cyber security threats

For different regions in the world, digital transformation brings different opportunities and challenges. In the Benelux, organizations regard improving the efficiency of business processes, making innovations tangible within the organization and enhancing the customer experience as valuable opportunities of digital transformation. One of the biggest challenges is securing data and systems during and after the migration. This in turn creates opportunities for security vendors and service providers. They can offer better, and fitting, solutions by understanding the specific security issues surrounding digital transformation that keep Benelux managers awake at night.

By Karianne Hoekstra, Code Red Benelux

The Society of Dutch Speaking SAP Users (Vereniging Nederlandstalige SAP Gebruikers, VNSG) published a research paper with findings of an inquiry among its members about the consequences, opportunities and challenges of IT Trends such as digital transformation, IoT, security, artificial intelligence and machine learning, blockchain and innovation.

An important finding is that security plays an essential role in the digital transformation and development of innovative solutions with artificial intelligence / machine learning, blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT). Almost daily, attacks by cybercriminals, data leaks and privacy abuses make headlines. Furthermore, in May 2018, the GDPR came into effect, and many organizations still struggle to comply with it, even today. Securing data and systems has become paramount.

Companies in the Benelux are well aware of the importance of security measures. At the same time, they do not want employees to be overly burdened by excessively rigid procedures. Therefore, security vendors should have a clear picture of how Benelux organizations deal will this delicate balancing act.

Weakest link
Over 60 percent of the participants in the VNSG IT Trend Report 2018 says that security awareness is high within their entire organization. The remaining 40 percent states that, although security has priority in the IT department, it receives very little attention in the rest of the organization. That is cause for concern. Every day, new vulnerabilities are found in hardware and software and standard measures must be adequate to keep intruders out.

Negligent human behavior creates many gaps and vulnerabilities in the technical infrastructure. Cyber criminals are always looking for the weakest link and this is often found in human behavior. Current phishing mails are very convincing and an erroneous click is easily made. Many employees are not prepared to recognize or prevent social engineering attempts.

In the Benelux, there is a great variation in knowledge levels regarding security. Financial institutions, large online shops and utility companies feature will equipped security divisions and often appoint a CISO. However, in the Benelux, over 90 percent of businesses fall within the definition of SME, employing less than 250 people. This is a large segment, with almost 1,4 million business, where security knowledge and resources are often lacking. This segment can only be reached and serviced by a partner network. Security vendors therefore must attract and train channel partners to create awareness within these organization.

Data management and security converge
Partners can also play a valuable part in the convergence of information management and security. By representing both fields, they can respond to another cause of security concerns: the rise of big data. The issues, among others, are authorization: who can access what data and what are people allowed to do with it? Big data enters the organization at many new access points, largely due to IoT applications. How secure are these access points? Finally, many organizations worry about removing data. What if it is needed for a legal dispute later on? What if, at some point, it can be used for valuable analyses? Organizations require insights in both the content and the security of data and data streams.

Managed security service providers
More than half of the respondents (52%) think data security is the biggest challenge, followed by the (lack of) abilities offered by software vendors to implement measures in daily operations (11%) and complying with laws and regulations (11%).

For software vendors, this lays bare a thorny issue: what do users expect from a software vendor in regard to threats? Respondents were able to provide multiple answers to this question and it turns out that they mostly expect software to be well secured (76%). In addition, more than half of the respondents (58%) expect a proactive stance from their vendor. Over 30 percent of them even takes it for granted that a software vendor fully services the security of the user organization. This outcome in part explains the rising popularity of managed security service providers. Security vendors should seek partnerships with these MSSPs to strengthen their position in the Benelux marketspace.

More with less
At the end of the day, Benelux organizations want security to keep in step with the innovations they implement. This continues to be challenging, especially because of budget constraints and a constant call to do more with less means.

As the expression ‘going Dutch’ underscores, the Dutch are internationally known for being frugal. “Who invented copper wire? Two Dutchmen fighting for a penny” is a common joke shared by the other Benelux parties. Security vendors targeting the Benelux market must keep in mind winning over Dutch investments is largely based on convincing returns.
It helps if security vendors show management that an organization can distinguish itself with security. Almost 60 percent of the respondents agrees with this statement. This is especially true in sectors with highly business critical data and processes, such as the semiconductor and pharmaceutical industries. Companies that handle consumer data may also win, and maintain, a large customer base with verifiably secure data and processes. This way, security vendors can turn a costly investment into a profitable opportunity.