Is it time for cybersecurity to be seen as less of a burden and more of a business enabler?

Terry Greer-King

Is it time for cybersecurity to be seen as less of a burden and more of a business enabler?

If you ask most business owners, they’ll tell you that they see IT Security in a similar way to paying a visit to the dentist - potentially painful, highly intrusive, but you’ll regret avoiding it in the long term.

In a recent Cisco survey, 74% of respondents said that the main purpose of cyber security was to mitigate risk, instead of enabling growth.

Reducing risk is of course a huge part of it.  You need to work out what ‘risk’ actually means in your specific business (i.e. where can data breaches happen, where might there be a lack of compliance, how do we know if there’s use of unauthorised software…).  Any good security partner will sit with you in these key stakeholder meetings, and help you build a security infrastructure that is specifically tailored to your company.

However, the consensus seems to be that IT Security, although helping you reduce risk, remains the corkscrew for business innovation.  Some questions you may be familiar with:

“It’s a great idea, but surely that gives us a Security headache?”

“I’d love to empower our employees to do that, but then again we’d be opening ourselves up to potential misuse.”

Many ideas have the Security ‘fire extinguisher’ blasted on them before they’ve had a chance to really catch on.  So you end up with the plateauing answer of, “Let’s just do what we’ve always done.  We know it’s safe.”

In fact, 39% of our survey respondents said that they had actually halted ‘mission critical’ initiatives due to cyber security concerns.

This viewpoint can certainly be understood when you look at the escalating sophistication and targeting of cyber attacks.  According to a recent article in Forbes, “Corporate and home computers have been hit with an average of 4,000 ransomware attacks every day this year, a 300% increase over 2015.”

However, it’s not just cyber criminals who are the main threat to your business.  In five years time, 4 out of the top 10 market leaders are said to be likely displaced by innovative start ups which have been fuelled by digital ingredients.  A well know taxi company and an at-home movie streaming service spring to mind…

So, how do you grow and innovate whilst protecting yourselves from the bad guys?

You make IT Security part and parcel of your ideas.  If it’s done right, Security will be baked into your infrastructure rather than being the condiment that sit on top.  Have you ever tried putting vinegar on top of your fruit salad? It’s not for everyone…

We’re turning a corner with IT Security. Historically, if you had a weakness in your business, you’d buy a box to deal with it.  If you had a big weakness, you’d buy a big box.  This sort of reactive behaviour has caused many businesses massive headaches, because their infrastructures are so complex, with many small holes which hackers love to exploit.

At Cisco, we believe IT Security can and should be a business enabler.  Take for example the bullet train in Japan.  An amazing feat of engineering, with awe inspiring speed.  But it didn’t get to be the fastest train in the world because of aerodynamic seating or go faster racing stripes.  It got to be the fastest because it has a well thought out braking strategy which doesn’t drag on the train’s performance.

We’ve taken a similar approach to the way we help our customers look at their IT Security strategies, and the way we’ve built our extremely comprehensive Security portfolio.  It’s about making your users’ lives better; not hindered by Security road blocks.

The key to it all is visibility; you have to know what’s going on in your networks.  We’re helping businesses to predict attacks before they happen, learning from historical attacks, and putting an action plan in place to prevent it.  It’s the most significant change to enterprise networking ever, and I’m proud to say we’re leading the charge on this.

IT Security isn’t just a ‘cost of business’ anymore, known for stifling innovation initiatives.  This time, it’s about driving them.