Digital transformation through the lens of COVID-19

Digital transformation through the lens of COVID-19


IN the fall of 2019, most of us would have scoffed at anyone predicting that the next seven months would bring record-breaking unemployment levels, millions of shuttered businesses, the cancellation or postponement of sporting events ranging from high school baseball to the Boston Marathon to the Tokyo Olympics, and over 2 million infections and 115,000 deaths in the United States alone.1 Yet, here we are, trying to make sense of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that’s sweeping across the world.

For businesses, one consequence of the COVID-19 crisis has been a dramatic uptick in the use of digital technologies that help reduce face-to-face interactions and safeguard customer and employee health and well-being. These digital technologies include consumer-facing applications such as grocery and food delivery services, business-to-business e-commerce applications, and applications such as videoconferencing that seem to have penetrated the consumer, business, and not-for-profit worlds. Searches for terms such as “contactless” increased 7x between November and late April,2 while the stocks of technology companies aligned with new-found customer health and safety concerns have skyrocketed.3

This accelerated adoption of certain digital technologies raises the question of how this current wave of digital transformation compares to prior (a.k.a., pre-COVID-19) waves.

In discussing the COVID-19 pandemic with senior executives, a recurring theme has been how quickly and severely it has affected organizations, forcing them to respond with extraordinary speed and vigor. “Slow, but steady” doesn’t work, given the dynamics of a pandemic. By contrast, prior waves of digital transformation have included more opportunities for experimentation built around scalable, but carefully planned, pilots.

In a way, the current wave of digital transformation resembles how physicians respond to acute medical conditions—rapid and dramatic interventions designed to stabilize the patient and lessen the immediate severity of the condition. The intervention is often not appropriate for the long term, but absolutely necessary to give the patient a respite and transition to more long-term solutions. Many of us have had the experience of the five-day megadose of azithromycin to combat an acute bacterial infection, with the caution of following the dosage instructions exactly as written if we expect the desired relief.

The expectation with acute medical conditions is that they are temporary, although they sometimes recur or morph into more chronic conditions that are persistent and long-lived. Chronic medical conditions cry out for sustained treatments that patients can tolerate over extended periods of time. Often patients with chronic conditions are never healed, but are able to live comfortably with the appropriate medical treatment and accommodations.

While COVID-19 represents an acute disruption today, it may recur or become a more chronic disruption over time. This increases the challenge for executives who are trying to lead their organizations through complex digital transformation journeys to determine what are the equivalent digital moves of the intensive dose of azithromycin and what are the pivots necessary to respond to persistent and long-lived disruptions (e.g., the shift from on-premise to cloud computing).

A little more than a year ago, we published a book, The Technology Fallacy, which examined the characteristics of organizations that had successfully transformed themselves and their industries through the adroit application of digital technologies—and more importantly, organizational changes. We argued that digital disruption, resulting from new digital technologies, was not just a bump in the road before things went back to “normal,” but a fundamental rejiggering of the world that transported us to a “new normal.”

As we look at what is happening during the current acute disruption caused by COVID-19, we find that many companies have accelerated their digital transformation efforts. Many of our prescriptions developed in the context of chronic disruption have been applicable—perhaps even prescient—for the struggles many companies face in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. But we also find that the COVID-19 crisis is creating a stress test for the investments that organizations made in digital transformation and increasing the importance of certain areas (e.g., technologies that address health and safety concerns). As one interview respondent indicated, “When the tide goes out, you see who’s been swimming naked,” companies that talked big about digital transformation but did little meaningful to accomplish it are being exposed in the current circumstances.

What doesn’t change with acute disruption?

Are digital transformation principles and approaches developed in response to chronic disruption still applicable in the case of acute disruption? We think that they are—and particularly more so.

Cross-functional teaming and agility: In The Technology Fallacy, we noted a strong correlation between the way a company is organized and how well it responds to chronic digital disruption. Specifically, more digitally mature companies are more likely to report being organized around cross-functional teams and these companies are less likely to report that management processes and structures interfere with their ability to work digitally. We also found that digitally mature companies tend to provide those teams with greater autonomy in decision-making, increasing speed and agility.

