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Monday, 09 August 2021 13:33

What is keeping Australian CIOs awake at night?

By Fleming Shi, Barracuda
Fleming Shi, Chief Technology Officer, Barracuda Fleming Shi, Chief Technology Officer, Barracuda

GUEST OPINION by Fleming Shi, Chief Technology Officer, Barracuda: With remote working now the norm for many organisations, security is topping the list of concerns for Australian CIOs.

Having the appropriate technology components in place that support ongoing business functionality while also ensuring core applications and data are secure is the critical challenge.

Increasing the scope of this challenge is the ongoing adoption of cloud-based resources. This is because there are key differences between the security that’s required for on-premise resources versus those located in the cloud, and one of the biggest is the increased importance of identity management.

This is because, when resources are cloud based, it’s no longer possible for an IT team to have exclusive control over where data is stored and who has approved access to it. To overcome this, it’s important to synchronise cloud and on-premises directories and deploy a multifactor authentication platform. Having effective password management and tools in place that can monitor for password compromises is another important step.

Increasing use of cloud resources is also changing the mix of skills required by the CIO and IT team. Networks and applications need to be monitored and managed in a different way, which can require additional training or assistance from an external party.

Organisations need to remember that outsourcing resources and data to the cloud does not absolve them of their responsibility to manage it. Care needs to be taken that components such as effective security measures and backup methods are in place and operational.

Ensuring business functionality

CIOs are also concerned about their disaster recovery options.

Events such as the COVID-19 pandemic show the critical importance of having an effective recovery and business continuity plan. Unfortunately, the rapid spread of the pandemic revealed weaknesses in many plans and CIOs are now working hard to plug the gaps.

Achieving disaster recovery within a hybrid cloud environment is significantly more complex than in a fully on-premise infrastructure. In an on-premise situation, the CIO and IT team has full control and knowledge of data and its location.

This control is lost to a degree when cloud resources are added. For this reason, disaster recovery plans should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure they are current and relate to the overall infrastructure as it currently stands.

One approach taken by some CIOs is to conduct a business impact assessment process before a disaster recovery plan is formulated. This will help to identify what systems need to be restored, their priority, and their sequence.

The challenge of protecting data

Another issue causing lost sleep for many CIOs is the challenge of protecting business data at all times. Key factors include effectively identifying all critical data, knowing where it is stored, and understanding who is authorised to access it.

Adopting effective data management practices is even more critical in a cloud environment. This process should start with classifying both structured and unstructured data utilising tools available from cloud providers.

It is also becoming increasingly important to adopt a zero-trust approach when it comes to data protection. Adopting measures such as reviewing API access by various applications and controlling access to data during cloud migration is critical.

Responding to cyberattacks

The challenge of staying ahead of the cyber threat landscape is another area causing lost sleep for CIOs. This comes at a time when growing numbers of organisations are reporting recent cybersecurity breaches.

When contemplating which security protection tools and services to have in place, it is important to consider the risk of insider threats emanating from staff or contractors alongside external threats.

A detailed cyber incident response and risk mitigation plan should be considered essential for all organisations. It is also important that this plan be tested to ensure that it is current and effective.

Another security component that should be in place is a robust communication plan. This will ensure that clear communication occurs to staff, customers and partners should a breach occur. Several channels of communication are required to be available in case the main channels such as email, are compromised.

Security challenges are many and varied but often remain consistent across different sectors of business. By understanding common issues, and taking steps to mitigate them, CIOs can be more confident of success – and enjoy a better night’s rest.

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