By Jean-Noël de Galzain, Founder & CEO of WALLIX, an expert in identity and access security solutions
We are in the midst of a digital revolution that’s not only changing our online habits, but also the structure of many organisations. Last year marked a turning point in digital transformation, with global lockdowns and social restrictions revealing how dependent we are on digital technology. Many of us turned to video calls as a way to stay connected, and we saw a significant rise in online shopping as we had no other option. However, not just our personal lives were affected. Almost overnight, organisations had to quickly adopt new tools and technologies to facilitate a mandated remote working environment. While some organisations had already embraced remote working in some form, this needed to be done on a whole new scale. Many businesses found themselves accelerating their digital transformation efforts in order to ensure workflows remained largely uninterrupted by the pandemic.
Many business leaders were quick to think about how the digital revolution would impact their business and employees. But the reality is that most have remained in the dark about the societal challenges that come with the new digital revolution and the impact on our digital identities. When looking beyond regulatory issues and business impact, both cybersecurity and cloud sovereignty represent new risks and a new societal challenge, many of which are centred around the regulation of data.
Data has dramatically changed in value over the years. We are also seeing more general awareness from both customers and businesses on how data is used and stored. In part, this is due to the new regulations and compliance coming to the fore such as GDPR. However, as an industry, we also need to think about the ever-changing regulatory landscape with Brexit a prime example. Brexit has a dramatic impact on regulation and compliance requirements. As the UK moves further away from EU regulations, it will become critical that businesses understand what this means and what the new requirements are.
There’s a responsibility for organisations to protect digital identities while preserving digital sovereignty should be everyone’s business. Users do not want their personal data – the foundation of their online identity – to be at the heart of commerce. Users would not proactively sell their personal credentials to benefit corporations, and yet this is exactly what happens daily to users that engage with popular platforms such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft. To avoid the UK from turning into a digital colony, businesses can take simple tasks.
As we move forward with our digital environment, we must imagine a nation that’s protected by a cybersecurity industry. Once all the regulations and laws around Brexit are ironed out, UK organisations should encourage cooperation between organisations in European states. Shipping personal data off to other jurisdictions and becoming dependent on solutions that are beyond our control is not desirable. More inter-state co-operation will lead to regulations being formed, which in turn will improve data protection. Data processing is a challenge that all organisations in Europe are facing, and users must unite around this issue, to create a universally trusted digital space.
The key to developing this trusted digital space in the UK and beyond is through the standardisation of cybersecurity and cloud solutions. We have a responsibility as an industry to offer cloud solutions that are easy to implement and use, and that can also be adapted to all existing digital tools. The European Network and Information Security Agency of the European Union (ENISA) was formed on this principle, and one of ENISA’s objectives is the certification of cybersecurity, to create a single market of trusted digital players.
What’s more, data hosting is also a huge challenge and we must prevent that users have their data exploited by countries that host this data and then sell it on without their consent. This is one objective of GAIA-X, a European public cloud project for Europe and beyond, that offers an alternative to the American cloud providers: Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. However, it’s important to remember that only strong cybersecurity solutions will make GAIA-X a successful, trusted, and reliable cloud project.
The final part of building a trusted digital space in the UK is the user. All the above actions will be made in vain if we fail to develop a trusted digital culture that’s driven by the user. To begin, every user must take the initiative to protect the data that creates our digital identity. Users need to be careful about who they give their data to and who they trust with it, and a new data culture largely depends on cyber awareness. To cultivate this, organisations can collaborate with educational institutions and provide cybersecurity training to school pupils. This will help to set the standard to educate users from a young age. Since digital technology represents the jobs of the future, cyber training is essential for future workers.
To recap, our digital identity is no longer confined to a virtual world. It is a reality, and an integral part of our physical identity – and we must regain control of it. To take back control, there’s only one solution: collaboration. UK organisations can team up to build a trusted digital space together, that guarantees the security of our digital identities in the present and those belonging to future generations. In order to begin this new movement, society must equally collaborate to help generate cyber awareness. To do this efficiently, we must start now.