Cybersecurity as a strategic asset for business growth

It’s tempting to treat cybersecurity as a necessary evil, but if done right it doesn’t have to be.
11 May 2022

Cybersecurity, when executed correctly, can be an enabler and a service center, rather than a cost center for the business. (Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP)

Keeping sensitive data private and secure has never been more important. For decades, businesses have had to ward off bad actors trying to access or disrupt sensitive data. It seems no business is safe either these days, with Fortune 100 companies such as Coca-Cola investigating an alleged data breach and ransomware attack at the time of writing.

At best, cyberattacks damage a company’s brand and produce a need to issue formal statements in the media. At worst, serious business-critical data can end up in the wrong hands, and businesses can collapse due to the cost of recovery from the breach. As such, cybersecurity has become an existential issue for organizations, and it’s tempting to treat it as a necessary evil, but if done right it doesn’t have to be. It can, in fact, greatly encourage business growth.

Cybersecurity is a strategic asset

The average cost to a company, to recover from a cyber breach today, is US$3 million. Worst yet, the impact on a company’s sales revenue can be hard to quantify, as it can impact their brand and reputation, the loyalty of their customers, as well as potential legal and regulatory exposure that must be managed.

But cybersecurity, when executed correctly, can very much be an enabler — and be a service center, rather than a cost center for the business. With a solid security strategy and investment, it essentially becomes a strategic asset that will drive competitive advantage. Having a strong cybersecurity foundation ensures that the company’s business operations are healthy, helps spur innovation, and builds solid customer loyalty and trust, all of which subsequently positively impact the company’s reputation and brand. In other words, it will strongly enable the organization in achieving its strategic objectives. Reducing overall financial and risk exposure, and being more resilient to a cyberattack, means that there will essentially be no downtime for the business, and operations can continue unabated.

Cybersecurity fosters business innovation

Rather than constantly saying no to one’s internal business partners, who are trying to rapidly innovate and move competitive products to market, it’s crucial to understand what they are trying to accomplish, and then go about supporting them in achieving these goals in a secure manner. The goal is to offer seamless security-as-a-service to the people that are developing the actual products and services so that it doesn’t slow down the development cycle. Instead, it should encourage them to experiment with innovative approaches to product development. These individuals can now be confident that the data they’re working with remains truly protected. They know they are not introducing new risks to the network or the product, as a result of their desire to try new tools and processes.

Many of today’s cybersecurity solutions involve cutting-edge technologies, such as innovative cloud solutions, identity & access management, zero trust architecture, etc. Operating one’s business in a modern cloud environment, utilizing state-of-the-art technologies that offer solid security features, allows the business to innovate and grow. They can operate at a more efficient scale, and at the same time ensure the organization achieves its strategic goals, enjoys cost savings in the long run, and protects its critical assets and data.

Treating customer data like digital gold

Because companies are collecting, processing, and storing large volumes of consumer data today, it is vital for the business to have a ‘data-centric view’ of security and privacy, with respect to how they build their security program. There must be a paradigm shift to treat the data they store and process as pure digital gold, and data as the new ‘network perimeter’ to protect. They must be laser-focused on this data, specifically on who has access to it, what they are allowed to access, where to store it, and how to protect it securely. Protecting one’s critical assets and data in such a manner positions the company as a market leader in security, and builds its reputation as one that viscerally cares for the security and privacy of its customer data.

Simply put, those companies that can demonstrate leadership in protecting customers’ data (ideally through a security and privacy-by-design approach) will gain a distinct advantage over their competitors. Data should be seen as an invaluable asset and should be protected at all costs. Customers today are increasingly making it very clear that the security and privacy of their data are paramount to who they conduct business with, and to whom they entrust their most prized data assets. As such, cybersecurity becomes a key factor in companies gaining the trust and loyalty of their customers, which in turn means the business can grow and become more successful.

The bottom line: putting your customers first, and making sure they know you value the privacy and security of their data above all, will ensure repeat business year after year.

Cybersecurity educates employees on business risks

A final important factor for businesses to consider is having close relationships with all remote employees vis-a-vis security awareness. It is imperative to discuss and debate security topics to bring as much awareness to the various methods that hackers can socially engineer at home and on their corporate network. Businesses must create a culture such that all of their employees feel free to bring up a question or topic about a security issue or current event. The more it is discussed internally, the stronger the corporate security posture, and the more resilient the business becomes to cyberattacks.

Security awareness must be embedded into company culture, so much so that it is interesting and engaging for all employees because all it takes is one click on the wrong link, and it could be game over for a company. By baking security into the culture of the company, it empowers and assures employees that they can work safely, and can think freely and innovate, which ultimately fosters products and services that incorporate security and privacy by design.






Article contributed by Reza Zaheri, Chief Information Security Officer of Quantum Metric