is no clear dominant market that has risen over the past year.

Tor remains the preferred infrastructure, however criminals have started to use other privacy-focused, decentralized marketplace platforms to sell their illegal goods. Although this is not a new phenomenon, these sorts of platforms have started to increase over the last year.

OpenBazaar is noteworthy, as certain threats have emerged on the platform over the past year such as COVID-19-related items during the pandemic.

VP for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, who is leading the European Commission’s work on the European Security Union, said: “Cybercrime is a hard reality. While the digital transformation of our societies evolves, so does cybercrime which is becoming more present and sophisticated.

“We will spare no efforts to further enhance our cybersecurity and step up law enforcement capabilities to fight against these evolving threats.”

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said: “The Coronavirus Pandemic has slowed many aspects of our normal lives. But it has unfortunately accelerated online criminal activity. Organised Crime exploits the vulnerable, be it the newly unemployed, exposed businesses, or, worst of all, children.

“The Europol IOCTA 2020 cybercrime report shows the urgent need for the EU to step up the fight against organised crime [online] and confirms the essential role of Europol in that fight”.

37% of remote employees have no security restrictions on corporate devices

ManageEngine unveiled findings from a report that analyzes behaviors related to personal and professional online usage patterns.

security restrictions devices

Security restrictions on corporate devices

The report combines a series of surveys conducted among nearly 1,500 employees amid the pandemic as many people were accelerating online usage due to remote work and stay-at-home orders. The findings evaluate users’ web browsing habits, opinions about AI-based recommendations, and experiences with chatbot-based customer service.

“This research illuminates the challenges of unsupervised employee behaviors, and the need for behavioral analytics tools to help ensure business security and productivity,” said Rajesh Ganesan, vice president at ManageEngine.

“While IT teams have played a crucial role in supporting remote work and business continuity during the pandemic, now is an important time to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of current strategies and augment data analytics to IT operations that will help sustain seamless, secure operations.”

Risky online behaviors could compromise corporate data and devices

63% of respondents report that their organization has provided them with a corporate device to utilize while working remotely.

Interestingly, 37% of those respondents also say that there are no security restrictions on these corporate devices. Therefore, risky online activities such as visiting unsecured websites, sharing personal information, and downloading third-party software could pose potential threats.

For example, 54% said they would still visit a website after receiving a warning about potential insecurities. This percentage is also significantly higher among younger generations – including 42% of people 18-24 years and 40% of 25-34 years.

Remote work has its hiccups, but IT teams have been responsive

79% of respondents say they experience at least one technology issue weekly while working from home. The most common issues include slowed functionality and download speeds (40%) and reliable connectivity (25%).

However, IT teams have been committed to solving these challenges. For example, 75% of respondents say it’s been easy to communicate with their IT teams to resolve these issues. Chatbots, AI, and automation are becoming increasingly more effective and trusted.

76% said their experience with chatbot-based support has been “excellent” or “satisfactory,” and 55% said their issue was resolved in a timely manner. As it relates to artificial intelligence, 67% say they trust these solutions to make recommendations for them.

The increasing comfort with automation technologies can help IT teams support both front and back-end business functions, especially during times of increased online activities due to the pandemic.

Is IoT vital for the future success of businesses?

Vodafone Business launched a report focused on the impact IoT is having on businesses at a time when their digital capabilities are put to the test by the COVID-19 pandemic.

IoT business success

The report features responses from 1,639 businesses globally, exploring how they are using IoT and how IoT is helping them be ready for the future.

IoT has made the difference for business success

The pandemic has forced almost all businesses to change their working practices and priorities in a matter of weeks, with the findings showing 77% of adopters increased the pace of IoT projects during this time.

Adopters clearly believe IoT was vital to keep them going: 84% said the technology was key to maintaining business continuity during the pandemic. As a result, 84% of adopters now view the integration of IoT devices with workers as a higher priority and 73% of businesses considering IoT agree the pandemic will accelerate their adoption plans.

IoT is key to improving business performance

The research findings are clear: IoT continues to generate value and ROI for adopters and 87% agree their core business strategy has changed for the better as a result of adopting IoT.

95% say they have achieved a return on investment and 55% of adopters have seen operating costs decrease by an average of 21%.

From improving operational efficiency to creating new connected products and services, key benefits of IoT deployments include boosted employee productivity (49%) and improved customer experience (59%).

