While digital transformation has been underway for many years now, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic made it an overnight business necessity. As organizations were forced to move their operations and workforces online, it became increasingly clear that the key to surviving and emerging stronger out of the crisis is to go digital. Soon, the “digitize or die” realization gave birth to a new momentum that powered digital innovation, helping organizations create unique customer experiences and unlock new growth opportunities. According to Mckinsey’s Global Survey of Executives, the COVID-19 crisis led to companies adopting digital or digitally enabled products by a whopping seven years in 2020, unlike anything the world has seen before. Today, from financial services to healthcare to power and utilities, organizations across the spectrum are aggressively digitizing their operations to meet evolving market and consumer expectations.
Digital Transformation at Loggerheads with Cybersecurity
While digital is an exciting road to take, it is also important to understand that it’s a cybersecurity nightmare. In the modern IT environment, data, applications, and devices are no longer bound by the confines of corporate premises or data centers. They are ubiquitous, distributed across multiple private and public clouds and the edge. This distributed nature has dissolved the traditional network perimeter, leaving cybersecurity confused. It has become a massive challenge for the security teams to protect distributed digital assets in a perimeter-less environment. On the other hand, cybercriminals have upped their game with new attack tactics. The year 2020 alone witnessed a staggering growth in the number of ransomware, malware, and social engineering attacks. With cybersecurity struggling to adapt and bridge security gaps, digital transformation is falling apart, impacting revenue and business growth.
To reap the full benefits of digital transformation, it is critical for organizations to bring cybersecurity up to speed with digital ambitions. And this requires a new approach to cybersecurity, one that makes it more mobile and adaptable.
Reimagining Cybersecurity for the Digital-First World with Identity-First Security
Identity-first Security is the modern cybersecurity framework built to protect today’s distributed and hybrid digital environments. It moves the security focus from the perimeter to the identity of digital assets. It mandates that all digital assets must authenticate themselves with their identities to be allowed to communicate. This helps organizations secure digital assets regardless of where they are located – data centers, cloud, or the edge. Unlike the traditional approach that is built on implicit trust within the network, identity-first security is built on the zero-trust principle, which is driven by ‘never trust, always verify.’ It verifies every application and device before granting access to communicate, thereby helping detect external and insider threats, as well as eliminate lateral movement of malicious actors inside the network. By placing identity at the heart of cybersecurity, it helps organizations build a security model that is granular, intuitive, and airtight.
Machine Identity Management – The New Cybersecurity Basic
One of the fundamentals of implementing identity-first security is to focus on machine identities. Machine identities are digital certificates that serve as proofs for a machine’s authenticity on a network. These certificates help validate machines’ identities and enable them to securely communicate with other devices and applications on the network through encrypted channels. With valuable data continuously exchanged between applications in cloud environments, containers, IoT, mobile devices, and home networks, it is hyper-critical for organizations to secure this machine-to-machine communication. And this is achieved by protecting and diligently managing machine identities, in other words, digital certificates.
Managing digital certificates typically involves a lifecycle of discovery, monitoring, renewals, revocation, and provisioning. Traditionally, organizations have managed the certificate lifecycle manually through spreadsheets and proprietary software. But manual certificate management has grown increasingly complex in today’s vast digital footprint. With hundreds of thousands of certificates widely distributed across hybrid, multi-cloud, and containerized environments, organizations are struggling to monitor and manage them manually, leading to frequent certificate expirations, application outages, and increased cyber risk. Lack of visibility and centralized management, use of weak crypto standards in certificates, lack of support for multi-cloud and DevOps environments, and human errors in management are leading to flawed certificate management. And this in turn is crippling the implementation of identity-first security and weakening the overall security posture.
Building a robust and reliable certificate lifecycle management system starts with adopting automation. Automation helps organizations take complete control of their digital certificates and enable secure digital communication. By automating certificate management processes, organizations can have complete visibility of certificates across the distributed network, eliminate tedious manual processes, streamline certificate management, enforce uniform policies, improve compliance, and build a strong security posture. By simplifying every aspect of certificate management, automation makes it easy for organizations to implement identity-first security.
As web applications, cloud, container workloads, IoT endpoints, mobile devices, and chatbots, become the order of the day, protecting machine identities becomes a top cybersecurity priority. And the only way to managing the growing deluge of machine identities is through automation.
Building Digital Trust is Key to Achieving Digital Success
We live in a world that is both digital-driven and security-conscious. So, it is not enough to build digital capabilities; businesses must build digital trust to become truly successful. And digital trust must be built on modern, resilient, and sustainable cybersecurity – one that never breaks. Let us not forget what George Westerman said about digital transformation – “When digital transformation is done right, it’s like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, but when done wrong, all you have is a really fast caterpillar.”