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Finding the balance between access to, security of data in a borderless world

By Ryan Boyes, Governance, Risk and Compliance Officer at Galix.

Johannesburg, 03 Apr 2024
Ryan Boyes, Governance, Risk and Compliance Officer, Galix.
Ryan Boyes, Governance, Risk and Compliance Officer, Galix.

Before the internet, businesses tended to operate in smaller areas and in a very siloed manner. Today, however, there is a global online economy, and the geographical boundaries that limited business operation areas have fallen away. The ease of access to information has become critical to successful operations, and the ability to leverage data has become a point of competitive differentiation. However, the global, borderless nature of business also introduces risk; there are multiple applications, systems and end points, all of which represent potential vulnerabilities. While the ability to work anytime, anywhere aids productivity, it also increases the complexity of security. Finding the right balance between securing data and allowing access is vital.

Larger surface areas are harder to secure

Expanding operations into new areas can help businesses grow in unprecedented ways, and technologies like cloud have become part and parcel of this. The challenge is that data has become increasingly dispersed, and the more places data is stored, the more opportunities there are for cyber criminals and other bad actors to infiltrate networks and steal this critical business asset. The lines between ‘home’ and ‘office’ have also blurred with increased hybrid and work-from-home workforces, making security even more difficult to manage and maintain. For the most part, businesses are not adequately equipped to deal with the additional complexity and additional elements of risk.

When it comes to management, it is no longer as simple as physical security, but physical security remains important. For example, leaving server room doors unlocked or laptops open in a public place can be a security risk. With online connectivity, this is even more complex because the threat is effectively invisible, but the principle remains the same. Security is only as strong as its weakest link, and typically the weakest link is people. Education, therefore, needs to form part and parcel of any effective security protocol and framework.

A balancing act

Technology has become such a part of our everyday lives that it can be difficult to separate personal and business use on any device, which again increases the complexity of security. Processes and protocols need to be in place, governance and compliance must be prioritised, systems must be maintained, everything needs to be documented and it is essential to have accountability.

What this looks like, however, is entirely dependent on an individual organisation. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to security. We need to understand the systems and the risks, the feasibility of controlling these risks, and how we can balance restriction with access. As companies transform and grow, they have to find the right balance between security and access. Too many restrictions will limit people’s ability to innovate, but too few restrictions could lead to data breaches and compliance headaches.

It pays to seek help

To begin with, it is important to focus on understanding and managing what you currently have in place, which requires knowledge of how data moves through the organisation, how users interact with it, and what regulations are applicable. What are the risks, and how do you mitigate them? Having these guidelines in place positions businesses well for expansion and growth; information management forms the foundation for new controls and balances to be slotted in as needed. Once the foundations are in place, they should be regularly assessed and audited to ensure they remain current and effective.

A specialised partner can assist by providing the competencies needed to execute these tasks effectively while bringing in a fresh angle and an outside viewpoint, which can be beneficial in ensuring nothing has been overlooked. They will also bring specialised skills and certifications, along with enhanced business continuity. Before choosing a partner, however, it is important to ensure they are the right fit. Verify them and perform the necessary due diligence to ensure they meet your requirements before engaging.