July 08, 2020

Quarantine prompted business digitalization: what lessons we have learned and how we will protect our information resources?

The global pandemic has shown for many businesses that digital transformation is essential for smooth and secure operations, as well as creating added value for customers. At the end of the quarantine, some businesses returned to normal, while others, discovered the benefits of working remotely and digitizing, continue to work with changed working principles. To protect their own and customers’ data, especially when working remotely, businesses need to take appropriate security solutions. What cyber security lessons have we learned during this period and what cloud solutions market can offer, IT experts comment.

Revealed the ability to adapt

The global pandemic, many businesses have shown the need for digital transformation. Large global businesses have begun to more actively move data from local systems to hybrid clouds, modernize software, and improve the customer experience through technology. Finally, technology has helped to create a more dynamic and flexible work environment. The experience of our country has also shown how companies are able to apply technologies that provide access to company information, intranets, video conferencing and cloud services.

However, quarantine and especially its beginning was a challenge for many businesses. „In a relatively short period of time, it was necessary to take care of teleworking, security solutions and, finally, a comfort package, so that the productivity of employees would not suffer, but would increase. Some companies acknowledge that there has been taken a giant step towards the digital transformation. Telework and its concept have acquired a shade of adaptability and necessity rather than privilege“, – says Tadas Pitrėnas, Sales Manager of IT security company “ESET Lietuva”.

According to T. Pitrėnas, even after the end of quarantine, these habits should not change, because employees are in no hurry to return to their usual jobs. At the same time, it means even more active digitization of businesses.

Touched all perspectives of digitization

According to Vytenis Sakalas, Head of BTT Cloud Cloud Services Division and Lecturer of Information Systems Security Studies at Vilnius University, Kaunas Faculty, the pandemic and quarantine not only contributed to digitization, but also affected all its main perspectives.

„In addition to enabling employees to work from home, a variety of processes were more efficient: from the already mentioned coordination / signing of documents electronically and more efficient virtual meetings, to creative solutions for more efficient service provision. Even business supervising bodies have adapted and adopted a decision to allow more flexibility to provide remote / contactless services – comments V. Sakalas. The infrastructure has also been optimized: those who migrated quickly from their own physical infrastructure to cloud services or did so before quarantine won a lot. For most of these companies, the decline in business volume also meant a decrease in the volume of cloud services, so they also managed to reduce operating costs. Unfortunately, this could not be done by classical organizations, which invested heavily in the installation and ongoing maintenance of their infrastructure. Finally, products and services have been digitized – some companies have quickly reoriented and started providing online services, delivering goods to homes or even converting goods / services to digital format. This is the most difficult perspective of digitization, but it turns out it can be also implemented in 3-4 weeks.”

Challenges highlighted during quarantine

The transition to changed operating principles has also highlighted certain IT aspects and challenges that require solutions. The first challenge for businesses is how to connect seamlessly and securely to the information resources used by the company (information systems, data / document storage, virtual workstations, collaboration channels) and how to ensure that these resources are not accessible to competitors or malicious intentions. The second challenge is related to infrastructure change – how businesses that have moved to  cloud can take advantage of cloud computing and adapt to existing business volumes at the time.

„It has also become important to perform non-digitized processes remotely. Among possible compromises – signing of official external documents with a qualified signature and confirmation of internal processes with an unqualified but internally trusted signature or confirmation. The latter was particularly useful during quarantine, as most workers did not have the opportunity to sign documents with a qualified signature“, – explains V. Sakalas.

T. Pitrėnas adds that another headache for businesses was the lack of a long-term IT strategy and the sudden need for tools and instruments. There was not enough of mobile workplaces for everyone or not all of them were ready for full-time use. Thus, emerged the need for a virtual workplace – a personal computer that is centrally managed and operate in the cloud.

Ensure cyber security

„According to the head of cloud services division of BTT Cloud, in the field of cloud services, more and more attention is now paid to higher value-added business services, during which users no longer have to worry about physical or even virtual IT infrastructure. In this way, more and more responsibility for the overall security and availability of solutions is taken by the cloud service provider. On the other hand, the vulnerabilities are shifting to the user side: during the quarantine period, activities were mainly conducted through end-user facilities, and even now employees are in no hurry to return to the offices, which increases data security threats.

„Cybercriminals are more likely to target large companies for targeted attacks, but there is also an increase in mass cyber-attacks that do not target victims by business size, and often not even by region. Such an attack can reach any company and usually through the most vulnerable link – the unprepared employee.“, – explains V. Sakalas.

The “ESET Lietuva” Sales Manager also talks about this: „During quarantine, not only works but also dangers moved to the virtual space. We have seen an intensification of social engineering attacks on small and medium-sized companies, which have encountered financial problems during quarantine and have spent a lot of time on financial management to strengthen creditworthiness.“

Given the potential IT threats and the use of increasingly advanced technologies, experts recommend not forgetting to protect end users – employees. These can include anti-phishing, multi-level authentication, virtual private networking, remote device management, data leakage prevention, and similar solutions. Finally, DevOps specialists should be assisted to ensure the secure use of cloud services throughout the enterprise lifecycle, from their design, development to continuous use and further development.

„Kurk Lietuvai“, The National Cyber Security Center and the Ministry of National Defense, with the help of IT service companies operating in Lithuania, have published a publication „Kibernetinis saugumas ir verslas. Ką turėtų žinoti kiekvienas įmonės vadovas“. You can download it for free here: http://kam.lt/lt/naujienos_874/leidiniai/2020_m._isleisti_leidiniai.html