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Covid-19 accelerated changes: Cybersecurity and cloud computing – by Fadi Maktabi

In the third part of his look at the pandemic's effect on technology, Hearts & Science's MD looks at how it has accelerated remote data access and the threats that come with it

By Fadi Maktabi, Managing Director, Hearts & Science UAE

Fadi Maktabi, Managing Director, Hearts & Science UAE

Intro:

As Covid-19 forces the globe to a partial standstill, everything seems like it has frozen in time. Streets are empty, schools closed, offices buildings abandoned; but there is one thing that is moving faster than we could have ever anticipated. I’m not talking about the surge in e-commerce purchases or the increase in streaming service consumption; I’m talking about all those cool “futuristic” concepts (those slides we all use to tell a good story or to show how we know what’s coming).

There are five big themes that I believe Covid-19 will accelerate at unprecedented levels; those are: Digital Currency & Blockchain, AI/ML & Automation, Cloud Computing & Cybersecurity, Fluid Talent Management and finally the real application of the Internet of Things.

In this series of articles I look into each of these topics in details and drawing thoughts into how Covid-19 is playing a catalyst role in their acceleration, the benefits for us the people, the gains for both governments & corporations and what application we can expect in the marketing world.

(You can find the first two articles here and here.)

Cloud Computing & Cybersecurity

With all the technological developments we have seen over the past two decades, it would be tough to think of one technology that has had a greater exponential impact than that of the Cloud. Everything we have become so accustomed to using and enjoying would not have been remotely possible without the development and application of Cloud services and computing; it has become a vital part of today’s digital backbone, becoming a $250bn+ industry in 2019. The continuous development of the Cloud has helped  turn everything into a service (XaaS). Companies can use the technology to leverage infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS) all the way to robotics as a service (RaaS). And today more than ever, we find ourselves relying more on this technology; with the increased working from home (using video conferencing and document collaboration), to increased usage in streaming services such as Netflix & Shahid, as well as remote learning in the education sector all the way down to aggregating global health data on Covid-19.

As the usage and reliance on cloud services grew and our data started migrating away from private servers and into the cloud, the importance of Cybersecurity became and will continue to be a crucial part of digitization. With more than 4,000 cyber attacks happening daily (and those are the ones we know about), most companies and consumers continue to race and attempt to close off all “breachable” areas of attacks. Data protection has become such a big topic that governments  are trying to catch up with the changes and develop new-age regulations to ensure that all data is being protected, while end consumers place data protection as one of their top expectations from the companies/platforms they opt into. In 2019 alone, the cybersecurity industry was valued at approximately $112bn and the expectation is for that number to more than double in the next five years as more people and companies move online.

The Cloud is being used front and center throughout this pandemic, and as more people connect online this is also causing greater Cybersecurity concerns. Below are some examples:

  1. Current Covid-19 Situation monitored by Using the Cloud: With the help of the Cloud, various governments are being able to use this technology to keep store of all Covid-19 outbreaks, and run all required models at speeds that wouldn’t have been possible without this technology. As the data from patients resides on the cloud, most cloud services (such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and IBM Cloud) already have built-in apps that are accessible to users at a cost to run various tasks (SaaS or PaaS). Governments are also being able to develop their own apps on the Cloud to help track the spread and notify their constituents in real time.

 

  1. Current Covid-19 Situation Causing Greater Cybersecurity Threats: Over the first month of full country lockdowns, there has been a 37% increase in cyber-attacks. The most popular case being discussed is “Zoom Bombing”, which saw the the video conferencing platform gain exorbitant amounts of new users (Zoom’s daily user numbers jumped to over 200M from 10M at the end of 2019). As the platform gained traction, the company did not have time or talent to focus on the area of Cybersecurity and the breaches were countless and dangerous. (It is also worth noting that the company managed this crisis pretty well and were quick to turn around some of the major concerns, hence keeping their user base)

 

As Cloud services continue to develop and offer easy-to-use, scalable and flexible solutions to corporations, governments, and end consumers, the expectation would be to see greater adoption while maintaining an even faster Cybersecurity focus. Let us look at how this will have an impact on governments/corporations, people, and marketing:

 

Government & Corporations:

You can’t talk about Cloud in the government sector these days without mentioning the US government’s JEDI contract (The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract is a Cloud contract that the US government has tendered to Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, Google & IBM to help it build its war cloud). The technology is being built out to help the US government process huge amounts of classified data topped up with Artificial Intelligence to help the Pentagon make faster and more robust decisions. Other than its use in for defense purposes, the same logic would apply to any government project that would require the process of huge amounts of data. By being able to collect, store and process all constituents’ data, the work between government entities will be streamlined and accessible to ensure faster and more accurate process and decision making. The same can apply to corporations; if the data is being stored on the Cloud, various softwares can be run to help make faster and more accurate decisions. A great example of a “corporation” adapting to the changing times and using these technologies is the NBA. They recently announced a partnership with Microsoft’s Azure to create a direct to consumer platform on the cloud. (More details on this here: https://news.microsoft.com/2020/04/16/nba-announces-new-multiyear-partnership-with-microsoft-to-redefine-and-personalize-the-fan-experience/)

When it comes to Cybersecurity, the expectation here is that governments will get a lot more active in this area on two fronts. On the one hand,  there will be more regulation on data privacy and how companies use and protect data, and on the other hand,  as the cost of cyber-attacks continues to decrease, there will be more focus on adding more defense budget into nationwide cyber protection.

 

People:

Cloud has already made most people’s lives easier with greater accessibility to content, processing power, device management and storage – to mention a few. Cloud usage by governments and corporations is trickling down to make people’s lives better. Companies that are slow to move into these areas will lose out in the long-term as they will be outdated in the eyes of the end consumer.

Just as Cloud is making people’s lives better, the amount of their personal data residing on the Cloud is causing them greater security anxiety. As we move away from a mass world and into a more personalized one, the corporations that manage data correctly and ethically will come out on top and gain greater share of their consumers opt-in consent to communicate on a personal level.

 

Marketing:

In the most part (and  maybe more in MENA than anywhere else) Cloud services remain to be relatively untapped in marketing; apart from  data accessibility, storage, CRM, and some basic marketing science functions, we haven’t seen any other Cloud services being leveraged. As the roles of technology and marketing continue to evolve, marketers will have to enhance their understanding around these areas or recruit specialists to help them make the most of the offerings already available. As more data resides on the Cloud, marketers should begin to use more available services (SaaS & PaaS mainly) to run more models frequently and adapt to the changes in their analysis. This will also evolve as more functions within the cloud become more robust for marketing usage such as AWS’s Rekognition (vision platform for creative evaluation/use), to name one example.

Another area marketers need to gain a little more insight into is their Cybersecurity function especially as more brands move into an opt-in world and away from cookies.

In the future, consumers will expect the most out of the brands they opt-in to and with more government regulations on privacy breaches, these issues will will end up in the marketing department in terms of crisis management.

 

 

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