When we asked interview subjects to explain this connection between cross-functional teaming and digital maturity, we got a number of different answers. Christine Halberstadt, vice president of Strategic Transformation for Freddie Mac, notes that organizing differently allows the company to think differently. Dave Cotteleer, vice president of North America Sales for Harley Davidson, notes that since digital cuts across the entire organization, they need to be organized accordingly. Shamim Mohammad, senior vice president and chief information and technology officer of Carmax, comments that cross-functional teaming allows greater experimentation, since different experiments can be assigned to different teams.4

In our early research into how companies are responding to COVID-19, cross-functional teaming is becoming more essential as organizational silos are broken down to enable the company to respond to the common threat. Companies are often being forced into cross-functional teaming in order to provide a unified and rapid response across the organization, and those teams are increasingly being given greater autonomy out of sheer necessity. Lower-level employees are stepping up to take responsibility in ways that they may have been reluctant to before. All of this can enable the organization to be more agile.

Continual learning: Many companies are ramping up webinars and other means of educating employees. Employees are turning to platforms such as Skillsoft to learn how to manage in this new virtual environment and developing new skills such as data science and coding. Skillsoft has seen a 3x increase in consumption of their products since the onset of the pandemic.5 Further, by being thrust into new challenges and circumstances, many employees are learning on the job. And as organizations are forced to reinvent parts of their businesses, some of them are learning through experimentation and creating new knowledge stores.

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck studies the difference between fixed and growth mindsets.6 People and organizations with a fixed mindset believe their success or failures stem from their own innate talents or abilities and are primarily the result of how well these innate abilities fit the external environment. People and organizations with a growth mindset, in contrast, believe their success or failure is the result of their own hard work and that they can adapt to unexpected occurrences in the external environment. Consistent with Dweck’s work, we found in our research into digital disruption that companies that believe they will be in a stronger position in the next 10 years largely exhibit characteristics of a growth mindset, and those that believed their organization will be in a weaker position exhibit characteristics of a fixed mindset.7

Likewise, our recent interviews with senior executives suggest that companies that will be negatively impacted the most by COVID-19 will be ones that simply try to “weather the storm” and go back to old, established business models. In contrast, companies and individuals that will likely emerge from this crisis stronger are seeking to develop the digital capabilities necessary to thrive. Mark Onisk, chief content officer of Skillsoft, indicates that in some cases, corporate learning initiatives are becoming part of the glue that holds the social elements of the company together while employees work remotely.8

Mission, vision, and values: A third commonality between how companies respond to acute vs. chronic disruption is the leadership’s ability to clearly communicate a strategic vision for the company. We found a strong association with an organization’s leadership and its digital maturity. In fact, the three most important facets of digital leadership we identified are having a transformative vision, being forward-looking, and being change-oriented. Our recently published report on technology leadership, The kinetic leader: Boldly reinventing the enterprise, underscores this idea, showing that 69% believe future tech leaders need to be change-oriented, have a vision, be agile, and be innovative.9

Having and clearly communicating a strong strategic vision for the company in the midst of both acute and chronic disruption helps employees know how to respond when digital disruption changes the environment. When the old rules are no longer applicable—whether temporarily suspended due to COVID-19 or because technology moves faster than regulation—it’s important that employees know which overarching principles are guiding their work.

A strong sense of purpose can also help motivate employees through times of disruption. Noah Glass, founder and CEO of the digital restaurant platform Olo, notes the importance of this sense of mission when navigating a crisis. He reflected, “Within our mission of helping restaurants better meet the needs of the on-demand consumer, what really came into focus was—like it or not—every restaurant consumer has now been turned into an on-demand consumer. It felt like we represented a broad swath of the industry and supported an area of critical importance to those restaurants. We had a strong sense of mission as a team to be the digital backbone for and support an industry that was experiencing unprecedented challenges and defined as an essential service. It became a rallying cry for our team at a moment when we were experiencing challenges of our own, having to work remote and now manage childcare.”10

What is different when it comes to acute disruption?

