6 IT Security Trends CIOs Can’t Ignore

Dec 22, 2021
IT Leadership

As data and services move to the cloud and employees move to home offices, the “castle and moat” model is no longer effective. Here’s why the endpoint is the new battlefield.

Credit: Sitthiphong

We’re living in a time of rapid IT transformation, from data technologies to workforce locations. Amid all these changes, here are some important trends to keep in mind.

1. Business Is Moving to the Cloud: Now IT Monitoring and Security Need to Catch Up

Even before the pandemic, more businesses were moving more of their IT assets and services to the cloud. The switch to a remote workforce in 2020 only accelerated this trend. Businesses realized they could retire old on-premises systems, modernize their IT infrastructure, and adopt a cloud-first architecture to better support remote employees at the same time.

In a Deloitte survey in 2020, 68% of CIOs ranked migrating to the cloud or expanding private cloud services as their top IT priority, up 20% from six months earlier. According to that same survey, CIOs expected that between 2019 and 2021, on-premises workloads would drop a whopping 41%.

Providing security for today’s new, cloud-based perimeter-less enterprise is a top security challenge for 2021 and beyond.

Enterprise IT teams need security, risk, compliance, and operational solutions that address cloud-based endpoints as well as the traffic flows, asset configuration tasks, performance monitoring, capacity planning, and other IT services required for cloud migration itself. When business moves to the cloud, security and compliance need to follow.

2. The New Security Model: From a Castle and Moat to 10,000 Castles

Along with the change to a remote workforce and a cloud-based infrastructure comes a change in security models. For decades now, IT security products and processes have been designed around a “castle and moat” model.

The workplace was the castle. Most business-related IT operations took place inside the castle, on-premises. The castle was fortified by perimeter defenses such as firewalls and IDS systems. A network DMZ served as the moat, separating potentially hostile outsiders from assets within the castle walls.

But when data and services move to the cloud and employees move to home offices, the “castle and moat” model breaks down. Today, every endpoint, whether a cloud platform or an employee’s laptop, is effectively a new castle, a small storehouse of valuable assets outside the old castle’s fortifications. But old forms of attack, such as phishing, port scans, and drive-by web infections, are still taking place.

The endpoint is the new battlefield. IT organizations need new tools and strategies for visibility and defense; solutions that can monitor and manage thousands of little castles.

3. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Need Cybersecurity and Data Quality

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can help organizations improve business operations and offer new products and services. But if these technologies are poorly managed, they can become liabilities rather than assets.

Along with data teams, security teams should ensure that all stages of the AI/ML DevOps lifecycle are running on secure, robust, and approved platforms. Increasingly, protecting these platforms is key to protecting the company’s intellectual property and competitive advantage.

AI and ML can be applied to cybersecurity and business operations. But AI and ML systems are only as effective as the quality of the data fed into them. AI-powered security systems should draw on reliable, real-time telemetry data that reflects the current state of endpoint security, rather than stale data collected in batches on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis.

4. WFH Shows How Broken Asset Management Workflows Really Are

Even before the switch to a remote workforce, IT asset management was an overlooked discipline in many IT departments — an aspect of 21st century IT that all too often depended on 20th-century technologies and processes, such as spreadsheets and surveys.

Applying cloud technology and automation to asset management can give IT departments the accurate, comprehensive endpoint inventories they’ve been missing until now.

Some companies are making advances with modern asset management approaches. Laggards who stick to old technologies, including CMDBs that too often were incomplete or out of date, are taking big risks in operations, finances, security, and compliance.

5. Swivel Chair Approaches to IT Management Can Make IT Teams Dizzy

AI, ML, the cloud, and now augmented reality and virtual reality: every major IT transformation seems to require a new set of IT tools. Scrambling to keep up, IT departments can find themselves acquiring tools piecemeal and ending up with a mix of overlapping capabilities and confusing, even redundant, workflows. The proliferation of tools risks increasing IT training costs, overhead, and making IT organizations overall less effective.

Whenever possible, IT organizations should adopt comprehensive platforms that include multiple tools combined in a coherent way. Standardizing on these broad, feature-rich platforms simplifies training and operations themselves and improves IT responsiveness even as IT technologies continue to evolve.

6. The Rise of Zero Trust Models for Securing Endpoints and Accounts

One of the most recent changes to enterprise IT involves security risks: 63% of cybersecurity experts reported an increase of threats since the pandemic began. With threats increasing and endpoints more varied, distributed, and vulnerable than ever before, it’s time to adopt a “Zero Trust” model for IT security.

This model assumes that no user on any endpoint at any location is to be trusted by default. In a zero-trust environment, nobody gets in anywhere without authentication.

Zero trust security means answering these questions in real time: Who is logging in? On which device? Is the device properly configured? Is it company-owned or employee-owned? If it’s the latter, does it have the right partitioning software to secure work-related activity while keeping personal data private? Are the operating system and applications up to date? Are all the latest security patches installed? Is the endpoint running unsanctioned applications? Has it been used to access unauthorized websites?

In a fast-changing IT world with thousands of “moat-less castles” to protect, Zero Trust is the IT security strategy that makes sense on-premises, in the cloud, and at every remote location.

Learn how to answer fundamental questions about your environment with accurate, complete and up-to-date data about all endpoints — wherever they are.