The Risks of Digital Transformation

Government agencies are changing the way they achieve their missions. They are procuring, deploying, and even creating their own digital services to help meet rising citizen and employee demands.

Collectively, these efforts are called digital transformation. It’s a way to enhance customer experience while driving operational agility and efficiency. And it’s what government needs to move forward in a digital age.

But to achieve digital transformation, agencies can’t simply create or deploy a couple of online portals and consider their job done. Transformation is a complex undertaking. It requires weaving together a variety of devices, technologies, and services into a single, integrated network that can dynamically adapt to market and user demands.

When successfully executed, digital transformation can revolutionize the way that government operates. But like any major IT undertaking, it does come with its own set of security risks to consider.

First, the adoption of new digital services often requires deploying new types of infrastructure, like software-defined networking (or SDN) and multi-cloud environments. Those modern technologies extend the reach of services and allow for rapid scalability. But they also extend the potential attack surface of an agency.

With cloud and SDN, workloads expand beyond the confines of the data center. Add in the internet of things and mobile devices, and the edges of the network move even further out. That taxes security and IT professionals – who now have to monitor a greater sprawl of services to maintain visibility and track potential threats.

That sprawl poses a second security risk. Those professionals have to learn and understand these new technologies – as well as the platforms and applications that run on them. But given IT staff shortages in government, the bandwidth to secure all these new tools is not readily available at agencies.

The proliferation of internal and customer-facing applications is especially challenging because some of these tools are added without proper scrutiny. Shadow IT – tools and applications deployed without organizational approval – is a common way for employees to create more efficient processes or enhance digital services quicker. But because these tools aren’t integrated with security in mind, they can become vulnerabilities when connected to agency networks.

Shadow IT also highlights a final security challenge to digital transformation – which is that it happens organically. New technologies, systems, and applications are added when needs arise, often in siloes for specific departmental needs. That means IT is constantly having to track down new tools to secure ad hoc additions to agency networks.

The tendency is to secure each network segment as it is developed, using the traditional security tools that are most readily available. But eventually, that results in a complex and largely accidental security infrastructure built around siloed solutions from separate vendors.

In fact, enterprises currently deploy an average of over 30 different security solutions across their distributed networks. That makes it even more difficult for security personnel to maintain visibility and secure their agency.

Digital transformation is a must for government to keep pace in a digital age. But for agencies to succeed, they must also confront the security challenges that come with innovation. In our free, 10-minute course, How to Create a Security Transformation, we explain how to build a better approach to transformation with a security fabric.

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