Data is the key to future readiness

You can’t manage what you can’t measure. IoT data is becoming essential to support businesses’ decision-making (59%) and 84% of adopters think they can do things they couldn’t do before thanks to IoT. And IoT data is also helping 84% of businesses meet their sustainability goals.

IoT benefits clearly outweigh the risks

Businesses see IoT as an essential element of being future ready. So much so that 73% say that organisations who have failed to embrace IoT will have fallen behind within five years.

While cybersecurity was one of the main barriers to business’ willingness to adopt IoT in previous years, the IoT Spotlight 2020 sees the concerns significantly reducing, with only 18% of businesses seeing it as one of the top-three barriers to IoT adoption.

This, coupled with the improvements in brand differentiation and competitiveness (43%) showed by mature adopters of IoT, proves businesses that embrace this technology believe the opportunities IoT offers businesses greatly outweigh the challenges of implementation.

Erik Brenneis, Internet of Things Director at Vodafone Business said: “IoT has grown up. It’s no longer just about increasing return on investment or providing cost savings to businesses: it’s changing the way they think and operate. And it’s giving them an opportunity to re-design their operations and future-proof their business model. This research proves IoT is an essential technology for businesses that want to be resilient, more flexible and quicker to adapt and react to change.”

Inadequate skills and employee burnout are the biggest barriers to digital transformation

Nearly six in ten organizations have accelerated their digital transformation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an IBM study of global C-suite executives revealed.

barriers digital transformation

Top priorities are shifting dramatically as executives plan for an uncertain future

Digital transformation barriers

Traditional and perceived barriers like technology immaturity and employee opposition to change have fallen away – in fact, 66% of executives surveyed said they have completed initiatives that previously encountered resistance.

Participating businesses are seeing more clearly the critical role people play in driving their ongoing transformation. Leaders surveyed called out organizational complexity, inadequate skills and employee burnout as the biggest hurdles to overcome – both today and in the next two years.

The study finds a significant disconnect in how effective leaders and employees believe companies have been in addressing these gaps. 74% of executives surveyed believe they have been helping their employees learn the skills needed to work in a new way, just 38% of employees surveyed agree.

80% of executives surveyed say that they are supporting the physical and emotional health of their workforce, while just 46% of employees surveyed feel that support.

The study which includes input from more than 3,800 C-suite executives in 20 countries and 22 industries, shows that executives surveyed are facing a proliferation of initiatives due to the pandemic and having difficulty focusing, but do plan to prioritize internal and operational capabilities such as workforce skills and flexibility – critical areas to address in order to jumpstart progress.

“For many the pandemic has knocked down previous barriers to digital transformation, and leaders are increasingly relying on technology for mission-critical aspects of their enterprise operations,” said Mark Foster, senior vice president, IBM Services.

“But looking ahead, leaders need to redouble their focus on their people as well as the workflows and technology infrastructure that enable them – we can’t underestimate the power of empathetic leadership to drive employees’ confidence, effectiveness and well-being amid disruption.”

The study reveals three proactive steps that emerging leaders surveyed are taking to survive and thrive.

Improving operational scalability and flexibility

The ongoing disruption of the pandemic has shown how important it can be for businesses to be built for change. Many executives are facing demand fluctuations, new challenges to support employees working remotely and requirements to cut costs.

In addition, the study reveals that the majority of organizations are making permanent changes to their organizational strategy. For instance, 94% of executives surveyed plan to participate in platform-based business models by 2022, and many reported they will increase participation in ecosystems and partner networks.

Executing these new strategies may require a more scalable and flexible IT infrastructure. Executives are already anticipating this: the survey showed respondents plan a 20 percentage point increase in prioritization of cloud technology in the next two years.

What’s more, executives surveyed plan to move more of their business functions to the cloud over the next two years, with customer engagement and marketing being the top two cloudified functions.

Applying AI and automation to help make workflows more intelligent

COVID-19 has disrupted critical workflows and processes at the heart of many organizations’ core operations. Technologies like AI, automation and cybersecurity that could help make workflows more intelligent, responsive and secure are increasing in priority across the board for responding global executives. Over the next two years, the report finds:

  • Prioritization of AI technology will increase by 20 percentage points
  • 60% of executives surveyed say they have accelerated process automation, and many will increasingly apply automation across all business functions
  • 76% of executives surveyed plan to prioritize cybersecurity – twice as many as deploy the technology today.