Despite these strong similarities in how companies respond to both acute and chronic disruptions, there are also important differences. Many of these come in the form of barriers to digital maturity that simply don’t apply to the response to acute disruption caused by COVID-19. In fact, if there ends up being a “silver lining” to the current crisis, it is that in many companies, the pandemic is ushering in digital changes that were long overdue.

The Knowing-Doing Gap: The biggest barrier we identified in The Technology Fallacy is the “Knowing-Doing Gap,” a term coined by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton more than 20 years ago. Although nearly everyone (87% of survey respondents) “knows” that their industry is going to be disrupted to a moderate or great extent by digital technologies, few respondents (only 44%) feel that their company is doing enough to respond to this disruption.11

Of course, that’s one of the challenges of chronic conditions, particularly if they are asymptomatic in the short term. It is possible to simply ignore it and go on with business as usual, putting off the most difficult and disruptive changes to the future. Acute disruptions, however, are far more difficult to ignore. As various governments issue stay-at-home orders, companies have little choice but to figure out how to work remotely. Many of those that were already working with a combination of colocated and virtual work decided that some employees may never need to be colocated again.12

One chief digital officer we spoke with says that the company has experienced years of digital transformation in the span of a few months, implementing three years of planning since the crisis began. Other respondents indicate similar accelerated timelines for digital plans. A health care CIO we spoke to said she made an entire year’s worth of technology purchases in February 2020 when she began to see how the crisis was unfolding in China and its potential to affect their emergency room staff. A recent survey of CEOs conducted by Fortune magazine and Deloitte showed that 77% of CEOs reported that the COVID-19 crisis accelerated their digital transformation plans.13

Experimentation: Another major barrier we identified with respect to the chronic digital disruption was the willingness to experiment and take risks. In fact, the willingness to experiment is the biggest barrier companies report in responding to chronic digital disruption.

The acute disruption brought on by COVID-19, however, seems to have greatly reduced the resistance to experimenting and taking risks. Ben Waber, president and cofounder of the people analytics company Humanyze, notes that he has been astonished at the extent that executives operating during COVID-19 have been willing to try new things without necessarily being certain of the outcome. Adaptability as an organizational health indicator, particularly during rapid change, can help to support a successful workplace environment.14

Acute disruption has also given greater free reign to innovators within companies. The digital innovation team at a large medical devices company says digital innovation is more possible during COVID-19 because the usual bureaucratic barriers that hinder innovation have been removed as a result of working from home—either through formal removal or by just being able to work around them more easily when not in the office. Indeed, even the US government relaxed data rules to allow health care providers greater leeway to respond innovatively to the novel crisis.15

Leading amid uncertainty: With respect to digital disruption, we advocated the concept of absurdly long-term strategic planning, suggesting managers plan for what is possible among a number of possible futures. One CIO we spoke with notes that scenario planning has been invaluable for helping their organization adapt to a rapidly changing and uncertain environment. Although the company had never planned for this exact scenario of a global pandemic, the exercises that it had performed could be easily adapted to accommodate the new challenges. Indeed, it is often easier to adapt existing plans to a different situation than to develop new plans from scratch.

We were asked recently about whether we still advocate such long-term strategic planning in the midst of the current crisis. Our answer was “no,” because we are likely to experience a decade’s worth of uncertainty in the next 12–18 months. By its very nature, acute disruption creates a much higher degree of uncertainty in the short term than chronic disruption. Managers who had previously avoided absurdly long-term strategic planning may have difficulty handling the uncertainty associated with acute disruption. Managers should develop plans that address multiple possible futures, and when deciding which initiatives to execute, choose the ones that will be most relevant to multiple possible future states.

Next steps: Innovating through disruption

As companies adjust to the COVID-19 world, what are the next steps?

