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The Problem of Security in Digital Transformation

Discuss about the Digital Migration Security Challenges.

businesses and organizations have been compelled to adapt to changes in technology and the business environment in order adapt, improve its processes and systems, serve customers better, and reduce optimize costs. This is necessitated by a business environment that has become increasingly competitive where firms must adapt or go bust. One of the ways in which organizations adapt and change is through digital transformation ('i-Scoop', 2015). Digital transformation entails the transformation of the organizational activities within a business where the competencies, processes, and models as well as activities are profoundly transformed in order to leverage the opportunities and changes afforded by a combination of digital technologies and their impact that are sped-up across the organization and the society in general in a manner that is prioritized and strategic, bearing in mind present and future shifts (Mazzone, 2014), . While digital transformation has several benefits for a business, it has some challenges and problems, and among the most common and profound ones is  security problems, for instance when migrating to the cloud. This paper discusses security woes as a major problem in the digital transformation theme, using the rich picture model.

According to DeNisco (2017), research indicates that more than half (55%) of firms allude to security being their biggest challenge with respect to digital transformation. Yet digital transformation is almost an obligation for most businesses. The causal loop diagram below illustrates how security is a challenge in digital transformation;

The security risks are diverse with different levels of risk as well as sources/ causes; broadly, security risks are either internal or external. Internal security risks are those due to human factors (mostly), from within the organization and include acts of human omission or commission. External security risks are those caused by players external to the organization, and are usually deliberate or sometimes unintended risks. Looking at internal security challenges in digital migration, there are various challenges including intentional and unintentional security challenges (Che, Duan, Zhang & Fan, 2011). Intentional security challenges internal to the organization include theft or information and data either due to malice of financial gain, intentional deletion, modification, or editing of information, and intentionally leaving back-doors in ICT systems to enable external attackers exploit the organizations’ ICT resources. Other intentional acts include unauthorized access to information. Another internal security challenge is due to organizational culture in which there are no plans and effective change management strategies to ensure a smooth migration (Eriksson 7 Rhinard, 2009). For instance, these include poor risk management, lack of planning, and not having a backup and fail safe approach to transformation. Poor management of risks during the digital migration phase is a major security risk; there is potential for data loss. This is because migrating resources to a digital format or from one format to another (such as cloud computing) can lead to data being converted into formats that are not readable or easily usable. Migrating records between different systems for records management or different cloud service providers can lead to loss of digital continuity. The initial reason to migrate data or migrate to a digital platform such as the cloud could be achieve data security; however, this is fraught with risks that must carefully be managed. There is also a risk of migration time as it can take weeks or even months, if the data volumes are too large. Failure to properly backup to have a copy of that data, on the assumption that the migration will be successful and take a short time will adversely affect operations. This is because the organization will not be able to access and/ or use the data during the period of migration, resulting in downtime, severely affecting operations. Compatibility is also a significant security risk during migration as files are at risk of being corrupted and rendered unusable when applications are incompatible, especially between different cloud service providers (Aleem & Sprott 2013), (Barateiro, Antunes, Freitas & Borbinha, 2010). Unintentional internal security challenges include accidental deletion, modification, or editing of data by staff, such as information resident on company servers or cloud information.  Another unintentional risk includes using applications that do not serve the purposes of the organization are are ill-suited for the company’s digital migration objectives. This extends to using cloud service providers without understanding the impact of such a move with regard to data security, accessibility, and data loss. External security threats to digital migration include malicious attacks to data or company systems; when companies migrate or are migrating to a digital environment, they seldom have the right security experience. As such, systems are designed without requisite security measures including backups, using antimalware software, and implementing firewalls. Another security risk is the concept of employees coming to work with their own devices; if they have machines infected with malware, these will automatically be installed into the organizations’ network and cause adverse effects such as data deletion, data theft, or denial of access as in ransomware attacks. In modern times, digital migration has often entailed cloud computing where organizations use applications that can be accessed on the go. These applications are implemented with single sign on (SSO) features, that amplify threats in terms of being hacked/ compromised or accidental mistakes that result in hackers gaining access to organization ICT resources, including those at the cloud. Organizations also face challenges from malicious cyber attacks, that include denial of service (DoS) and distributed denial of service attacks (DdoS), spamming, malware, and  data/ identity theft. Further, external security risks in digital migration relate to service and application/ software providers, such as using cloud providers without alternate geographically distributed backups and data centers, so that a disaster on their data center can lead to an organization loosing its data. Other security risks are due to the complexity of data and device ownership, for instance cloud computing and devices that read credit cards; the organization owns the data, but another firm owns the devices that read and process payments, while the information belongs to the customer. Cloud services entail the organization handing over its data and with it, total control over its data and other ICT resources to third parties. The organization can use more than a single cloud services provider, which multiplies the risk in the event that the data is breached. However, using multiple service providers for cloud security is a ‘double edged sword’ since it provides an additional security feature in terms of backups. A breach at any level will adversely impact the entire ecosystem (Tassev, 2017)

