Pervasive security in a connected world

As we embrace a world where things talk to people, biometric data is compiled in real-time, and machines talk to machines at a speed beyond human comprehension, what will the next era of security innovation look like and who will drive it? 

Today's digital acceleration is creating a digital vortex in which business models, products and value chains are digitized to the maximum possible extent. Experts predict that by 2020 as many as 50 billion connected devices will be in that vortex. They will be enabling and controlling aspects of life as diverse as home automation, biometric health feedback, connected factories and textiles, as well as geographically agnostic social learning.  

This all-encompassing digital vortex requires a tightly intertwined digital platform of collaboration, function and security. Those who embrace this interconnection will reap the rewards of the unprecedented opportunity created by the digital vortex. To survive and thrive within this environment requires three key elements. 

" 2020, 50 billion connected devices will be enabling and controlling aspects of life."

The first element is leveraging technology for speed and efficiency. For example, digital platforms are enabling medication delivery disruption by allowing customized packaging for each individual, as demonstrated by innovators Pillpack and Wulou Labs. 

Second is creating business models that deliver value to customers how, when and where they wish to receive and use it. For example, we have already experienced the benefits of transportation disruption through the likes of Uber and Lyft.

The third element is security. Not just security, but pervasive security. That is, the right security, in the right place, at the right time.

We must design, deploy and monitor pervasive security throughout the growing complexity of the digital vortex, and we will only succeed in doing so by collaboratively leveraging our value chains. 

Let's step back for a moment and consider: What is a value chain? It has morphed over time from its first use by Michael Porter in the 1980s as part of his research on competitive advantage. Value chain is the end-to-end lifecycle for anything that delivers value – whether that is a product (tangible or intangible) or a service.  

In order to design, deploy and monitor pervasive security through an entire value chain, a layered approach must be taken. Intertwining security technology, physical security and logical or operational security in the right parts of the value chain is what drives the highest degree of protection and trust. Surviving in a digital vortex by delivering value to customers on their terms requires our awareness of the who, what, where and when of your respective value chain. 

Driving pervasive security throughout the value chain is neither easy nor impossible. It is, however, a challenge that must be embraced. As technology optimists who believe that technology can solve the big problems, now is the time for us to harness the speed, efficiency and value of digitization by designing and implementing pervasive security. Only then will we realize the true value of today's digital vortex. 

In the seemingly chaotic swirl of the digital vortex, failure to embrace pervasive security ensures that your innovation will be marginalized. 

Edna Conway is chief security officer, global value chain at Cisco.
Edna Conway

Edna Conway currently serves as VP, Security & Risk Officer, Azure Hardware Systems & Infrastructure at Microsoft. She is responsible for the security, resiliency and governance of the cloud infrastructure upon which Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud business operates. She has built new organizations delivering trust, transparency, cybersecurity, compliance, risk management, sustainability and supply chain transformation.

Conway is recognized domestically (U.S. Presidential Commissions) and globally (NATO) as the developer of architectures delivering value chain security, sustainability and resiliency. She was appointed to the Executive Committee of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Task Force on ICT Supply Chain Risk Management. Her insight is featured in a range of publications, analyst reports, and case studies, including Forbes, Fortune, Bloomberg, CIO Magazine and the Wall Street Journal.

An influential speaker and author, Conway has contributed to a number of industry-related books and presented at events/forums spanning industry, government and academia.

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