To understand the unique opportunities this situation offers, it’s perhaps worthwhile to look at the story of a previous acute disruption—the 2011 Icelandic volcano eruption that shut down air travel across Europe for a week—and a company’s response to it. KLM Airlines began using Twitter to communicate with customers, since its call centers couldn’t handle the increased load. When the crisis was over, the company largely abandoned the platform and went back to its usual ways of working.16 Six months later, the CEO questioned why the company had done so, when it had learned to operate during the crisis in a way that offered so much value. KLM began investing in Twitter as a much bigger part of its customer service infrastructure. In doing so, it discovered many new challenges that needed to be resolved to make it effective on a permanent basis, such as having a multilingual staff working around the clock. Yet, KLM also discovered new value it hadn’t anticipated from Twitter, such as using the platform as a virtual lost and found to return items left on planes to customers after they had passed through security.17

We are finding two very different attitudes among companies adapting to the current acute disruption—those that are using this time to plan their place in the “next normal” and those that are treading water, waiting for the world to go back to what it was. We expect that the companies that emerge stronger from the crisis are those that innovate through it, using the current crisis as an opportunity to digitally transform their company. Fortunately, there seem to be more leaders in the former category than the latter. Roughly 75% of CEOs indicate that the crisis has created significant opportunities for their companies.18 In doing so, it’s important for companies to critically reflect on what is better about the working environment and what isn’t, retaining the former and abandoning the latter when a return to normalcy is possible.

The rapid shift to working from home is a good example. Many companies are finding that short-term individual performance hasn’t really dipped as a result of COVID-19, leading some companies to declare that employees need never return to the office again. Ben Waber, however, is cautious about relying on only short-term performance data—while Humanyze’s data shows no drop in short-term individual performance, the data also shows that the number of new or casual connections that employees interact with throughout the day has dropped precipitously. These types of casual relationships are often the source of innovation and valuable knowledge flows, potentially presaging the potential impact of working from home on the long-term performance of employees or innovativeness of companies. Finding ways to rekindle those serendipitous connections—whether through returning to in-person work or through creative interventions online—may be a critical factor in measuring organizational health and an indicator that should be used to determine whether to extend the benefits of the crisis and avoid unintended and unforeseen outcomes.

In the same way that a heart attack can serve as a wakeup call and impetus for lifestyle changes for those suffering from chronic heart disease, the COVID-19 crisis and other acute disruptions can serve as an opportunity for organizations to make some fundamental shifts and to implement structures and practices that will enable them to thrive.



9 data security trends IT departments should expect in 2021

9 data security trends IT departments should expect in 2021

Remote work will lead to more phishing attacks and threats to accounting and marketing departments, according to IT security managers. 

In the age of COVID-19, remote work is here—and here to stay, according to Gartner. Aside from fundamentally shifting the environment in which employees and managers interact, remote work has other less obvious consequences—namely, increased vulnerability to attacks.

To assess the greatest cybersecurity threats companies are facing today, and the 10 trends they should watch out for in 2021, Getapp, the software recommendation company, talked to 83 IT security managers for its Annual Data Security Report. The report found that “limited security for remote workers is the single most common vulnerability businesses are facing today.” 

SEE: Security threats on the horizon: What IT pro’s need to know (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Here are the 9 trends to watch, according to the report:

1. Remote work is the top concern. 

The report recommends that companies institute “a formal remote work policy and by adopting the right software tools that ensure company data is safe when accessed remotely” to prevent attacks.

2. Data breaches are four times more common for companies that allow access to company data. 

According to the report, employees should only access data that is critical to their job performance, to prevent cyberattacks “caused both by malicious data theft and accidental data loss.” The companies that do allow full access to company data are more likely to report a data breach (50.7% of breaches reported) as opposed to those that limit data access (12.6%).

3. Data classification alone is not sufficient.

Categorizing data as public, internal, and confidential are frequently used by companies (82%), but “these programs alone have proved insufficient to restrict access and prevent data breaches,” according to the report. The majority of companies (62%) are still offering employees access to data that they don’t need—and these companies are reportedly 2.5 times more likely to experience a data breach. Data access controls and authentication should be the top priorities.