Current trends in mitigating/ managing security problems in digital migration

The first step is to ensure digital migration planning and management that is effective in which the organization sensitizes the migration plan, involving all employees. Internal risks can be mitigated through education and sensitization as well as implementing strong security measures to protect data, including data encryption, strong and controlled access and authentication, implementing and updating firewalls, antimalware software, and firmware, and securing network access points including routers. Network access points such as routers, especially wireless routers, are easy targets for cyber exploitation if security measures are not undertaken. These should be encrypted, with encrypted passwords and the firmware updated to ‘harden’ network security. Given the high risk of internal threats, data access should be limited and strong, possibly two step authentication used to regulate and restrict access. For cloud migration, firms must ensure the service providers have security measures including data encryption and geographically dispersed data center backups, in addition to virtual backups (Barateiro, Antunes, Freitas & Borbinha, 2010). Organizations must also employ the services of consultants to ensure the software, applications, and hardware to be acquired are suitable for the purposes of the organizations. External threats can be neutralized using network monitoring tools to detect malicious activity. Further, strong and tested APIs should be used to improve security on the network edge (Islam, Fenz, Weippl & Mouratidis, 2017). Mitigation measures during migration include hiring consultants or data management (and recovery) firms to manage the migration, starting with creating a copy/ backup of all the data/ ICT resources, including with virtualization to ensue availability during migration and provide a backup in case of data loss/ corruption.

Conclusion

Digital migration is a common practice among organizations but which has its problems, a major one being security challenges. Security problems in digital migration can be internal or external and either intentional (such as data theft, hacking and data loss) or unintentional (such as mistaken data deletion and lost encryption keys). Mitigation measures include effective planning in digital migration, implementing strong policies and measures, and acquiring hardware and software resources that suit the needs of the organization.

References

Aleem, A., & Sprott, C. (2013). Let me in the cloud: analysis of the benefit and risk assessment of cloud platform. JOURNAL OF FINANCIAL CRIME. 20, 6-24.

Barateiro, J., Antunes, G., Freitas, F., & Borbinha, J. (2010). Designing Digital Preservation Solutions: A Risk Management-Based Approach. International Journal Of Digital Curation, 5(1), 4-17. https://dx.doi.org/10.2218/ijdc.v5i1.140

Che, J., Duan, Y., Zhang, T., & Fan, J. (2011). Study on the Security Models and Strategies of Cloud Computing. Procedia Engineering. 23, 586-593.

DeNisco, A. (2017). Report: 55% of companies say security is biggest digital transformation challenge. TechRepublic. Retrieved 2 September 2017, from https://www.techrepublic.com/article/report-55-of-companies-say-security-is-biggest-digital-transformation-challenge/

Eriksson, J., & Rhinard, M. (2009). The Internal-External Security Nexus: Notes on an Emerging Research Agenda. Cooperation And Conflict. 44, 243-267.

Islam, S., Fenz, S., Weippl, E., & Mouratidis, H. (2017). A Risk Management Framework for Cloud Migration Decision Support. Journal of Risk and Financial Management. 10, 10.

'i-Scoop'. (2015). Digital transformation: online guide to digital transformation. i-SCOOP. Retrieved 2 September 2017, from https://www.i-scoop.eu/digital-transformation/

Mazzone, D. (2014). Digital or death: digital transformation - the only choice for business to survive, smash or conquer. [s.l.], Smashbox Consulting.

Tassev, S. (2017). Migrating to a digitised environment? Consider the security risk | IT News Africa – Africa's Technology News Leader. Itnewsafrica.com. Retrieved 2 September 2017, from https://www.itnewsafrica.com/2017/08/migrating-to-a-digitised-environment-consider-the-security-risk/

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