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Building digital trust in industry

digital trust

Wariness and scandals related to digital technologies have eroded digital trust at an unprecedented scale, just as reliance on digital technologies is accelerating. Digital trust is vital in supporting the technologies that power our world and for industry failure of trust can seriously undermine confidence in a company’s brand, services and products.

Trust equals money; it is a central pillar of the goodwill that supports the entire asset value of a company. In today’s hi-tech world trust and money will disappear in equal measure should you lose control of your data and the process it powers.

To operate efficiently and to prosper business and industry must have trust in the integrity, reliability and security of digital devices, networks and services as well as trust in the privacy and protection of both personal and commercial information. Trust is essential across all levels of the value chain and, with industry increasingly driven by ‘digital first’ strategies, security is vital in areas such as communication platforms; cloud storage; IoT devices; industrial processes, collaboration, and financial transactions.

Digital first – trust second?

In the race for digital transformation many organisations are struggling to keep up with technology advances. It’s often a case of putting the cart before the horse, believes Jaco Vermeulen, CTO of BML Digital. “Failure of digital trust is driven as much by data security issues as wariness over the use that data is being put to. Many organisations are stuck in the past. They may have invested in technologies years ago and now, in racing to adopt digital transformation, they are embracing new solutions but they’ve overlooked what lies beneath.

“In many organisations it’s still very much a case of manual operations, disconnected processes, keying in data back and forth between things. Nothing’s automated. So whilst the technology is rushing ahead, and those security capabilities are available, all the business can see is buzzwords and they think that AI or robots will fix everything for them.

“Five years ago companies thought they needed to have big data platforms, without actually knowing what it needs to deliver for the business. Today it’s AI, the cloud, machine learning and the metaverse. To build digital trust a fundamental shift is needed and organisations must identify and secure their operating model to ensure they can enable that with the right technology, not just the latest and greatest buzzword trend. Most importantly they must ensure they have the right security foundations in place before moving forward.”

Mitigating risk to secure trust

Securing digital trust starts with an assessment of risk to an organisation’s data and the processes that depend upon it. It’s important for a CISO or CIO to measure and effectively communicate risk to the board of directors using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to measure and provide a comprehensive view of the organisation’s risk landscape.

 “Building data trust is essential for industry and it starts with mitigating risk,” says Rebecca Harper, head of cyber security at ISMS.online. “CISOs can use metrics such as the number of security incidents, cost, and the number of vulnerabilities addressed, as well as industry benchmarks such as ISO 27001 or the Cybersecurity Framework, to measure data-related risk. Using these metrics CISOs can demonstrate the organisation’s performance compared to others in the industry and track critical data such as detected intrusion attempts, incident rates and vulnerability response times.”

Wider issues around digital trust are being taken seriously by leading nations as falling confidence in technology represents a significant threat to the economy. The UK government is currently working to create a ‘digital trust framework’ to oversee digital identity solutions and create a robust accreditation and certification process by which organisations can establish the validity of digital ID and maintain confidence in digital transactions. Leading nations are keen to support new digital trust solutions that will unlock improved user experience in the digital world, increase security and boost economic growth.

“We shouldn’t call it digital trust, we should simply call it trust because everything now has a digital element,” says Mike Hathaway, CPO at Ascertia. “Every business is a digital business and every aspect of a business is digital whether its omni channel or multi channel, your customer or stakeholder can interact with you at any point through a range of communication channels. You build trust by dealing with such transactions consistently across the board. It’s about consistency around how you identify somebody and the privileges that you provide them. Security credentials should flow through the communication process, adjust accordingly and be communicated to the process or transaction, detailing exactly what that transaction is entitled to and what it isn’t.”

Ensuring digital trust requires a combination of technical, organisational and legal measures to protect against cyber threats and breaches as well as ensure compliance with data privacy regulations and standards. A core solution to both ensure and demonstrate digital trust is zero trust network access (ZTNA), a security model that assumes that all network traffic, whether it originates inside or outside of an organisation’s network, is untrusted until it can be verified and authenticated. ZTNA provides secure access to resources, minimises the attack surface and reduces the risk of data breaches. Data security measures are essential but they are only one part of the trust equation.

Digital trust: the human element

A recent report by the UK Information Commissioner’s office revealed a consistent failing in data governance: four fifths of reported data breach notifications are generated by businesses themselves and only one fifth of notifications are criminally generated from things like a phishing, ransomware or denial of service attack. And of the greater four fifths, the vast majority of data breaches are directly related to human error.

“Humans are still the weakest link when it comes to data privacy and security,” says Vermeulen. “The most reported breach categories are things like poor password management, sending personal data or an attachment to the wrong person or verbally disclosing confidential information. So building digital trust starts with training and awareness within a company and you can never have too much of it. It’s important that people across the organisation are well versed in and understand the do’s and don’ts of data security, the processes, protocols and corporate responsibilities involved.”

Digital trust cannot be taken for granted; it must be earned, maintained and promoted as a core value of an organisation. Losing trust will at best undermine and at worst destroy a vital commercial asset: confidence in your ability to run a business.

CTS The industrialisation of IT
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