4. Phishing schemes are spiking and becoming more harmful.

According to the report, “80% of employees report receiving phishing emails, compared to 73% in 2019, and employees are 15% more likely to click on a malicious link.” In particular, marketing employees were the most likely (38%) to click on these malicious links.

5. A third of employees hit by account takeovers.

While account takeovers are nothing new, COVID-19 has resulted in a bump of online transactions. “From 2018 to 2019, TransUnion reported a 347% increase in account takeovers targeting online retail customers. And increased reliance on e-commerce will only make things worse,” the report states.

6. Improved authentication methods.

The use of two-factor authentication went up 18%, and is used by 82% of businesses in 2020. And the use and biometric data security—such as the use of fingerprints and facial recognition—went from 27% in 2019 to 53% in 2020.

7. Ransomware affected 28% of businesses.

Over the last 12 months, nearly a third of businesses were hit with ransomware—of this group, 75% paid. Still, only 70% of those could retrieve their data.

8. VR/AR use nearly triples.

In 2020, 17% of businesses harness AR and VR for training purposes—and digital marketing and accounting report even greater use of these tools, up to 35%. Training has moved from the physical to the virtual, and more employees, 71%, are reporting that they must attend security training annually.

9. 86% of organizations are more concerned about data privacy.

The business shifts ushered in by COVID-19, have resulted in increased concerns among IT departments. However, knowledge of data privacy regulations, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) have sharply risen in the last year.



Do’s and Don’ts for SMB Cybersecurity Safety

Do’s and Don’ts for SMB Cybersecurity Safety

The stampede from offices to working from home has strained IT security teams to their limits. As a result, SMBs find they need to get more bang for fewer bucks to fight off cybersecurity threats.

Network security firm Untangle on Sept. 8 released the results of its third annual SMB IT Security Report. Polling more than 500 SMBs, the report explores major barriers for managing IT security. The results reflect the growing challenges the pandemic caused in forcing massive shifts to remote work.

Nearly half of IT pros have altered their security plans as a result of large-scale breaches reported in the media. The report shows that IT teams, in addition to protecting their organizations from increasing cyberattack risks, must also contend with the unintended consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

The survey revealed that as businesses consider more permanent plans for their employees, 56 percent will continue to have some employees work from home permanently. Another finding shows 38 percent of SMBs allocate US$1,000 or less annually to their IT budget.

SMBs are proactively putting tools in place to combat attacks. They are able to limit their vulnerabilities even though they continue grappling with limited security budgets and resource constraints.

However, dealing with these challenges during a cross-industry WFH shift has created gaping vulnerabilities within their networks. This adds another challenge to already overburdened IT departments.

“As the abnormal becomes our new normal, SMBs need to approach remote work by using a combination of cloud-based applications and on-premises solutions to keep employees and systems safe, and ensure business continuity,” said Scott Devens, CEO at Untangle.

SMBs should be looking for technologies that incorporate multilayered network security tools and hybrid network infrastructure, such as SD-WAN, to avoid large-scale network vulnerabilities, regardless of budget and resource size, he suggested.

This survey revealed a critical takeaway about the changing cybersecurity climate the pandemic thrust upon SMBs, warned Joseph Carson, chief security scientist and advisory CISO at Thycotic.

“The report is clear that SMBs do become victims of cyberattacks and that it is better to invest upfront rather than try to survive in a post cybersecurity incident,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Economical Solutions

If SMBs stick to their tight budgeting restrictions for their IT departments, they could find that some of the $1,000 ceilings they put in place can be eaten up for cyber insurance.

Cowbell Cyber’s recent survey revealed that 65 percent of SMBs will spend more on cyber insurance in the next two years, according to Isabelle Dumont, the company’s vice president of market engagement.

“Subscribing to a standalone cyber policy is always a great step for SMBs to get financial protection against a wide range of cyber incidents and gain access to expert security resources when an incident actually occurs,” she told TechNewsWorld.

A growing number of SMBs continue to do more with less, according to the report. This year’s 38 percent budget adjustment noted above compares to 29 percent last year and 27 percent in 2018. Further, 78 percent of SMB employees are temporarily working remotely with an anticipated 56 percent suggesting some positions will be permanently remote moving forward.

