Can cybersecurity be a competitive edge?

cyber security your competitive advantage

Can cybersecurity be a competitive edge?

In the old days, before organizations became customer-obsessed and held off-site leadership events to drill down on their value proposition, information security was simple. There was the CIO and a few stewards of the air-conditioned server room which was invisible to the non-IT eye. Back then, cybersecurity operated in the shadows and it worked just fine … until it didn’t.

Fast forward to today when cyber security is front and centre for senior leadership, boards, customers and partners. All these stakeholders can tell you what Target is now famous for: a customer data breach that cost the company over $200 million to resolve.

And in an increasingly-competitive business landscape, forward-thinking organizations are integrating information security into business processes to avoid becoming the next cautionary tale on the six o’clock news.

Enough to make organizations WannaCry: Evolving cybersecurity threats

The continuously evolving cybersecurity threats organizations face include malicious security breaches and attacks, accidental breaches initiated from well-intentioned employees and known governmental surveillance. Ironically, as businesses benefit from connected infrastructure networks (think of advances in supply chain management, for example), that connectedness also increases the risk of security threats—because attacks can spread across connected networks so quickly.

CIOs and chief security officers are no longer alone at the table advocating for better privacy and data security measures but there’s still room for improvement. The 2018 Global State of Information Security Survey report found that only 40 per cent of corporate boards participate in their organization’s security strategy.

But perhaps the biggest threat of all is a lingering notion that cyber security is an IT problem. It’s not an IT problem. It’s a business problem. Unfortunately, most business leaders don’t understand the nuts and bolts of data security and digital threats which can make it more difficult to address the issue.

Security specialists may get more traction at the leadership and board level by framing cybersecurity as a competitive edge. That’s not finessing the facts considering that 92 per cent of organizations surveyed through the EY 2018-19 Global Information Security Survey called their information security insufficient. 92 per cent!

Four ways cyber security investment helps organizations gain a competitive edge:

  1.  Reduces compliance risks and fines – Legislation such as the GDPR, HIPAA and PIPEDA affects the way companies do business and fines can be substantial. Did you know that GDPR violations can cost up to $20 million or four per cent annual turnover (whichever is greater)?[iv] Since EU citizens are covered under the GDPR even when they’re out of the EU, international companies can stay on the right side of compliance by using proactive policy-based email encryption measures that automatically apply protection to predetermined groups of users (e.g., EU citizens).
  1. Reduces unnecessary cost – The average cost of a single data breach is $3.6 million (USD).[v] But Target’s breach cost 55 times that much which is why a cybersecurity strategy that protects the downside is so valuable. For example, investing in a flexible encryption platform means encryption can be automated to accommodate any business situation and keep data secure—without any hassle.
  1. Protects the company brand – Inadvertently allowing malicious entities or hackers to access your customers’ personal information is a quick way to reduce or eliminate their trust in you. Imagine how long it will take Equifax to win back the trust of 147 million Americans after the 2017 breach. Investing in proactive cybersecurity measures, like encryption, helps you preserve the fragile relationship that is the reality of digital trust.
  1. Delivers a value proposition for your customers – Your customers may not be able to keep up with the ever-evolving world of cybersecurity, but they expect protection to be a built-in feature of doing business with you. Proactive cybersecurity measures make conducting online business safer and more reliable which saves customers time, streamlines their experience and delivers real value to them.

 

Quick tip: Make your competitive edge easy to use

An information security program likely has multiple lines of defense, including encryption, authorization and data integrity measures, but these systems and processes only work if people use them. We encourage you to implement cybersecurity systems and processes that are easy for employees and customers to use. Because even when cybersecurity is top of mind, most employees and customers won’t be inconvenienced for the sake of security.

By Alex Loo, VP of Operations at Echoworx

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