Security risks are an inevitable outcome of digital transformation. Today, as organizations strive to expand their online presence and intensify engagement across multiple digital channels, they are inadvertently creating larger attack surfaces for threat agents.

Stretched IT teams are now faced with the formidable task of securing a growing IT environment, one that has a higher likelihood of vulnerabilities slipping through the cracks.

This is where external technology talent can level the playing field for organizations that struggle to strengthen their security posture.

From plugging the skills gap to building a proactive and predictive cyber defense, external experts – cybersecurity partners and even white-hat hackers – are transforming the cybersecurity game for organizations.

Digital transformation in full swing – but are we truly prepared?  

Organizations currently face mounting pressure to leverage technology to keep up with the new norms of a digital society, which include connectivity, speed and convenience.

Brands now heavily invest in different digital touchpoints to maximize brand engagement with their target audience. This creates multiple channels for information sharing and collection – email, social media, mobile applications and web browsers. But it also creates new windows of opportunity for cyber criminals to infiltrate the network and steal valuable data.

We are also seeing aggressive plans from governments across Asia Pacific to digitalize processes and services.

Leading the race for transformation is Singapore, which recently announced plans to introduce a digital identity system for citizens as part of its Smart Nation agenda. The digital wave is also expected to impact critical sectors such as healthcare and banking, as digital transformation and innovation programs are rolled out across the region.

The intended outcomes of these use cases of technology are clear, but what about the unintended outcomes, and are organizations prepared to face them? According to an IDC study, less than one-third of consumers in Asia Pacific trust organizations offering digital services to protect their personal data. In other words, there is an urgent need to build trust as we progress further in today’s digital era.     

Tackling key cybersecurity challenges: manpower and growing risks  

It is hard to trust strangers with your data; however, organizations have little choice but to rely on external expertise when it comes to building their cyber defense. Today, cyber risks are a growing concern for business executives, according to the World Economic Forum, and is ranked the number one risk in Europe, East Asia and the Pacific, and North America. At the same time, the digital skills gap is widening exponentially with advancements in technology.

How can organizations successfully build a secure digital environment while tackling the cybersecurity talent shortage?

External talent is the answer. Cyber security partners and service providers are poised to become more involved in organizations’ cyber defense strategies than ever before.

Identifying security gaps in complex IT environments – an inevitable outcome for many organizations going through a digital shift – is a critical area where external expertise can make a real difference. By working closely with cybersecurity partners, organizations can tighten their cyber defence and better align their security strategy with business and operational goals.

Cybersecurity partners also play a key role in helping organizations develop resilience, especially amidst the evolving risk landscape. Measures to strengthen critical infrastructure in order to withstand and bounce back from external attacks are key to organizations’ long-term success.

That being said, companies must also be careful to partner with the right supplier for external cybersecurity programs – one who guarantees full compliance with the company’s privacy and confidentiality requirements. For instance, one’s must ensure that critical data collected and/or stored by a given cybersecurity provider cannot be accessed by governmental services through CLOUD Act-like rules.

Seeking protection where organizations least expect it

To fight the good fight against cybercriminals, more organizations are turning to an unconventional method: hiring hackers.

In the past, the term “hacker” brought to mind brilliant yet criminally motivated IT whizzes who would infiltrate and exploit private networks for personal gains. Today, hackers – white-hat hackers to be exact – represent an alternative but growing pool of experts that organizations can tap on to effectively and accurately mitigate emerging digital threats.

The rise of the bug bounty model is connecting organizations with hacking communities at an unprecedented rate. Also known as “crowdsourced security testing” or “vulnerability reward programs”, bug bounty programs reward individuals for discovering and reporting software bugs that could manifest as security vulnerabilities.

Organizations which remain apprehensive about opening their doors to hackers have the freedom of making their bug bounty programs invitation-only, rather than open to the public.

With the help of bug bounty firms, organizations can also screen potential participants as well as work out the appropriate reward amounts, which will only be paid out if legitimate vulnerabilities are uncovered. This new level of flexibility makes bug bounty an increasingly popular choice for organizations looking to proactively strengthen their security measures.

As concerns about cyber risks heighten, all eyes are on what measures will come next to combat incoming threats and protect critical data. Building trust among stakeholders requires organizations to demonstrate the ability to understand and respond appropriately to cybersecurity incidents, no matter how small.

In the coming years, a new sense of urgency will be required for organizations to look beyond conventional solutions. Future digital threats will need to be tackled by tapping on external experts and forming strategic partnerships for crowdsourced security testing.