Nearly half (48 percent) of the surveyed organizations operate in more than two locations, making SD-WAN an ideal infrastructure. SD-WAN allows small businesses who are operating in multiple physical locations and using bandwidth-intensive applications, such as voice over IP tools (VoIP), Zoom, or Salesforce, to take advantage of this technology.

Doing so allows SMBs to increase branch office network security. It also lets them increase Internet efficiency and decrease IT spending.

For nearly one-third (32 percent) of the responding SMBs, budget restrictions are their greatest barrier. That result is the same as last year.

Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) said their biggest challenge is employees who do not follow IT security guidelines. Limited time to research and understand emerging threats was the biggest cybersecurity protection barrier for only 13 percent of SMBs responding to the survey.

Fight More Threats, Spend Less Money

IT departments, even with limited resources, can implement foundational strategies to address network security issues and lay the groundwork for future investments, noted Untangle in citing some of the significant findings. The survey revealed effective strategies SMBs employ with their limited budgets.

For example, SMBs rank firewalls (82 percent), antivirus protection (57 percent), endpoint security (48 percent), archiving management and backup and VPN technologies, (47percent), and Web filtering (40 percent) as their most important features when considering which IT security solutions to purchase.

A majority of SMBs find economical solutions in the cloud. For instance, SMBs have adopted a hybrid on-premises/cloud-based IT infrastructure for business applications. A solid majority (71 percent) have their firewall on-site rather than in the cloud.

Nearly half (45 percent) of SMBs said they have adjusted or reevaluated their IT security roadmap based on recent security breaches and ransomware attacks. Of those SMBs surveyed who experienced a data breach within the last 12 months, 15 percent were able to stop the attack or any unauthorized access before sensitive data was extracted.

Cutting Cybersecurity Corners

This year, Untangle asked SMBs to rank the features they consider important when purchasing or considering an IT security solution, according to Heather Paunet, vice president of product management at Untangle. One of the lower-ranking options was identity access and management.

“This is especially important now as employees may either be in the office, working remotely, or a combination of both. Having identity access and management solution, such as Directory Access or Captive Portal, can help IT teams ensure that those who are logging into the network have the correct credentials to do so,” she told TechNewsWorld.

This ranking mirrors another finding by Varonis in their 2019 Global Data Risk Report, she noted, where 53 percent of companies have over 1,000 sensitive files open to every employee in the company.

“As an SMB, many files should be segmented based on employee department or credentials, so it is even more important to have a verified identity access system in place,” she explained.

Dangerous Insight

One of the most startling findings in Untangle’s SMB security report is that employees’ actions have become the second-highest ranked barrier to cybersecurity for SMBs. In its 2019 SMB IT Survey, employees’ behavior ranked as the third-highest barrier, and in 2020 they have become number two.

“This is dangerous because many times employees are the frontline to preventing a cyberattack. If employees are not following IT security guidelines, especially with simple things like VPN connectivity, identifying emails that look suspicious, or malicious links that lead employees to a fraudulent website, then that means other protocols are falling to the wayside,” added Paunet.

For any SMB looking to create a multi-layered security solution, including employees as a foundational pillar of cybersecurity is necessary, she asserted.

One additional observation Paunet noticed in the SMB security analysis was the pace of new technology adoption has slowed down this year compared to last year. The number of SMBs who are deploying their firewalls in the cloud has decreased from 2019 to 2020,.

“With SMBs relying more on cloud-based applications such as Salesforce, Slack, G Suite, and Microsoft 365, it is interesting to see their cloud-based firewall deployments decrease. It is uncertain whether the current focus on pandemic restructuring or business limitations have delayed this technology adoption, but the decrease is noticeable,” she cautioned.

The Hidden Cost of Skimping

Cybersecurity skimping starts with an organization having an incomplete picture of the organization’s IT footprint, noted Cowbell Cyber’s Dumont. That can lead to severe security blind spots.