As executives increasingly invest in cloud, AI, automation and other exponential technologies, leaders should keep in mind the users of that technology – their people. These digital tools should enable a positive employee experience by design, and support people’s innovation and productivity.

barriers digital transformation

COVID-19 created a sense of urgency around digital transformation

Leading, engaging and enabling the workforce in new ways

The study showed placing a renewed focus on people may be critical amid the COVID-19 pandemic while many employees are working outside of traditional offices and dealing with heightened personal stress and uncertainty.

Ongoing IBV consumer research has shown that the expectations employees have of their employers have shifted amidst the pandemic – employees now expect that their employers will take an active role in supporting their physical and emotional health as well as the skills they need to work in new ways.

To address this gap, executives should place deeper focus on their people, putting employees’ end-to-end well-being first. Empathetic leaders who encourage personal accountability and support employees to work in self-directed squads that apply design thinking, Agile principles and DevOps tools and techniques can be beneficial.

Organizations should also think about adopting a holistic, multi-modal model of skills development to help employees develop both the behavioral and technical skills required to work in the new normal and foster a culture of continuous learning.

Is passwordless authentication actually the future?

While passwords may not be going away completely, 92 percent of respondents believe passwordless authentication is the future of their organization, according to a LastPass survey.

passwordless authentication

Passwordless authentication reduces password related risks by enabling users to login to devices and applications without the need to type in a password.

Technologies such as biometric authentication, single-sign-on (SSO) and federated identity streamline the user experience for employees within an organization, while still maintaining a high level of security and complete control for IT and security teams.

Organizations still have a password problem

Problems with passwords are still an ongoing struggle for organizations. The amount of time that IT teams spend managing users’ password and login information has increased year over year.

In fact, those surveyed suggest that weekly time spent managing users’ passwords has increased 25 percent since 2019. Given this, 85 percent of IT and security professionals agree that their organization should look to reduce the number of passwords that individuals use on a daily basis.

Additionally, 95 percent respondents surveyed say there are risks to using passwords which could contribute to threats in their organization, notably human behaviors like password reuse or password weakness.

Security priorities are at odds with user experience

When it comes to managing an organization, security is a core challenge for IT teams. However, it is the lack of convenience and ease of use that employees care about. Security is the main source of frustration for the IT department, particularly when issues are often derived from user behavior when managing passwords.

The top three frustrations for IT teams include users using the same password across applications (54 percent), users forgetting passwords (49 percent) and time spent on password management (45 percent).

For employees, the issues lie in convenience. Their top three frustrations are changing passwords regularly (56 percent), remembering multiple passwords (54 percent) and typing long, complex passwords (49 percent).

Primary benefits of passwordless authentication

Better security (69 percent) and eliminating password related risk (58 percent) are believed by respondents to be the top benefits of deploying a passwordless authentication model for their organization’s IT infrastructure. Time (54 percent) and cost (48 percent) savings are also noted benefits of going passwordless.

Meanwhile, for employees a passwordless authentication model would help to address efficiency concerns. 53 percent of respondents report that passwordless authentication offers the potential to provide convenient access from anywhere, which is key given the shift towards remote work that is likely here to stay.

Top challenges of passwordless deployment

While going passwordless can provide a more secure authentication method, there are challenges in the deployment of a passwordless model.

Respondents report the initial financial investment required to migrate to such solutions (43 percent), the regulations around the storage of the data required (41 percent) and the initial time required to migrate to new types of methods (40 percent) as the biggest challenges for their organization to overcome.

There are also some concerns around resistance to change. Three quarters of IT and security professionals (72 percent) think that end users in their organization would prefer to continue using passwords, as it is what they are used to.

passwordless authentication

Passwords are not going away completely

When it comes to identity and access management, 85 percent do not think passwords are going away completely. Yet, 92 percent of respondents believe that delivering a passwordless experience for end-users is the future for their organization.

There is a clear need to find a solution that combines passwordless authentication and password management in today’s organizations.

“As many organizations transition to a long-term remote work culture, giving your employees the tools and resources to be secure online in their personal lives as well as in the home office is more important now than ever,” said Gerald Beuchelt, CISO at LogMeIn.

“This report shows the continued challenge that organizations face with password security and the need for a passwordless authentication solution to enable both IT teams and employees to operate more efficiently and securely in this changing environment.”