Getting a better understanding of security priorities should not mean needing to hire a security consultant, suggested Mark Kedgley, CTO at New Net Technologies (NNT). Plenty of effective cybersecurity controls should be adopted.

“Many of these do not necessarily need to eat into IT budgets,” he said.

For example, establishing a hardened build standard will provide protection against the attacks highlighted like phishing and ransomware. Hardened, secure configuration guidance is available for free from NNT and the Center for Internet security.

Vulnerability scanning and patching can also be done on the cheap, he added. Some vendors, including Greenbone Networks, still offer a free vulnerability scanner via the Greenbone Community Edition.

Finally, DDoS protection can be overlaid on any website using Cloudflare’s Free Plan, Kedgley suggested.

SMBs are mostly leveraging free, built-in security solutions that come included with existing solutions, rather than investing into dedicated security solutions, according to Thycotic’s Carson.

“This means that they are running blind when it comes to threat intelligence with the hope that they will be lucky and avoid becoming a victim of a cyberattack. They use the ‘do just enough’ approach because resources are limited and there is never enough time to spend on security,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Meet Minimum Security Standards

Untangle’s Paunet recommends that the minimum IT protocols that SMBs should deploy are credential-based VPN connectivity. They also need a next-generation firewall.

With credential-based authentication, SMBs, no matter how small, can connect to the network with a secured link, via VPN, and then consistently remind employees to update their credentials. That leaves them less susceptible to cybercriminals, she explained.

A next-generation firewall, with advanced web filtering and virus protection, can then provide layered security for the incoming and outgoing Internet traffic, noted Paunet.

Cowbell Cyber’s Dumont suggested multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all administrative accounts and for email is a must.

“It is free and takes seconds to set up, especially on cloud services. Many other security resources for SMBs are free,” said Dumont.

Besides firewalls, NNT’s Kedgley added the need for antivirus, backups, and web filtering. He said that the must-have list should include regular vulnerability scanning and patching, together with configuration hardening. He said also essential are non-negotiable security practices for every size of the organization.

“SMBs should invest in strong Identity and Access Management solutions as they not only help reduce the risks from unauthorized access, they also help SMBs scale better when they grow,” said Thycotic’s Carson in rounding out the minimum required security measures for SMBs.

Canadian mobile app industry continues to grow

Canadian mobile app industry continues to grow

Software developers creating mobile applications generated $1.7 billion in revenue last year according to a new study of the size of the app industry here.

The Information and Communications Council report, released Monday, found that the number of people employed in the development of business, games and entertainment mobile apps has grown by nearly 25 per cent since its released a first report in October 2012.

An estimated 64,000 people work developing and distributing applications here, the council found — 45,800 are employed by companies that specialize in app development, while another 12,800 are “induced,” meaning their jobs were indirectly created by the apps labour market. Most of them — 28,700, including technical and non-technical people (sales, marketing, management) — work in Ontario, followed by Quebec with 14,000 apps jobs.

The report predicts that nearly 50,000 new jobs are expected to be created between now and 2019 as a result of the creation of new apps and wider enterprise and consumer adoption.

Still, it points out the sector has a number of challenges: international competition, shortage of skilled app developers, lack of awareness of the development companies’ service offerings and shortage of capital.

“Mobile apps are a fast-growing, vibrant sector of the economy,” said Namir Anani, CEO of ICTC. “We consider that talent is one of the most important considerations in ensuring Canada takes full advantage of this opportunities offered by mobile technologies and mobile apps. We continue to work towards ensuring a sufficient supply of this talent by encouraging youth, Aboriginals and women to pursue technology careers, and by providing opportunities for training and up-skilling to all Canadians in all sectors of our economy.”

Download the full report here

In particular the report says those in high demand will be apps designers; apps developers; apps testers; programmers (C#); technical artists; software engineers;
software developers; graphic designers (UI/UX); product managers; system designers; system  developers; JavaScript, MYSQL, HTML5, and PHP developers; software designers with CSS3; cloud architects; data analytics; coders and user support analysts.



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